Jōsei Toda

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Jōsei Toda
Former President Toda.jpg
Toda in May 1951
2nd President of Soka Gakkai
In office
3 May 1951 - 2 April 1958
Preceded by Tsunesaburō Makiguchi
Succeeded by Daisaku Ikeda
Personal details
Born(1900-02-11)11 February 1900
Kaga, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan
Died2 April 1958(1958-04-02) (aged 58)
Surugadai Nihon University Hospital, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan
Resting placeJozai-ji Temple, Minami-Ikebukuro, Toshima, Japan
Taiseki-ji Head Temple by Gojunoto Pagoda, (left frontside) Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan
(since 2001–Present)
Alma mater

Jōsei Toda(戸田 城聖,Toda Jōsei, 11 February 1900 2 April 1958) was a teacher, peace activist and second president of Soka Gakkai from 1951 to 1958. Imprisoned for two years during World War II under violating the Peace Preservation Law and the charge of lèse-majesté, he emerged from prison intent on rebuilding the Soka Gakkai. He has been described as the architect of the Soka Gakkai, [1] the person chiefly responsible for its existence today. [2]

Teacher person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competences or values

A teacher is a person who helps others to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

Peace movement Social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war (or all wars)

A peace movement is a social movement that seeks to achieve ideals such as the ending of a particular war, minimize inter-human violence in a particular place or type of situation, and is often linked to the goal of achieving world peace. Means to achieve these ends include advocacy of pacifism, non-violent resistance, diplomacy, boycotts, peace camps, moral purchasing, supporting anti-war political candidates, legislation to remove the profit from government contracts to the Military–industrial complex, banning guns, creating open government and transparency tools, direct democracy, supporting Whistleblowers who expose War-Crimes or conspiracies to create wars, demonstrations, and national political lobbying groups to create legislation. The political cooperative is an example of an organization that seeks to merge all peace movement organizations and green organizations, which may have some diverse goals, but all of whom have the common goal of peace and humane sustainability. A concern of some peace activists is the challenge of attaining peace when those that oppose it often use violence as their means of communication and empowerment.

Soka Gakkai religious corporation

Soka Gakkai is a Japanese Buddhist religious movement based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren as taught by its first three presidents Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda. It is the largest of the Japanese new religions and claims the largest membership among Nichiren Buddhist groups. "The organization bases its teachings on Nichiren's interpretation of the Lotus Sutra and places chanting "Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō" at the center of devotional practice. The organization promotes its goals as supporting "peace, culture, and education".


Toda was the disciple of Tsunesaburō Makiguchi and mentor of Daisaku Ikeda, respectively the first and third presidents of the Soka Gakkai. [3] He used the term "human revolution" to embrace Makiguchi's thoughts on the pursuits of education and happiness in life as "inextricably connected in a lifelong journey toward continual self-development." [4] Toda's leadership in building the Soka Gakkai is the theme of Ikeda's 12-volume roman à clef, "The Human Revolution" ("Ningen kakumei") [5] [6] which has sold millions of copies. [7] He died in 2 April 1958 and was formerly buried in Tokyo then later re-interred in a Buddhist Stupa within the Taisekiji Head Temple, Fujinomiya city in year 2001.

Tsunesaburō Makiguchi educator and founding president of Soka Gakkai

Tsunesaburō Makiguchi was a Japanese educator who founded and became the first president of the Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai, the predecessor of today's Soka Gakkai.

Daisaku Ikeda President of Soka Gakkai International

Daisaku Ikeda is a Japanese Buddhist philosopher, educator, author, and nuclear disarmament advocate. He has served as the third president and then honorary president of the Soka Gakkai, the largest of Japan's new religious movements. Ikeda is the founding president of the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), the world's largest Buddhist lay organization with approximately 12 million practitioners in 192 countries and territories.

The Human Revolution is a roman à clef written by Daisaku Ikeda, the third and honorary president of the Soka Gakkai, chronicling the efforts of Jōsei Toda, the second president of the Soka Gakkai, to construct this Buddhist organization upon his release from Sugamo Prison at the end of World War II. The Human Revolution has sold millions of copies and served as the source of two movies of the same name produced by Toho Company and directed by Toshio Masuda. The novel was printed in 30 volumes.

Early life

Toda was born in 1900, the eleventh son of a fisherman's family in the coastal village of Shioya, in modern-day Kaga, Ishikawa, off the Sea of Japan. In 1904 his family moved to Hokkaido, settling in the fishing village of Atsuta. From the age of 15 he worked his way through school, earning certification first as a substitute primary school teacher at age 17 then, three years later, as a full-time primary school teacher. In 1920 he moved to Tokyo where he met Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, an elementary school principal, who was to become his mentor. He taught for Makiguchi until 1922, after which he opened a private school and tutored students preparing for their middle-school entrance exams. [8] [9]

Kaga, Ishikawa City in Chūbu, Japan

Kaga is a city located in southwestern Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan. As of 1 March 2018, the city had an estimated population of 67,793 in 29054 households, and a population density of 290 persons per km². The total area of the city was 305.87 square kilometres (118.10 sq mi).

