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Soka Gakkai

Sōka Gakkai
Soka Gakkai flag
Formation 1930
Founders Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda
Type New religious movement
Headquarters Shinanomachi 32, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-8583, Japan
+12 million
Minoru Harada
Website .jp.sokanetwww
Formerly called
Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai

Soka Gakkai (Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda. It is one of the larger Japanese new religions. From 1952[1] to 1991 it was a lay group within the .Nichiren Shōshū Buddhist sect, The Gakkai reveres the Lotus Sutra and places chanting "Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō" at the center of devotional practice. The movement is publicly involved in peace activism, education and politics. It has also been at the center of controversies.

The movement was founded by educators Makiguchi and Toda in 1930, but not formally inaugurated until 1937.[2] After a temporary disbandment during World War II when much of the leadership was imprisoned on charges of [107]

The doctrinal dispute centered on interpretations of the meaning of the Three Jewels of Buddhism, in particular the "treasure of the Sangha", which according to Nichiren Shōshū refers to the Priesthood, while - according to the Soka Gakkai - anyone who practices true Buddhism is a member of the Sangha.[98] This dispute related to the concept of religious authority: "The priesthood claims that it is the sole custodian of religious authority and dogma, while the Soka Gakkai leadership argues that the sacred writings of Nichiren, not the priesthood, represent the ultimate source of authority, and that any individual with deep faith in Nichiren's teachings can reach enlightenment without the assistance of a priest".[108]

One of the deviations the priesthood objected to was Ikeda allowing members to sing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" at meetings because it mentions God. Shōshū, believing that Nichiren's authority was absolute, did not permit such Christian music.[109][110] Another problem was the concern of some priests that the Soka Gakkai was building community centers rather than temples.[111]

Some Japanese members of the Gakkai left at this time, "disenchanted" with its "increasingly Ikeda-centered ethos"[35]:302 or disillusioned with the "Ikeda personality-cult tendency".[112] Others left the organization out of concerns that they would no longer be able to enter Shōshū temples and have traditional pilgrimages and funerals. Most members stayed with the Soka Gakkai and what they perceived as Ikeda's modernization of Buddhist ideas.[113]

In response to members leaving the movement in order to remain parishioners affiliated with Shōshū Hokkekō, the Soka Gakkai initiated a "movement for leaving the confraternity" (脱講運動), aimed at drawing former members back to the movement from the Hokkekō. The Soka Gakkai encouraged members to chant for the self-destruction of "Nikken-shū" ("the Nikken sect", a name the movement applied to Nichiren Shōshū after the split) and began distributing the names of Shōshū temples across the country, holding regular prayer sessions to beseech the object of worship for aid in overthrowing (打倒 datō) Soka Gakkai's enemy.[35]:301–302

Households were allowed to belong to both organizations until 1997, when Shōshū requested that all its members leave Soka Gakkai.[106][107][114] In that year, Shōshū demolished the ¥35 billion Shōhondō building at Taiseki-ji. High Priest Nikken alleged that the reason for the demolition was corrosion caused by sea salt, but the architect of the Sho Hondo has said this had "no basis in fact", and the soundness of the building had been verified many times.[115]

There is evidence that Soka Gakkai was involved in fabricating evidence that the Shōshū administration had engaged in illicit conduct,[116] and in December 1999, Soka Gakkai was found guilty of libel against Shōshū. The Gakkai's official newspaper, the Seikyō Shinbun, had printed a doctored photo of Abe's 70th birthday party, claiming that it showed him cavorting with geisha.[117] Following the guilty verdict, the Seikyō Shinbun reported that it had been found innocent of all charges.[118][119]

Religious scholars have mixed opinions about the split. According to M. Bumann, Seager, Dobbeleare, Metraux, Hurst and others, "A spirit of openness, egalitarianism, and democratization pervaded the SG, embodying and giving new life to the idea of self-empowerment. In 1991, these liberalizing developments led to the split between the Japan-oriented, priestly Nichiren Shōshū and the lay-based, globalized SGI."[120] In an analysis of books studying the expansion of SGI after the split, Jane Hurst viewed the split as the result of: "lay members seeking religious support for their lives, priests seeking perpetuation of hierarchical institutions".[121] Ian Reader, on the other hand, saw "corrupt and scandalous behavior on both sides."[116]

Beliefs and practices

The belief of the Soka Gakkai centers on recognizing that all life has dignity and has infinite potential and that the imminent “Buddhahood” existing in every person and can be awakened through the Buddhist practice ascribed by Nichiren.[122][123] Further, a person's social actions at every moment (the theory of the interdependence of life) can lead to soka, or the creation of value. Societal change is facilitated through "human revolution," a way of living in the world that creates value.[124][125][126][127][128] Many materials published by the Soka Gakkai convey the belief that members who share Nichiren's vow are the Bodhisattvas of the Earth.[129][130][131][132]

The daily practice of Soka Gakkai members consists of chanting of daimoku to the Gohonzon with "earnest resolve" as well as the study of Nichiren Buddhism.[133] Rather than ceremonial daimoku (girei), Soka Gakkai members describe their chanting as “relentless daimoku” (tatakao daimoku) to the Gohonzon. The practice of chanting requires developing strong resolve to reveal inner “Buddhahood,” applying the ideals of Buddhism to daily life, and determining to accomplish specific goals. These efforts are linked to proselytizing to spread the ideals of the Lotus Sutra and to thereby effect a spiritual and cultural change in society.[124]The practice also entails performing morning and evening gongyo, attending monthly discussion meetings, and fostering capable people.[134]

Differences from Nichiren Shoshu

Between 1952[135] and 1991 Soka Gakkai was a lay group, or Hokkekō in Nichiren Shōshū. The split was to a degree caused by disagreements over the interpretation of Nichiren teachings.[136] While the two movements still share some ritual elements,[137] the Soka Gakkai did change some practices to "reflect the changes of the late twentieth century",[138] and their own approach to kosen-rufu, or widespread propagation.[139]

The Soka Gakkai practices Nichiren’s teachings as adapted and applied by its three founding presidents: Makiguchi, Toda and Ikeda.[140] Nichiren’s basic practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (called "daimoku") to a mandala Nichiren inscribed called "Gohonzon" is shared by other Nichiren sects including Nichiren Shoshu; but in the Soka Gakkai, the expectations and goals of the practice are unique.[141] For the Soka Gakkai, practice affords "a ritual response" to one's desire to improve one's life and circumstances; but chanting is "not an empty ritual, but a means of focusing one's attention on one's own contribution to problem areas in one's life, and thereby a means of realizing potential responses."[142][143]

These interpretations of Nichiren's teachings arise first from Makiguchi’s theory of value creation. From its onset the Soka Gakkai was interested in religion providing "personal gain" for adherents; but "personal advantage as defined by Makiguchi, however, is not a narrow self-interest, but rather something that might be called enlightened self-interest. It is never in conflict with the public good.".[144] Secondly, the Soka Gakkai's beliefs and practices arise from Toda’s insights that "Buddha is life (or life force)" and "we are bodhisattvas entrusted with worldwide propagation of the Mystic Law".[145]

Ikeda developed these teachings in a way they could take hold in countries outside of Japan, and developed its social agenda.[146] Ikeda has produced certain writings which have acquired a canonical status within Sōka Gakkai, such as Ikeda's book "Human Revolution", which in some ways sets it apart from Nichiren Shoshu,[147] which in turn sets itself apart from the Soka Gakkai by maintaining that only a priest can be a "Bodhisattva of the Earth".[148] <<

Faith, practice and study

The primary practice of the Soka Gakkai, like that of most Nichiren sects, is chanting Nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo, which is the title of the Lotus Sutra, and simultaneously considered the Buddha nature inherent in life.[149] and the ultimate reality of existence[150] The supplemental practice is the daily recitation of parts of the 2nd and 16th chapters of the Lotus Sutra. While other Nichiren sects preach that this practice leads to enlightenment in one's present lifetime, the Soka Gakkai stresses that practicing for this enlightenment entails actual "engagement in the realities of daily life", while including the happiness of others in one's own practice.[151]

In addition, the Soka Gakkai publishes study materials, including the writings of Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra, and has a program of study.[152] As a New Religion, Soka Gakkai practices Nichiren Buddhism as it has been expounded by its three founding presidents, and so also studies their speeches and writings, especially those of 3rd President Daisaku Ikeda. His novelized histories of the movement, The Human Revolution (and its sequel The New Human Revolution) have been said to have "canonical status" as it "functions as a source of inspiration and guidance for members".[147]

The Soka Gakkai practice also includes activities beyond the ritualistic, such as meetings, social engagement, and improving one's circumstances; these also have significance as religious activities in the Soka Gakkai.[153][154][155]

The practices to improve oneself while helping others, and the study of Buddhism, combine with "faith" in what the Soka Gakkai considers "the three basic aspects of Nichiren Buddhism".[156] Faith, as explained in a booklet given by SGI-USA to prospective new members, is an expectation that deepens with experience as one practices in the Soka Gakkai.[157]

Five "Eternal Guidelines" of Faith

In late 1957, then Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda proclaimed 3 "Eternal Guidelines of Faith" in order to impress on the growing membership that the purpose of their faith was to effect change in their lives. In 2003, Ikeda added two more guidelines. The Five Guidelines of Faith are:

  • Faith for a harmonious family;
  • Faith for each person to become happy;
  • Faith for surmounting obstacles;
  • Faith for health and long life; and
  • Faith for absolute victory.[158]

The Discussion Meeting

According to Seager, "Gakkai meetings are formal liturgies" in that their format—"chanting, relatos, teachings, inspiring entertainment"—is identical from place to place.[159] McLaughlin says they are among the most important activities of the Soka Gakkai.[160]

At discussion meetings, participants are encouraged to take responsibility "for their own lives and for wider social and global concerns."[161] The format is an example of how the Soka Gakkai is able to "dispense with much of the apparatus of conventional church organization".[162]

