|Sōka Gakkai / Soka Gakkai International (SGI)|
Soka Gakkai International flag with logo
|Founder(s)||Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda|
|Headquarters||Shinanomachi 32, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-8583, Japan|
|Membership||over 12 million (by own account)|
|President (SGI)||Daisaku Ikeda|
|Honorary President (SG)||Daisaku Ikeda|
|President (SG)||Minoru Harada|
|Parent organization||Nichiren Shōshū (until 1991)|
|Slogan||"Universal Brotherhood" (地球民族主義, chikyū minzokushugi)|
|Website||Soka Gakkai International|
|Former name||Sōka Kyōiku Gakkai|
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|Buddhism in Japan|
Soka Gakkai (Japanese: 創価学会) is a Japanese lay Nichiren Buddhist movement with, by its own account, 12 million members in 192 countries and territories around the world. It 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", but it has also been quoted as "quasi-fascist", "fascist", "militant", "overzealous", "manipulationist" and "authoritarian", especially in the first few decennia following World War II.:69, 207
The movement was founded by educators Tsunesaburō Makiguchi and Jōsei Toda in 1930 as a lay organization belonging to the Nichiren Shōshū Buddhist denomination. After a temporary disbandment during the 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, who planted the seed for the organization's international expansion in 1960. While Ikeda has been remarkably successful in moving the group towards mainstream acceptance in some areas, the organization is still widely viewed with suspicion in Japan and grapples with a reputation of being a "brainwashing cult", as well as a cult of personality centered around Ikeda.
- 1 History
- 2 Beliefs and practices
- 3 Organization
- 4 Public perception and criticism
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Notes
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
1930-1944: Inception, disbandment
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 however not take place until 1937. The group was a hokkeko (lay organization) affiliated with the Nichiren Shoshu, 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.:15 His religious beliefs motivated him to take a stand against the government, earning him a reputation as a political dissident.:14
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.:98 In 1943, the group was instrumental in making the Nichiren Shoshu 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. This prompted a government investigation of the group, which perhaps precipitated the subsequent arrest of its leadership.:108
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 Shoshu priesthood had been prepared to accept the placing of a talisman inside its head temple, Makiguchi and the Gakkai leadership had openly refused. With its leadership decimated, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai disbanded.:41During interrogation, Makiguchi had insisted that "The emperor is an ordinary man ... the emperor makes mistakes like anyone else".:40 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.
Post-war rebuilding and growth under Toda
Josei Toda was released from prison in 1945 and immediately set out to rebuild what had been lost during the war. In February 1946, the organization was officially re-established, now under the shortened moniker Sōka Gakkai (lit. "Value-creation society"). While progress was slow for the first few years, the monthly magazine Daibyaku Renge (大白蓮華) began publishing in 1949, and the newspaper Seikyo Shimbun in 1951 - the same year that Toda formally assumed presidency. During his acceptance speech, he placed a formidable challenge to the 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.":285-286
Toda adopted an aggressive and controversial method of proselytizing, based on Nichiren teachings on shakubuku (折伏), often translated character for character as "break and subdue", sometimes as "forced conversion". Shakubuku, essentially, is one of two methods of proselytizing traditionally employed by Nichiren adherents, in which the proselytizer aggressively confronts a non-adherent about the falsity of their beliefs. Toda's brand of shakubuku was of an unusually aggressive nature and would come to give Soka Gakkai a reputation of militancy and also resulted in widespread criticism in the popular press and, remarkably, also by other Buddhist sects.
A report from 1955 tells 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 said they wouldn't move until she gave in, and she finally allowed them to sign her name at two o'clock in the morning.:104 Some sources describe another 1964 forced conversion session, in which Gakkai members would surround a home and yell and make noise for hours until the residents came out 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 lack of Gakkai membership.:82 Local leadership would often destroy the ancestral altars of new members. There was infrequent violence, but also violent actions taken against Soka Gakkai members: "... 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 relationship with the parent organization Nichiren Shoshu worsened considerably during Toda. Specifically notable 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 Shoshu head temple, to harass a priest named Ogasawara who had allegedly cooperated with the authorities during the war. The group of men was led by President Toda and Daisaku Ikeda (who would eventually become the organization's third president) themselves. When Ogasawara initially refused to apologize, the men mobbed him, tore off his vestments and tagged him with a placard reading "racoon dog monk". He was forcibly carried to Makiguchi's grave, where he was made to sign a written apology.:698—711 Toda, who claimed to have only hit Ogasawara twice during the ordeal, was temporarily banned from entering the temple. Though no legal action was taken, this incident helped establish the organization's reputation as a violent cult.:705—711
In August 1952, when the Religious Corporation Law came into effect, the Soka Gakkai was legally registered as a religious corporate body. The same year, Toda was required to deliver a statement to the effect that Soka Gakkai members would refrain from the illegal use of violence or threats in their proselytizing, by the special investigations bureau of the Department of Justice.:217
The Gakkai's teachings at this point became more restrictive and lower ranking members were no longer allowed access to more difficult books. One source notes that the laws of the Gakkai were "taught in graded classes.":142
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.
