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A TIMELINE of Buddhism

years ago



The beginnings of Buddhism take us to ancient India, where Shakyamuni (also known as Siddhartha Gautama) was born about 2,500 years ago in present day Nepal. Born a prince, he was preoccupied from a young age with the problem of human suffering. Ancient Buddhist scriptures record that, leaving the safety of the royal palace, he encountered the four kinds of human suffering - birth, ageing, sickness and death. This set him on a spiritual journey that led to his enlightenment. After his enlightenment, Shakyamuni travelled all over the Indian subcontinent to share his experiences and wisdom with people. Wherever he travelled, he promoted peace and taught people how to bring out their infinite potential. After his death, his teachings were recorded in sutras by his disciples and spread throughout Asia. His most recent teachings are found in the Lotus Sutra.

6th century


Japanese Calligraphy

China had a huge influence on neighbouring Japan, so in the 6th century Buddhism reached there via Korea. Some 1,500 years after the death of Sakyamuni, Nichiren Daishonin (1222-1282), a Japanese Buddhist monk, rediscovered the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and established the form of Buddhist practice practised by the SGI. Although his vociferous criticism of other Buddhist schools of the time made him a divisive figure, his letters of encouragement to his disciples testify to his sincere human attitude. 

13th century

Nichiren Daishonin


In the 6th century, the great Chinese Buddhist teacher T'ien-t'ai did much to preserve the tradition of the Lotus Sutra among the teachings of Sakyamuni. T'ien-t'ai recognized a significant difference between the first and second halves of the Sutra, which opened up a radically new perspective in Buddhism. Shakyamuni refuted the idea that he first attained enlightenment when he lived in India. He stated that he had always been a Buddha for an unimaginably long time. This teaching pointed to the truth that the buddha state exists in every person's life, in the present and in eternal reality. T'ien-t'ai developed a theoretical system to describe this reality and help people understand the infinite possibilities in every moment of their lives.


Tsunesaburo Makiguchi


Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944) was a reformist educator, author and philosopher in Japan. In 1828, the 57-year-old Makiguchi was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism, which contained a holistic philosophy similar to his own. Two years later, he and his colleague Josei Toda founded the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value-Creating Society for Education). Originally a small group of Soka Gakkai instructors who devoted their time to educational reform, it gradually evolved into an organization with a broad membership that promoted the spread of Buddhism. 


Josei Toda


Josei Toda (1900-1958) was an educator, publisher and entrepreneur who, as the second president of the Soka Gakkai after World War II, revived the Buddhist organization and built it into a dynamic, popular movement. During the World War, Makiguchi and Toda were arrested by Japan's militaristic leadership. While in prison, Toda studied Nichiren's Buddhist philosophy with great dedication and understood its principles in depth. He came to the realization that the buddha state is present in all life and that every human being is capable of bringing it to the surface and attaining enlightenment through the practice of Nichiren's teachings. 


Daisaku Ikeda


Josei Toda's disciple Daisaku Ikeda played a major role in the development of Soka Gakkai after World War II. In 1960, at the age of 32, he became the third president of the organization after Toda. Under his leadership, the Soka Gakkai continued to develop, taking root outside Japan, and in 1975 he founded the Soka Gakkai International.

Practicing in Hungary

Soka Gakkai members in Hungary meet on a regular basis to study Buddhism together and support one another. Find out more of about what we do.

Buddhist Practice

Learn about the Buddhist practice of chanting "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo" and what you can do to live a life of  unshakeable happiness.

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