Life force

While imprisoned, Josei Toda studied a passage for the Immeasurable meanings sutra (considered the introduction to the Lotus Sutra) that describes Buddhahood by means of 34 negations – for example, that it is "neither being nor non-being, this nor that, square nor round". From this, he concluded that "Buddha" is life, or life force.[163][164]

The "philosophy of life" restates principles formulated by Nichiren:[165] "three thousand conditions in a single moment" (ichinen sanzen), and "observing one's own mind" (kanjin)[166]

The concept of life force is central to the Soka Gakkai's conception of the role of religion and the application of Nichiren's teachings. "Our health, courage, wisdom, joy, desire to improve, self-discipline, and so on, could all be said to depend on our life force," Ikeda says.[167]

Toda considered that the concept of "Buddha as life (force) means that Buddhism entails transforming society.[168] According to religious historian Susumu Shimazono, Ikeda says "Faith is firm belief in the universe and the life force. Only a person of firm faith can lead a good and vigorous life. . . Buddhist doctrine is a philosophy that has human life as its ultimate object, and our Human Revolution movement is an act of reform aimed at opening up the inner universe, the creative life force within each individual, and leading to human freedom."[169]

Soka Gakkai teaches that this "self-induced change in each individual" – which it refers to as "human revolution"—is what leads to happiness and peace[170] While older schools taught the attainment of Buddhahood in this life through the Gohonzon, they did not tie this to social engagement. Toda's conception of life force and human revolution means that one attain Buddhahood "through engagement in the realities of daily life, through attaining benefits and happiness that involve all of life, and through extending this happiness to others."[171]

Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is one of the most popular and influential Mahāyāna sutras, of uncertain authorship. The sutra presents itself as a discourse delivered by Gautama Buddha toward the end of his life. The oldest parts of its text were probably written down between 100 BC and 100 AD: most of the text had appeared by 200 AD.[172] While most Mahāyāna denominations regard the Lotus Sutra as important, a characteristic of Nichiren Buddhism is the elevation of the Lotus Sutra to the only true revelation of Buddhism. The sutra is the basis for the two central focuses in Nichiren Buddhist practice: the daimoku and the gohonzon.[76][147]

Nichiren taught that practicing the Lotus Sutra "address both the purification of the mind the purification of society", and that "only adherence to the teachings of the Lotus Sutra would prevent adversity".[173]

The Soka Gakkai veneration of the Lotus Sutra has been explained by Daisaku Ikeda: "The ideal of Mahayana Buddhism is the realization of happiness for oneself and for others. Nowhere is this more completely set out than in the Lotus Sutra, which recognizes the Buddha-nature in all people—women and men, those with formal education and those without…..the Lotus Sutra doesn't deny the value of worldly benefit. By allowing people to start to practice in expectation of such benefit, the teachings of the Lotus Sutra establish a way of life based on faith, and through this faith…we enter the path of wisdom. By believing in this sutra that teaches universal enlightenment and by purifying our mind, we are then able to bring our daily actions into harmony with the core spirit of Buddhism."[174]

The Soka Gakkai believes that Nichiren taught that the prosperity of society is linked to its regard for the Lotus Sutra, and that in modern terms this means its respect for the dignity of life.[175] One is considered to be practicing the Lotus Sutra when chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.[176][177]


Sōka Gakkai gohonzon

The Gohonzon Soka Gakkai members enshrine in their homes and centers is a transcription by the 18th century high priest Nichikan.[35] The characters down the middle of the scroll say "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" and "Nichiren". Immediately to the right and left are the names of Shakyamuni and Many Treasures (Taho) Buddha. On the corners are the names of protective deities from Buddhist mythology, and the remaining characters are names representing the various conditions of life.[178]

The Soka Gakkai teaches that by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon one fuses one's life with the ultimate reality of all things.[179] It is the member's faith and practice that causes the scroll to become a "happiness machine"[35]:289 that allows one to examine one's life, gain benefit and ultimately attain Buddhahood.[180]

Ikeda has written: "...the treasure tower is the great metaphor of the Lotus Sutra that represents the infinite potential for happiness within each individual's life, coextensive with the infinite cosmos. The treasure tower is synonymous with the Mystic Law, or the Gohonzon, or the Buddha nature inherent within each of us."[181] He also wrote: "In the Daishonin's Buddhism, the powers of the Buddha and the Law indicate those of the Gohonzon, since it embodies both the person and the Law. Only the powers of faith and practice can bring forth the powers of the Buddha and the Law, the limitless power of the Gohonzon."[182]

Josei Toda also taught that one must pray with the belief "that there is no distinction among the Gohonzon, Nichiren and you yourself."[183]

The Soka Gakkai has always believed that the efficacy of one's practice to the Gohonzon was free of dependence on clerical ritual, but refrained from expressing this while still connected to Nichiren Shōshū. Since 1991, however, the organization has taught openly that the Gohonzon is a reflection of the practitioner's own faith and practice.[184]

Chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, called "the daimoku" literally means "devotion – mystic law (or ultimate reality) – lotus flower-teaching". In another sense, "myoho-renge" means "the mystic law of cause and effect".[185]

Soka Gakkai members chant the Daimoku to change their lives, including the environments in which they live.[186] The goal is to produce an inner change that becomes the motivator for social change. The Soka Gakkai teaches that chanting cannot be divorced from action.[187]

Soka Gakkai members believe that chanting releases the power of the universal life force inherent in life.[188] For some Soka Gakkai members, chanting for worldly benefits is a "first step" toward realizing the ultimate goal of Buddhahood. There is no separation between life on the world and the universal life of Buddhahood, chanting daimoku is meant to lead to effects in daily life[189] Thus, Buddhahood is experienced as the process of transforming, and as the actual transformation of, daily life.[190] Therefore, chanting daimoku is not approached as a passive exercise, as Soka Gakkai literature urges practitioners to have "conviction", tenacity and perseverance and to challenge problems.[191][192]


At one time, the Soka Gakkai's expansion methods were controversial, as it employed a Buddhist method called shakubuku, translated as "break and subdue (attachments to inferior teachings)".[193] It is not "forced conversion", as some have alleged. "Although all critics of Sokagakkai express aversion of shakubuku, the method is not very different from that used in the West by Mormons, Jehovah`s Witnesses, ‘Born-again’ Christians, ‘Moonies’ and others. Most Japanese sects practice aggressive proselytising, but not as successfully as Sokagakkai.".[194]

In 1970 Ikeda prescribed a more moderate approach, "urging its members to adopt an attitude of openness to others"; the method Soka Gakkai prefers since then is called shoju - "dialogue or conversation designed to persuade people rather than convert them", though this is often referred to still as "shakubuku spirit".[195] In 2014 the Soka Gakkai changed the "Religious Tenets" section of its Rules and Regulations as regards propagation. Formerly, the Tenets said the Soka Gakkai "would seek to realize its ultimate goal - the widespread propagation of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism throughout Jambudvipa (the world), thus fulfilling the Daishonin's mandate". The new version says "it shall strive, through each individual achieving their human revolution,to realize as its ultimate goal the worldwide propagation of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, thus fulfilling the Daishonin's mandate."[196] According to Soka Gakkai President Harada, "worldwide propagation" is a function of individuals undergoing positive change in their lives.[197]

Oneness of mentor and disciple

Chilson reports that "as Soka Gakkai's long-time leader, Ikeda is revered by Gakkai members."[198] The relationship between members and their mentors is referred to as "the oneness of mentor and disciple." Soka Gakkai members both in and outside Japan perceive Ikeda as their mentor and openly discuss this relationship. The mentor is to lead and thereby improve the lives of his disciples. The mentor's actions is seen as giving disciples confidence in their own unrealized potential. The role of disciples is seen as supporting their mentor and realizing his vision using their unique abilities and circumstances. The relationship is seen as non-hierarchical and mutually weighted. Disciples are encouraged to be active creators rather than passive followers.[199] Seager writes: "The oneness of the mentor-disciple relationship is described not in terms of demands and duties as many critics imagine it to be, but in terms of choice, freedom and responsibility. It is the disciple's choice and decision to follow the mentor's vision for their common goal. In response, it is the mentor's wish to raise and foster the disciple to become greater than the mentor.[17]:63

A predominant theme in Ikeda's writings is his relationship with Toda, thereby modeling for his followers the oneness of mentor and disciple. Chilson states, "There is no part of his life that he talks about more, or with more enthusiasm, than the years he spent with Toda."[200] Ikeda's published diary portrays him as an imperfect person who is completely dedicated to serving Toda as a disciple, creating an image of Ikeda for members who wish to become his disciple.[201]

Since the mid-1990s, the issue of the oneness of mentor and disciple has received more prominence in the Soka Gakkai. There is a strong emphasis on "cultivating all members... in discipleship" through forging "affective one-to-one relationships with Ikeda".[202]:70

Views on priesthood

The Soka Gakkai teaches that it is possible to attain enlightenment without the assistance of traditional temples and without a system of priesthood, for any person with deep faith in Nichiren's teachings.[203]

Peace activities

Gymnastic formation by the Brazil SGI team at Rio de Janeiro, on October 30, 2011. Performance art is one of Soka Gakkai's peace activities.

