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Soka Gakkai International flag with logo
|Founders||Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda|
|Headquarters||Shinanomachi 32, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-8583, Japan|
|over 12 million (by own account)|
Honorary President (SG)
|Nichiren Shōshū (until 1991)|
|Website||Soka Gakkai International|
|Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai|
Soka Gakkai International flag with logo
|Founders||Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda|
|Headquarters||Shinanomachi 32, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-8583, Japan|
|over 12 million (by own account)|
Honorary President (SG)
|Nichiren Shōshū (until 1991)|
|Website||Soka Gakkai International|
|Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai|
|Part of a series on|
|Buddhism in Japan|
Soka Gakkai (Japanese: 創価学会 Hepburn: Sōka Gakkai?) is a Japanese new religious movement based on the writings of Nichiren and the teachings of the organization's presidents Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda. It is one of the larger Japanese new religions. Originally a lay group within the Nichiren Shōshū Buddhist sect, the Gakkai reveres the Lotus Sutra and places the chanting of the name of the Sutra 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. After a temporary disbandment during World War II when much of the leadership was imprisoned on charges of lèse-majesté, the membership base was expanded through controversial and aggressive recruitment methods to a claimed figure of 750,000 households by 1958, compared to 3,000 before the end of the war. Further expansion of the movement was led by its third president Daisaku Ikeda. According to its own account, it has 12 million members in 192 countries and territories around the world. While Ikeda has been successful in moving the group towards mainstream acceptance in some areas, it is still widely viewed with suspicion in Japan. The organization has been the subject of substantial criticism over the years, often finding itself embroiled in public controversies especially in the first three decades following World War II.
According to James R. Lewis, although the Soka Gakkai has matured into a responsible member of society, it grapples with the stereotype of a brainwashing cult. Other scholars who utilize the Bryan R. Wilson typology of new religious movements reject the cult appellation preferring to describe 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. The movement has also been characterized as being centered on a cult of personality around Ikeda.
The Soka Gakkai officially traces it foundation to November 1930, when educators Tsunesaburō Makiguchi and his colleague Jōsei Toda published the first volume of Makiguchi's magnum opus on educational reform, Sōka Kyōikugaku Taikei (創価教育学体系, The System of Value-Creating Pedagogy).:49 The first general meeting of the organisation, then under the name Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai (創価教育学会, lit. "Value Creating Educational Society"), did not take place until 1937.
The group was a hokkekō (lay organization) affiliated with the Nichiren Shōshū, by that time a small and obscure Nichiren Buddhist sect. 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 sect's doctrines and rituals went against the grain of Makiguchi's modernist spirit.: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. 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.:14
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.:14–15 Brian Victoria maintains that his main motivation was religious, not political;:14–15  he had no tolerance for non-Nichiren doctrines. Daniel Metraux, however, maintains that "Makiguchi and Toda were imprisoned in 1943 in Tokyo due to their refusal to participate in the government’s attempts to rally Japan’s religious organizations behind the war effort".
In 1942, a monthly magazine published by Makiguchi called Kachi Sozo (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 Nichiren Shū, per the Religious Organizations Law which had been established in 1939. 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 " 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. In 1941 " the government began to control religion more rigidly than before", and "began to require all religions to include worship of the emperor"; by 1943, "the secret police were disrupting meetings of the Gakkai because the organization was known to prohibit ceremonies required by the state".
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. Makiguchi gave the following reason for refusing the talisman: "The Sun Goddess is the venerable ancestress of our Imperial Family, her divine virtue having been transmitted to each successive emperor who ascended the throne up to and including the present emperor. Thus has her virtue been transformed into the August Virtue of His Majesty which, shining down on the people, brings them happiness. ... In light of this, who is there, apart from His Majesty, the Emperor himself, to whom we should reverently pray?"
With its leadership decimated, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai disbanded. During interrogation, Makiguchi had insisted that "The emperor is an ordinary man ... the emperor makes mistakes like anyone else".: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. On November 18, 1944, Makiguchi died in prison of malnutrition, at the age of 73.
The years after the war and the granting of religious freedom as a constitutional right became 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 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.
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 year awakenings into the doctrine of the Soka Gakkai, began locating members who were 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.
During his acceptance speech, he placed a formidable challenge to the approximately 1500 congregated members: to convert 750,000 families before his death. Toda 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." Members quickly took up and carried out his vision with great enthusiasm.:285–286
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], sometimes as "forced conversion," sometimes as "to criticize and to convince," or "to conquer evil aggressively." 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.
The approach to propagation appealed strongly to segments of the population that had been marginalized or dislocated after the war.
The success of the Great Shakubuku March can be attributed to three factors, according to McLaughlin. The first was the study program Toda launched. Toda published a "Shakubuku Manual" which summarized the philosophy and teachings of the Soka Gakkai and how they differed from other religions. He also published in 1952 the collection of Nichiren Daishonin's writings which served as the basis of members' study program. Secondly he developed a youth division which sparked all of his campaigns. Thirdly, Toda emphasized the practical aspects of faith, that the problems of human life could be addressed through Buddhist practice.
Macioti attributes the success to Toda's charisma and ability to inspire his members personally. Macioti, after interviewing members who followed Toda, points out impressions of Toda's “powerful and intensely magnetic” voice, his “friendly laughter,” his “eloquence and use of simple language” as factors contributing to the successful propagation campaign. Macioti also attributes the success of the movement to the specific type of encouragement Toda gave to his followers, admonishing them to apply Soka Gakkai teachings to their personal lives rather than remain in a realm of theory.
