I spent much of the day writing a response to this blog: http://buddhism.about.com/b/2009/10/28/ghandi-king-and-ikeda.htm#co...
But when I went to submit the comment, they blocked any further comments.
So here is what I wrote:
Thank you Barbara for your interest in trying to understand why a son of a seaweed farmer, who fought 20-plus years to overcome tuberculosis in his 30s, whose older brother died in WWII, who was falsely jailed in Osaka (in the 50s), later to be fully exonerated, who has given his life for over 60 years, traveling the world, trying to touch so many ordinary people's lives (Buddhist and non-Buddhists alike) could be thought of as someone who ranks up there with great people like Gandhi and King.
I was first introduced to the writings of Gandhi and King as a young punk-rock, stoner kid in Huntington Beach, California, when I decided to supplement listening to Jello Biafra (from the Dead Kennedys) and Johnny Rotten (from the Sex Pistols) by occasionally picking up some of Daisaku Ikeda's books from my hippy mom's bookshelf.
Not only did I start to learn about Gandhi and King from his writings at the time, but I also started to learn about Jose Marti, Nelson Mandela, Socrates, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Victor Hugo, and many other thinkers throughout time, who I had never learned about in the Huntington Beach Unified School District.
It was through reading Daisaku Ikeda's writings in the early 80s, as a junior high student, that I realized it doesn't take just leading salt marches and civil rights marches (though those are extremely important) to have a drastic effect on this very messed up world. In all of Daisaku Ikeda's dialogues with such people as Nelson Mandela, Linus Pauling, Hazel Henderson, and hundreds of others, I learned about how the great revolutionary people of all times were still normal, everyday people, who despite their many struggles, decided to try to do something different, to try to affect the world in a positives way. I learned from him (a normal everyday person) that we all (normal everyday people) have infinite worth and we all have infinite ability to do something in a small way, that will ripple out into the world and cause positive changes in a world that desperately needs it (see how your little small question has rippled out?).
The greatest thing that I have learned from Daisaku Ikeda is a quote he often repeats from the Lotus Sutra, from the historical Buddha, “Shariputra, in the beginning I made a vow to make all people equal to me, with no distinctions.” The reason I chose to take Daisaku Ikeda as my mentor in life (in my preteen years) and not my favorite singers at the time, (David Bowie, Johnny Rotten and Jello Biafra) was because of his belief in me as an ordinary person, that I could, through my small actions, affect the world positively, the same way he has.
When I first read his writings on music at about the age of 10, “How unfortunate that the level of modern music has led youth on the path to delinquency. When music plays such a role, its functions must be called evil (from the Precepts for Brass Band),” it took me a few years of reading it, to finally realize that music for me at the time, though it was helping me vent my anger at a very unjust and screwed up world, wasn’t helping me create any value in my life or in the world.
It was then that I decided I wanted to be a singer/song writer and create music that inspires young people to realize their unlimited potential as human beings.
I tried learning every kind of musical instrument I could get a hold of, since then, but for some reason, it took me about 14 years to break through my writer’s block and write my first complete song. Despite those 14 years of suffering to try to realize my true potential as a song writer, I was forced to never give up, by continually reading Daisaku Ikeda’s many books. Also during those 14 years, and for another 6 years after I wrote my first song in 1994, Daisaku Ikeda and the SGI were battling many groups that were trying to keep Soka University from opening a university in my home town of Southern California.
I made a goal to go to Soka University of SanDeigo when I was a jr. high school student in the 80s, but unfortunately due to so much opposition in the area of San Deigo, where that site was being planned, it was never able to even start construction. Then when I was in high school in the late 80s, I was glad that the 4-year university that was planned for San Diego in the early 80s was replanned for the new site that was opened in Calabasas, Los Angeles. So again I made a determination to go to Soka University of Los Angeles, once it opened as the 4-year university it was supposed to become. However, for another 10 or more years, the Sierra Club, along with a whole host of other interest groups fought and fought Soka University from opening up a 4-year university in Calabasas.
Despite my dream to be a singer/song writer, for some reason, I still wanted to go to Soka University in California, but because of reading Daisaku Ikeda’s writings over that time, I realized as he often writes that ‘I have to create my dreams wherever I find myself, no place is better than where you find yourself at any given moment to create your dreams and to change the world for the better (my paraphrase).’ I re-thought about what it was that finally helped me break through my 14 years of writer’s block and finally write my first song. It was only after I read the first 8 volumes of Daisaku Ikeda’s Human Revolution (his autobiographical novel of his struggles to build the Soka Gakkai, under his mentor Josei Toda, now over 30 volumes, when combined with the New Human Revolution). So I thought, why don’t I write an autobiographical novel, like he has done; maybe my writings could inspire other young people to also break through whatever blocks are holding them back from changing their lives. Like my 14-year struggle to write my first song, the 2-year struggle to finish my first novel, was only accomplish by reading many of the books Daisaku Ikeda had written (and published in many languages) during that time.
I have read many critics of Daisaku Ikeda, but for the over 25 years that I’ve been reading his books, I have never found an educated criticism of any of his over 100 published books (maybe some exist, but I’ve never found them). I’ve always found this to be quite odd, that the most prolific writer of our time doesn’t have any educated books written critically of any of his bestselling books. I’m a critic of many famous writers (read my blogs), but I always try to read their books before I critique their writings. I have tried to have a debate on my podcast (Peace From the Far East) with anyone who has read any of his books and would like to debate some of his ideas, but I have not yet found anyone to take me up on it (still waiting).
Luckily, if you believe the conspiracy theorists that he is part of some big “World Government Cabal,” you don’t even have to buy his books to read them (thus you don’t have to offer any financial support of any imaginary cabal). Just go to any university and you will find his books in most of the libraries. Or take a Buddhist class at many universities and you will be assigned one of his many books on Buddhist philosophy or Buddhist history as part of the class curriculum.
Luckily, in my hometown of Orange County, California I was finally able to study at Soka University of America, from 2001 to 2005 (but I didn’t read any books on Buddhism there or any of Daisaku Ikeda’s books there, because it’s not a religious school), but I did realize that like the 18-plus year struggle Daisaku Ikeda waged to open up Soka University of America, normal people like him have to fight hard and long to have anything great accomplished in this very unjust world. This has given me the courage that despite my 25-plus year struggle to be a singer/song writer (professionally) and 15-plus year struggle to be a writer of books (professionally), it might take me many more years before I can quit my day job (working for the Japanese government), but because I continue to read Daisaku Ikeda’s great books, I gain the courage to never give up on my dreams.
I know if you are serious about knowing why over 200 universities around the world have given Daisaku Ikeda honorary doctorate degrees and why the Dean of Morehouse College (a Christian) and the director of the Gandhi Institute (a Hindu) both consider Daisaku Ikeda their mentors, you are never going to find out by asking the many Daisaku Ikeda critics and fans. It would be like someone trying to tell you why some people in Japan eat natto for breakfast and why others throw up just smelling it. You are going to actually have to open up his books and find out for yourself. I will be happy to send any of them to you and then have a debate about them on my podcast. Please contact me.