The group's peace activities can however be traced back to the Toda era - at an athletic meeting in 1957, Toda called for a complete ban on nuclear weapons. A 1975 petition drive against nuclear weapons by the Gakkai's youth division garnered 10 million signatures, and was handed over to the United Nations.[204][205]:84

Soka Gakkai considers dance and other performance art to be a major aspect of its peace activities. The members in Singapore also participate in the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics Opening Ceremony[206] and the 2015 Southeast Asian Games Opening Ceremony.[207] The members also participate in the national day parade in Singapore[208] and Malaysia.[209]

Culture of peace

The Soka Gakkai was included in a collective Buddhist response to UNESCO's "Declaration on the Role of Religion in the Promotion of a Culture of Peace," established in Barcelona in December 1994. The Soka Gakkai's contribution to building a culture of peace is summarized by person-to-person diplomacy, the promotion of small community discussion meetings with egalitarian mores reflecting the Lotus tradition, the promotion of the values of compassion, wisdom, and courage to promote action to nurture world citizenship, and participation in cultural events to foster the culture of peace.[210] Peace and human rights activists such as Dr. Lawrence Carter of Morehouse College and Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who partnered with the Soka Gakkai in various exhibits and presentations, praise the organization's efforts.[211]

Each year, Ikeda publishes a peace proposal which examines global challenges in the light of Buddhist teachings and suggests specific actions to further peace and human security. The proposals are specific and wide-ranging, covering topics as constructing a culture of peace, promoting the development of the United Nations, nuclear disarmament, the prohibition of child soldiers, the empowerment of women, the promotion of educational initiatives in schools such as human rights and sustainable development education, and calls to reawaken the human spirit and individual empowerment.[212] The complete texts of recent proposals are available at the SGI website.[213] Olivier Urbain, Director of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research, has published a compilation of topical excerpts from past proposals, with a focus on the role of the United Nations.[214]

Establishment of institutions

The Soka Gakkai has established multiple institutions and research facilities to promote its values of peace. The Institute of Oriental Philosophy (founded in 1962), among other goals, clarifies the essence of Buddhism to peace studies. The Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue (founded in 1993 as the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century), promotes dialogue between scholars and activists to prevent war and promote respect for life.[215] The Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research (founded in 1996) conducts peace-oriented international policy research through international conferences and frequent publications.[216][217]

Criticisms of the Soka Gakkai's promotion of pacifism

Soka Gakkai's pacifist stand has however been questioned for the group's support to the non-pacifist political party Komeito, without denying that the group is very active in "trying to establish the basis for world peace".[205]:84 In Japan, there is a widespread negative perception of SGI's pacifist movement, which is considered to be mere public relations for the group.[7] Scholar Brian Victoria characterizes Soka Gakkai's pacifist activism as a "recruiting tactic", noting in particular Komeito's support for revising the Constitution of Japan.[19]

Support for the Soka Gakkai's promotion of pacifism

Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Linus Pauling has praised Daisaku Ikeda specifically for his work to foster a lasting worldwide peace.[218]

Dr. Lawrence Carter, the chaplain at the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, considers the Soka Gakkai an important ally in getting the message of civil rights and non-violence to cultures beyond those that are Christian. He has said that Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai, with activities such as Victory Over Violence, have helped in his work to "revive the King legacy."[219]

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish rights organization, has also worked with the Soka Gakkai. Rabbi Abraham Cooper headed its efforts in the Pacific Rim, and in co-operation with the Soka Gakkai opened a Japanese version of the Center's Holocaust exhibit. Cooper said the organization's involvement actually improved the exhibit, and that through the Soka Gakkai, the Wiesenthal Center has found more partners in Japan.[220]


Soka Gakkai's Tokyo headquarters

Formally, the

  • Soka Gakkai International
  • SOKAnet - Sōka Gakkai's official website (in Japanese)
  • Soka Spirit, published by SGI-USA
  • Soka Gakkai, published by The World Religions & Spirituality Project (WRSP)

External links

  • "Risky alliance for Japan's ruling party" BBC News report, June 22, 2000
  • "The Power of Sōka Gakkai: Growing revelations about the complicated and sinister nexus of politics and religion" Time Magazine, November 20, 1995
  • Soka University of America Is A School On A Hill
  • "Celebrating in Earnest: Buddhists Mark the Start of a New Year With Joy and a Strong Sense of Purpose" by Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, January 1, 2008
  • The Value of a Grandfather Figure by Polly Toynbee, Manchester Guardian/May 19, 1984
  • Engaged Buddhism: A Skeleton in the Closet?Brian Daizen Victoria, Senior Lecturer Centre for Asian Studies, University of Adelaide,
  • Engaged Buddhism: A Skeleton in the Closet?"Koichi Miyata, Soka University, Department of Humanities "Critical Comments on Brian Victoria's "
  • Lecture by Levi McLaughlin on SGI, Princeton University
  • Dragan Todorovic; Soka Gakkai - Mystery with a Reason?

News media (websites)

  • Strand, Clark: Waking the Buddha - how the most dynamic and empowering buddhist movement in history is changing our concept of religion. Strand examines how the Soka Gakkai, based on the insight that "Buddha is life", has evolved a model in which religion serves the needs of its practitioners, rather than the practitioners adhering to dogma and traditions for their own sake. Middleway Press, 2014. ISBN 978-0-9779245-6-1
  • Editors of AERA: Sōkagakkai kaibai (創価学会解剖: "Dissecting Sōkagakkai"). Asahi Shimbun-sha, October 1995. ISBN 978-4-02-261286-1. AERA is a weekly investigative news magazine published by one of Japan's leading news organizations; this book attempts to present a dry, fair assessment of Sōkagakkai and Daisaku Ikeda and contains several interviews with Gakkai leaders.
  • Shimada, Hiroki: Sōkagakkai no jitsuryoku (創価学会の実力: "The true extent of Sōkagakkai's power"). Shinchosha, August 2006. ISBN 4-02-330372-0. Argues that the Sōka Gakkai is not (or is no longer) as powerful as many of its opponents fear, and that it is losing ground internally as all but the most dedicated are turned off by the leadership and fewer members need the organization for social bonding. Also notes that it is becoming more like a civic rather than a religious organization, and that inactive members don't resign because they want to avoid the ostracism and harassment that can result.
  • Shimada, Hiroki: Kōmeitō vs. Sōkagakkai (公明党vs.創価学会: "The Kōmeitō and the Sōka Gakkai"). Asahi Shinsho, June 2007. ISBN 978-4-02-273153-1. Describes the relationship between Kōmeitō and Sōka Gakkai and the development of their history. Touches on the Sōka Gakkai–Nichiren Shōshū split, describing it as the result of a power struggle and financial constraints, as well as on the organized harassment of opponents by Sōka Gakkai members, the organization's use of its media vehicles to vilify opponents, and Ikeda's demand for unquestioning loyalty.
  • Taisekiji: Shoshū Hashaku Guide (Jp: 諸宗破折ガイド: "Guide to refuting [erroneous teachings of] other schools"). 2003 (no ISBN); pp. 160–164. Published by the Buddhist school formerly associated with Sōka Gakkai and presents details of Sōka Gakkai's gradual distortion of the school's teachings and reasons for its severing of ties.
  • Tamano, Kazushi: Sōkagakkai no Kenkyū (創価学会の研究: "Research on the Sōkagakkai"). Kodansha Gendai Shinsho, 2008. ISBN 978-4-06-287965-1. This book is an attempt to review scholarly studies of Sōka Gakkai from the 1950s to the 1970s and shifts in perceptions of the organization as journalists took over from scholars. Tamano takes the perspective of a social scientist and describes Sōka Gakkai as a socio-political phenomenon. He is also somewhat critical of some views Shimada expressed in the latter's recent publications.
  • Yamada, Naoki: Sōkagakkai towa nanika (創価学会とは何か: "Explaining Sōkagakkai"). Shinchosha, April 2004. ISBN 4-10-467301-3
  • Yano, Jun'ya: Kuroi Techō—Sōka Gakkai "Nihon Senryō Keikaku" no Zen Kiroku (黒い手帳 創価学会「日本占領計画」の全記録: "My black notebooks: a complete record of Sōka Gakka's 'Operation Occupy Japan'"). Kodansha, February 2009. ISBN 978-4-06-215272-3. Yano is a former secretary-general of Kōmeitō.
  • Yano, Jun'ya: "Kuroi Techō" Saiban Zen Kiroku (「黒い手帳」裁判全記録: "The whole record of the trials concerning 'My black notebooks'"). Kodansha, 7/2009. ISBN 978-4-06-215637-0.