The advance in membership proceeded with drama and flair. In October 1954, 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."
According to Brannen, the first scholar to publish a book about about the Soka Gakkai, the Gakkai's teachings at this point became more restrictive and lower ranking members were no longer allowed access to more difficult books. McFarland, however, points out that hundreds of thousands of Gakkai members were taught in "graded classes";:142 they were awarded titles like "assistant lecturer" and "associate professor" depending on their achievements in learning Gakkai doctrine.:208
With the rapid increase in membership, Toda "... focused on 'cultural activities' aimed at winning broad-based support ... in particular Toda decided that Soka Gakkai should enter the political area",:206 and the Sōka Gakkai first entered into politics in 1955. Toda's view was that according to 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.
There are two different narratives explaining the success of the Great Shakubuku March.
Critics claim 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. Critics point to a 1952 investigation by the Department of Justice that resulted in a demand that Toda write a statement to the special investigations bureau that Soka Gakkai members would refrain from the illegal use of violence or threats in their proselytizing. (The Religious Corporation Law came into effect in August 1952 at which time the Soka Gakkai legally registered as a religious corporate body.):217Critics point to a 1955 report of a typical shakubuku session. Three or four young members called on the house of a young women for several days in succession, each time warning her that she had one week to join the Gakkai, or some terrible calamity would befall her home. On the last day they threatened to not move until she gave in - at two o'clock in the morning, she finally allowed them to sign her name.:104 In eyewitness reports of a similar session in 1964, Gakkai members surrounded a home, yelled and made noise for hours until the residents relented and agreed to join.:82 Threats 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.:199:82 Local leadership would often destroy the household Shinto altars of new members.
There are reports of isolated incidents of violence conducted by Soka Gakkai members but also directed toward them: "... veteran adherents from the Toda era speak of being driven away from houses by residents who doused them with water and pelted them with stones.":287:49 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" although some evidence shows that much of it before 1967 was actually organized by its high-ranking leaders.:74
Other scholars are skeptical of the interpretation that the growth of the Soka Gakkai under Toda's leadership could be simply ascribed to zealous forced conversion. The authors question, in contemporary terms, whether forced activities could result in the spontaneous actions needed to sustain a campaign.
The competing narrative stresses Toda's success in giving inspirational personal encouragement to his followers and creating a contagiously joyful climate that sparked propagation. Primary sources published by the Soka Gakkai provide a backyard glimpse into the role Ikeda played in actualizing Toda's vision of massive propagation. In February 1952 Ikeda was assigned to Kamata Chapter, a region struggling to accomplish an increase in membership; Ikeda emphasized small group "unit" meetings and one-on-one encouragement which resulted in a breakthrough result of two hundred new families joining in a single month. The following year, 1953, Toda assigned Ikeda to lead the propagation of Bunkyo Chapter which had been lagging. There Ikeda created an organization that was highly unified and tried to find and develop grassroots leaders.
Soka Gakkai lore places the highest value on Ikeda's leadership of the propagation campaign in Kansai Chapter, western Japan, in 1955-1956. This area of Japan had very small numbers of Soka Gakkai members when compared to Tokyo. Yet in April 1956 and May 1956 it broke all precedent in membership growth with results of 9,000 and 11,111 new families respectively. Ikeda devoted an entire chapter, "Determination," of his roman a clef The Human Revolution to accounting the massively successful two-year campaign which resulted in the electoral victory of a Kansai Soka Gakkai member to the Japanese Diet. Ikeda details here his efforts to personally develop his life and faith ("human revolution"), involve members in the practical study of Nichiren Daishonin's writings and the teachings and guidances of Josei Toda, finding and developing capable grassroots leaders, building ties of friendship and trust, tight communication, participation in small local discussion meetings, and instruction on how to overcome setbacks in life. These efforts led to an explosion of members' happiness and very natural propagation efforts.
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.:285–286 The accuracy of this figure was never confirmed by outside sources.:199 Whether or not the 750,000 number was strictly true or not, 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.
The relationship with the parent organization Nichiren Shōshū went through highs and lows during Toda's presidency.
According to a government survey conducted in 1939, Nichiren Shoshu had 75 temples, 52 priests, and 85,541 members. Other Nichiren sects at that time had 4,962 temples, 4,451 priests, and 3,300,00 members. Toda, and later his successor Ikeda, instituted a program of rehabilitating the head temple and building local temples, financed largely by a pilgrimage system Toda had initiated. 9Starting in 1954 Toda financed and donated to Nichiren Shoshu the first three of many local temples. He provided funding for the restoration of Taisekiji's Five-Storied Pagoda and the Somon Gate. In 1955 he constructed on the Taisekiji site the Hoan-den to house the Dai Gohonzon and the Grand Lecture Hall in 1958. (The latter building was demolished by Nichiren Shoshu in 1995.) According to Murata, by 1968 the number of Nichiren Shoshu temples had increased to 319 and the acreage of the head temple had increased from 98 to 870 acres.