While shakubuku had been a controversial method to gain recruits, it had certainly proved 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 use of violence and intimidation as a part of the shakubuku has in modern times been dismissed as "excessive zeal on the part of uneducated members" by the organization itself, but the evidence shows that much of it was actually organized by its high-ranking leaders.:74 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.
National and international expansion under Ikeda
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 1950's 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. 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 was formally founded in 1975, on Guam.
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." After this scandal, both Kōmeitō and the Gakkai were weakened and their constant postwar 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 Japanese Communist Party. The illegal operation had been headed by Masatomo Yamazaki, then legal advisor and vice chairmen of the Gakkai.[better reference needed]
In 1965, Ikeda announced that he would build a "True Main Hall", or Shōhondō, at Taiseki-ji, the head temple of Shōshū. A record-breaking amount of money was raised to construct this building, the largest private fundraising project in Japan's history. Other Shōshū lay groups objected that a building like the Shōhondō should not be constructed before all of Japan converted to Nichiren Buddhism.: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.
Separation from the Shōshū priesthood
In 1978, Soka Gakkai's relationship with Shōshū soured over the role of priests and lay believers: "... the priesthood claims that the Soka Gakkai is a subsidiary organization working on behalf of Nichiren Shōshū, while the Soka Gakkai has always regarded itself as a truly independent organization that has its own direct spiritual mandate from Nichiren. The result has been occasional tension between the two groups." 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, passed away. 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 expelled from Shōshū. Soka Gakkai supported Abe at this time.
A conflict emerged in 1989 after lay members complained of high costs of fees demanded by priests for social ceremonies, and the Soka Gakkai asked Nichiren Shōshū to lower these fees. Nichiren Shōshū's administration refused this request, and further tension emerged with disagreements on various doctrinal issues, deepening the conflict between the priesthood and laity, a situation which many paralleled to the Protestant Reformation.
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 disagreement reflected on the interpretation of the state of Bodhisattva: "... laypeople, such as members of the Gakkai, can be followers of the Bodhisattvas of the Earth, but cannot be among the Bodhisattvas themselves, because that status is reserved for priests" .:130 The dispute about the Three Treasures 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".
In 1991, Nichiren Shōshū administration published a list of points where they perceived Soka Gakkai to have deviated from Shōshū doctrine. Soka Gakkai was no longer considered a lay group of Shōshū, and its leaders, including Ikeda, were excommunicated. Many Japanese members of the Gakkai left at this time, believing that a cult of personality was developing around Ikeda which departed from Nichiren's teachings. Others left the organization out of concerns that they would no longer be able to enter Shōshū temples and have traditional pilgrimages and funerals. In response, Soka Gakkai began collecting names of Shōshū members across the country and held regular prayer sessions to attempt to "defeat" (打倒 datō) them.:300 In one incident, Gakkai members broke into a Shōshū temple during a religious service and beat a defector into unconsciousness. Soka Gakkai began fabricating evidence that the Shōshū administration had engaged in illicit conduct. 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.
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.[non-primary source needed] 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.
According to Prof. M. Bumann, of the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, 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." In an analysis of books studying the expansion of SGI after the split, Prof. Jane Hurst of Gallaudet University 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, sees "corrupt and scandalous behavior on both sides."
Beliefs and practices
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, though the main dividing factor seems to have been conflicting claims to authority - a clash between Sōka Gakkai's Daisaku Ikeda and the Nichiren Shōshu high priest Nikken Abe. While the two movements still share most of their canon (the Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren, referred to as the Gosho (御書)), 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", which sets it apart from its old parent organization.
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. The whole of Nichiren Buddhism is founded on Nichiren's belief that the Lotus Sutra was "the highest and ultimate teaching of Buddhism" and that it "contained the essence of the Buddha's enlightenment and that it held the key to transforming people's suffering and enabling society to flourish."