Further reading

  • Sōka Gakkai in America: Accommodation and Conversion By Phillip E. Hammond and David W. Machacek. London: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-829389-5
  • "The Sōka Gakkai: Buddhism and the Creation of a Harmonious and Peaceful Society" by Daniel A. Metraux in Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia. Christopher S. Queen and Sallie B. King, eds. SUNY Press, 1996.
  • The New Believers: A survey of sects, cults and alternative religions. David V Barrett. Octopus Publishing Group, 2003
  • The Lotus and the Maple Leaf: The Sōka Gakkai in Canada by Daniel A. Metraux (University Press of America, 1996)
  • Fundamentals of Buddhism (second edition) by Yasuji Kirimura (Nichiren Shōshū International Center [now SGI], 1984). ISBN 4-88872-016-9
  • Sōka Gakkai kaibō ("Dissecting Sōka Gakkai") by the editors of Aera (Asahi Shimbun, 2000). ISBN 4-02-261286-X (Japanese)
  • A Public Betrayed: An Inside Look at Japanese Media Atrocities and Their Warnings to the West. Adam Gamble & Takesato Watanabe. Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004. ISBN 0-89526-046-8
  • (SERA) Southeast Review of Asian Studies 29 (2007). "Religion, Politics, and Constitutional Reform in Japan," by Daniel Metraux, 157-72.
  • Westward Dharma: Buddhism beyond Asia. Charles S. Prebish and Martin Baumann, eds. 2002.
  • Igami, Minobu. 1995. Tonari no Sōka Gakkai [The Sōka Gakkai Next Door], Tokyo: Takarajima.
  • Proselytizing and the Limits of Religious Pluralism in Contemporary Asia. By Juliana Finucane, R. Michael Feener, Page 103-122.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Jacqueline I. Stone , Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism (Studies in East Asian Buddhism), University of Hawaii Press 2003,ISBN 978-0824827717, page 454.
  3. ^ a b
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^ Phillip E. Hammond and David W. Machacek, "Soka Gakkai International" in J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann (eds.), Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, ABC-CLIO, 2010, p. 2658. "Daisaku Ikeda (b. 1928), Soka Gakkai's charismatic third president, led the international growth of the movement. Although Ikeda and his successor, Einosuke Akiya, have gone to great lengths to improve the movement's public image, suspicion remains. Soka Gakkai's political involvement through the organ of the Komeito, a political party founded by the Soka Gakkai, and the near godlike reverence that members have for President Ikeda have tended to perpetuate public distrust. Although it has been subjected to a generalized suspicion toward Eastern religious movements in the United States, Europe, and South America, the movement's history outside of Japan has been tranquil by comparison to its Japanese history."
  7. ^ a b c "When I conducted a survey of 235 Doshisha University students a few years ago asking their opinions about the Gakkai and how much they knew about its peace education programs, over 80 percent responded that they had a negative image of the movement and about 60 percent thought that its "peace movement" is little more than promotional propaganda. The few respondents with a positive image were either Soka Gakkai members, were related members, or were friends of members."
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b c
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b ""For over half a century, one of the most controversial new religions in Japan has been Soka Gakkai. Although this group has matured into a responsible member of society, its ongoing connection with reformist political activity served to keep it in the public eye. Until relatively recently, it also had a high profile as the result of sensationalist and often irresponsible media coverage. Apparently as a direct consequence of the social consensus against this religion, some scholars have felt free to pen harsh critiques of Soka Gakkai--critiques in which the goal of promoting understanding has been eclipsed by efforts to delegitimate Soka Gakkai by portraying it as deluded, wrong, and/or socially dangerous....Soka Gakkai also spread to the United States and Europe, where it aroused controversy as a result of its intense proselytizing activities. Although it was never as controversial as groups like the Hare Krishna Movement or the Unification Church, Soka Gakkai—which in the United States went under the name Nichiren Shoshu of America after Soka Gakkai broke with Nichiren Shōshū—was not infrequently stereotyped as a brainwashing cult, particularly by anti-cult authors."
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ Levi McLaughlin, Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions, Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion, ISBN 978 90 04 23435 2, page 282
  17. ^ a b c d e f
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  20. ^ Watanabe, Takesato. "The Movement and the Japanese Media." In Machacek and Wilson, eds. Global Citizens, p. 221. OUP. ISBN 0199240396.
  21. ^ a b c Robert L. Ramseyer. "The Soka Gakkai". In Beardsley, Richard K., editor, Studies in Japanese culture I. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1965. p. 156
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  36. ^ Montgomery, Daniel, Fire in the Lotus, (1991). Mandala, an imprint of Grafton Books. p. 186 and p. 189, ISBN 978-1-85274-091-7
  37. ^ Nakano, Tsuyoshi. “Religion and State.” In Tamaru, Norioshi and David Reid, eds. 1996. Religion in Japanese Culture: Where Living Traditions Meet a Changing World. Tokyo: Kodansha, International. ISBN 4-7700-2054-6. P. 125.
  38. ^
  39. ^ .
  40. ^
  41. ^ McLaughlin (2012):278-279. "Sõka Gakki was driven forward by adherents who came to the group from the fringes of modern Japanese society. They were attracted to the Gakkai in part because it addressed them in an educational idiom, promising access to legitimate and legitimizing practices associated with a pedagogical framework. This was crucial in Japan of the mid—twentieth century, a society obsessed by standards imposed by educational systems, whose members were quick to judge one another based on perceived levels of cultural sophistication. The Value Creation Study Association appealed to the people postwar Japan as a forum for the socially disenfranchised to study, to learn, to prove themselves within meritocratic institutions modeled on the mainstream schools and other educational establishments in which they otherwise had few chances to participate. Soka Gakkai's academic idiom that appealed to so many in postwar Japan speaks not only to members' desire to realize legitimacy through educational pursuits; the group also appeals to members' aspirations to join Japan's social elite....Soka Gakkai is proof that the socially disenfranchised need not sit idle; they are aware of what they lack, and, when organized en masse and inspired by the possibilities of upward social mobility, they themselves create the institutions that grant social mobility— political parties, newspapers, study circles, schools, museums, organizations for the performing arts, and opportunities for musical training. They create alternative means of reaching for the social legitimacy that remains out of their reach in mainstream society, of securing recognition ordinarily granted by the central institutions of the modern nation; they create groups like Soka Gakkai."
  42. ^ Brannen (1968), pp. 100-101.
  43. ^ Brannen (1968), pp. 102.
  44. ^ a b Aruga, Hiroshi. "Sōka Gakkai and Japanese Politics," in Machacek, David and Bryan Wilson, eds, Global Citizens: The Sōka Gakkai Buddhist Movement in the World, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 104-114
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b c
  47. ^
  48. ^ Fisker-Nielsen, Anne Mette (2012). Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito. London: Routledge. (Japan Anthropology Workshop Series), p. 23
  49. ^
  50. ^ Daniel B. Montgomery: Fire in the Lotus, Mandala 1991, S. 186-187 In April 1952 Taiseki-ji and other Nichiren temples throughout the land were celebrating the 700th anniversary of the founder’s first proclamation of the Daimoku, Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. ... At Taiseki-ji four gala days were planned. The first two were to be managed by the sect’s official laymen’s association, called Hokkeko. The last two days were for Sokagakkai. ... The Hokkeko was bringing 2,500 members, and he [Toda] would muster 4,000 from his one-year-old society. He also saw an opportunity to avenge his two years of imprisonment during the war ... Forty-seven leaders of the Youth Division, one of whom was Daisaku Ikeda, worked out a systematic plan to locate Ogasawara and bring him to judgement. … The young men immediately challenged him to debate his views. … What happened next is not clear. According to Ikeda, Toda reasoned calmly with Ogasawara, demanding an apology, while the old man ‘drolled out of the mouth’ and ‘howled like a rabid dog’. But Murata claims that Toda told him in an interview that he struck the priest ‘twice’ (96). In any case, Ogasawara would not be intimidated, and would admit to nothing. … They carried him out into the temple grounds, shouting through megaphones, ‘This is Jimon Ogasawara, a parasite in the lion’s body, gnawing at Nichiren Shoshu … They tagged him with a placard reading. ‘Racoon Monk’, and bore him to the grave of Makiguchi.
  51. ^ In Japanese folklore, the tanuki or Japanese raccoon dog is regarded as a sly and deceptive being with shapeshifting powers. The word is still used in contemporary Japanese to refer to slyness and deception. See the definition of tanuki in Kōjien (2nd ed.): 他人を欺くこと。また、そのひと。
  52. ^ a b c d e
  53. ^ a b
  54. ^ Murata, Kiyoaki (1969). Japan's new Buddhism: an objective account of Soka Gakkai ([1st ed.]. ed.). New York: Weatherhill. ISBN 978-0834800403, Page 96-97 Ogasawara was taken to Makiguchis’s grave, where he was forced to sign a statement of apology. Recalling this incident in an interview with the author in July 1956, Toda admitted hitting the priest "twice" and said that this was the cause of the extremely unfavorable press his organization then received- which labeled Soka Gakkai as … atone and apologize with the conversion of the entire nation. It goes without saying that members of the Youth Division follow me in this regard." In a pamphlet issued in May 1955, Ogasawara similarly "repented" his "indiscretion having had the unfortunate conflict with Soka Gakkai." Ikeda, who led the four thousand … young men to mob Ogasawara, says now that the incident was an act of kindness because the old priest, made to realize his apostasy, was grateful to Toda and Soka Gakkai and died a happy man. On May 12, 1951, Toda made a formal appeal to High Priest … [1] [2] [3]
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  56. ^ Murata (1969), p 96. "This was the cause of the extremely unfavorable press his organization then received--which labeled Soka Gakkai as a 'violent religion.'"
  57. ^ Japan Times, July 21, 1956
  58. ^ Brannen (1968), p. 158
  59. ^ Brannen (1968), p. 164.
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  61. ^ McLaughlin (2012), p. 292
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  107. ^ a b Chronology of events according to Nichiren Shoshu
  108. ^ The Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1992 - 19/4, The Dispute between Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu D. Metraux, p. 326
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  201. ^ Chilson, pp. 74-5
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  203. ^ The Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1992 - 19/4, D. Metraux, p. 326
  204. ^ Richard H. Seager, Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the Globalization of Buddhist Humanism, University of California Press:2006, p. 83
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  210. ^ David W. Chappell, "Introduction," in David W. Chappell (ed.), Buddhist Peacework: Creating Cultures of Peace, Wisdom Publications: 1999, pp. 22-23
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  212. ^ Anwarul K. Chowdhury, "Introduction," Olivier Urbain (ed), A Forum for Peace: Daisaku Ikeda's Proposals to the UN. IB Tauris, 2013, ISBN 978-1780768403, pp. xi-xiv
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  214. ^ Olivier Urbain (ed), A Forum for Peace: Daisaku Ikeda's Proposals to the UN. IB Tauris, 2013, ISBN 978-1780768403
  215. ^ Karel Dobbelaere, "Toward a Pillar Organization?" in Global Citizens, Machacek and Wilson (eds.), pp. 243, 250
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  217. ^ Seager, p. 107
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  232. ^ Rethinking the Komeito Voter, George Ehrhardt, Appalachian State University, Japanese Journal of Political Science 10 (1) 1–20
  233. ^ Lecture by Levi McLaughlin at Princeton University on SGI
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  238. ^ 沖縄タイムス1981年7月27日付 社会面, 琉球新報1981年7月27日付 4面
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  266. ^ Takesato Watanabe, "The Movement and the Japanese Media" in David Machacek and Bryan Wilson (eds.), Global Citizens, Oxford University Press, 2000. "The Soka Gakkai is exceptional in that no other large Japanese religious organization engages in both social and political issues—from the promotion of human rights to the protection of the environment and abolition of nuclear weapons—as actively as it does." (p. 217)
  267. ^ Phillip E. Hammond and David W. Machacek, "Soka Gakkai International" in J. Gordon Melton, Martin Baumann (eds.), Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, ABC-CLIO, 2010, p. 2658. "Daisaku Ikeda (b. 1928), Soka Gakkai's charismatic third president, led the international growth of the movement. Although Ikeda and his successor, Einosuke Akiya, have gone to great lengths to improve the movement's public image, suspicion remains. Soka Gakkai's political involvement through the organ of the Komeito, a political party founded by the Soka Gakkai, and the near godlike reverence that members have for President Ikeda have tended to perpetuate public distrust. Although it has been subjected to a generalized suspicion toward Eastern religious movements in the United States, Europe, and South America, the movement's history outside of Japan has been tranquil by comparison to its Japanese history."
  268. ^ Macioti, p. 124. "It should be clear to all by now that Soka Gakkai is not a "sect." It is not a small, two-faced cult, characterized by obscure and hidden agendas. Rather it is a movement that has given life to varied associations, all of which are engaged in promoting culture, and raising interest around the theme of values—and a movement that demands to be examined more closely by using scientific methodologies and instruments of evaluation."
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  270. ^ Bryan Wilson, Religion in Secular Society. Penguin, 1969
  271. ^ Bryan Wilson, Magic and the Millennium, Heinemann, London, 1973, pp. 18-30
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  281. ^ Mette Fisker-Nielsen, Anne (2012) "Religion and Politics in Contemporary Japan: Soka Gakkai Youth and Komeito," Routledge, pp. 7-9
  282. ^ Mette Fisker-Nielsen, pp. 65-66.
  283. ^ Endbericht der Enquete-Kommission Sogenannte Sekten und Psychogruppen, Page.105 (PDF; 6,5 MB)|quote=Some groups have little significance nationally, they are not involved locally in any serious political controversy and/or have attracted little public censure. Nevertheless, they remain a latent problem through being linked to international organisations that are significant and controversial elsewhere. One such example came to light at the hearing of Soka Gakkai, which in Germany is a fairly inconspicuous group of about 3,000 people, but is highly significant in Japan, the United States, etc. (Translated at
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See also

