by Daisaku Ikeda, President, Soka Gakkai International
Tuesday, 5 January 2016
Monday, 9 February 2015
Shakyamuni Buddha's early life and his quest for enlightenment.
The actual dates of Shakyamuni's life are unknown. Most contemporary scholars believe that he died somewhere around the fourth to fifth centuries B.C. Nevertheless, many differing opinions still exist on this point today.
What is known, however, is that Shakyamuni was born as a prince of the Shakyas, a small tribe whose kingdom was located in the foothills of the Himalayas south of what is now central Nepal. His family name was Gautama. Later, when he attained enlightenment, his followers came to call him Gautama Buddha or Shakyamuni-- meaning "Sage of the Shakyas."
Shakyamuni was the son of King Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, rulers of the Shakyas. He was born in the Lumbini Gardens, while his mother was on her way from Kapilavastu to her parents' home. It is believed that Maya passed away a week later. As a result, Shakyamuni was raised from infancy by his maternal aunt, Mahaprajapati.. It was a tumultuous start for a turbulent life.
As a prince, Shakyamuni grew up in the lap of luxury and was educated in both the civil and military arts. He had a different palace at his disposal for each season of the year and attendants with parasols were always on hand to shield his head from the sun's burning rays. During the rainy season, female attendants, dancers and musicians would serve and entertain him so that he would not have to venture outdoors. He lived in complete ease and comfort.
However, he was extraordinarily sensitive, and eventually began to suffer from deep spiritual anguish. Often he would walk by the edge of the pond in the palace gardens, immersed in deep philosophical thought.
"No matter how young and healthy we may be," he thought, "old age, sickness and death will inevitably overtake us. This is a destiny none of us can avoid." Shakyamuni discerned the workings of aging, sickness and death in his own life and scrutinized them carefully. "Yet, people look upon the aging, sickness and death of others with disgust and derision," he mused.
He was deeply sensitive to the prejudice and arrogance that lurked in the human heart, prompting people to view old age, sickness and death as if they were the sole concern of others. He came to believe that there could be no true happiness in life without resolving these unavoidable questions inherent in the human condition. This was the start of much agonizing soul-searching for the young prince.
* * *
Buddhist tradition holds that a series of incidents known as "the four meetings" motivated Shakyamuni's decision to renounce secular life.
Venturing outside the eastern gate of the palace on a pleasure outing one day, he encountered an old man; leaving from the southern gate on another occasion, he saw a sick person; and passing through the western gate yet another time, he came across a corpse.
Then one day, he left through the northern gate, where he chanced upon a passing ascetic. This encounter struck a deep chord within him, and he mustered the resolve to renounce his princely title and go out into the world in search of enlightenment.
The story of "the four meetings" is probably not literally true, but an embellishment added in later times. Nevertheless, viewed from the perspective of Buddhist teachings, Shakyamuni's motivation in renouncing secular life must have been deeply connected to his desire to find a way to transcend the fundamental human sufferings of old age, sickness and death.
Shuddhodana sensed that his son and heir, Shakyamuni, was thinking of entering religious life. According to one source, he arranged Shakyamuni's marriage to the beautiful Yashodhara to prevent his son from leaving home. The two eventually had a son named Rahula, who later became one of Shakyamuni's ten major disciples.
Having married and produced an heir, it seemed to most around him that Shakyamuni would settle down. But the young prince's spiritual torment continued. Indeed, the more he thought of his responsibility to assume the throne, the more his suffering intensified.
"People fight and kill each other, trying to dominate through military might. Yet even the most majestic military power is doomed to be destroyed some day by the very means it used to conquer others. None of us can escape the sufferings of the human condition--old age, sickness and death. Surely what is most important is to seek the way to liberate ourselves from these sufferings," he thought.
Rather than live in a world ruled by military prowess, he sought the true path of humanism. So he resolved to renounce his princely life and embark on a journey to seek the eternal realm of the human spirit.
The king immediately took measures to prevent Shakyamuni from leaving home to pursue a religious life. He provided his son with even greater luxuries and comforts than before and ordered his retainers to lavish the prince with entertainment and attention. But Shakyamuni remained firm. Finally, the king completely forbade his son to step outside the palace walls.