Atsuta was a village located in Atsuta District, Ishikari Subprefecture, Hokkaido, Japan. The village was situated on the west coast of Hokkaido on Route 231 between Ishikari City and Hamamasu.

Toda and his wife suffered the loss of a 6-month old daughter in 1923 and his wife died two years later from tuberculosis. Toda contracted the same illness as well and was often ill.

His financial fortunes changed with the successful publication and reception of his arithmetic tutorial book.


After he began teaching in Yubari young coalminers in the area would come to his home after work to discuss issues such as politics and history. It is documented that he also submitted an education reform proposal to the Ministry of Education containing ideas to improve the conditions of teachers as well as developing more capable school leaders. According to a diary entry in 1920, part of his reason for moving from Hokkaido to Tokyo was an ambition to become "a world citizen." [10]

Toda's vivid personality stood in stark contrast to that of his mentor, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi who was a scholar and pedagogue. [11] Toda has been described as "a hard-sell pitchman for his faith--frank, vigorous, often rude, talkative. [12] He had the ability to vividly and strongly articulate the ideas of Nichiren and Makiguchi. [13] His authenticity and enthusiasm had a marked effect on the people he met. [14] [ full citation needed ]

Toda also evidenced strength in organizational innovation, in establishing a grid of vertical and horizontal communication lines that lent cohesiveness to the Soka Gakkai's organizational structure. [12]


Although Toda's work in education is best known through his editing and financing Makiguchi's "System of Value-Creating Pedagogy," he was also active as a teacher and author.

Early work as an educator

Toda's first teaching assignment was at Mayachi Primary School, located in a remote section of Ubari, Hokkaido, a coal-mining town. He started working there in 1918 as a substitute teacher and a year later was appointed as a 6th grade teacher upon passing a certification exam. He quit suddenly in 1920 but remained in correspondence with his students for 15 years. [15]

The most exhaustive treatment of Toda's educational ideas is by Shiohara. [16] According to Shiohara, Toda derived a teaching method from his own research specifically geared to meet the needs of his Miyachi elementary school students, who came from disadvantaged backgrounds and suffered low grades. [17]

Makiguchi hired Toda as a substitute teacher at Nishimachi Elementary School. Toda changed positions in order to keep working with Makiguchi when the latter was forcefully transferred to Mikasa Elementary School, a school for poorer students in Tokyo.

Jishu Gakkan

Rather than traveling with Makiguchi to Shirokane Elementary School when Makiguchi was forcefully transferred again, Toda opened an tutorial school called "Jishu Gakkan" where he applied value-creating pedagogy in an independent setting. [18] [19] Toda rented a vacant lot near Meguro Station and built a two-story facility which formally opened in 1924. Jisho Gakkan operated for two decades, earning a prominent reputation for its success rate in preparing pupils for secondary-level entrance examinations.

Toda used a liberal and creative approach to study developed in consultation with Makiguchi. Ikeda described Jisho Gakkan in the opening chapter of his semi-fictionalized biography of Toda. [20]

Publication of "The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy"

Makiguchi's major work, "The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy," was published on November 18, 1930. This event marks the day the Soka Gakkai considers as its founding. Makiguchi parallels Toda's role in publishing this book to that of Christen Mikkelsen Kold who popularized the educational ideas of N. F. S. Grundtvig in Denmark. Toda organized Makiguchi's enormous volume of scribbled notes into a manuscript which then Makiguchi thoroughly reviewed. "The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy" was ultimately published by Fuzanbo, of which Taizo Oinuma, the publisher of Makiguchi's "Geography of Human Life," was a manager. Four volumes were published between 1930 and 1932. During the difficult years of publishing, Toda also organized the parents of many of his Jishu Gakkan students who were also students at Shirokane Elementary School to protest and ultimately delay Makiguchi's forced retirement from Shirokane. As a result, Makiguchi was able to publish the first two volumes as an incumbent school principal, just as he wished. [21]

Toda was active in creating a prominent group of 28 supporters who endorsed "The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy" including Tsuyoshi Inukai, who was to rise to become prime minister of Japan in 1931. The first volume of the "System of Value-Creating Pedagogy" included a calligraphy by Inukai as well as forewords by Inazo Nitobe, who at that time was one of the Under-Secretaries General of the League of Nations, sociologist Suketoshi Tanabe, and the folklorist Kunio Yanagita. [22]