A large part of the lore within the Soka Gakkai is that Ikeda modeled the oneness of mentor and disciple relationship through his efforts to actualize the visions of his mentor, Josei Toda. Soka Gakkai members perceive the relationship as mutually interdependent and not hierarchical.[326]

A similar relationship is prominent in Vajrayana Buddhism and traditional Vedic culture. The role of the mentor is to open a path and protect disciples; the role of disciples is to actualize the mentor’s teachings in society, grow into self-reliance, and surpass the mentor’s accomplishments.[322][323][324] Strand states that this relationship should be distinguished from uncritical veneration or charismatic religious leadership.[325]

Critics have described the prominent and central role played by Ikeda within the Soka Gakkai as a personality cult.[320] However, within the Soka Gakkai, the relationship of members and Ikeda is called “the oneness of mentor and disciple.”[321]

Newer scholarship has generally eschewed the Soka Gakkai’s cult appellation, noting the organization’s maturation, progressive qualities, and its calls to its membership to be excellent citizens.[317][318][319]

In the early 1970s the “anti-cult movement” (ACM) began to take form in the United States,[310] and Europe.[311] Whereas Western New Religious Movement scholarship has strongly debunked the underlying theory of cults,[312][313][314][315] in Japan scholars have been “muted almost to the point of non-existence” in questioning the anti-cult movement which has, among other accusations, tried to associate the Soka Gakkai with Aum Shinrikyo after the poison gas attack carried out by the latter.[316]

Charges of “cult” and “cult of personality”[4] have largely resulted from negative and distorted media coverage.[302] Scholarly research has also often been prejudicial.[303] The rapid and unconventional growth of the Soka Gakkai in the 1950s and 1960s caused alarm in established Japanese power structures and this became reflected in English-language research in the late 1960s and early 1970s.[304][305][306][307] Concern that the organization had fascist potential was discounted by the White study, “The Sokagakkai and Mass Society.”[308][309]

Views of Ikeda's role in the mentor and disciple relationship have been complicated by the Soka Gakkai's involvement in Japanese politics. Junya Yano, former longtime secretary-general of Soka Gakkai's political arm Kōmeitō,[299] has claimed that the Gakkai has become a "cult of personality" centered on Ikeda.[300] Similarly, Levi McLaughlin notes oh "a decisive transformation from an organization run by Ikeda to a group dedicated to Ikeda".[202]:69 According to Jane Hurst, Ikeda has not exploited his position in the Gakkai's international organization, instead taking initiative to democratize and decentralize it.[301]

Especially in the early postwar decades, the Soka Gakkai found itself embroiled in controversy and appellations of “cult” and “cult of personality” have become attached to it.[294] Its rapid expansion in the 1950s and 1960s went against the grain of traditional Japanese mores and this resulted in the public’s perception of the organization as being outside of the mainstream.[295] Among Japanese, public suspicion about the Soka Gakkai continues despite active efforts of the organization to attain mainstream acceptance.[296] However, since the Komeito Party joined the ruling government coalition in 1999, widespread criticism by the media of the Soka Gakkai has abated and the Soka Gakkai is gaining acceptance as part of the Japanese mainstream.[297][298]

Cult Appellation

There is a varied body of scholarly examination of the Soka Gakkai, representing approaches from a number of academic disciplines. Clarke's bibliography on Japanese new religious movement contains the most exhaustive collection of academic research about the Soka Gakkai.[293]

Academic research

Among the European new religious movements, the European Soka Gakkai organization is one of the most active participants in dialogues with the European Commission's Bureau of European Policy Advisors.[292]

In 2015 Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi signed an agreement that recognizes the Soka Gakkai as a "Concordat" (It: "Intesa")that recognizes the religious organization with the special status of advisor to the government on certain religious matters. Eleven other religious denominations share this status.[291]

In 2012 President Ma Ying-jeou of The Republic of China (Taiwan) commended the Taiwan Soka Association for many years of effort in the areas of public welfare, education, and religious teaching. He pointed out that it had received from the Taiwanese government numerous awards such as "National Outstanding Social Organization Award," the "Award for Contribution to Social Education," and "Outstanding Religious Organization Award."[290]

[289] In July 2000, the

In 2008 Ikeda was a recipient of the Order of Friendship, a state-issued award of the Russian Federation bestowed on foreign nationals whose work, deeds and efforts were aimed at the betterment of relations with the Russian Federation and its people.[287]

The Soka Gakkai of the Republic of Cuba (SGRC) attained juridical recognition in 2007, following an official visit of Daisaku Ikeda in 1996. It has a membership of approximately 500 individuals spread throughout most of the country's provinces.[286]

In the year 1998 the final paper of the Select (Enquete)Commission of the German Parliament on new religions and ideological communities came to the conclusion that, due to its connection to the Soka Gakkai, which is significant and controversial elsewhere, the German branch (SGI-D) is "latently problematic" even though it was inconspicuous at that time.[283] Seiwert condemned the methodology and political intrigue surrounding this committee's work and final report and pointed out that in 1999 the new government coalition ignored the policy recommendations of the committee.[284] Despite the fact that the majority of the commission were critics of new religious movements, the commission concluded that new religions and ideological communities presented no threat to the state or society.[285]

Overseas perception

Media criticism of the Soka Gakkai, or at least the New Komeito Party, has abated since it became a coalition partner to the LPD.[282]

Soka Gakkai has long been a subject of criticism in the Japanese weekly news/magazine press. Scholars have linked political motivations to reports in the press that associated the Soka Gakkai with Aum Shinrikyo.[277][278][279][280] In addition, press criticism of the Soka Gakkai should be seen against the backdrop of negative press coverage of new religious movements in general.[281]

Tabloid coverage in Japan

Today, Soka Gakkai is rarely criticized in mainstream news media. Ikeda occasionally contributes editorials to major newspapers, which also print reports on Gakkai business. According to former Diet member Hirano Sadao as well as the tabloid Shukan Shincho, the Seikyo Shimbun, possessing a circulation of five million, has contracted its printing operations out to major newspaper publishers, putting heavy pressure on them to avoid printing information critical of the Gakkai in newspapers or television subsidiaries.[275][276][]

According to Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen, "Soka Gakkai's relentless, but highly successful, proselytising in the 1950s stirred up fear in wider society. Soka Gakkai was portrayed by the mass media as aggressive and some members were reported to have resorted to violence to remove objects of other religious worship from the home of new adherents, although it is difficult to find evidence....The organisation was widely portrayed as a 'conglomeration of lower social elements' (quoted in White 1970: 6), by that presumably meaning that most members were poor."[274]

Mainstream coverage in Japan

There is a "fractured view" of the Soka Gakkai in Japan. On the one hand it is seen as a politically and socially engaged movement;[265][266] on the other, it is still widely viewed with suspicion by Japanese.[7][267] James R. Lewis claims the Soka Gakkai's perception has suffered from sensationalist and often irresponsible treatment by the media even though the group has matured into a responsible member of society.[13] Other scholars reject the cult label.[268][269] Some scholars who utilize the Bryan R. Wilson typology of newly emerging denominations categorize it as "gnostic-manipulationist", a category of teachings holding that the world can improve as people master the right means and techniques to overcome their problems.[270][271][272][273]

Public perception and criticism

Soka Gakkai in Malaysia also held blood donation and organ pledge drive in 2015.[264]

The Soka Gakkai also conducts 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Soka Gakkai facilities became shelters for the displaced and storage centers for food and supplies for the victims. The relief effort also included community support by youth groups, global fundraising for the victims, and spiritual support.[262] SGI-Chile members collected supplies to deliver to a relief center after the country's 2014 earthquake.[263]

Humanitarian work

The Soka University of America is a private university founded in 1987, located in Aliso Viejo, California, with $1,457,298,476 on assets in the year 2014 and 412 undergraduate students.[259] While the university claims to be secular and independent of Soka Gakkai, it is largely funded by Soka Gakkai .[260] Currently it is reported that "the school maintains no religious affiliation." [261]

Soka University of America

Soka University is a private university located in Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan founded in 1969. The school was opened to undergraduate students in 1971, while a graduate school was opened in 1975.