But nothing could quench the flame of Shakyamuni's seeking spirit. One night, riding a beloved steed in the company of a faithful attendant, he slipped through the tight security and left the city of Kapilavastu.
Sources differ on how old Shakyamuni was at the time; some say he was nineteen; others, twenty-nine.
Shakyamuni made his way south through the kingdom of Koliya, crossing the Anouma River. There, he removed all clothes and ornaments that could identify him as a prince and handed them to his attendant along with the reins of his favorite horse. He cut off his hair with the blade of his sword and, turning to his attendant, said: "From here, I go alone. Please return to the palace and tell my father and my wife that I shall not return to Kapilavastu until I have fulfilled my purpose in leaving secular life."
* * *
Having pondered the question of whom to study under, Shakyamuni finally called on a Brahman, a hermit-sage said to be a master of yogic meditation. It was said that by practicing yogic meditation, people could liberate their pure, undefiled spirit from material attachments.
The hermit-sage whom Shakyamuni chose as his first teacher had, through such meditation, attained the stage known as "the realm where nothing exists"--a state of emptiness in which one is free from all worldly attachments. Under him, Shakyamuni applied himself to practice and in a short time attained the same level as his teacher. However, he felt that the teaching did not provide a fundamental solution to the questions of human life and death.
He sought out another teacher, also a hermit and master of yogic meditation, who through that practice had attained "the realm where there is neither thought nor no thought"--a state where there was no mental activity. Again, Shakyamuni quickly mastered this practice, but it also failed to fulfill his purpose in pursuing a religious life.
Aging, sickness and death--all are real sufferings that torment human beings. Shakyamuni keenly sensed that the enlightenment of these masters, for whom meditation had become an end in itself, was ultimately ineffectual in providing fundamental solutions to these questions of life and death.
Shakyamuni left his second teacher to continue his quest for true enlightenment, seeking a tranquil place to devote himself to the practice of austerities.
He arrived in the village of Sena, nestled on the banks of the Nairanjana River, which flowed west of Rajagriha. The village had a beautiful green forest. It was here that Shakyamuni chose to begin his austerities. Many other ascetics lived in the woods for the same purpose.
It was commonly believed in India in those days that the body was tainted and the spirit alone was pure. The body held the spirit captive; by mortifying the body and physically weakening oneself, it was thought one could attain spiritual freedom.
Shakyamuni thus embarked on ascetic practice. It was the beginning of an unremitting struggle with himself, a struggle to attain perfect and penetrating enlightenment. His austerities included engaging in long fasts, lying on a bed of thorns, sleeping on the bones of corpses in the cemetery and eating filth. Fellow ascetics, seeing Shakyamuni lying immobile, his breathing indiscernible, sometimes thought he was dead. So punishing were the rigors he inflicted upon himself that no one could rival him in the practice of austerities.
* * *
Shakyamuni's body was cruelly emaciated. His ribs and the veins on his chest protruded painfully. His skin was smeared with dirt and covered with festering sores and wounds he had sustained in the course of his ascetic practice. His beard and hair were long and unkempt. Only his eyes, bloodshot as they were, shone with unusual lucidity and clarity.
He had devoted himself to austerities for several years, pushing himself to the very limits of his endurance. Yet despite all of these efforts, he had failed to attain enlightenment . . . Recognizing that extreme asceticism would not enable him to attain the enlightenment he sought, he decided to abandon this path.
Having left the woods, Shakyamuni stood on the banks of the Nairanjana River. The sunlight glistened on the leaves of the trees and shimmered like diamonds on the water's surface.
He made his way unsteadily down to the river to bathe his body. He was dazed from extreme exhaustion, but the water revived him. He washed away the grime of his accumulated austerities so that he might start anew.
His body was so weak it required an enormous effort for him to climb out of the river. As he sat on the river bank and straightened his hair, a young girl, named Sujata, from the nearby village appeared at his side and offered him some rice gruel. After his long fast, Shakyamuni gladly accepted the food. Fresh life began to infuse his entire body.