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A large focus in Soka Gakkai is on the daily morning and evening chanting of the mantra Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō (南無妙法蓮華經) (referred to as the daimoku (題目)), and reciting excerpts from the 'Expedient Means' (方便品 Hōben pon) (2nd) and the 'Life Span of the Thus Come One' (如来寿量品 Nyorai Juryō hon ) (16th) chapters of the Lotus Sutra.
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The object of devotion in Sōka Gakkai is the mandala Gohonzon (御本尊): "the Gohonzon reflects Nichiren's life-state: Buddhahood". Other Nichiren schools employ statue of Shakyamuni Buddha or a combination of statues and mandala Gohonzon - as their Object of Devotion. Buddha statues are not used for prayers in SGI practice. However, SGI members have focused more on individual inner transformation to the higher state of life which could reveal happiness, wisdom, purity, compassion, and courage on daily basis. According Nichiren Daishonin, "Never seek this Gohonzon outside yourself. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who embrace the Lotus Sutra and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo." 
After the excommunication (1991) and the Priesthood's refusal to confer the Object of Devotion on SGI members (unless they associated themselves with a Nichiren Shōshū temple) - many new members had to practice without the Gohonzon. This situation prompted chief priest Rev. Sendo Narita of Joen-Ji temple, Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, to secede (1993) from Nichiren Shōshū and offer a woodblock Gohonzon originally inscribed by the 26th High Priest, Nichikan Shonin, to SGI. In order to confer Gohonzons to followers of SGI, the woodblock was then used to produce a printer’s copy. It must be noted that the Gohonzon used by SGI is not an exact replica of the original Nichikan version, as the original dedication had been deleted and some characters enlarged. This development further underlined SGI's and Nichiren Shōshū's role as two religious entities independent from each other. According to SGI teachings, the power of the Object of Devotion is not found in an external mandala, but through one's inner faith: "First, the power of any Gohonzon, including the Dai-Gohonzon, can be tapped only through the power of faith. In other words, we should be clear that it is wrong to think that the Dai-Gohonzon alone has some kind of unique mystic power that no other Gohonzon possesses. The Dai-Gohonzon and our own Gohonzon are equal."
Traditional groups of Nichiren Buddhism regard Shakyamuni as the "Eternal Buddha" and Nichiren as a bodhisattva. The Nichiren Shū school for example has the view that "the title Buddha" is reserved for Shakyamuni. SGI teachings refer to both Shakyamuni and Nichiren with the title Buddha. Although Nichiren Shōshū also regards Nichiren as a Buddha, however, there is a difference between this school’s concept and Gakkai teachings. In Nichiren Shōshū, "Nichiren Daishonin" is the Buddha of time without beginning (kuon ganjo), while according to SGI teachings, the Buddha of time without beginning is the manifestation of the state of Buddhahood Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo: "The original Buddha whose life is without beginning or end is nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo Thus Come One". SGI refers to the founder of Nichiren Buddhism by the title: the Buddha of this Latter Age of the Law: “Nichiren revealed and spread the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and inscribed it in the form of a mandala Gohonzon, to enable all people in the Latter Day of the Law to attain Buddhahood; for this reason he is regarded as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.”.
Views on priesthood
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Soka Gakkai's peace activities can be traced back to the Toda era, though the Gakkai was without doubt at its most militaristic and even occasionally violent in this period. At an athletic meeting in 1957, Toda called for a complete ban on nuclear weapons. A petition drive against nuclear weapons by the Gakkai's youth division garnered 10 million signatures, and was handed over to the United Nations in 1975. :84
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
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.
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The "soka" (創価) in Soka Gakkai stands for "value-creation". The word was coined by the movement's founder and first president, Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, by shortening the phrase kachi sōzō (価値創造) (of the same meaning). Makiguchi was originally a teacher and the whole movement initially sprang from his ideas on how to reform education through "value-creation". Makiguchi viewed "religion as being not separate from, but identical with, the actual life of individuals in society, so that the efforts to create values in mundane life obtained a religious foundation, peace and prosperity of a nation."
As Dayle M. Bethel says of Makiguchi's thinking: "Makiguchi held not only that working for gain is an entirely proper and honorable pursuit, but that it is a responsibility of each individual, as a creator of value, to work for gain in such a way as to contribute to the welfare of both himself and his society.":51
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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. There were several other lay organizations within Shōshū as well as members of Shōshū who belonged to no organization. After the 1991 (1997) split, Shōshū and Soka Gakkai have become separate denominations and do not regard each other as practicing proper Buddhism.