Additional educational publications

Toda's first published work, "Katei Kyoikugaku Soron" (An Anatomy of Home Education: Talking about entrance exams for middle level school, and turning our precious children into straight-A students), published in December 1929, was based on Makiguchi's work before the publishing of "The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy." He forcefully denounced "entrance examination hell" and the predicament of students who are devalued because of their poor grades." He blames teachers who try to educate children uniformly, ignoring their unique interests and perspectives. [23] In 1930 he published the "Suirisiki Sido Sanjutsu" (Guidebook to Mathematics Through Reasoning based on the principles of Value-Creating Pedagogy). [24] This became a best seller selling over one million copies. [25] Makiguchi credited this book as being an excellent example of his theories, resulting in "an economy to learning," helping students achieve remarkable progress in the development of mathematical understanding as they develop their own powers of reasoning, and fostering their abilities to reason their way to "the life of value." [26]

Toda also founded and edited an educational magazine dedicated to spreading and promoting Value-Creating Pedagogy entitled "Shinshin Kyozai Kankyo" ("New Teaching Material: The Environment"). The educational magazine continued as a series for more than six years, changing its title to "New Collection of Teaching Materials," to "New Teaching Materials," and, finally, to "Educational Remodeling." In these research magazines he helped elementary school teachers to put Makiguchi's pedagogy into practice. [27]

In addition to these editing and publishing assignments, Toda wrote two works, "Guidelines for teaching mathematics" and "The establishment of the System of Value-Creating Pedagogy," both based on the principles of value-creating education. He expanded his methodologies to other fields. He published four books for fifth and sixth graders entitled "Guidance on Reading Through Reasoning." Although never published he edited the book "Guidance on the three subjects of science, geography and history," which applied the System of Value-Creating Pedagogy to these fields. [28] In his final pre-war contribution to education Toda, in January 1940, Toda launched a magazine for learning, entitled "Shogakusei Nihon (Elementary School Children Japan)" which included correspondence materials. In each issue, according to Shiohara, he contributed a foreword and poured his passion into editing duties. He managed this despite strict restrictions imposed in the nation's system of militarism support. [29]

Co-founder of Soka Kyoiku Gakkai

Following Makiguchi, Toda began practicing Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism some time between 1928 and 1930, which brought a "spiritual dimension" to their work on Makiguchi's educational theories and underlying premise that each individual has potential. [30] Apparently Toda was initially not as eager as Makiguchi in his new faith but, out of respect and gratitude, followed his mentor's direction and attributed his personal successes to Makiguchi's teachings of modern philosophy combined with lay Nichiren Buddhism. [31] [32]

Toda supported the editing and publication of Makiguchi's Sōka kyōikugaku taikei ("The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy") which was published in 1930 and marked the founding of the Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai ("Value Creation Education Society"), the organization that preceded the Soka Gakkai. [25]

It appears that Toda financed much of the operations of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai singlehandedly. [33] His pre-war net worth was more than ¥6,000,000, [34] approximately 9,500,000USD in today's currency. [note 1] Toda served as chairperson of the board of directors. His tutoring school had signage above the door bearing the name of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, perhaps indicating that it was used as the organization's convening place. [33] He did cite his faith as the reason for his business success. [35]

Although he provided financial support to the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, Toda appeared to be more interested in his business activities. He expanded his holdings to control 17 companies. He enjoyed drinking parties with his employees and Soka Kyoiku Gakkai members. [36]

Imprisonment during World War II

With the onset of World War II, Makiguchi and Toda met with harassment and persecution. Both were arrested and jailed by the government in 1943 on charges of blasphemy against the deified emperor (lèse-majesté) and violating the 1925 Peace Preservation Law. At first intended to suppress "thought crimes" of left-leaning groups, the law was amended in 1941 to include religious organizations. Toda and Makiguchi were among the approximate 80,000 people arrested for violating this law between 1925 and 1945. A total of 21 Soka Kyoiku Gakkai leaders were arrested and this effectively shuttered the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai organization. [37] Makiguchi died in prison in 1944, and Toda was released just weeks before Japan's surrender in 1945.

During his incarceration Toda endured malnutrition, interrogation and physical abuse without succumbing to his interrogators' demand that he recant his faith. At the start of 1944 Toda began meditating, studying, and chanting fiercely to understand the Lotus Sutra. He experienced two awakenings that had an enduring effect on the rest of his life. The first was a realization in March that the Buddha can be conceived of as "the essence of cosmic life itself" and therefore an inherent dignity shared by all human beings, which resulted in the quality of fearlessness in Toda's life. A second awakening took place in November 1944 when he became convinced that he was, in fact, one of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, the mythic figures who appear in the Lotus Sutra and symbolize the inherent compassionate qualities within all people. From this realization Toda envisioned modern prospects of a movement whereby people awaken to life's inherent dignity and teach others to do the same.

He was released from prison on July 3, 1945 in failing health, severely impacted by malnutrition and harsh living conditions. Yet his prison experiences enabled him to undergo an inner transformation that brought to light his qualities of courage, wisdom, compassion, as well as an enhanced capacity for dialogue. [38]

Reconstructor of Soka Gakkai

Released from prison on July 3, 1945, six weeks before the surrender of Japan on August 15, and physically weakened by his two years of imprisonment, Toda began reconstructing the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai.

