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Former Soka Gakkai Japanese Buddhist group leader Daisaku Ikeda passes away at 95

Daisaku Ikeda, the former head of one of the world’s largest Japanese Buddhist groups, died of old age at his home in Tokyo on Wednesday, the organisation said on Saturday.

He died from natural causes at the age of 95, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

Ikeda was the third president of the Buddhist sect Soka Gakkai, which claims a membership of over 8.27 million households, according to the Japan Times.

The religious group is known for its association with celebrities and for its influence on politics.

It backs the Japanese political party Komeito, which is a junior coalition partner of prime minister Fumio Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party.

While the sect saw its largest growth in Japan post World War II, Ikeda led its expansion internationally into the world’s largest lay Buddhist association.

The group became increasingly active in cultural and educational activities in the 1970s, as well as in peace efforts.

In 1979, Ikeda became the honorary president of the global wing of the sect called Soka Gakkai International, which claims 2.8 million members in over 190 countries and territories.

He is also considered a prolific writer with published works on philosophy, art, poetry, and music.

Ikeda has also published a number of books on Buddhism, as well as based on interactions with public intellectuals like British historian Arnold Toynbee, Reuters reported.

The religious group has also come under criticism since the creation of the Komeito political party in 1964 for allegedly failing to separate the religion and state.

While the party formally separated from the religious group to reflect a more secular outlook, it however regards Soka Gakkai a “major electoral constituency”.

A funeral was held with members of Ikeda’s family, according to Soka Gakkai, which said more details about the services would be announced soon.

The religious leader is survived by his wife and two sons, the group said.

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