One controversial event that occurred was what went down in the Gakkai annals as the "raccoon dog festival incident" on April 28, 1952. A group of 4,000 men belonging to the Gakkai's youth division headed to Taiseki-ji, the Nichiren Shōshū head temple, to confront a priest named Ogasawara who had allegedly cooperated with the authorities during the war. The group was led by President Toda and Daisaku Ikeda (who would eventually become the organization's third president). When Ogasawara initially refused to apologize, the men mobbed him, tore off his vestments and tagged him with a placard reading "raccoon dog monk". He was forcibly carried to Makiguchi's grave, where he was made to sign a written apology.:96–97:698–711 Toda, who claimed to have only hit Ogasawara twice during the ordeal, was temporarily banned from entering the temple.:96–97 Though no legal action was taken, this incident helped establish the organization's reputation as a violent cult.:705–711
After this incident and an apology from Toda, a productive but cautious relationship continued. The day after the incident Toda published Nichiren Daishonin's Collected Writings. In 1952 the Soka Gakkai was legally registered as a religious organization in Japan, overcoming some initial resistance from Nichiren Shoshu clerics. At the end of that year, at the seventh Soka Gakkai general meeting, Nichijun Horigome, who was to become the 65th high priest of the order, stated,"I entrust the great propagation of the Law to the members of the Soka Gakkai." 
On New Year's Day 1956 Nichijun made highly complimentary statements about the Soka Gakkai Toda had built.
Despite his support for Nichiren Shoshu, Toda kept a wary eye on priests. In 1951 he tells in his own hand, in an essay entitled "The History and Conviction of the Soka Gakkai," his experience before the war, his realizations during his imprisonment, his efforts to rebuild the Soka Gakkai, and his concerns for the future. In this essay he expresses praise for Nissho, the high priest at that time, but also issues strong cautions about degenerate priests.
Toda died on April 2, 1957. Nichijun, at the eighth general meeting of the Soka Gakkai held one month later, eulogized Toda stating: "It was President Toda who, as their leader, called forth those bodhisattvas; it was in the Soka Gakkai that they gathered. In other words, it was President Toda who manifested the five and seven characters of Myoho-renge-kyo as 750,000 [bodhisattvas]."
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.: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.:116
Toda has been described as the architect of the Soka Gakkai, the person chiefly responsible for its existence today. Toda's legacy is highly evident in the 55-year leadership of Ikeda as the Soka Gakkai and Soka Gakkai International presidents.
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.: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.
Jōsei Toda was succeeded as president in 1960 by the 32-year-old Daisaku Ikeda. Ikeda had been "Toda's point man" in the aggressive shakubuku campaigns of the 1950s and one of the leaders of the violent "raccoon dog festival" in 1952, but he would nonetheless come to be a moderating and secularizing force.:77 Ikeda formally committed the organisation to the principles of free speech and freedom of religion and urged, from 1964, for a gentler approach to proselytizing.:97
Under Ikeda's leadership, the organization expanded further, both inside and outside Japan. In October 1960, five months after his inauguration, Ikeda and a small group of staff members visitd the United States, Canada (Toronto), and Brazil. Ikeda and his team visited countries in Europe and Southeast Asia in 1961 and the Near and Middle East in 1962.
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. The original group of 500 members expanded rapidly as a multi-ethnic organization. In 1963 it opened its first headquarters building and started organizing annual national conventions in 1963. In 1965, it began publishing the World Tribune newspaper in 1965 with a forward article by Ikeda. 
Soka Gakkai's first chapter outside of Japan was founded in 1960 in California, as the "Nichiren Shoshu of America" (NSA), later "Nichiren Shoshu Academy", which grew at "a remarkable rate" and claimed some 200,000 American adherents by 1970. The "Soka Gakkai International" (SGI) was formally founded in 1975, on Guam.
By 1967 Ikeda had completed 13 trips abroad to strengthen the overseas organizations. Parallel to these efforts Ikeda attempted to find the universal aspects of Nichiren Buddhism stripped away from Japanese context. 
In 1970, a prominent university professor named Fujiwara Hirotatsu authored the book I Denounce Soka Gakkai in which he severely criticized the Gakkai, calling it "fascist" and comparing it to the early Nazi party. The Gakkai and Kōmeitō attempted to use their political power suppress its publication. When Fujiwara went public with the attempted suppression, the Gakkai was harshly criticized in the Japanese media. As a result, Ikeda announced that "Kōmeitō members of national and local assemblies will be removed from Soka Gakkai administrative posts." In the aftermath, both Kōmeitō and the Gakkai were more heavily critiqued by sections of Japanese society and their years of constant growth came to an end.:295 The same year, Soka Gakkai was also embroiled in a separate scandal - it was discovered that the Gakkai had been wiretapping the home of Kenji Miyamoto, leader of the JCP. The illegal operation had been headed by Masatomo Yamazaki, then legal advisor and vice chairmen of the Gakkai.
The New Komeito Party was founded in 1998, and has been allied with the LDP since 1999. The New Komeito has generally supported the policy agenda of the LDP, including reinterpretation of Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan, proposed in 2014 by LDP Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to allow "collective defense". Approval of this policy change came only after tense meetings between the party leadership and representatives of local branches, who reported that large majorities of party members in their districts were strongly opposed. It was approved only after party leaders promised to press for strict limits to the circumstances under which collective defense actions would be allowed.
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.:289–293
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.: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 excommunicated by Shōshū. In 1976 the Nichiren Shōshū administration modified its liturgy to include a prayer for the success of the Soka Gakkai.
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.