After resting a while and recovering some of his strength, he set off in search of a new path that would lead him to enlightenment. Crossing the Nairanjana River, Shakyamuni eventually came upon a large pipal tree. He sat down beneath its branches, crossed his legs and assumed the lotus position.
"I shall remain in this position until I have attained true enlightenment, even if my body withers in the heat as I try," he vowed, and then gently closed his eyes. From time to time, the wind rustled through the leaves of the pipal tree, but Shakyamuni, lost in deep inner contemplation, did not stir.
According to Buddhist writings, at this time demons began to tempt him. The devious means they resorted to differ with the various Buddhist writings, but it is interesting to note that some involved quite a soft and subtle approach.
In one, for example, a demon tried to sway Shakyamuni by whispering to him gently, "Look how gaunt you are, how pale your face is. You're surely on the verge of death. If you keep sitting here like this, it will be a miracle if you survive." After pointing out the peril he was in and strongly urging him to live, the demon tried to persuade Shakyamuni that if he followed the teachings of Brahmanism, he could accumulate great benefit without having to undergo such hardship.
Shakyamuni's efforts to attain enlightenment, the demon declared, were meaningless. This episode of being tempted by demons symbolized an intense personal struggle taking place within Shakyamuni.
Doubt assailed him, shattering his inner peace and throwing his mind into turmoil. With his body extremely weak and his physical reserves all but depleted, the specter of death also came to haunt him. Shakyamuni's mental torment was all the greater because of the knowledge that he had gained nothing from the intense austerities he had undertaken. Might not this effort, too, he thought, ultimately prove meaningless? He was plagued by attachments to worldly desire, racked by hunger for food and a craving for sleep, tormented by fear and by doubt.
Demons are the workings of earthly desires and illusions; they attempt to unsettle the mind of those who seek the way to true enlightenment. Sometimes demons arise in the form of our attachments to worldly desires, or appear as hunger or sleepiness. At other times, they torture the mind in the form of anxiety, fear and doubt.
Whenever they are led astray by such demons, people invariably justify their failing in some way. They convince themselves that their justification is perfectly reasonable and natural.
However, Shakyamuni saw these devilish functions for what they were and summoned a powerful life force, sweeping away all the disruptive thoughts that plagued him. In his heart, he cried out: "Demons! You may defeat a coward, but the brave will triumph. I will fight. Rather than living in defeat, I would rather die fighting!"
With this, his mind was restored to a state of tranquility.
The quiet blanket of night enfolded him, as countless stars above glittered with a pure, crystalline brilliance.
* * *
After overcoming the onslaught of devilish forces, Shakyamuni's mind was left fresh and invigorated, his spirit as clear as a cloudless blue sky.
Having secured an impervious inner state, Shakyamuni now focused on his past. No sooner had he looked back over his present life, than images of his immediately preceding life began to appear. As he continued this inner quest, memories of countless former existences came back to him vividly one after another. And further beyond that still, he recalled countless formations and destructions of the universe.
Shakyamuni realized that his present existence as he sat meditating under the pipal tree was part of an endless cycle of birth, death and rebirth, which had continued since time without beginning. He thus awakened to the eternal nature of life that spans past, present and future.
At that moment, all fears and doubts which had resided in the depths of his life like a heavy sediment since birth evaporated. He had arrived at last at the deep, unshakable roots of his own existence. He felt the darkness of illusion that shrouded him fall away as the brilliant light of wisdom illuminated his life. He had unlocked within himself a state of being akin to commanding a clear, unhindered view in all directions from atop a lofty mountain peak.
With this sharply focused inner vision, Shakyamuni turned his attention to the karma of all living beings. Images of all kinds of people undergoing endless cycles of birth and death passed through his mind. Some were born into misery while others, into fortunate circumstances. With single-minded concentration, Shakyamuni traced the cause of this discrepancy.
"Those burdened by the karma to be unhappy," he observed silently, "have in some past lifetime, through their actions, words or thoughts, committed evil deeds and slandered the practitioners of the Buddhist Law. Their attachment to erroneous views formed the basis for mistaken actions.
