President Ikeda’s visits to India

BSG’s growth has accelerated with the visits of President Ikeda to India in the last six decades. As a result of each successive visit, the organization gradually began to take shape and on January 3, 1986, Bharat Soka Gakkai was officially registered under Registration of Societies Act 1860 thereby planting its roots firmly in Indian soil.

Since 1961, President Ikeda made several visits to India. He met with eminent Indians from all walks of life which resulted in expansion of mutual understanding between Japan and India. During each of his visit, President Ikeda expressed his deep gratitude to India for its contribution to Japanese spiritual development through introduction of Buddhism to Japan.

Spurred by these visits, BSG began to actively engage in activities for the promotion of peace, culture and education in cooperation with like-minded organizations. As a result, Ikeda’s writings and efforts for peace have become increasingly recognized and appreciated in Indian society. An indication of this is that Ikeda has to date (December 2020) received 18 academic honors from various universities and institutes across India.

1961

President Ikeda’s first visit to India was in 1961.

This trip was also a practical step in response to the wishes of his late mentor, Second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda, who was passionate that his disciples work to establish lasting peace and happiness in Asia by protecting the dignity of human life.

During this trip, and particularly during the visit to Bodhgaya, the site in India traditionally regarded as a place of great significance where Shakyamuni attained enlightenment, Ikeda began to ponder the idea of establishing an institution dedicated to research into Asian philosophy and thought traditions as a means of promoting dialogue and peace. The following year he established the Institute of Oriental Philosophy to pursue this vision.

1979

In 1979, President Ikeda visited India again at the invitation of the Indian Government (Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR). The purpose of his visit was promotion of goodwill and academic, Cultural, and educational exchange on a people-to-people level.

During this visit President Ikeda had a significant meeting with the Prime Minister Mr. Morarji Desai. President Ikeda also attended a welcome reception hosted by ICCR which was attended by many participants which included distinguished scholars and intellectuals. He also called on Mr. A.B. Vajpayee, the External Affairs Minister.

President Ikeda’s delegation visited the Jawaharlal Nehru University and presented to its library 1000 books on Japanese culture and history. The delegation was welcomed by the Vice Chancellor K.R.Narayanan (President of India from 1992-97). Prior to this, President Ikeda visited Delhi University and presented 1000 books.

President Ikeda also attended a welcome banquet hosted by Mr. R N Goenka of the Indian Express. Also present were Mr. Vajpayee the Minister of External Affairs and Mr. L.K. Advani, The minister of Information and Broadcasting.

President Ikeda’s delegation also visited Calcutta and met with Mr. T.N. Singh the Governor of West Bengal. They also visited Rabindra Bharati University and presented books to the students.

1992

President Ikeda’s third visit to India took place 13 years later, in 1992 also on the invitation of various Indian organisations such as Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). During his visit, he met top government leaders and bureaucrats and delivered lectures.

President Ikeda met with then Vice President of India Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma at his official residence in New Delhi. Dr Sharma heartily welcomed President Ikeda and hailed him as an individual who has significantly contributed to the realization of world peace.

Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, the organization promoting greater awareness of Gandhian ideals, invited President Ikeda to deliver its fourth Gandhi memorial lecture. In his address titled, “Towards a world without war – Gandhism and the Modern world”, he identified 4 important aspects of Gandhism – Optimism, Activism, populism and holistic vision of life and explored each of its characteristics through references to Gandhi’s words and actions.

During this visit, President Ikeda met President of India R. Venkataraman at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Coverage of the meeting was aired on the Indian national television. They discussed a number of topics including Gandhi’s influence on youth, cultural ties between India and Japan; Shakyamuni Buddha and the origin of Ahimsa; the Indian way of truth and dharma as a guideline towards world peace.

President Ikeda received fellowship status from the Delhi school of Nonviolence in recognition for his dedicated efforts towards promoting world peace and unity among people.

Soka University and St. Stephens College of the University of Delhi signed an agreement for their educational exchange program during this period.

1997

President Ikeda’s next official visit came in the autumn of 1997 at the invitation of ICCR, The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation and the Asiatic Society. This visit coincided with the 50th anniversary of Indian independence.

During his stay, President Ikeda met several dignitaries including Chairman of The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister of India Mr. I.K. Gujral and the President of India Mr. K.R. Narayanan.

Several ‘firsts’ marked the occasion of his visit, the photo exhibition Rajiv Gandhi: An Intimate Vision inaugurated for the first time in India, after its screenings in Japan; the first Tagore Peace Award conferred on President Ikeda by the Asiatic Society; the first SGI South Asia Representative Meetings held in New Delhi and the first Indo-Japanese joint Culture Festival held at Siri Fort Auditorium.

President Ikeda’s earnest efforts to conduct dialogues of hope and dialogues of friendship with leaders, educators, Gandhians as well as ordinary people created ripples of friendship in India. A number of educational and cultural institutions honoured President Ikeda’s efforts for Peace and Humanism in the subsequent years of his visit.