In 1979, the prayer for the success of the Soka Gakkai was removed from Nichiren Shōshū liturgy. Ikeda resigned from Soka Gakkai on April 24, 1979, retaining 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 July 1979, the head abbot of Shōshū, Nittatsu Hosoi, died. A controversy arose among Shōshū lay groups over the legitimacy of his successor, Nikken Abe. 200 monastic opponents of Abe eventually formed a group, Shōshinkai, which was soon expelled from the Shōshū. Soka Gakkai supported Abe at this time.
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. Soka Gakkai was no longer considered a lay group, or hokkekō, of Shōshū, and its leaders, including Ikeda, were excommunicated.
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. 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".
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. Another problem was the concern of some priests that the Soka Gakkai was building community centers rather than temples.
Some Japanese members of the Gakkai left at this time, "disenchanted" with its "increasingly Ikeda-centered ethos" or disillusioned with the "Ikeda personality-cult tendency". 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.
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.:301–302
Households were allowed to belong to both organizations until 1997, when Shōshū requested that all its members leave Soka Gakkai. 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.
There is evidence that Soka Gakkai was involved in fabricating evidence that the Shōshū administration had engaged in illicit conduct, 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. Following the guilty verdict, the Seikyō Shinbun reported that it had been found innocent of all charges. In July 2000, the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform disclosed that a private investigator hired by Soka Gakkai had illegally stolen National Crime Information Center records pertaining to Abe. The committee expressed concern that no arrests were made.
Religious scholars have mixed opinions about the split. According to M. Bumann, Seager, Dobbeleare, Metraux, Hurst and others, the cause of the split was the friction between hierarchical tradition and democratic modernity: "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." However, H. Neill McFarland alleges that Soka Gakkai is not democratic; it has no parliamentary procedure and no transparency, and he reports a widespread worry that the group is "fascistic".:217 Dobbelaere, on the other hand, notes the election of the presidents, as well as a process of "nomination, review and approval that involves both peers and leaders" in choosing other leaders. 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". Ian Reader, on the other hand, saw "corrupt and scandalous behavior on both sides."
Until the 1991 split with the Nichiren Shōshū, Sōka Gakkai existed within the Shōshū framework as a hokkeko, a form of lay organization. The split was to a degree caused by disagreements over the interpretation of Nichiren teachings. But from its inception the Soka Gakkai did not base its beliefs exclusively on Nichiren Shoshu doctrine From the start the Soka Gakkai was more interested in religion providing "personal gain" for adherents. The Soka Gakkai defines two types of personal gain: "conspicuous benefit", which is "being protected, or being quickly able to surmount a problem"; and "inconspicuous benefit", or "good fortune accumulated slowly but steadily".
The Soka Gakkai believes in the dignity of all life and the infinite potential of human beings, and practices Buddhism as taught by Nichiren (1222-1281) as the means to actualize these beliefs in the mundane world. The Soka Gakkai practices Nichiren’s teachings as adapted and applied by its three founding presidents: Makiguchi,Toda and Ikeda. 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 one with which the Soka Gakkai was once affiliated, Nichiren Shoshu; but in the Soka Gakkai, the expectations and goals of the practice are unique. 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.”  Makiguchi had spent decades developing his own Philosophy of Value and this work gave him fresh eyes to understand and revive Nichiren's teachings. As a result, from his time the Soka Gakkai became focused on religion providing "beauty," "personal gain," and socially contributive "good" for adherents. Toda expanded the Soka Gakkai movement after the war based on his realizations while imprisoned during the war that "Buddha" can be understood as "Life-Force" and he himself was a Bodhisattva of the Earth.
To clarify the purpose for belief and practice the Soka Gakkai defined two types of personal gain: "conspicuous benefit", which is "being protected, or being quickly able to surmount a problem"; and "inconspicuous benefit", or "good fortune accumulated slowly but steadily". Toda expanded Makiguchi's notion of "good" into the notion of obutsu myogo, the concept that secular affairs and Buddhism were not separate, a tenet that holds central importance in Nichiren's teachings, although not previously emphasized in Nichiren Shoshu.
The Soka Gakkai changed some practices to “reflect the changes of the late twentieth century”, and developed its own approach to kosen-rufu, or widespread propagation, which in the Soka Gakkai is based on positive changes in each practitioner's life. The Sōka Gakkai leadership, specifically Ikeda, has produced certain writings which have acquired a canonical status within Sōka Gakkai, such as Ikeda's book "Human Revolution".
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. and the ultimate reality of existence 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.
In addition, the Soka Gakkai publishes study materials, including the writings of Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra, and has a program of study. 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".
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.
The practices to improve oneself while helping others others, and the study of Buddhism, combine with "faith" in what the Soka Gakkai considers "the three basic aspects of Nichiren Buddhism". 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.
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.
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.
Toda considered that the concept of "Buddha as life (force) means that Buddhism entails transforming society. 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."
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 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."
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. 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.
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".
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."
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. One is considered to be practicing the Lotus Sutra when chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon.
The Gohonzon Soka Gakkai members enshrine in their homes and centers is a transcription by the 18th century high priest Nichikan. 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.
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. It is the member's faith and practice that causes the scroll to become a "happiness machine":289 that allows one to examine one's life, gain benefit and ultimately attain Buddhahood.
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." 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."
Josei Toda also taught that one must pray with the belief "that there is no distinction among the Gohonzon, Nichiren and you yourself."
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.
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".
