Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is a Buddhist association with more than 12 million members in 186 countries and territories worldwide. For SGI members, Buddhism is a practical philosophy of individual empowerment and inner transformation that enables people to develop themselves and take responsibility for their lives.
As lay believers and "engaged Buddhists," SGI members strive in their everyday lives to develop the ability to live with confidence, to create value in any circumstances and to contribute to the well-being of friends, family and community. The promotion of peace, culture and education is central to SGI's activities.
In 1975, in response to the needs of an increasing international membership, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) was founded. Today SGI is a worldwide network of 12 million members in 185 countries and territories sharing a common vision for a better world. The roots of its institutional history are found in the development of the Soka Gakkai (Society for the Creation of Value) in Japan.
The Soka Gakkai's seventy-year history is one of dramatic growth and challenge and one that was built by its successive presidents together with the people who were motivated by their spirit and dedication. It was conceived in 1930 as the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai , a small society of educators. Its founders, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) and his protege Josei Toda (1900-1958), were inspired by Nichiren Buddhism and dedicated to educational reform.
In a two-volume work published in 1930-31, Makiguchi set down the framework and principles of Soka education. He emphasized developing the learner's capacity for critical thinking over rote learning, and self-motivation over blind obedience. It was revolutionary thinking for the Japanese education system at that time.
For the state, on the other hand, education like religion was a tool to deify the emperor as a living god and mobilize the nation for war. At meetings of the society, Makiguchi and Toda openly discussed the state's manipulation of religion. They warned of the disastrous turn towards war. In 1943, the state arrested members of the Society and imprisoned Makiguchi and Toda as "thought criminals." Makiguchi died there, to the end holding fast to his principles and beliefs.
Amidst the ashes and chaos of postwar Japan, Toda was released finally and the Soka Gakkai  was reborn. Toda expanded the organization's range of vision from education to the betterment of society as a whole. He promoted the practice of Buddhism as an accessible means of rebuilding lives and overcoming obstacles to happiness.
Toda passed away in 1958 and Daisaku Ikeda became president of the Soka Gakkai in 1960 at the age of 32. Under his leadership, the organization continued to grow and broaden its focus to embrace activities in the fields of peace, culture and education. At the same time, the membership outside of Japan is growing. To serve the needs of the international membership and to expand its commitment to the welfare of humanity on a global scale, the SGI was founded in 1975. Today, members of the SGI strive to contribute to their respective societies as responsible citizens cherishing the global vision of a peaceful world.