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List of presidents
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List of presidents of Soka Gakkai
- Tsunesaburō Makiguchi (18 November 1930 – 2 May 1944)
- Jōsei Toda (3 May 1951 – 2 May 1960)
- Daisaku Ikeda (3 May 1960 – 24 April 1979)
- Hiroshi Hōjō (北条浩) (24 April 1979 - 18 July 1981)
- Einosuke Akiya (18 July 1981 - 9 November 2006)
- Minoru Harada (9 November 2006 – Present)
Honorary President of Soka Gakkai
- Daisaku Ikeda (24 April 1979 – present)
President of Soka Gakkai International (SGI)
- Daisaku Ikeda (26 January 1975 – present)
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Power and wealth
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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.
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. Religion scholar Hiroshi Shimada has estimated the wealth of the Japanese arm at ¥500 billion.
Soka Gakkai fully owns the Seikyo Shinbun (聖教新聞), which has a readership base of 5.5 million, making it Japan's third most widely circulated newspaper. The newspaper regularly reports on President Ikeda's activities, making evident "the cult surrounding his figure".
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Soka University of America
The Soka University of America is a private university founded in 1987, located in Aliso Viejo, California. While the university claims to be secular and independent of Soka Gakkai, it is largely funded by the organization. The expansion of the university over a flat meadow coveted by public parks officials wanting to build a visitors center for the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area precipitated a slew of litigations and a battle with the school and local environmentalists. 
Public perception and criticism
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 in-depth studies of Soka Gakkai.
Involvement in politics
Some critics have alleged that Soka Gakkai in effect controls New Kōmeitō as almost all party members are also members of Soka Gakkai and that their voluntary activities during election campaigns equal a de facto endorsement of the party.[better reference needed] Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution demands the strict separation of politics and religion. 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, and official liaison meetings between the New Komeito and Soka Gakkai are held at least twice a year.
According to a paper by Daniel A. Métraux, the Soka Gakkai "employ[s] direct action to promote its social agenda through its closely affiliated political party, the Komeito."
Perception of academia and human rights institutes
Daisaku Ikeda, SGI's current president, was included in a peace exhibit displayed at Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel, called "Gandhi, King, Ikeda - A legacy of creating peace". The dean of said college is also a board member of Soka University of America This display was criticized for comparing Ikeda to Gandhi and King. Among individuals who participated in talks in SGI cultural centers were American human rights activist Rosa Parks, Nobel Prize recipient Betty Williams, Nobel Prize recipient Wangari Maathai, Nobel Prize recipient and former South African president Frederik Willem de Klerk, and others.
Criticism of teachings
Among various points of criticism of the Soka Gakkai is its teaching of members for praying for material benefit as well as spiritual development in daily life: "This emphasis on benefit has been viewed with great suspicion by some Gakkai critics in the West". Gakkai members are taught to chant for mental and physical health, adequate food and housing, a good job, a good spouse and a happy family, among other things.":78
Soka Gakkai has been criticized for its doctrinal teachings based on Nichiren Buddhism, understood by some observers to be lacking tolerance towards other forms of Buddhism.
Criticism by traditional Buddhist denominations
The most apparent argument of criticism by temple-based Buddhist schools lies in the nature of Gakkai as a lay believers organization teaching that it is possible to attain enlightenment without the assistance of traditional temples and without a system of priesthood: "... any individual with deep faith in Nichiren's teachings can attain enlightenment without the assistance of a priest". Disagreement between Nichiren-based schools such as Nichiren Shu and Honmon Butsuryu Shu and others - centre in particular on Nichiren’s identity, believed to be as that of a Bodhisattva while acknowledged in SGI as the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law. Another subject of criticism against SGI is the practice of chanting for benefit, seen as “..appealing to Western materialism in the form of chanting for material things”. Criticism of the Soka Gakkai is pronounced also in various Mahayana and Theravada traditional schools, as being radical and “..not always counted as Buddhist”  or as a “separate tradition”.
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- Seager, Richard Hughes (2006). Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the globalization of Buddhist humanism. Berkeley [u.a.]: Univ. of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24577-8.
- Beasley, W.G., ed. (1977). Modern Japan : aspects of history, literature, and society. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 190–196. ISBN 0-520-03495-3.
- Kempe, Frederick (1990). Divorcing the dictator: America's bungled affair with Noriega. London: Tauris. p. 286. ISBN 1-85043-259-7.
- Hunt, Arnold D. (1975). Japan's militant Buddhism: a survey of the Soka Gakkai movement. Salisbury East, S. Aust.: Salisbury College of Advanced Education. pp. 1–13. ISBN 0909383065.