Soka University


  • Soka Women's College - Hachiōji, Tokyo, Japan, founded in 1985
  • Soka Ikeda College of Art And Science For Women - Tamil Nadu, India, founded in 2000[258]

Junior colleges

Junior and senior high schools

  • Tokyo Soka Elementary School - Kodaira, Tokyo, Japan, founded in 1978
  • Kansai Soka Elementary School - Hirakata, Osaka, Japan, founded in 1982
  • Fang Zhao-ling Soka Elementary School - Guangdong, China, founded in 2001
  • Xuan-tang Soka Elementary School - Guangdong,China, founded in 2003[256]
  • Brazil Soka School - São Paulo, Brazil, founded in 2003[257]

Elementary schools


[249] [250]

Educational institutions

:218[33].Ushio Soka Gakkai also owns the popular literary journal [235] Soka Gakkai fully owns its organ the

In 1989, a Soka Gakkai-controlled museum auctioned two Renoir paintings for 3.6 billion yen (over $35 million), but only paid the seller 2.125 billion yen (roughly $20 million). An investigation discovered how most of the money had been apportioned, but roughly $3 million is still missing.[247]:51

The Gakkai now owns most of the land around Shinanomachi Station in Shinjuku, Tokyo, and most of the businesses in that area advertise their Gakkai affiliation.[247]:41–44

:34[247] In the 1990s, a Japanese parliamentarian alleged the Soka Gakkai had amassed wealth upwards of $100 billion, though the organization denied the claim. Journalists writing for

SGI's president, Daisaku Ikeda, has been referred to as "the most powerful man in Japan".[241] The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Ikeda cultivates the image of a "charismatic leader", although he has displayed a "violent temper" in private.[242] Former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Toshiaki Furukawa has alleged that the acquisition of personal awards and honors for Ikeda has been budgeted by the Gakkai as "charity services".[243] [] Ikeda's personal residence in Ashiya, Hyōgo is considered a religious institution for tax purposes.[244][]

Power and wealth

Although the Soka Gakkai is politically active within Japan, it does not allow any of its foreign chapters to become involved in political action of any kind."[240]

In terms of policies, the Kōmeitō has traditionally supported the social safety net and policies that benefit lower-income voters. The party's political opponents have criticized this stance as "pandering", and described the Kōmeitō as a "political machine" designed to deliver "indiscriminate handouts" such as shopping vouchers, tax cuts, child allowances, and free medical services for infants.[239]

In the 1980s the daily organ of the Japanese Communist Party, Shimbun Akahata discovered that many Soka Gakkai members were rewarding acquaintances with presents in return for Kōmeitō votes, and that Okinawa residents had changed their addresses to elect Kōmeitō politicians.[237] As a result, Soka Gakkai was harshly criticized by the Ryūkyū Shimpō and Okinawa Times.[238] In 1999, a columnist for the weekly Bungei Shunjū repeated the charge, alleging that Soka Gakkai distributed fliers to local branches describing how to change voters' registered residences in order to "stack the deck" in favor of Kōmeitō-endorsed candidates.[239]

While the political party New Komeito is nominally separated from the Soka Gakkai and has been so since 1970, some critics have alleged that the party is in effect controlled by the Gakkai as almost all party members are also members of the religious group and that their voluntary activities during election campaigns equal a de facto endorsement of the party.[232][233] Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution demands the strict separation of politics and religion.[202]:57 While Kōmeitō claim that they fulfill and comply with those legal and constitutional demands,[234] all of New Kōmeitō's past and current presidents have held executive positions in Soka Gakkai.[235] In addition, branch offices of Komeito are almost always located inside a Gakkai "place of worship", allowing the political organization to avoid property taxes.[236]

Soka Gakkai's first foray into politics was in 1956, when it ran several individuals for seats in the Japanese parliament; three were elected. A year later Ikeda was arrested for suspected violations of election laws, but was eventually cleared of all charges.In 1961 he founded the "Clean Government League", which became the Komeito Party. [231]

Japanese politics

  1. Daisaku Ikeda (24 April 1979 – present)

Honorary President of Soka Gakkai

  1. Tsunesaburō Makiguchi (18 November 1930 – 2 May 1944)
  2. Jōsei Toda (3 May 1951 – 2 May 1960)
  3. Daisaku Ikeda (3 May 1960 – 24 April 1979)
  4. Hiroshi Hōjō (北条浩) (24 April 1979 – 18 July 1981)
  5. Einosuke Akiya (18 July 1981 – 9 November 2006)[230]
  6. Minoru Harada (9 November 2006 – present)[230]

List of Presidents of Soka Gakkai

List of Presidents

[229][228] That number has been questioned by some authors.[227] Soka Gakkai has, together with its international offshoot


In recent decades it has become quite difficult for academics and other outsiders to get access to reliable information about the Soka Gakkai's inner workings. As a result, there is a paucity of independent in-depth studies of the organization.[223]

Though a lay organization, there are a handful of temples and ordained priests affiliated with the Gakkai: the Kenbutsuji in Kyoto, the Kōryūji in Yūbari, Hokkaido, the Jōenji in Oyama, Tochigi, for example. These temples were previously affiliated with the Nichiren Shōshū but voluntarily left after the split.[35]:301

SGI has been in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council since 1983. As an NGO working with the United Nations, SGI has been active in public education with a focus mainly on peace and nuclear weapons disarmament, human rights and sustainable development.[222]

The basic functionalorganizational unit in the Block – a group of members in a neighborhood who meet regularly for discussion, study and encouragement. A number of Blocks form a District, and Districts are grouped into Chapters. From there the Soka Gakkai is organizaed into Aeas, Regions, Prefectures and, finally, Territories – all under the umbrella of the national organization. Discussion and study meetings, the basic organizational activities, are conducted mainly at the Block lever, though there are occasional meetings held at every level.[221]

:273[35] Soka Gakkai was no longer considered a lay group, or [105] In 1991, Nichiren Shōshū administration published a list of points where they perceived Soka Gakkai to have deviated from Shōshū doctrine. The priesthood also condemned Ikeda for abandoning the aggressive propagation style (shakubuku) that led to some social criticism of the lay group, though not the priesthood.

Schism and Excommunication, 1990-1997

As now honorary president of the Soka Gakkai, Ikeda functioned in a low profile for the second half of 1979. In 1980 he began to travel extensively as president of the Soka Gakkai International. In 1984 he was reappointed as chief lay representative on Nichiren Shoshu. Yet the reconciliation was still stormy under the surface. The Soka Gakkai had become deeply international in its perspective and the removal of Ikeda as president did not make the members docile.[104]

In July 1979, the head abbot of Nichiren Shōshū, Nittatsu Hosoi, died. A controversy arose among Shōshū lay groups over the legitimacy of his successor, Nikken Abe. 200 monastic opponents of Abe and of Soka Gakkai eventually formed a group, Shōshinkai, which was soon expelled from the Shōshū.[103] Soka Gakkai supported Abe at this time.

The series of speeches Ikeda gave in 1976 and 1977 redefining the relationship between laity and clergy alarmed elements of the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and led to Ikeda's resignation on April 24, 1979.[102] Ikeda retained only an honorary title but maintaining presidency of Soka Gakkai International. It seems likely the conflict with the Nichiren priesthood was behind Ikeda's departure, and it has been suggested that the Nichiren priesthood demanded Ikeda's resignation. In 1979, the prayer for the success of the Soka Gakkai was removed from Nichiren Shōshū liturgy.[97]

In the 1970s, Soka Gakkai had donated numerous buildings to Nichiren Shoshu including the Shohondo. In 1975 and 1977, there was some conflict between Soka Gakkai administration and Nichiren Shōshū, and Ikeda twice ordered Gakkai members to stop visiting Taiseki-ji. The source of this conflict was not publicly explained at the time and remains a matter of dispute between the Gakkai and Shōshū.[101][]

Conflict with the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood

From 1977, Ikeda openly raised interpretations of Nichiren Buddhism that differed from Nichiren Shōshū doctrine. On January 17, 1977, Ikeda gave a speech called "Speaking on Views of Buddhist History" in which he stated that the Soka Gakkai’s neighborhood community centers served as the temples of the present era and that the Soka Gakkai had assumed the true priestly authority of this age.[99] In another essay titled "Lecture on the Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life" (Shōji ichidaiji ketsumyakushō kōgi), Ikeda disputed Nichiren Shōshū claims to an exclusive lineage going back to the founder Nichiren. Instead, he claimed, individuals experience the same heritage of the Law through their Buddhist practice. Millions of copies of this essay were printed.[100]

Ikeda and Soka Gakkai represented the Shōhondō as a "virtual" honmon no kaidan (本門の戒壇, roughly great ordination platform), one of the "three great treasures" whose construction would mark the completion of the entire nation's conversion to Nichiren's teachings. This led some Shōshū lay groups to object that the building should not be constructed until after all of Japan had actually been converted to Nichiren Buddhism.[35]:289–293 When the Shōhondō was completed in 1972, the controversy about the timeliness of its construction heated up, with some lay groups denouncing the Gakkai. Ikeda worked to improve the Gakkai's relationship with the priesthood, and when a Shōshū lay group called Myōshinkō protested against the Gakkai in 1974, they were expelled by Shōshū.[97] In 1976 the Nichiren Shōshū administration modified its liturgy to include a prayer for the success of the Soka Gakkai.[98]

In 1965, Ikeda announced plans to build a Shōhondō (正本堂, True Main Hall), at Taiseki-ji, the head temple of Shōshū, to house the dai-gohonzon (大御本尊), the Nichiren mandala from which all other gohonzon are said to derive their power. Soka Gakkai's fundraising for the building was extremely successful - eight million contributors donated more than 35.5 billion yen in a timespan of only four days in October 1965, perhaps making it the largest private fundraising project in Japan's history.[35]:289–293

The Shōhondō hall of the Taiseki-ji temple. Constructed in 1972, demolished in 1998.

