The former head of one of the world’s largest Japanese Buddhist groups, Daisaku Ikeda, passed away at his home in Tokyo on Wednesday, according to the organization said on Saturday.
According to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK, he died at the age of 95 due to natural causes. Ikeda was the third president of the Buddhist sect Soka Gakkai, claiming membership of over 8.27 million households.
This religious group is known for its involvement with prominent figures and its influence in politics. It supports the Komeito, a Japanese political party, which is a junior partner in Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party-led coalition.”
While this sect experienced its largest growth in Japan after the Second World War, Ikeda led its expansion on the international stage as the head of the world’s largest Buddhist organization. The group became actively involved in cultural, educational activities, and peace initiatives in the 1970s.
In 1979, Ikeda became the honorary president of Soka Gakkai International, the global branch of the sect, which claims membership of 2.8 million in over 190 countries and territories.
Ikeda is recognized not only as a religious figure but also as a prolific author with works spanning philosophy, art, poetry, and music. According to Reuters, he engaged in dialogues based on Buddhism and discussions with public intellectuals like British historian Arnold Toynbee, resulting in several published books.
Since the formation of the Komeito political party in 1964, which was allegedly linked to the sect, criticism has surrounded the religious group for its perceived failure to separate religion and state due to its involvement in politics.
While the party formally separated itself from the religious group to reflect a more secular stance, it still considers Soka Gakkai as a “major electoral support base.”
According to Soka Gakkai, a final ceremony was held with members of Ikeda’s family, and more details about the services will be announced soon.
The group mentioned that the religious leader is survived by his wife and two sons.