In contrast, those who were good and virtuous in their actions, words and thoughts, who did not slander practitioners of the Buddhist Law and conducted themselves correctly based on correct views, enjoyed happiness in later existences.
"The present life is determined by karma accumulated from past existences, while future existences are determined by our actions in this life."
Shakyamuni now clearly understood this. He plainly discerned the uncompromising law of cause and effect operating in people's lives throughout the unending cycle of life and death.
Dawn was drawing near. At the very moment the morning star began to shine in the eastern sky, something happened....
Like a limitless, penetrating beam of light, Shakyamuni's wisdom suddenly broke through to illuminate the eternal, immutable truth of life. He felt something like an electric shock coursing through him. He trembled with emotion, and with his face radiant and tears filling his eyes, he said:
"This is it!"
In that instant, Shakyamuni attained a profound awakening. He had finally become a Buddha--one enlightened to the supreme truth. It was as if a door within his life had been thrown open to the entire universe, and he was released from all illusion. He felt he could now move and act freely based upon the Law of life. It was a state he had never experienced before in this lifetime.
Now Shakyamuni understood:
"The entire universe is subject to the same constant rhythm of creation and change. This applies equally to human beings. Those now in infancy are destined to grow old and eventually die and then to be reborn again. Nothing, either in the world of nature or human society, knows even a moment of stillness or rest. All phenomena in the universe emerge and pass into extinction through the influence of some external cause. Nothing exists in isolation; all things are linked together over space and time, originating in response to shared causal relationships. Moreover, a Law of life permeates the entire process."
Shakyamuni had grasped the wondrous truth of existence. He was convinced that he could develop himself limitlessly through this Law he had awakened to. All criticism, obstacles and hardships would be nothing more than dust before the wind.
"Unaware of this absolute truth, people live under the illusion that they exist independently of one another. This ultimately makes them prisoners of their desires, estranging them from the Law of life, the eternal and unchanging truth of existence. They wander about in darkness and sink into unhappiness and suffering. But such darkness stems from delusions in one's own life. Not only is such spiritual darkness the source of all evils, but also the essential cause of people's suffering over the realities of birth, aging, sickness and death. By confronting this delusion and ignorance in our own lives, we can open the way to true humanity and indestructible happiness."
As the sun rose over the horizon, its bright light began to dispel the morning mist. It was truly a radiant dawn of happiness and peace for all humankind.
Bathed in the joy of his awakening to the Law, Shakyamuni watched the light of a new morning spread across the land.
* * *
For a time, Shakyamuni simply savored the joy of awakening to the Law, but soon he began to grow deeply troubled. He faced a painful new dilemma: Should he preach this Law to others or should he remain silent? Sitting in the shade of the pipal tree, he agonized for many days over this question.
No one had ever before heard, let alone expounded, this magnificent, unsurpassed Law. A vast gap lay between the brilliant realm within his own being and the real world outside. People lived in torment, fearing sickness, aging and death; consumed by desire, they fought constantly among each another.
All this was due to their ignorance of the law of life. Yet even if he taught them the Law for their own sake, it was possible that no one would comprehend it.
Shakyamuni felt completely alone. His was the "loneliness of the truly enlightened," known only to those who have gained an understanding of a profound principle or truth that no one else is aware of.
According to one account, at this point, demons reappeared to torment Shakyamuni. This episode can again be interpreted as a struggle with the devilish functions in his own life, which were now attempting to dissuade him from teaching the Law to others.
Shakyamuni couldn't stem this upsurge of doubt and hesitation at the thought of forging ahead and disseminating the Law. He agonized over what to do.
Devilish functions thus continued to plague Shakyamuni even after he had become a Buddha. They vied to attack him through even the smallest breach in his heart.
A Buddha is not a superhuman being; one who has attained this state continues to experience problems, suffering and pain and is still subject to illness and to temptation by devilish forces. For that reason, a Buddha is a person of courage, tenacity and continuous action who struggles ceaselessly against devilish functions.