His first task was to rebuild his businesses which he saw as the financial underpinning of the new organization. During the war he had accumulated more than ¥2,000,000 of debt. He attempted businesses starting with correspondence courses. [34] The post-war business climate was tumultuous and racked by inflation and scarcity of materials. Many of his ventures met with failure.

News of his release began to spread and many prewar members came to consult with him to rebuild their personal faith. Toda began to sponsor study lectures on the Lotus Sutra and Nichren's writings and he presided over small group discussion meetings. On May 1 Toda was appointed chair of the board of directors. The organization name was changed from Soka Kyoiku Gakkai to Soka Gakkai, publications resumed, a youth division was organized, and membership grew by about 200 members in 1946. [39] On August 14, 1947 Daisaku Ikeda attended a discussion meeting and met Toda; he joined the Soka Gakkai ten days later.

Ultimately Toda had to resign his position on November 12, 1950 due to his business failures. He regarded these business failures as "divine retribution for failure to devote himself to leading Soka Gakkai." [40] After deep reflection he assented to the role of second president on May 3, 1951. At that time the membership consisted of approximately 3,000 families. At his inauguration he announced to the 1500 assembled members his determination to reach a membership of 750,000 families before his death, a target that was met with disbelief from most of the attendees. [41]

Toda's contributions to the growth of the Soka Gakkai

Toda made several important and lasting contributions to the Soka Gakkai.

Initiator of the movement's doctrine of "the oneness of mentor and disciple"

Toda's accomplishments as the second president of the Soka Gakkai are a crucial link in the Soka Gakkai lineage referred to as "the oneness of mentor and disciple." [42] Toda was the only one of Makiguchi's disciples who did not disavow his faith and so remained in prison. [25] He inherited the legacy of Makiguchi and transformed the group, which had collapsed during the war, into a mass movement dedicated to personal and societal transformation. In so doing he reshaped Makiguchi's philosophy of value creation to the pressing needs of people in postwar Japan. [42] He formed a "living bond between Makiguchi and Ikeda." [43] Over the course of eleven years of training, he raised Daisaku Ikeda who then led the Soka Gakkai for over 50 years.

Strand notes that most religious movements have a trio of founders, corresponding to the three phases of “creation, development, and stabilization.” In the case of the Soka Gakkai Makiguchi’s was the risky act of creation. Toda took on the difficult work of formation. He provided the crucial link between the initiator, Makiguchi, and Ikeda who led the third task of international evangelism. [44]

Delineator of the Soka Gakkai's "life philosophy"

Early traces of Toda's "life philosophy" can be found in his first published textbook, An Anatomy of Home Education, as well as his most successful textbook, A Deductive Guide to Arithmetic. [45]

Toda's epiphanous realizations in 1943 and 1944, while confined to a cell in Sugamo prison, conceptually linked the vitalistic, inexhaustible "life force" of the Buddha and his sense of mission as among the Bodhisattvas of the Earth with Makiguchi's philosophy. [46] [25] Toda equated this with "the true meaning of life." [47]

Later Toda captured these realizations in the term "human revolution" which entailed transforming one's karma through Buddhist practice. This term was borrowed from a phrased used by Shigeru Nambara, president of Tokyo University, in 1947. The latter called for an inner transformation in the Japanese people to enable the success of occupation policies geared for social and political revolution. Toda used this term as the title of his autobiography published in 1957.

After his release, Toda lectured and wrote extensively about his realizations, now calling them a “life force philosophy” (also translated as "philosophy of life") ("seimeiron"). As McLaughlin concludes: "When Toda emerged from prison half a year later, he was driven not only by obligation to the memory of his master Makiguchi but by a sense of mission confirmed during his mystical experience that he was personally connected to Nichiren, to the primordial Buddha Śākyamuni, and to the eternal Dharma." [48]

Publisher of Nichiren's complete works

Toda believed that the wartime collapse of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai was due to a weakness in the "doctrinal discipline of its members." [39] According to McLaughlin, upon his 1951 inauguration and declaration of "The Great Shakubuku March," his first priority was quickly publishing doctrinal study materials. [49] In preparation, he shifted the contents of his study lectures from explanations on the Lotus Sutra to studies on Nichiren's writings. He also created a Study Department consisting of 24 leading students who also gave local lectures. [50]

The first product of the Study Department was "Shakubuku kyoten" (The Shakubuku Manual), published on Nov. 18th, 1951, which served to instruct members on how it exceeded other belief systems, and Makiguchi's theory of value. It spelled out the benefits of proselytizing and also provided detailed guidance about how to proselytize under different circumstances. [51] The manual underwent eight editions and 39 printings, and included chapters on Makiguchi's theory of value and Toda's "philosophy of life." [52]

