Influential Japanese Buddhist Leader Ikeda Dies

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Daisaku Ikeda, a former leader of Japan’s influential Buddhist group Soka Gakkai, has died at the age of 95.

Over decades Ikeda expanded the organisation’s international following and forged links with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

He died from natural causes at his home near Tokyo, a statement on Soka Gakkai’s website said.

The lay Buddhist organization claims 12 million members worldwide and is known for its association with celebrities.

Followers include Hollywood star Orlando Bloom. US jazz musician Herbie Hancock and retired Italian footballer Roberto Baggio.

Ikeda “played an important role in promoting peace, culture, and education in Japan and abroad”, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on X, formerly Twitter.

Ikeda became president of Soka Gakkai in 1960. He went on to promote the organization globally by founding Soka Gakkai International in 1975.

In the following years, he traveled extensively, meeting world leaders such as China’s then-premier Zhou Enlai and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“Under his leadership, the movement began an era of innovation and expansion, becoming actively engaged in cultural and educational endeavors worldwide,” Soka Gakkai International said on its website.

The group practices Nichiren Buddhism, a tradition that emphasizes individual empowerment and inner transformation.

“The essence of Buddhism is the conviction that we have within us at each moment the ability to overcome any problem or difficulty”, notably through chanting the “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” Sutra, the Soka Gakkai website says.

In 1964 Ikada founded the Komeito political party. It is currently the LDP’s junior partner in the ruling coalition, with 32 seats in the 465-member lower house.

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