Soka Gakkai members chant the Daimoku to change their lives, including the environments in which they live. 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.
Soka Gakkai members believe that chanting releases the power of the universal life force inherent in life. 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 Thus, Buddhahood is experienced as the process of transforming, and as the actual transformation of, daily life. 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.
Reason for controversy was the seemingly aggressive form of conversion or recruitment of new followers called shakubuku (Japanese 折伏; English: "break and subdue"), at least in the past. Although the movement has distanced itself from this aggressive form of recruitment of new followers, the term continues to be used.
Chilson reports that Soka Gakkai members revere Daisaku Ikeda. 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. 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.: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." 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.
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".:70
As is often the case, an evaluation of Ikeda's role in the mentor and disciple relationship is complicated by the Soka Gakkai's involvement in Japanese politics. An example is the statement by Junya Yano, longtime secretary-general of the Kōmeitō, that the Gakkai has become a "cult of personality" centered on Ikeda, which must be interpreted in the context of the numerous lawsuits and countersuits between Yano and Gakkai and his subsequent career as political commentator and columnist for the tabloid weekly Shinchō, a political opponent of the Gakkai and Kōmeitō. Similarly, Levi McLaughlin notes "a decisive transformation from an organization run by Ikeda to a group dedicated to Ikeda", and describes it as a defensive reaction to "the coordinated attack on Ikeda by opponents in politics and the media" and "anti-new religions hysteria".:69 Religious scholar Jane Hurst points out that Ikeda has not exploited his position in the Gakkai's international organization, instead taking initiative to democratize and decentralize it.
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.
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.:84
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. 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.
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. The complete texts of recent proposals are available at the SGI website. 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.
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. The Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy Research (founded in 1996) conducts peace-oriented international policy research through international conferences and frequent publications.
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".: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. But the same author who found the negativity also concluded that "I doubt very much, however, that many ordinary Japanese who are not members of the Soka Gakkai know or care very much about the Soka Gakkai or its activities". 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.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr, Linus Pauling has praised Daisaku Ikeda specifically for his work to foster a lasting worldwide peace.
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."
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.
Soka Gakkai was originally a lay organization of Nichiren Shōshū, meaning it was necessary to belong to Shōshū to be a member of the Gakkai and was stripped of its status as a lay organization of Nichiren Shōshū. There are several other lay organizations within Shōshū as well as members of Shōshū who belong to no organization.
Formally, the Soka Gakkai International is the umbrella organization for all national organizations, while Soka Gakkai by itself refers to the Japanese arm. Soka Gakkai International maintains an international political presence as a registered non-governmental organization with the United Nations.:273
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.
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.:301
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.
Soka Gakkai has, together with its international offshoot Soka Gakkai International (SGI) been described as "the world's largest Buddhist lay group and America's most diverse". Soka Gakkai International claims a total of over 12 million adherents. The lion's share of these belong to the Japanese organization, whose official membership count is 8.27 million households. According to statistics from the Agency for Cultural Affairs (a body of the Japanese Ministry of Education), the Japanese organization had 5.42 million individual members in 2000. Even that number, however, has been questioned by some authors.
The election or nomination of so-called "leaders" is typically not decided by SGI's adherents but by a Board of directors. Leadership below national staff, however, has been liberalized; in the U.S., for instance, the nomination and approval of leaders includes both members and leaders.
List of Presidents of Soka Gakkai
Honorary President of Soka Gakkai
President of Soka Gakkai International (SGI)
Soka Gakkai's first attempt to influence the political process in Japan ended with the arrest of a group of Young Men's Division members on n April 23, 1957. They had been campaigning for a Gakkai candidate in an Osaka Upper House by-election, and were arrested for "distributing money, cigarettes, and caramels at supporters' residences, in violation of elections law". On July 3 of the same year, Ikeda Daisaku was arrested and taken into custody in Osaka "for overseeing activities that constituted violations of elections law". That event has been memorialized as the "Osaka Incident", and saw Ikeda spend two weeks in jail and make 48 court appearances before eventually being cleared of all charges several years later in 1962.
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. Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution demands the strict separation of politics and religion.:57 While Kōmeitō claim that they fulfill and comply with those legal and constitutional demands, all of New Kōmeitō's past and current presidents have held executive positions in Soka Gakkai. In addition, branch offices of Komeito are almost always located inside a Gakkai "place of worship", allowing the political organization to avoid property taxes.
In the 1980s 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. As a result, Soka Gakkai was harshly criticized by the Ryūkyū Shimpō and Okinawa Times. 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.
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.
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."
SGI's president, Daisaku Ikeda, has been referred to as "the most powerful man in Japan". The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that Ikeda cultivates the image of a "charismatic leader", although he has displayed a "violent temper" in private. 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". Ikeda's personal residence in Ashiya, Hyōgo is considered a religious institution for tax purposes.