No matter how lofty a state we may achieve, without continuous efforts to advance and improve, our faith can be destroyed in a moment.
According to one Buddhist text, the god Brahma appeared before the still indecisive Shakyamuni and entreated him to preach the Law to all people. This episode symbolizes the determination that welled up in Shakyamuni's life to go forward and fulfill his mission.
"I will go forward!" he resolved with finality. "Those who seek to learn will surely listen. Those of little impurity will understand. I shall go out among the people, who are shrouded in delusion and ignorance!"
Once he had made this determination, he felt a surge of new energy flow through him. At this moment, a great lion of an individual stood up for the happiness of humanity.
The sage of the Shakyas buoyantly set forth from the woods. The sky, clouds, forest and river were bathed in a dazzling golden glow. A breeze rustled gently through the branches. Nature seemed to be applauding his journey with a beautiful, jubilant melody.
--SGI President Daisaku Ikeda
Excerpted from The New Human Revolution Vol. 3 (SGI-USA, 1996)
by Daisaku Ikeda
President, Soka Gakkai International
To commemorate January 26, the anniversary of the founding of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), I would like to offer thoughts on how we can redirect the currents of the twenty-first century toward greater hope, solidarity and peace in order to construct a sustainable global society, one in which the dignity of each individual shines with its inherent brilliance.
In light of the increasing incidence of natural disasters and extreme weather events in recent years, as well as severe humanitarian crises caused by international and domestic conflicts, there has been growing stress on the importance of enhancing the resilience of human societies. In the broadest sense, resilience can be thought of in terms of realizing a hopeful future, rooted in people's natural desire to work together toward common goals.
Reforming and opening up the inner capacities of our lives can enable effective reform and empowerment on a global scale. This is what we in the SGI call human revolution. Its focus is empowerment that brings forth the limitless possibilities of each individual. The steady accumulation of changes on the individual and community level paves the path for humanity to surmount the common issues we face.
The challenge of value creation is that of linking the micro and the macro in ways that reinforce positive transformation on both planes.
The Buddhist philosophy embraced by members of the SGI urges people to live with a sense of purposefulness that can be expressed as a commitment to fulfilling a profound pledge or vow. It encourages people to regard their immediate surroundings as the arena for fulfilling their mission in life, even when beset by great difficulties, and to aspire to create personal narratives that will be a source of enduring hope.
Education for global citizenship
I would like to offer specific proposals focusing on three key areas critical to the effort to create a sustainable global society. The first relates to education with a particular focus on young people.
A summit slated to take place in September 2015 will adopt a new set of global development goals, widely referred to as sustainable development goals (SDGs). I urge that targets related to education be included among these: specifically, to achieve universal access to primary and secondary education, to eliminate gender disparity at all levels and to promote education for global citizenship.
An educational program for global citizenship should deepen understanding of the challenges facing humankind; it should identify the early signs of impending global problems in local phenomena, empowering people to take action; and it should foster the spirit of empathy and coexistence with an awareness that actions that profit one's own country might have a negative impact or be perceived as a threat by other countries.
Another area that should be a focus of the SDGs along with education is empowering youth. Specifically, I suggest the following guidelines be included in establishing the SDGs:
- For all states to strive to secure decent work for all;
- For young people to be able to actively participate in solving the problems facing society and the world; and
- For the expansion of youth exchanges to foster friendship and solidarity transcending national borders.
Youth exchanges, in particular, help nurture friendship and ties that serve as a bulwark against the collective psychologies of hatred and prejudice. As such, their inclusion in the SDGs would be of great significance.
Second, I would like to propose the establishment of regional cooperative mechanisms to reduce damage from extreme weather and disasters, strengthening resilience in regions such as Asia and Africa.
Disaster preparedness, disaster relief and post-disaster recovery should be treated as an integrated process. To this end, I would like to suggest that neighboring countries establish a system of cooperation for responding to disasters. Through such sustained efforts to cooperate in strengthening resilience and recovery assistance, the spirit of mutual help and support can become the shared culture of the region.