The second project Toda undertook was the collection of the extant writings of Nichiren. Throughout its 700-year history, Nichiren Shoshu, although claiming it was the orthodox teaching of Nichiren, had not produced its own canon of Nichiren's writings and had to rely on collections produced by other sects. Often these collections omitted writings of Nichiren the sect deemed as essential, such as the "Ongi Kuden" (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings). Toda offered to sponsor a definitive publication of Nichiren's writings based on the take of Nichiren Shoshu. The work was completed in less than a year by members of the Study Department under the supervision of Nichiko Hori, the retired 59th high priest of Nichiren Shoshu. [53] The resulting one-volume compilation, Shimpen Nichiren Daishonin gosho zenshu (New Edition of the Complete Writings of Nichiren Daishonin), was published on April 28, 1952, to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Nichiren's proclamation of his teachings in 1253, and "remains Sōka Gakkai’s most important source for its Nichiren Buddhist practice." [54]

Initiator of a Youth Division

Soon after his inauguration, Toda created a section called the "Young Men's Division" on July 11, 1951. Its inaugural meeting consisted of 187 members who were divided into four "corps." Among the attendees was Daisaku Ikeda who was to become Toda's successor. In Toda's speech he outlined his vision that the young men would lead his propagation campaign, comparing them to the youth who were the vanguard of the Meiji Restoration. The "Young Women's Division" was formed on July 19, 1951 with seventy members organized into five corps. [55]

According to McLaughlin, this was Toda’s second key initiative toward achieving his propagation goal: "attracting and mobilizing a youth base ... charged with primary responsibility to achieve the spread of kosen rufu." [54]

The aggressive propagation style of the Youth Division, which also employed military-sounding organizational terms including "corps commander" and "staff office," drew increasingly alarmist press coverage. In addition to propagating the religion to neighbors, Youth Division members challenged other sects to religious debates. Though their propagation efforts were depicted by one scholar as "belligerent, activist, and ideological" [56] , the Youth Division grew exponentially, reaching a 10,390 members by the end of 1954. [57]

Architect of the Soka Gakkai movement, a practical buddhism

According to McLaughlin, Toda's third initiative for the Great March of Shakubuku was creating a vision of Buddhism that is practical and attainable. To the people of the tumultuous post-war period, Toda used language that was optimistic and focused on progress. He spoke in an intuitive rather than esoteric way, for example referring to the Gohonzon as "a happiness-producing machine." He spoke to the real problems members were facing such as economic woes, illness, and family discord, stressing the fundamentals of chanting daimoku and conversion. [58]

Shimazono states that the doctrines developed by Toda represent a significant departure from the theology of the Nichiren Shoshu sect as well as of the Gakkai's founder, Makiguchi. Toda's vision, reshaping the traditional teachings of Nichiren Shoshu, was one of this-worldly salvation similar to other modern and popular Buddhist movements. [59] Toda stressed that practice of Nichiren Buddhism, of which propagation efforts were an essential component, would result in secular benefits. [60] In fact, he stressed that faith must be actualized through victories in daily life.

Membership grew rapidly under Toda's leadership, to more than 750,000 households by December 25, 1957, just months before his death on April 2, 1958. [61]

Scholars have put forth different theories to account for Toda's success in building the Soka Gakkai. The media have pointed to aggressive propagation which sometimes resulted in violent removal of other religious artifacts from the homes of new members. [62] The author questions, in contemporary terms, whether forced activities could result in the spontaneous actions needed to sustain a campaign. [63]

Other scholars point to the success in finding a willing and sympathetic substratum of society to serve as its base. Toda made repeated references to "the poor and the sick," making it evident that his propagation campaign was aimed at such people and, Murata concludes, "And evidently, for many of them, their new faith worked." [64] Media impressions also portrayed the Soka Gakkai as "a conglomeration of lower social elements —the working class, the less educated, the low in status." [65] According to Dower, after the war the Japanese population displayed a "kyodatsu condition," a mass state of personal and collective disorientation and depression [66] characterized by war-weariness, sickness, malnutrition, numbness, and despair as many people poured into cities in search of work and food. [67] To these people Toda's reconceptualization of Buddha with life force and his focus on Buddhism as a transformative force in culture and politics had appeal which resulted in rapid growth in the early 1950s. [68] [69]

White, on the other hand, recognizes the unique personality of Toda and its effect on youth: to them he was "the great master, the transmitter of the teachings, the commander and guide." [70] Metraux emphasizes Toda's ability to empathize with and counsel the suffering people of his time; he had strong organizational abilities and work ethics. [71] Seager highlights the unique fit between Toda and a new generation of youth that enabled the Soka Gakkai to develop into a dynamic force, more specifically, the relationship between an ailing Toda and an energetic Ikeda. [72]

Advocate for nuclear disarmament

Toda's imprisonment informed his stance on peace. [73] On February 17, 1952, for example, Toda introduced his concept of "chikyu minzoku shugi," variously translated as "global nationalism" or "one-worldism." Urbain suggests that a modern-day equivalent would be "global citizenship," by which Toda advocated a worldview that prioritizes the interests of humanity above the interests of the state. [74]

