Article

Soka Gakkai

Andrew Gebert

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0053
Soka Gakkai

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The Soka Gakkai is a movement of Mahayana Buddhist lay believers that originated in Japan in the 1930s. Today, it is the largest and most influential of new religious movements in Japan. The nature of its role within Japanese society has been the focus of considerable controversy and research, particularly during its period of rapid expansion from the early 1950s to around 1970. Founded by the educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (b. 1871–d. 1944), the organization was suppressed during World War II for refusing to accede to official religious policies. Its second president, Josei Toda (b. 1900–d. 1958), rebuilt the organization in the postwar period. The third president, Daisaku Ikeda (b. 1928), took over leadership in 1960; the founder of an affiliated political party, the Komei Party, and numerous educational and cultural bodies, he has further overseen the Soka Gakkai’s international expansion. Ikeda has written extensively on a wide range of topics and conducted dialogues with international figures that have been published in Japanese, English, and other languages. As the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), an umbrella organization established by Ikeda in 1975, the movement now claims adherents in 192 countries and territories. The Soka Gakkai was associated with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, a relationship that was particularly close in the postwar period. Tensions between the two bodies surfaced in the late 1970s and again in the early 1990s, when there was a definitive schism. The Soka Gakkai is sometimes classed under the rubric of “engaged Buddhism” and, as a nongovernmental organization with official ties to the UN, the organization has undertaken activities in the fields of nuclear disarmament, human rights, and sustainability education. The movement cites the philosophy of the 13th-century Buddhist monk Nichiren, with its distinctly this-worldly orientation and teaching the goal of enlightenment in one’s present form, as the doctrinal basis for such engagements. The Soka Gakkai is a complex phenomenon, with religious, sociological, and political aspects and implications; its development, activities, and ideas have thus been examined in scholarship rooted a wide range of disciplines.

Article.  5595 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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