Reflecting on the origins of the SGI’s people-centered movement.
On Jan. 26, 1975, 158 representatives from 51 countries and territories gathered for the First World Peace Conference on the Pacific Island of Guam, the site of intense fighting during the Pacific War. Here, the group established the Soka Gakkai International, naming Daisaku Ikeda its president.
Having bore witness to the horrors of war in the 20th century, the founding members vowed to make the forthcoming century a “Century of Life.” Their charge: to instill in ordinary people a spirit of compassion for all living beings in accord with the Buddhist principle of the sanctity of life.
Symbolizing this resolve, SGI President Ikeda designated “The World” as his nationality in the event guest book. “Rather than seeking after your own praise or glory,” he said at the gathering, “I hope that you will dedicate your noble lives to sowing the seeds of peace of the Mystic Law throughout the entire world. I shall do the same” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 21, p. 33).
Under President Ikeda’s leadership, the SGI has grown into a broad-ranging Buddhist movement centered on peace, culture and education. With more than 12 million Buddhist practitioners in 192 countries and territories, the SGI is the largest and most diverse lay Buddhist movement in the world.
Since 1983, President Ikeda has marked the SGI’s founding every Jan. 26 by issuing a peace proposal, read by U.N. officials and leading thinkers around the globe.
In his 2008 proposal, “Humanizing Religion, Creating Peace,” President Ikeda touched on his 1993 Harvard University address, in which he urged that the world give priority to the actual impact of religion on human beings.
“‘Does religion make people stronger, or does it weaken them?’” he wrote. “‘Does it encourage what is good or what is evil in them? Are they made better and more wise—or less—by religion?’ These are the questions we need to ask of all religions, including of course Buddhism, if we are to succeed in fully ‘humanizing’ them.”