Addressing an assembly of 50,000 Soka Gakkai youth members on September 8, 1957, Toda issued a declaration for abolishing nuclear weapons as his will to future generations. At little more than a page of text, it was a succinct statement to the effect that there is neither victor nor humanity in any nuclear confrontation, overturning the Cold War logic of nuclear deterrence and its underlying denial that "we, the citizens of the world, have an inviolable right to live." [75] This “Toda Declaration,” proclaiming nuclear weapons to be “the ultimate evil of mankind, our numbed and remorseless readiness to deprive others of their inviolable right to live,” remains the guiding principle of the Soka Gakkai peace movement. [76]

In discussing the Russell-Einstein Manifesto with Daisaku Ikeda, Sir Joseph Rotblat characterized Toda's denunciation of nuclear arms as a "moral approach." [77] Toda's analysis and approach toward nuclear disarmament have gained traction and form. [78]


Aggressive proselytizing

According to many commentators the success of the "Great Shakubuku Campaign" launched by Toda at his 1951 inauguration was the result of zealous and over-aggressive techniques. Toda adopted an aggressive and controversial method of proselytizing, based on Nichiren teachings on shakubuku (折伏), often translated character for character as "break and subdue", sometimes as "forced conversion," [79] or as "to criticize and to convince". [80] Shakubuku, essentially, is the more assertive of two different methods of proselytizing traditionally employed by Nichiren adherents, in which the proselytizer aggressively confronts a non-adherent about the falsity of their beliefs. According to some, Toda's brand of shakubuku was of an unusually aggressive nature and would come to give Soka Gakkai a reputation of militancy. It also resulted in widespread criticism in the popular press and also by other Buddhist sects. [81] [82] [83] An alternative belief is that some overenthusiastic members were responsible for excessive activities despite the cautions of Toda. [84]

Other scholars are skeptical of the interpretation that the growth of the Soka Gakkai under Toda's leadership could be simply ascribed to forced conversion. [85] Some point to the organization's growth as the product of Toda's organizational acumen. During the rebuilding years of 1945–50 Toda reassembled prewar members, changed the organization's name to Soka Gakkai, developed organizational infrastructure, and began laying a foundation for propagation. [86]

Urbain attributes the rapid growth of the Soka Gakkai amidst the chaos of post-war Japan to Toda's authenticity stemming from his spiritual awakenings in prison, his "personality and conviction," and his ability to relate to individuals through personal dialogue and the small discussion groups as his mentor had done. [87]

Toda's programmatic approach to doctrinal teachings and organizational form as well as his keen social observations created a proselyting movement that was characterized as both militant and vigorous vigorous yet highly successful throughout the organization's rapid growth period. [86] Toda was also effective in incorporating the powerful imagery of classical literature into his discussions and actions. For example, Toda named the young men select training group he formed the "Suiko Kai," Water Margin Club, named after the novel attributed to Shi Nai'an, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, written in vernacular Chinese rather than Classical Chinese. His intention was to inspire the group of young men to aspire the group of 108 heroic outlaws depicted in the novel. [88] He encouraged the young men in this group and the young women in the accompanying "Kaiyo Kai" group to read classical works such as Hugo's Ninety-Three, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Caine's The Eternal City, Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, and Gogol's Taras Bulba. [89] [90] In this vein, in October 1954, Toda is said to have made a speech to over 10,000 Gakkai members while mounted on a white horse, proclaiming: "We must consider all religions our enemies, and we must destroy them." [91] [92]

A case in point was Ikeda's conversion through his meeting Toda in 1947. Disaffected by the imperial state's war propaganda, Ikeda was apparently impressed by the fact that Toda went to prison for his beliefs as much as Toda's reflective clarity of message in their encounter. [93]

In 1997, Ikeda clarified that the method of propagation of Nichiren Buddhism depends upon the locality and the times, and that in dialogue with other faiths, "Our task is to bring forth the inherent goodness in people's hearts and, based on the concerns we share as human beings, work together in our own capacities for peace and happiness." [94]

Relationship with Nichiren Shoshu

The relationship with Nichiren Shoshu went through many ups and downs throughout Toda's presidency.

Early relationship

Toda began his presidency with a determination to build closer cooperation with Nichiren Shoshu even though his appraisal of the school was at times critical. He often spoke of "bad priests" and his wartime experiences led him to conclude that his faith was stronger than that of some of the priests. [95] On May 12, 1951, Toda requested from High Priest Nissho a special gohonzon for attaining the organization's goal of propagation [96] which was bestowed on May 20, 1951 and enshrined in the Soka Gakkai headquarters. On November 18, 2013 this gohonzon was moved and enshrined at the newly constructed "Hall of the Great Vow" near the Soka Gakkai's headquarters in Tokyo; members from around the world visit and chant to this gohonzon.