In the 1990s, a Japanese parliamentarian alleged the Soka Gakkai had amassed wealth up towards $100 billion, though the organization denied this. Journalists writing for Forbes estimated the organization brings in at least $1.5 billion per year, while an Asiaweek article published in 1994 reported on a $2 billion figure from donations alone. Religion scholar Hiroshi Shimada has estimated the wealth of the Japanese arm at ¥500 billion. In 2004, Soka Gakkai as a religious organization alone was Japan's 170th largest corporation, and its earnings were over 100 times larger than any other religious organization.:34
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.:51
Soka Gakkai fully owns the Seikyo Shimbun, which has a readership base of 5.5 million, making it Japan's third most widely circulated newspaper. The newspaper does not own its own printing equipment, instead paying the other major newspaper publishers to print the newspapers throughout the country - a strategy which has been criticized as an attempt to dissuade them from giving negative coverage to the organization. Seikyo Shinbun regularly reports on President Ikeda's activities, making evident "the cult surrounding his figure". Soka Gakkai also owns the popular literary journal Ushio.:218
The Soka University of America is a private university founded in 1987, located in Aliso Viejo, California, with $1.01 billion on assets in the year 2014 and 412 undergraduate students. While the university claims to be secular and independent of Soka Gakkai, it is largely funded by Soka Gakkai . Currently it is reported that "the school maintains no religious affiliation." 
One college evaluating organization ranked SUA the 56th best college (out of 1,394 ranked) in America, and the 9th (of 82) best in California. U.S. News & World Report listed SUA as the 5th "best value" liberal arts college in America.
The original campus in Calabasas, California, organized in 1987, served as a graduate school specializing in English as a Second Language methodology. The campus met opposition from environmentalists. The expansion of the university over a flat meadow coveted by public parks officials wanting to build a visitor center for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area precipitated a slew of litigations and a battle with the school and local environmentalists. In 2005 the Calabasas campus was sold to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy The graduate program at Calabasas was consolidated with the undergraduate programs at Aliso Viejo.
Soka Gakkai also conduct humanitarian aid projects in disaster regions. It not only dedicated to personal spiritual development but also to engaged community service. SGI-Chile members collected supplies to deliver to a relief center after the country's recent earthquake.
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; on the other, it is still widely viewed with suspicion by Japanese. James R. Lewis claims the Soka Gakkai still grapples with a stereotype of being a brainwashing cult, even though the group has matured into a responsible member of society. Other scholars reject the cult label. 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.
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."
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.
Soka Gakkai has long been a subject of criticism in the Japanese weekly newsmagazine press. Scholars have linked political motivations to reports in the press that associated the Soka Gakkai with Aum Shinrikyo. In addition, press criticism of the Soka Gakkai should be seen against the backdrop of negative press coverage of new religious movements in general.
Media criticism of the Soka Gakkai, or at least the New Komeito Party, has abated since it became a coalition partner to the LPD.
In the year 1998 the final paper of the Select committee of the German Parliament on so called Cults came to the conclusion that,due to its connection to its mother-organisation (SGI), being conflict-laden in other parts of the world, the German branch(SGI-D) remains problematic.
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. A sampling of the studies is described below.
Early historical and political studies: As is often the case in social science research, new fields of study often incorporate anecdotal evidence. Researchers draw conclusions drawn largely from media sources; interviews are important sources of information although they are not collected through validated sampling techniques. English-language anecdotal evidence about the Soka Gakkai began to accumulate in the 1960s and accerated in the 1970s. Among the scholars who contributed to early historical and political literature are: Beasley, Brannen, Hunt, Kitagawa, Ramseyer, Moos, Doherty, McFarland, Murata, and Fujiwara.
Exegesis: Exegesis or hermeneutics is often the second wave of social science research. Scholars, their interest often piqued by prior anecdotal research, turn their attention to careful textual analyses of what exactly an organization and/or its leaders say or write. Among the early English language scholars exploring the Soka Gakkai in the 1970s and 1980s through this modality are Epp and Bethel. Scholars have also studied Ikeda's contributions to peace studies and international relationships.
Scholars are still conducting hermeneutical research on the writings of the Soka Gakkai and/or its leaders. Chilson analyzes Ikeda's diaries and autobiographical writings. There is extensive hermeneutical work on Ikeda's writings on education.
Qualitative research: Qualitative researchers attempt to collect data broadly through survey and interview methodology. Ethical researchers note the degree of consent, cooperation, and even funding given by of organizations under study so readers are alerted to any implicit bias. Starting in the 1990s, English-language research on the Soka Gakkai, conducted by religious historians and sociologists, began examining constituent organizations of the Soka Gakkai International but included broad discussions about the Soka Gakkai itself. Sociologist Macioti examined the Soka Gakkai in Italy. Sociologists Wilson and Dobbelaire investigated the Soka Gakkai in the United Kingdom. The Soka Gakkai in the United States was studied by Chappell and Hammond and Machacek. Metraux has written about the Soka Gakkai movements in Southeast Asia, Canada, and Australia. Clarke and Silva have studied the Soka Gakkai movement in Brazil. Fowler and Fowler discuss the Soka Gakkai in Wales
The findings of the above types of research are often tested in smaller and more specific settings through case studies. Researchers, "insiders" who have privileged access to subjects, conduct participant observeration. In case studies there is usually much more narrow research questions. Tong examines the phenomenon of conversion in the Singapore Soka Gakkai movement. In an anthropological study Mette discusses the participation of Soka Gakkai youth in the political process. Ionescu conducted field research in Germany to view the process of accommodation. Jayeel Serrano Cornelio discusses the participation of Soka Gakkai youth in the cultural performances. Cornejo's case study of Soka Gakkai members in Spain examines religious accommodation in a predominantly Catholic society.
Interpretative studies: Noted scholars often conduct interpretative studies which combine their prolific experiences and research, extensive literature review, and on-site visits and interviews to develop reflections and theories. Seager and Strand conducted studies on the Soka Gakkai that utilize such methodology.
