Daisaku Ikeda, who helped spread Buddhist thought around the world through Soka Gakkai — Japan's largest religious organization supported by celebrities and an ally of the Tokyo government, has died, the organization says.
Ikeda died on the evening of Nov. 15 from natural causes at age 95, Soka Gakkai said in a statement on its website.
He was the longtime spiritual leader of the lay Buddhist organization known abroad for its association with celebrities, and in Japan for its influence on politics in an unusual form of interaction between religion and the state.
Soka Gakkai, founded in 1930, says it has 12 million members in 192 countries and territories worldwide.
Ikeda was a founder of what is now the Komeito political party in 1964.
It is currently the Liberal Democratic Party's junior partner in the ruling coalition, with 32 seats in Japan's 465-member lower house of parliament.
"The Soka Gakkai is a global community-based Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture and education centered on respect for the dignity of life.," says the organization.
SUPPORT FOR THE VULNERABLE
Soka Gakkai in Japan says it is the main endorsing body for the Komeito political party, "which has a platform of policies aimed at peace, environmental protection and support for the vulnerable."
The Soka Gakkai says it organizations outside Japan do not and will never engage in political activities.
It collaborates on social issues with global Christian groups such as the World Council of Churches.
In 2021in conjunction with the International Day of Human Fraternity 2021, the World Council of Churches, Pax Christi Northern California, and Soka Gakkai International issued a joint statement. It was entitled "A Plea for Preserving Our Shared Humanity," that expressed concern over "the insidious development of weapons systems that lack meaningful human control."
KOMEITO POLITICAL PARTY
According to Wikipedia, Komeito, formerly New Komeito is a political party in Japan originally founded by members of the Buddhist Japanese new religious movement Soka Gakkai in 1964.
The current incarnation of the party was formed in 1998. It has since 2012 served in government as the junior coalition partner of the Liberal Democratic Party, which has dominated Japanese politics since the mid-1950s.
"In 2021 Komeito, increased its presence in the lower house from 29 to 32 seats. This small but significant electoral victory demonstrates that Komeito remains a powerful actor in Japanese politics," Moez Hayat and Ryan Ashley wrote in the East Asia Forum.
"Komeito is a unique religious-inspired political force in Japanese politics. The party has its origins as the political arm of Soka Gakkai, a new age Buddhist-revivalist sect known for its evangelist views," Hayat and Ashley wrote in the Forum.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
In 1970, the precursor to the present-day party distanced itself from Soka Gakkai to stem criticism that it violated Japan's strict post-war separation between church and state.
Still, nearly all Komeito representatives are Soka Gakkai adherents, and allegations of control by Ikeda, continued to be levelled against Komeito, noted The Forum authors.
They said that today the party obtains most of its votes from its elderly and predominantly middle-class religious base, totalling around 13 percent of the total voting population in the last national election in Japan.
Ikeda travelled to more than 50 countries for talks with leaders including then-Chinese leader Zhou Enlai and then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, Reuters news agency reported on Nov. 18.
Well-known Soka Gakkai adherents include British actor Orlando Bloom, jazz musicians Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter and Italian football player Roberto Baggio.