It is with a heavy heart that we share the news of the passing of Center founder Daisaku Ikeda. Mr. Ikeda passed away from natural causes at his home in Shinjuku, Tokyo, on the evening of November 15, at the age of 95.
Daisaku Ikeda was a Buddhist leader, educator, philosopher, peacebuilder, and prolific writer and poet. Born in Tokyo in 1928, he experienced firsthand the tragic reality of war. In 1947, at the age of 19, he came to embrace Buddhism through an encounter with Josei Toda, educator and leader of the Soka Gakkai. Toda had been arrested and imprisoned for opposing the government’s militaristic policies.
These experiences combined to instill in Mr. Ikeda a lifelong commitment to peace and nuclear disarmament that informed all of his work, including as third President of the Soka Gakkai and founder of the Soka Gakkai International. Through it all, Mr. Ikeda was a strong and steadfast proponent of open dialogue as the surest path to peace. Thus, beginning in the 1970s he actively pursued dialogue with leading cultural and political figures, prominent scholars, and a host of pioneering peacebuilders. To date, more than 80 of these dialogues have been published in book form. For him, dialogue was always a means for exploring common ground, building trust, and identifying creative ways of addressing the complex problems facing humanity.
Thirty years ago this fall, Mr. Ikeda delivered a lecture at Harvard University titled “Mahayana Buddhism and Twenty-first Century Civilization.” In it, he highlighted key contributions that Mahayana Buddhism can make to the peaceful evolution of humanity. Soon after, he founded the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century (renamed the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning, and Dialogue in 2009) to provide a space that would carry the spirit of that lecture forward, exploring themes and concepts that contribute to the creation and expansion of cultures of peace.
In addition to our Center, Mr. Ikeda founded a number of cultural, educational, and peace research institutions around the world. All of these institutions share a commitment to soka-inspired values of peace and humanism.
In the many messages and words of encouragement he offered the Center since our founding, Mr. Ikeda consistently emphasized the transformative dimensions of open dialogue. For him, a shift from a culture of apathy and violence to one that respects the preciousness and dignity of all life was a key element in fostering peace. In a message he sent on the occasion of our 20th anniversary in 2013, Mr. Ikeda shared reflections that captured the essence of his vision. He writes:
Whatever country we hail from or interests we represent, in the end we are all human. We are comrades together confronting the universal human experiences of birth, aging, sickness and death. Our lives are like precious gems bearing within them an indomitable force for good. We were all born of mothers whose deepest desire is for peace. When we unclench hearts closed like fists, and listen and speak with honesty and integrity, we can discover the shared resonance of our souls. When we open ourselves to learn from our differences, we experience life with new richness and depth. Dialogue is the key to creating value for peace and harmonious coexistence. The efforts of this Center are firmly grounded in an unwavering conviction in the positive potential of dialogue, a conviction we will uphold for eternity.
As an organization with the mission of carrying forth his vision of fostering peace through learning and dialogue, we are more determined than ever to follow the pathway he forged, especially now, when it is so urgently needed. As staff, we feel a deepened sense of gratitude for his support and encouragement, as well as renewed energy to continue the critical work he dedicated himself to: strengthening the foundations for a world of peace and harmonious coexistence.