Relationship with Nichiren Shoshu in the 1970s

In 1974 Ikeda visited China, then the Soviet Union, and once again to China when he met with Zhou Enlai. In 1975 Ikeda met with then Secretary-General of the United Nations Kurt Waldheim and United States Secretary of State Henry Kissenger.[93] Ikeda presented Waldheim with a petition, organized by Soka Gakkai youth, calling for nuclear abolition and signed by 10,000,000 people.[96]

Ikeda has promoted his own conversations with prominent figures through the theme of "citizen diplomacy." In 1970 he held a dialogue with Richard Nikolaus von Coudenhove-Kalergi centered on East-West issues and future directions the world could take.[93] Ikeda conducted ten days of dialogue with Arnold J. Toynbee between 1972 and 1974 which resulted in the publicaton of the book "Choose Life."[94] In 1974 he conducted a dialogue with Andre Malraux.[95]

"Citizen diplomacy" by Ikeda

Over the years the Soka Gakkai has matured under Ikeda's leadership and its values accord with progressive internationalism.[92]

As late as the 1980s, Soka Gakkai was accused of wiretapping the home of Kenji Miyamoto, leader of the JCP. The illegal operation had been headed by Masatomo Yamazaki, then legal advisor and vice chairman of the Gakkai.[91]

In the speech Ikeda also announced that "Kōmeitō members of national and local assemblies would be removed from Soka Gakkai administrative posts."[89] Ikeda renounced any plans to create a "national ordination platform."[90]

In the 1970s Ikeda helped transition the Soka Gakkai from an internally-focused organization centered on its own membership growth to one adopting a focus on a motto of "Peace, Culture, and Education." On Oct. 12, 1972, at the official opening of the Shohondo at Taiseki-ji Ikeda announced the start of the Soka Gakkai's "Phase Two" which would shift direction from aggressive expansion to a movement for international peace through friendship and exchange.[88]

On May 3, 1970 Ikeda issued a speech at the Soka Gakkai's 33rd general meeting which radically shifted the direction of the organization. He stated that Nichiren's message could be understood as absolute pacifism, the sanctity of human life, and respect for human dignity. The Soka Gakkai's role, transcending proselytizing, was to create a foundation of humanism in all aspects of society.[87]

After this incident, both Kōmeitō and the Gakkai were heavily critiqued by sections of Japanese society and their years of constant growth came to an end.[35]:295 In response, Ikeda made major shifts to the Gakkai's message.[85] He committed the organization to the rights of free speech and freedom of religion. Admitting that the organization had been intolerant and overly sensitive in the past, Ikeda called for moderating conversion activities, openness to other religious practices, and a democratization of the organization.[86]

In 1969, a prominent university professor named Fujiwara Hirotatsu authored the book I Denounce Soka Gakkai (Soka Gakkai o kiru)[83] in which he severely criticized the Gakkai. The Gakkai and Kōmeitō attempted to use their political power to suppress its publication. When Fujiwara went public with the attempted suppression, the Gakkai was harshly criticized in the Japanese media.[84]

1969: Crisis and transformation

In 1961 Soka Gakkai formed the "Komei Political League." In 1962 Ikeda stated that the Soka Gakkai would become a "third force" in the political world. Seven of its candidates were elected to the House of Councillors. In 1964 the Komeito (Clean Government Party) was formed by Ikeda. Over the course of several elections it became the third largest political party amassing approximately 10-15% of the vote.[79] The New Komeito Party was founded in 1998, and has been allied with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) since 1999, in 2014 the New Komeito was renamed Komeito again.[80] Komeito generally supports the policy agenda of the LDP, including reinterpretation of the pacifist Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, proposed in 2014 by LDP Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to allow "collective defense" and to fight in foreign conflicts.[81][82]

Foundation of the Komeito

The Gakkai's first overseas mission, called "Nichiren Shoshu of America" (NSA), grew at "a remarkable rate" and claimed some 200,000 American adherents by 1970.[76] Ikeda founded Soka Junior and Senior High Schools in 1968 and Soka University in 1971.[77] "Soka Gakkai International" (SGI) was formally founded in 1975, on Guam.[78]

Ikeda and his team visited countries in Europe and Southeast Asia in 1961 and the Near and Middle East in 1962.[73] By 1967 Ikeda had completed 13 trips abroad to strengthen the overseas organizations.[74] Parallel to these efforts Ikeda attempted to find the universal aspects of Nichiren Buddhism stripped away from Japanese context.[75]

In October 1960, five months after his inauguration, Ikeda and a small group of staff members visited the United States, Canada (Toronto),[69] and Brazil.[70] During Ikeda's October 1960 trip to Honolulu, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and Los Angeles he met with members, the vast majority Japanese war brides, at discussion and guidance meetings, setting up local organizations appointing leaders to take responsibility. He encouraged attendees to become good American citizens, learn English, and get driving lessons.[71] Ikeda also expanded the scope and pattern of the Gakkai's activities. In 1961, at the one-year anniversary of his inauguration, Ikeda created an arm of the organization, the Culture Bureau, to accommodate nonreligious activities. It had departments for the study and discussion of Economics, Politics, Education, Speech, and, later in the year, the Arts.[72]

International growth

Whereas during Toda's presidency the Soka Gakkai grew from 3000 individuals to 750,000 households, within the first 16 months of Ikeda's presendency the organization grew from 1,300,000 to 2,110,000 members.[65] In 1968 over 8,000,000 people contributed to the construction of the Sho-Hondo. By 1967 it grew to 6,240,000 families according to its own reporting.[66] Between 1961 and 1968 the organization's Study Department (members who sit for graded examinations on doctrinal matters) grew from 40,000 to 1,447,000.[67] By 1968, under Ikeda's leadership, the daily Seikyo Shimbun newspaper attained a circulation of 3,580,000.[68]

Under Ikeda's leadership, the organization expanded rapidly, both inside and outside Japan during the 1960s, as well as its stated objectives. [64][63] Jōsei Toda was succeeded as president in 1960 by the 32-year-old

Daisaku Ikeda Receiving "Leonardo Prize" in 2009 from Alexander Yakovlev
Daisaku Ikeda, third President of the Soka Gakkai, 1961

Ikeda Years: 1960-

It appears that some aspects of the aggressive approach to propagation continued after Toda's death. In eyewitness reports of a session in 1964, Gakkai members surrounded a home, yelled and made noise for hours until the residents relented and agreed to join.[46]:82

Murata claims that for two years after Toda's death, there was a leadership vacuum and the Gakkai had no president, as it was unclear if anyone was able to replace him.[52]:118 Other scholars disagree, claiming Ikeda became the de facto leader of the Soka Gakkai right away. Three months after Toda's death Ikeda, at age 30, was appointed the organization's General Administrator, in 1959 he became the head of its board of directors, and, on May 3, 1960, its third president.[61][62]

Toda died on April 2, 1958. The funeral was held at his home, but the coffin was afterwards carried past weeping, chanting crowds to the Ikebukuro temple Jozaiji, where he was buried.[17]:84 The then prime minister Nobusuke Kishi attended the funeral - something that scandalized "quite a few Japanese" but was a testament to how the Gakkai had grown to a force to be reckoned with under Toda.[52]:116[60]

Death and legacy

Despite this incident Nichiren Shoshu priests said they considered Toda the greatest among lay people and after his death they bestowed upon him the honorific name Chief of All Preachers of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke Kōsō Kōtō)[58] During Toda's presidency the Soka Gakkai donated temples to Nichiren Shoshu including the Grand Lecture Hall, dedicated on March 1958.[59]

Toda was temporarily banned from entering the temple.[52]:96–97[55] Though no legal action was taken, in a 1956 interview Toda reflected that this incident sparked extremely unfavorable press ooverage which painted the Soka Gakkai as a violent religion.[56][57]Japan Times[53]:705–711:705–711[]

One controversial event that occurred at the end of the first year of Toda's presidency was the "Tanuki ([51] He was forcibly carried to Makiguchi's grave, where he was made to sign a written apology.[52]:96–97[53]:698–711 Murata reports that Toda told him in an interview that he hit Ogasawara twice during the ordeal.[54]

The relationship with the parent organisation Nichiren Shōshū went through highs and lows during Toda's presidency.