Since its founding in the 1930s, the SG has repeatedly found itself at the center of controversies, some linked to major struggles over the future of Japan, others to intense internal religious debates that erupted into public view. Over the course of its history, however, it has also grown into a large, politically active, and very well-established network of institutions, whose membership represents something on the order of a tenth of the Japanese population. One result is that there is a fractured view of the movement in Japan. On one hand, it is seen as a highly articulated, politically and socially engaged movement with an expressed message of human empowerment and global peace. On the other, it has been charged with an array of nefarious activities that range from fellow traveling with Communists and sedition to aspiring to world domination.
It is gratifying to see that in some ways he has substantially changed his viewpoint...He no longer claims, for example, that Suzuki was an active supporter of Japan's 1930s aggression in China or its World war II militarism....What is a reader to conclude, then, if the evidence on which the attack is based turns out to have been seriously misrepresented?
Two other scholars, Dayle M. Bethel and Koichi Miyata (Bethel 2003, Miyata 2002), have already published articles attacking Victoria's conclusions. They correctly note that Victoria has quoted Makiguchi out of context and through their own examination of the texts that Victoria uses to draw his conclusions, they have skillfully provided longer versions of Makiguchi's quotes which when seen in context tend to negate Victoria's assertions.
Toda 'was burning with a desire for vengeance--not against the militarist government of Japan but against an invisible enemy who had caused his own suffering of more than two years as well as his teacher's death in jail and agony to tens of millions of his fellow countrymen.'
Critics of Soka Gakkai often point to its excessive insistence on winning converts. Practitioners, on the contrary, portray Toda as a person of deep faith, but with a sense of humor, capable of captivating an audience and inspiring peace of mind. Tsuji [a leader whom the author interviewed] continues: When the participants left the meeting they felt refreshed, as if they had just taken a shower. The meetings were lively, joyful and amusing, and this was due to the fact that Toda warmly embraced each person with his solicitude. He then gave an example, recalling the encouragement Toda once gave to a practitioner who made wooden clogs for a living, but considered himself to be uncultured. ‘Toda told him that he was a PhD in making wooden clogs, and that he needed only to strengthen his faith in the Gohonzon, and look to the future with confidence. ‘His guidance— explains Tsuji—switched on the light of hope and courage in people who were weak and unhappy.’
In 1952, when Shin’ichi [pen name of Ikeda] was taking the lead in the February Campaign2 as the adviser of Tokyo’s Kamata Chapter, he focused entirely on the unit level, the front line of the organization. Propagation goals were set and discussion meetings held by unit. The campaign proceeded by clarifying the daily activities of each member in the unit and mutually reconfirming their determination. Shin’ichi visited the units and encouraged the members. He spoke one-to-one, in small groups. He also made a wholehearted effort to talk with members who didn’t have a firm self-awareness of belonging to the Soka Gakkai yet. It was hard, grassroots-oriented work that went largely unseen. None of it was attention-grabbing or in the spotlight. However, it was through those efforts that members awakened to their mission and stood up to trigger a new wave of expansion, resulting in the unprecedented achievement of introducing more than two hundred new households in a single chapter in one month. This opened the way for the accomplishment of the goal of 750,000 households set forth by Shin’ichi’s mentor, President Toda.
After meeting Toda in 1947, Ikeda worked closely with him until his passing in 1958, and has continued implementing his mentor's vision for more than six decades. I consider Toda as the most influential person for Ikeda's formation as a peacebuilder, and his life, thoughts, words and actions as an integral part of Ikeda's philosophy of peace.
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I have felt a powerful responsibility to universalize and ensure the long-term flourishing of the teachings. Just weeks before he died in April 1958, Mr. Toda called me to his side and told me that he had dreamed of going to Mexico, that there were people there waiting to learn about Buddhism. In terms of the teachings, I have tried to separate out those elements in the traditional interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism that are more reflective of Japanese cultural and historical contingencies than they are of the underlying message. To this end I have continued to engage in dialogue with a wide range of people around the world in order to refine and universalize the expression of my ideas. Because I am convinced that all cultures and religions are expressions of deep human truths, I have regularly referenced philosophical traditions other than Buddhism, bringing in the ideas and insights of literature, art, science, and medicine, and sharing the inspiring words and insights of thinkers from a wide range of cultural and religious backgrounds with people, including the membership of the Soka Gakkai.Check date values in:
(115) 『その事実については、「週刊新潮」がすでに七月に、「メッカ大石寺が、創価学会と喧嘩して参詣者ただ今ゼロ」という記事を掲げている。』 (120)『 「二年前にも、池田会長と日達猊下（と呼ぶそうだ）の仲がおかしくなって、登山禁止令が出た」（学会青年部幹部）』
Other criticisms were more fundamental. For example, the president was criticized for having abandoned shakubuku as a method of proselytism in favor of the shoju method.
Members who believed priests to be essential to their spirituality stayed with Nichiren Shoshu, but most remained within the Gakkai, their loyalties tied to Ikeda and his modernist Buddhism.
"H. Hojo. . . was electred president. Ikeda became honorary president. . . At the death of Hojo in 1981, E. Akiya was elected president. . ." . .
The major causes of the split were conflicting claims to authority between the Soka Gakkai and pristhood leaders, their relative positions of power, disagreements over the interpretation of Nichiren Daishonin's teachings, and certain financial issues.
