Daisaku Ikeda has authored or co-authored over 100 books. As considerable as his literary achievements are on their own terms, they are, in a broader sense, a reflection of his energetic engagement and accomplishment as a philosopher, an active proponent of peace and an educator. These are roles which President Ikeda has pursued amidst his responsibilities as founding president and leader of the Soka Gakkai International, one of the largest, most engaged and diverse lay Buddhist movements in the world today.
President Ikeda’s body of work–he has in some years composed over a thousand poems alone–includes dialogues, essays, peace proposals, university lectures, poetry, children’s literature and articles. “Writing is as precious to me as life itself,” he says. “My only wish is to provide a glimmer of hope, to light the torch of courage, for as many readers as possible.”
In 1965, President Ikeda published the first volume of The Human Revolution, which is regarded as his magnum opus (released in Japan as a 12-volume series; and in six volumes in the English edition). A novelized account of the founding and development of the Soka Gakkai lay Buddhist association in Japan, it contains this passage that describes the core of President Ikeda’s philosophy: “A great revolution in just a single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society, and further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind.”
President Ikeda has also engaged in dialogues on the pressing issues facing the modern world with leading thinkers, activists and leaders in a variety of fields, including Linus Pauling, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ba Jin, and Hazel Henderson, among others. “Choosing dialogue is itself the triumph of peace and humanity,” he writes. “That is why I have met, as one human being to another, with all kinds of people, transcending differences of nationality, ethnicity, religion, ideology, generation, gender and social position.”
One of President Ikeda’s first extensive dialogues of this sort was with the late British historian Arnold Toynbee and was first published as Choose Life, in 1979. In it, the authors not only explore the ageless questions of life but also the most pressing issues of the modern era. Choose Life has since been translated into 28 languages.
Another of President Ikeda’s literary focuses has been literature for young children–a genre in which he first honed his writing talents as editor of a children’s magazine while in his early twenties. President Ikeda’s children’s stories have been translated into numerous languages, having been introduced to the world outside Japan through the talents of acclaimed artists such as British illustrator of children’s literature Brian Wildsmith. Several have been made into animated films and applauded for their positive influence on young viewers.
President Ikeda has also earned recognition for his poetry. In 1981, he was awarded the title of “Poet Laureate” by the World Academy of Arts and Culture. One collection of poetry translated into English, Fighting for Peace, was also a finalist in the 2005 Benjamin Franklin Awards’ Poetry and Literary Criticism category. The World Poetry Society Intercontinental awarded him the title, “World People’s Poet” in October 2007.
As a young teenager amidst the turmoil following Japan’s defeat in 1945, President Ikeda read voraciously, searching for answers to the spiritual void rent by the war. It was through poetry that he began to express his quest and to give voice to his emotions. He joined a reading circle comprised of some 20 other youths on a similar quest for truth. It was through this group that he encountered Toda in 1947 and through him, Nichiren Buddhism.
“I had long cherished the dream of becoming a journalist and writing a great novel myself, and I wanted to work in a field related to writing, which led me to my job at Mr. Toda’s [publishing] company,” he recalls.
Some of his major works (in alphabetical order) that have been translated into English are:
- Discussions on Youth (World Tribune Press, 2010)
- The Flower of Chinese Buddhism (Middleway Press, 2009)
- Buddhism, the First Millennium (Middleway Press, 2009)
- Embracing the Future (The Japan Times, 2008)
- The Living Buddha (Middleway Press, 2008)
- Fighting for Peace (Creative Arts Book Company, 2004)
- One by One (Dunhill Publishing, 2004)
- Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death (Middleway Press, 1982, 2003)
- For the Sake of Peace—Seven Paths to Global Harmony: A Buddhist Perspective (Middleway Press, 2001)
- Soka Education: A Buddhist Vision for Teachers, Students and Parents (Middleway Press, 2001)
- The Way of Youth (Middleway Press, 2000)
- A Youthful Diary: One man’s journey from the beginning of faith to worldwide leadership for peace (World Tribune Press, 2000)
- The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra I -VI (World Tribune Press, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)
- Kanta and the Deer (Weatherhill, 1997)
- The Cherry Tree (Alfred A. Knopf, 1992)
- Life: An Enigma, a Precious Jewel (Kodansha International, 1982)
- The New Human Revolution (an ongoing series) (World Tribune Press, 1995)
- Over the Deep Blue Sea (Treasure Tower Books, 2013)
- The Princess and the Moon (Alfred A. Knopf, 1991)
- The Snow Country Prince (Alfred A. Knopf, 1991)
- Glass Children and Other Essays (Kodansha International, 1979)
- Songs from My Heart (Weatherhill, 1978, rept 1997)
- The Human Revolution Vol. 1-6 (Weatherhill, 1972-1999)