Relationship with Nichiren Shoshu

While shakubuku was a controversial practice, it was certainly successful: during Toda's presidency, the Gakkai's official ledgers count an increase from 3,000 households to the 750,000 that Toda had demanded at the outset of his presidency - thereby smoothly avoiding the need to meet Toda's request that his body should be dumped in Shinagawa bay.[35]:285–286 The accuracy of this figure was never confirmed by outside sources.[33]:199 Whether or not the 750,000 number was strictly true, the Gakkai's membership had certainly grown. Many of the new recruits had been found among the "downtrodden classes" in the larger urban areas who had sometimes been excluded from the benefits of the "upward swing" during the postwar reconstruction boom.[44]

Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen has questioned whether forced activities alone could result in the continuous actions needed to sustain such a successful campaign.[48] Members attributed success to Toda's charisma and ability to inspire them personally.[49]

There are reports of isolated incidents of violence conducted by Soka Gakkai members but also directed toward them; they were sometimes chased away from the houses they surrounded.[35]:287[46]:49 The use of violence and intimidation as a part of the shakubuku campaign during The Great Propagation March has been dismissed by the Gakkai as "excessive zeal on the part of uneducated members," but evidence shows that much of it before 1967 was actually organized by its high-ranking leaders.[47]:74

Toda's brand of shakubuku was of an unusually aggressive nature and would come to give Soka Gakkai a reputation of militancy and widespread criticism in the popular press and by other Buddhist sects.[5][10][45]A 1955 report, similar to others, described an incident in which an initially ambivalent woman relented only after members over several days warned of “some terrible calamity” if she did not join.[10]:104Threats of divine vengeance and bodily harm were frequent, and a child's illness or death could be attributed to not having already joined the Gakkai.[33]:199[46]:82 Local leadership would often destroy the household Shinto altars of new members.[4]

The Sōka Gakkai first entered into politics in 1955.[44] According to Brannen, Toda's view was that following the teachings of Nichiren, the day was soon to come when the true teachings of the Gakkai would become the law of the State and when Sōka Gakkai became the ruling government, a "national altar" would be built at Mount Fuji.[34]

[35][4] In October 1954, however, Toda made a speech to over 10,000 Gakkai members while mounted on a white horse, proclaiming: "We must consider all religions our enemies, and we must destroy them."[43]Toda made both moderating and aggressive speeches about propagation. In a January 1954 speech Toda cautioned his followers to be sensible in their propagation efforts.
The Jozaiji temple.

The approach to propagation appealed strongly to segments of the population that had been marginalized or dislocated after the war.[41] The press covered many extreme incidents of propagation but did not cover the many examples of conversion accomplished through "moral suasion."[42]

Toda adopted a method of proselytizing based on Nichiren teachings on shakubuku (折伏), often translated character for character as "break and subdue (attachments to) inferior teachings"[38] or else as "forced conversion";[39] At least one scholar, however, disputes the appellation of "forced," writing that "When Charlemagne told the Saxons to be baptized or die, that was forced conversion. Sokagakkai members are said to warn potential converts of dire consequences if they fail to join up, but they do not have the power of life or death."[40] Shakubuku, essentially, is the more assertive of two different methods of proselytizing traditionally employed by Nichiren adherents, in which the proselytizer directly confronts a non-adherent about the falsity of their beliefs.

During his acceptance speech as second president in 1951, Toda placed a formidable challenge to the approximately 1500 congregated members: to convert 750,000 families before his death. He added: "If this goal is not realized while I am still alive, do not hold a funeral for me. Simply dump my remains in the bay at Shinagawa."[35]:285–286 In the ensuing period from 1951 to 1957, the organization doubled or tripled in size every year, published the first Nichiko Hori edition of Nichiren’s complete works, and fielded candidates in local political elections.[36] [37] The organization’s rapid growth was widely publicized, as were controversial incidents provoked by the organization’s aggressive conversion efforts, described as “shakubuku,” and its entrance into the political arena.

"The Great Shakubuku March"

Brannen, a Christian missionary writing in 1969,[31] describes the Soka Gakkai's study program at this point as "the most amazing program of indoctrination Japan has ever seen." New members attended local study lectures, subscribed to weekly and monthly periodicals, studied Toda's commentaries on the Lotus Sutra, took annual study examinations, and were awarded titles for their achievements such as Associate Lecturer, Lecturer, Associate Teacher, or Teacher.[17]:142[32][33]:208 Brannen reports on one member who found it difficult to find advanced study material.[34]

The groundwork for this accomplishment can be found in Toda's work during the years between his release from prison (1945) and his inauguration (1951). He officially re-established the organization, now under the shortened moniker Sōka Gakkai (lit. "Value-creation society"), integrated his prison awakenings into the doctrine of the Soka Gakkai, began locating members who had been dispersed during the war, started a series of lectures on the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's letters, undertook business ventures (largely unsuccessful) to provide a stream of revenue for the organization, provided personal encouragement to many members, launched a monthly study magazine Daibyaku Renge (大白蓮華), and the newspaper Seikyo Shimbun, launched propagation efforts, and involved the active participation of youth including Daisaku Ikeda who was to become his right-hand man and successor.[29][30]

The years after the war and the granting of religious freedom as a constitutional right became the "rush hour of the gods" according to McFarland. The Soka Gakkai was one of many new religious movements that appeared and, from an organization of approximately 500 families in 1951, the Soka Gakkai expanded rapidly in a decade's time and gained widespread public recognition.[27] The unprecedented growth of the Soka Gakkai stands out from the other new religions, due to both Toda's skill as an organizer and the social dislocation of the time.[28]

Jōsei Toda was released from prison in 1945 and immediately set out to rebuild what had been lost during the war.[26]

The reconstruction of the organization

Jōsei Toda, second President of the Sōka Gakkai

Toda Years: 1945-1958

With its leadership decimated, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai disbanded.[21][25] During interrogation, Makiguchi had insisted that "The emperor is an ordinary man ... the emperor makes mistakes like anyone else".[17]:40–41 The treatment in prison was harsh, and within a year, all but Makiguchi, Toda, and one more director had recanted and been released.[21] On November 18, 1944, Makiguchi died in prison of malnutrition, at the age of 73.

Makiguchi, Toda, and 19 other leaders of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai were arrested on July 6, 1943, on charges of breaking the Peace Preservation Law and lèse-majesté: for "denying the Emperor's divinity" and "slandering" the Ise Grand Shrine. The government had issued that a talisman from the Shinto shrine should be placed in every home and temple. While the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood had been prepared to accept the placing of a talisman inside its head temple, Makiguchi and the Gakkai leadership had openly refused.[4] One scholar claims that Makiguchi’s refusal of the talisman "had nothing to do with being disloyal to the emperor,",[23] while another scholar argues that Makiguchi "rejected completely the deification of the emperor."[24]

[22] The government believed that because Soka Gakkai members insulted the religious beliefs of others and destroyed religious implements, the group posed a threat to Japan's policy of religious freedom.[21] Later the same year, one zealous Tokyo member told a non-member that his daughter had died as punishment for not converting to Nichiren Shōshū. "The neighbor complained to the police, who arrested Jinno and a director of the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai named Arimura "[4] (価値創造, "Creating values") was shut down by the government, after only nine issues had gone to press. In 1943, the group was instrumental in making the Nichiren Shōshū refuse to merge with the Kachi Sozo In 1942, a monthly magazine published by Makiguchi called

The organization soon attracted the attention of the authorities. Makiguchi, as did Nichiren, interpreted the political troubles Japan was experiencing as a result of the propagation of false religious doctrines. His religious beliefs motivated him to take a stand against the government, earning him a reputation as a political dissident.[18]:14–15 His main motivation was religious, not political; he had no tolerance for non-Nichiren doctrines.[19] He regarded Nichiren Buddhism as religious motivation for "active engagement to promote social good, even if it led to defiance of state authority."[20]

Repression during the war

Makiguchi, who had turned to religion in mid-life, found much in Nichiren's teachings that lent support to his educational theories, though it has been argued that the Nichiren Shoshu sect's doctrines and rituals went against the grain of Makiguchi's modernist spirit.[4][17]:21–32 From the very first meeting, however, the main activity of the group seems to have been missionary work for Nichiren Shōshū, rather than propagating educational reform.[4] The membership eventually came to change from teachers interested in educational reform to people from all walks of life, drawn by the religious elements of Makiguchi's beliefs in Nichiren Buddhism.[18]:14

In 1928, educators Tsunesaburō Makiguchi and [16]


Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, First President of the Sōka Gakkai

Makiguchi Years: 1930-1944



  • History 1
    • Makiguchi Years: 1930-1944 1.1
      • Foundation 1.1.1
      • Repression during the war 1.1.2
    • Toda Years: 1945-1958 1.2
      • The reconstruction of the organization 1.2.1
      • "The Great Shakubuku March" 1.2.2
      • Relationship with Nichiren Shoshu 1.2.3
      • Death and legacy 1.2.4
    • Ikeda Years: 1960- 1.3
      • International growth 1.3.1
      • Foundation of the Komeito 1.3.2
      • 1969: Crisis and transformation 1.3.3
      • "Citizen diplomacy" by Ikeda 1.3.4
      • Relationship with Nichiren Shoshu in the 1970s 1.3.5
      • Conflict with the Nichiren Shōshū priesthood 1.3.6
      • Schism and Excommunication, 1990-1997 1.3.7
  • Beliefs and practices 2
    • Differences from Nichiren Shoshu 2.1
    • Faith, practice and study 2.2
    • Five "Eternal Guidelines" of Faith 2.3
    • The Discussion Meeting 2.4
    • Life force 2.5
    • Lotus Sutra 2.6
    • Gohonzon 2.7
    • Chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo 2.8
    • Proselytizing 2.9
    • Oneness of mentor and disciple 2.10
    • Views on priesthood 2.11
  • Peace activities 3
    • Culture of peace 3.1
    • Establishment of institutions 3.2
    • Criticisms of the Soka Gakkai's promotion of pacifism 3.3
    • Support for the Soka Gakkai's promotion of pacifism 3.4
  • Organization 4
    • Membership 4.1
    • List of Presidents 4.2
    • Japanese politics 4.3
    • Power and wealth 4.4
    • Educational institutions 4.5
      • Kindergartens 4.5.1
      • Elementary schools 4.5.2
      • Junior and senior high schools 4.5.3
      • Junior colleges 4.5.4
      • Universities 4.5.5
        • Soka University
        • Soka University of America
    • Humanitarian work 4.6
    • Public perception and criticism 4.7
      • Mainstream coverage in Japan 4.7.1
      • Tabloid coverage in Japan 4.7.2
      • Overseas perception 4.7.3
      • Academic research 4.7.4
      • Cult Appellation 4.7.5
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Further reading 8
    • Books 8.1
    • News media (websites) 8.2
  • External links 9

According to James R. Lewis, although the Soka Gakkai has matured into a responsible member of society, it still grapples with negative public perception.[13]

[12][11][10][9][3].World War II especially in the first three decades following [8]

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