28: "...this alliance between an essentially clerical organization and a new lay movement has been somewhat precarious from the very beginning." 30: "Thus, the fundamentally intellectual-ideological vein that distinguishes Soka Gakkai from other groups...was nurtured in the process of its formation."
For Makiguchi, the object of worship is not the Lord, the Ruler, to whom absolute loyalty is given, but rather a tool to be used for personal gain. The allegiance which must be given to religion is always a qualified allegiance, qualified because it is contingent on receiving some benefit from the religion.
“Therefore, when you sit before the Gohonzon and believe there is no distinction among the Gohonzon, Nichiren and you yourself, …the great life force of the universe becomes your own life force and gushes forth.”
28: "...this alliance between an essentially clerical organization and a new lay movement has been somewhat precarious from the very beginning." 30: "Thus, the fundamentally intellectual-ideological vein that distinguishes Soka Gakkai from other groups...was nurtured in the process of its formation."
:"His published works, accordingly, show a unique combination of his own thinking and the doctrine of traditional Buddhism, or an attempt to interpret the latter by means of the former."
"For Makiguchi, the object of worship is not the Lord, the Ruler, to whom absolute loyalty is given, but rather a tool to be used for personal gain. The allegiance which must be given to religion is always a qualified allegiance, qualified because it is contingent on receiving some benefit from the religion.”
Toda says that after agonizing for a long time over the meaning of the sutra, finally one day he had a vision of the word seimei, or Life-Force, flashing in his mind, as well as a mystical experience of seeing himself in attendance in the assembly of the Buddha. This experience was apparently the foundation of Toda’s unique contribution to the development of Soka Gakkai doctrine, the theory of Life-Force. This Life-Force is thought to permeate the universe, and it is through connection with the great Life-Force that we can ensure health, prosperity, good relationships with others, and happiness. In Soka Gakkai practice, these benefits are obtained through faith in Nichiren as the greatest and final manifestation of the Buddha, worship of the gohonzon, or mandala inscribed by Nichiren, and the chanting of the daimoku. Such practice should lead to benefits in this life, and even greater happiness in an unending series of future lives in this world. In this way, Toda laid out a very practical faith of immediate benefits, a classical example of what has been called the “vitalistic” conception of salvation frequently encountered in Japanese new religious movements.
"For instance, the key term 'life', or some equivalent, did not occur in dogmatic literature." (37) The doctrine of obutsu myogo was formulated by Toda, incorporating a central motif in Nichiren's 's teachings." (38)
Soka Gakksi emerged at a time of great cultural, economic and technological change. The changes they have brought to the practice of Nichiren's Buddhism are a reflection of the changes of the late twentieth century.
...the priesthood just did not share Soka Gakkai's vision of how to accomplish kosen-rufu.
Because the worldwide propagation of Nichiren Buddhism...can only be achieved by each individual attaining Buddhahoof - in other words, accomplishing their human revolution...
They cpuild, in Anaekei's words, 'restore a primeval connection with the eternal Buddha'
By chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra, Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo one forms a connection with the ultimate reality that pervades the universe
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Nichiren points out the one factor that determines the direction of not only each individual but also of the nation and society as a whole: that is, whether people are enemies of the Lotus Sutra or whether they have faith in the Lotus Sutra. If we express this in contemporary terms, it means that everything depends on whether the principles of respect for the dignity of life and respect for human beings taught in the Lotus Sutra become the spirit of the age...
This Gohonzon is the essence of the Lotus Sutra and the eye of all the scriptures.
Certainly new members begin their practice in front of a white wall since, according to Nichiren, the Gohonzon truly exists only inside an individual and can be found only through faith.
To the Soka Gakkai, the split from the priesthood resulted in an incredible sense of freedom. They are free to express what they have always believed - that the power of the Gohonzon is separate from any priestly authority and that the Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon for all people throughout the world...
Prayer is the courage to persevere. It is the struggle to overcome our own weakness and lack of confidence in ourselves.
Rather than giving in to the temptation to exploit his power as the leader of a now 12 million member organization, Mr. Ikeda has instead worked to see that the organization has become more democratic.... Power in the SGI has not stayed centered in Japan but has spread throughout the world...
For decades Daisaku Ikeda has "been working to achieve the goals of disarmament, world understanding, and universal peace.
But the movement soon accommodated American culture; now the U.S. leadership is chosen through a process of 'nomination, review and approval that involves both peers and leaders'. Qualified women are no longer excluded from positions od responsibility.
兵庫県芦屋市にある「関西戸田記念館」も非課税対象の「教内地」「礼拝所」 … 創価学会・公明党幹部はこれを「芦屋の池田名誉会長宅」（矢野絢也委員長、月刊『文藝春秋』九三年十月号）と呼んでいます。
Since its founding in the 1930s, the Soka Gakkai has repeatedly found itself at the center of controversies, some linked to major struggles over the future of Japan, others to intense internal religious debates that erupted into public view. Over the course of its history, however, it has also grown into a large, politically active, and very well-established network of institutions, whose membership represents something on the order of a tenth of the Japanese population. One result is that there is a fractured view of the movement in Japan. On one hand, it is seen as a highly articulated, politically and socially engaged movement with an expressed message of human empowerment and global peace. On the other, it has been charged with an array of nefarious activities that range from fellow traveling with Communists and sedition to aspiring to world domination.
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