I urge that the pioneering initiative for such regional cooperation be taken in Asia, a region that has been severely impacted by disasters. A successful model here will inspire collaboration in other regions. A foundation for this already exists in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which has a framework for discussing better cooperation. I call on countries in the region to establish an Asia recovery resilience agreement, a framework drawing from the experience of the ARF.
Further, efforts to strengthen resilience through sister-city exchanges and cooperation provide an important basis for creating spaces of peaceful coexistence throughout the region. I strongly urge that a Japan-China-South Korea summit be held at the earliest opportunity to initiate dialogue toward this kind of cooperation, including cooperation on environmental problems.
Abolition of nuclear weapons
The third area I would like to discuss regards proposals for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons.
The Final Document of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference and the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons held in Oslo, Norway, last year have helped encourage efforts by a growing number of governments to place the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons at the center of all discussions of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
Since May 2012, these governments have repeatedly issued Joint Statements on this topic, and the fourth such statement, issued in October 2013, was signed by the governments of 125 states, including Japan and several other states under the nuclear umbrella of nuclear-weapon states.
The shared recognition that nuclear weapons fundamentally differ from other weapons, that they exist on the far side of a line which must not be crossed, and that it is unacceptable to inflict their catastrophic humanitarian consequences on any human being—this recognition holds the key to transcending the very idea that nuclear weapons can be used to realize national security objectives.
I have repeatedly called for a nuclear abolition summit to be held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki next year in 2015, the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of those cities. Specifically, I hope that representatives of the countries that signed the Joint Statement on the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons, as well as representatives of global civil society and, above all, youthful citizens from throughout the world, will gather in a world youth summit for nuclear abolition to adopt a declaration affirming their commitment to bringing the era of nuclear weapons to an end.
Concurrent with this, I would like to make two concrete proposals. The first is for a nuclear weapons non-use agreement. This would be a natural outcome of placing the catastrophic humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons use at the center of the deliberations for the 2015 NPT Review Conference, and it would be a means of advancing the implementation of Article VI of the NPT under which the nuclear-weapon states have committed to pursuing nuclear disarmament in good faith.
The establishment of a non-use agreement, in which the nuclear-weapon states pledge, as an obligation rooted in the core spirit of the NPT, not to use nuclear weapons against states parties to the treaty, would bring an enhanced sense of physical and psychological security to states that have relied on the nuclear umbrella of their allies, opening the way to security arrangements that are not dependent on nuclear weapons.
The 2016 G8 Summit is scheduled to be held in Japan. An expanded summit dedicated to realizing a world without nuclear weapons could be held in conjunction with this and would provide an opportune venue for making a public pledge to early signing.
My second specific proposal is to utilize the process that is developing around the Joint Statements on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons use to broadly enlist international public opinion and catalyze negotiations for the complete prohibition of nuclear weapons.
It is important that we remember that even a non-use agreement is only a beachhead toward our ultimate goal—the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons. That goal will only be realized through accelerated efforts propelled by the united voices of global civil society.
The members of the SGI are determined to continue our efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons and all other causes of misery on Earth, to further our efforts for value creation, working with the world's youth and all those who are committed to a hopeful vision for the future.
A Forum for Peace: Daisaku Ikeda's Proposals to the UN, a book containing highlights of 30 years of Ikeda's peace proposals, has been published by I.B. Tauris in January 2014, with a foreword by Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN.
We, the constituent organizations and members of the Soka Gakkai International (hereinafter called "SGI"), embrace the fundamental aim and mission of contributing to peace, culture and education based on the philosophy and ideals of the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin.
We recognize that at no time in history has humankind experienced such an intense juxtaposition of war and peace, discrimination and equality, poverty and abundance as in the twentieth century; that the development of increasingly sophisticated military technology, exemplified by nuclear weapons, has created a situation where the very survival of the human species hangs in the balance; that the reality of violent ethnic and religious discrimination presents an unending cycle of conflict; that humanity's egoism and intemperance have engendered global problems, including degradation of the natural environment and widening economic chasms between developed and developing nations, with serious repercussions for humankind's collective future.