Tanuki incident

In particular Toda was extremely critical of Jimon Ogasawara, an ultranationalist priest [97] Providing context to the prewar situation, Montgomery explains: "During the Pacific War, most religions supported the militaristic policies of the Japanese government. While some religions did so in order to avoid political oppression, it seems that in the end most religions in Japan became permeated with the ultranationalistic spirit and supported the war effort rather voluntarily. In particular, the Nichiren tradition of Buddhism produced thinkers such as Chigaku Tanaka or Jimon Ogasawara, who, drawing on the political aspects of Nichiren’s teaching, created ultranationalist ideologies legitimizing Japanese military policies of expansionism and colonization. These ideologies were then adopted by many Japanese religions. Reiyukai. which, through schismatic movements, produced many New Religions, such as Rissho Koseikai, was one of those religions which embraced Tanaka’s ideology and, thus, avoided wartime oppression." Ogasawara also articulated an amalgam of Buddhism and Shintoism, claiming that Buddhist deities were only manifestations of the true Shinto deities, thus placing Shinto superior to Buddhism. By supporting Ogasawara's ideology, Nichiren Shoshu managed to avoid the wartime government's goal of unifying all Nichiren groups. [98] Toda held that Ogasawara was the one primarily responsible for the government repression of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai, his and Makiguchi's imprisonment, and, ultimately, Makiguchi's death. [99] In 1942 Ogasawara was expelled from Nichiren Shoshu.

One incident occurred in 1952 which tarnished the reputation of the young Soka Gakkai movement. On the eve of April 28, 1952, a special commemorative event was held at the head temple to honor the 700th anniversary of Nichiren's declaration of his school with 4,000 Soka Gakkai members in attendance. [100] As it turns out, Ogasawara had been secretly readmitted to the priesthood without the knowledge of the Soka Gakkai and was present at the event. [101] When Ogasawara's presence was discovered, a group of 47 young men, with the participation of Toda and Ikeda, confronted him and demanded an apology for his wartime actions. Holte conjectures that 47 youth were chosen to draw a parallel to the Japanese tale of the Forty-seven Ronin. [102] [ self-published source ] [note 2] During this confrontation Ogasawara kicked Toda and Toda struck him twice. Ogasawara refused to apologize for his actions during the war or recant his doctrines.

The young men then seized Ogasawara, tore off his priestly robe, and forcibly carried him to Makiguchi's grave with a placard inscribed "Tanuki Bozu" (Raccoon Monk) [note 3] placed on him. Under duress he signed a letter of apology at the gravesite. Ogasaware filed a complaint with the authorities against Soka Gakkai for assault and battery and later a complaint against the high priest. After Toda's apology, and with Ogasawara's lawsuit against Nissho, public sentiment turned against him and he withdrew both complaints. [103] [ self-published source ]

Additional accounts of the incident provide more details. Brannen notes that Toda was temporarily banned from entering the temple. [104] Shimada informs that though no legal action was taken, this incident helped establish a public view of the organization as a violent cult,. [105] :705–711[ need quotation to verify ], a reputation which has abated over the years. [106] The Soka Gakkai has never denied the factual events of the story but has provided its own narrative about the incident. Ikeda gives an almost 40-page explanation of the incident in The Human Revolution, his fictionalized biography of Toda. [107]

Later relationship

The incident did not strain relationships between Toda and Nichiren Shoshu for a long time. The day following the incident, April 28, 1952, Toda published the first edition of the New Edition of the Complete Works of the Great Sage Nichiren (Shinpen Nichiren Daishōnin gosho zenshū), a single-volume collection of Nichiren's writings that continues to serve as the organization's primary source for its Buddhist practice. [108] Several months later, in November 1952, Nissho, the high priest of Taiseki-ji, reprimanded Toda for the April 27th incident. Toda responded with an article entitled "Apology" printed in the Soka Gakkai's newspaper. [109] In May 1955 Ogasawara issued a pamphlet in which he repented his indiscretion in having had the unfortunate conflict with the Soka Gakkai. As time went on Nichiren Shoshu prospered as never before in its history due to financial support from the Soka Gakkai and pilgrimages by members. [110]

In 1952 the Soka Gakkai was legally registered as a religious organization in Japan, overcoming some initial resistance from Nichiren Shoshu clerics. [111] At the end of that year, at the seventh Soka Gakkai general meeting, Nichijun Horigome, who was to become the 65th high priest of the order, stated,"I entrust the great propagation of the Law to the members of the Soka Gakkai." [112]

Starting in 1954 Toda financed and donated to Nichiren Shoshu the first three of many local temples. He provided funding for the restoration of Taisekiji's Five-Storied Pagoda and the Somon Gate. In 1955 he constructed on the Taisekiji site the Hoan-den to house the Dai Gohonzon and the Grand Lecture Hall in 1958. (The latter building was demolished by Nichiren Shoshu in 1995.) On New Year's Day 1956 Nichijun made highly complimentary statements about the Soka Gakkai Toda had built. [113]