We believe that Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, a humanistic philosophy of infinite respect for the sanctity of life and all-encompassing compassion, enables individuals to cultivate and bring forth their inherent wisdom and, nurturing the creativity of the human spirit, to surmount the difficulties and crises facing humankind and realize a society of peaceful and prosperous coexistence.
We, the constituent organizations and members of SGI, therefore, being determined to raise high the banner of world citizenship, the spirit of tolerance, and respect for human rights based on the humanistic spirit of Buddhism, and to challenge the global issues that face humankind through dialogue and practical efforts based on a steadfast commitment to nonviolence, hereby adopt this charter, affirming the following purposes and principles:
Purposes and Principles
- SGI shall contribute to peace, culture and education for the happiness and welfare of all humanity based on Buddhist respect for the sanctity of life.
- SGI, based on the ideal of world citizenship, shall safeguard fundamental human rights and not discriminate against any individual on any grounds.
- SGI shall respect and protect the freedom of religion and religious expression.
- SGI shall promote an understanding of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism through grass-roots exchange, thereby contributing to individual happiness.
- SGI shall, through its constituent organizations, encourage its members to contribute toward the prosperity of their respective societies as good citizens.
- SGI shall respect the independence and autonomy of its constituent organizations in accordance with the conditions prevailing in each country.
- SGI shall, based on the Buddhist spirit of tolerance, respect other religions, engage in dialogue and work together with them toward the resolution of fundamental issues concerning humanity.
- SGI shall respect cultural diversity and promote cultural exchange, thereby creating an international society of mutual understanding and harmony.
- SGI shall promote, based on the Buddhist ideal of symbiosis, the protection of nature and the environment.
- SGI shall contribute to the promotion of education, in pursuit of truth as well as the development of scholarship, to enable all people to cultivate their individual character and enjoy fulfilling and happy lives.
The SGI Charter was adopted by its Board of Directors on 16 October, 1995
November 18 is the anniversary of the establishment of the Soka Gakkai.
Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, first president of the Soka Gakkai, and his disciple Josei Toda (second president) published the first in a series of writings outlining the system of soka, or value-creating pedagogy, on November 18, 1930, and this date marks the founding of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai--the Society for Value-Creating Education. The word "soka," which was coined by Toda and Makiguchi, is a combination of Chinese characters meaning "create" and "value."
The group's aim was to reform the Japanese education system in order to foster the unique creative potential of every child, and this endeavor was further strengthened by the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism which also stresses the vast untapped potential of every individual.
Makiguchi was openly critical of the militarist authorities of the time who were vigilant against any form of independence of thought or opinion, and in July 1943, he and Toda were arrested and imprisoned as "thought criminals." Makiguchi, who refused to recant his beliefs, died in prison on November 18, 1944.
After being released from prison, Toda determined to share widely Makiguchi's ideals of value creation and the profound teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and the Lotus Sutra on which it is based. He was convinced that peace can be actualized through individuals taking responsibility to actively engage in an inner transformation, or "human revolution," in order to draw forth their highest potential of compassion and wisdom, or Buddhahood.
To this end, amidst the devastation of postwar Japan, Toda set about rebuilding the Soka Gakkai (Value Creation Society) as an organization committed to eradicating war and human suffering that aimed to empower and give hope to ordinary people through the practice of Nichiren Buddhism.
Outlining the mission of the Soka Gakkai, Toda remarked, "While laying the groundwork for peace that will last hundreds or even thousands of years so as to repay our debt of gratitude to Nichiren, we must build a foundation for the happiness of all people that will endure throughout eternity."
Toda's successor, Daisaku Ikeda, was inaugurated as the third president of the Soka Gakkai in 1960, at the age of 32, and under his leadership the movement began an era of innovation and expansion which led to the founding of the Soka Gakkai International in 1975.
November 18 has come to symbolize a day when each individual strengthens their own determination and sense of responsibility to contribute to the welfare of society and world peace in the spirit of the three founding presidents of the Soka Gakkai. The members of the SGI are committed to putting into action the ideals and teachings of Nichiren Buddhism and becoming protagonists of peace within their local communities.