Despite his support for Nichiren Shoshu, Toda kept a wary eye on priests. In 1951 he tells in his own hand, in an essay entitled "The History and Conviction of the Soka Gakkai," his experience before the war, his realizations during his imprisonment, his efforts to rebuild the Soka Gakkai, and his concerns for the future. [114] In this essay he expresses praise for Nissho, the high priest at that time, but also issues strong cautions about degenerate priests. [115]

Toda died on April 2, 1958. Nichijun, at the eighth general meeting of the Soka Gakkai held one month later, eulogized Toda stating: "It was President Toda who, as their leader, called forth those bodhisattvas; it was in the Soka Gakkai that they gathered. In other words, it was President Toda who manifested the five and seven characters of Myoho-renge-kyo as 750,000 [bodhisattvas]." [116]


Toda died on 2 April 1958 while the funeral was held at his home and the coffin was afterwards carried to the Nichiren Shōshū Jozai-ji temple in Ikebukuro, where he was buried. [117] Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi and the Education Minister Matsunaga [note 4] attended the Soka Gakkai funeral held in Tokyo on April 20, where 250,000 members from Japan and overseas gathered [118] [119] Event news coverage asserted that although the two government officials were not members, "they bowed to some two million voters behind the altar." [120] For two years after Toda's death, there was a leadership vacuum and the Gakkai had no president, as it was unclear if anyone was able to replace him. [121]

Toda was buried at Nichiren Shōshū Ikebukuro Jozai-ji temple, where his wife Iku Toda was laid to rest in the year 2000. [122] [ unreliable source? ] His wife, per her request also had a funeral provided in the Nichiren Shoshu tradition. Some Soka Gakkai senior leaders requested to provide a funeral service to Iku Toda but was refused by their eldest son, Takahisa Toda. Daisaku Ikeda did not attend the funeral ceremony. In 2001, on Toda's death year anniversary at the request of his family descendants, Toda's ashes were moved from the Jozai-Ji Temple in Tokyo and re-enshrined in a modest size tombstone on the left side of the Goju-noto (Five-story Pagoda) of Taiseki-ji Head Temple where it remains today.


After the war Josei Toda transformed the Soka Gakkai into "a national phenomenon," increasing its membership exponentially and positioning it as "a grassroots social movement that championed peace and the rights of ordinary people." Although the movement was derided as one composed of "the poor and sick," Toda taught his members that such criticism was a source of pride. [123] Toda revitalized the traditional teachings and practices of Nichiren Shoshu so they became vital for people in the modern age. [124] [125]

Toda firmly aligned the Soka Gakkai movement with a commitment to peace in the secular world. [126]

Toda is recognized by scholars to be the primary influence on Ikeda. [127] In turn, Ikeda describes the impact of Toda on his life in numerous published dialogues he has conducted with leading intellects. [note 5]

A number of awareness-raising initiatives by Soka Gakkai International and its president can be traced back to Toda's 1957 call for the sake of "we, the citizens of the world" to ban both nuclear arms and the logic behind their existence. These initiatives include: the exhibit "Nuclear Arms: Threat to Our World," created in the 1980s with support from the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; the campaign People's Decade for Nuclear Abolition, launched in 2007 with the exhibit "From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Toward a World Free From Nuclear Weapons"; and the exhibit "Everything You Treasure – For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons," launched in 2012 at the 20th World Congress of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War with support from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. [128]

Toda's call for nuclear disarmament currently takes institutional form in the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research which was founded in 1996 by Ikeda. The institute promotes peace research through the organization of conferences, the publication of books, and of the yearly journal Peace & Policy. The Toda Institute focuses on three main themes: Human Security and Human Rights, Dialogue and Nonviolent Conflict Transformation, and Global Governance and World Citizenship. It seeks concrete solutions to three main issues: Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, UN Reform, and Sustainable Peace through Environmental Integrity and Social Justice. [note 6]

Toda's experiences in prison as well as his efforts to build the Soka Gakkai are chronicled in two films by Japanese film director Toshio Masuda, the 1973 film The Human Revolution (Ningen Kakumei) [note 7] and a 1976 sequel, The Human Revolution II (Zoku Ningen Kakumei), [note 8] both starring produced by Toho.

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  1. Currency conversion according to http://www.measuringworth.com/uscompare/relativevalue.php
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  3. In Japanese folklore, the tanuki or Japanese raccoon dog is regarded as a sly and deceptive being with shapeshifting powers. The word is still used in contemporary Japanese to refer to slyness and deception. See the definition of tanuki in Kōjien (2nd ed.): 他人を欺くこと。また、そのひと。
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  8. "Zoku ningen kakumei". 19 June 1976 via www.imdb.com.


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Primary sources

Secondary sources

Preceded by
Tsunesaburō Makiguchi
2nd President of Sōka Gakkai
3 May 1951 – 2 April 1960
Succeeded by
Daisaku Ikeda