- Brannen, Noah (1968). Sōka Gakkai: Japan's militant Buddhists. John Knox Press. pp. 80, 101.
- Melton, J. Gordon; Baumann, Martin, eds. (2010). Religions of the world : a comprehensive encyclopedia of beliefs and practices (2nd ed.). Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO. pp. 2656–2659. ISBN 978-1598842036.
- Glock, Charles Y.; Bellah, Robert N., eds. (1976). The New religious consciousness. Berkeley: University of California Press. p. 200. ISBN 0-520-03083-4.
- Kitagawa, Joseph M. (1990). Religion in Japanese history ([Reprint]. ed.). New York: Columbia University Press. pp. 329–330. ISBN 978-0231028387.
- Dobbelaere, Karel (2001). Soka Gakkai: From Lay Movement to Religion. Signature Books.
- Kisala, Robert (2004). "Soka Gakkai: Searching for the Mainstream". In Lewis, James R.; Aagaard Petersen, Jesper. Controversial New Religions. Oxford University Press. pp. 139–152.
- Gallagher, Eugene V.; Ashcraft, W. Michael, eds. (2006). Introduction to new and alternative religions in America. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-275-98712-4.
- Neusner, Jacob, ed. (2003). World religions in America: an introduction (3. ed ed.). Louisville, Ky. ;London: Westminster John Knox. p. 166. ISBN 978-0664224752.
- Bluck, Robert (2008). British Buddhism Teachings, Practice and Development. Routledge. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-0415483087.
- Wellman, Jr., James K.; Lombardi, Clark B. (eds.). Religion and human security : a global perspective. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-0199827756. "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."
- Choy, Lee Khoon (1995). Japan, between myth and reality. Singapore [u.a.]: World Scientific. ISBN 981-02-1865-6.
- Lewis, James R. (2003). Legitimating new religions ([Online-Ausg.]. ed.). New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813533247. "Soka Gakkai ... was not infrequently stereotyped as a brainwashing cult, particularly by anti-cult authors."
- Fujiwara, Hirotatsu (1970). I Denounce Soka Gakkai. Tokyo: Nisshin Hodo. ISBN 9110135502.
- Furukawa, Toshiaki (2000). Karuto to shite no Sōka Gakkai = Ikeda Daisaku (Shohan. ed.). Tōkyō: Daisan Shokan. ISBN 978-4807400171.
- Yanatori, Mitsuyoshi (1977). Sōka Gakkai (in Japanese). Tokyo: Kokusho Kankōkai.
- Watanabe, Teresa (15 March 1996). "Japan's Crusader or Corrupter?". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
- Clarke, Peter, ed. (2008). Encyclopedia of new religious movements (1. publ. ed.). London: Routledge. p. 594. ISBN 978-0415453837.
- Bethel, Dayle M. (1994). Makiguchi the value creator : revolutionary Japanese educator and founder of Soka Gakkai ([1st pbk. ed.]. ed.). New York: Weatherhill. ISBN 0-8348-0318-6.
- Hammond, Phillip E.; Machacek, David W. (1999). Soka Gakkai in America: accommodation and conversion (Reprinted. ed.). Oxford [u.a.]: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0198293897.
- 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
- Metraux, Daniel A. (March 1986). "The Soka Gakkai's Search for the Realization of the World of Rissho Ankokuron". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 13 (1). Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- Laderman, Gary; León, Luis, eds. (2003). Religion and American cultures. Santa Barbara, Calif. [u.a.]: ABC- CLIO. p. 61. ISBN 978-1-57607-238-7.
- Offner, Clark B. (1963). Modern Japanese Religions: With Special Emphasis Upon Their Doctrines of Healing. New York: Twayne Publishers. pp. 101–102.
- McLaughlin, Levi (2012). "Soka Gakkai in Japan". Handbook of Contemporary Japanese Religions. Brill. ISBN 9004234365.
- Moos, Felix (March 1963). "Religion and Politics in Japan: The Case of the Soka Gakkai". Asian Survey. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- Doherty, Jr., Herbert J. (Winter 1963). "Soka Gakkai: Religions and Politics in Japan". The Massachusetts Review 4 (2). Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- White, James W. (1970). The Sōkagakkai and mass society. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804707282.
- Murata, Kiyoaki (1969). Japan's new Buddhism: an objective account of Soka Gakkai ([1st ed.]. ed.). New York: Weatherhill. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0834800403.
- Shimada, Hiromi (2008). Sōkagakkai (KindleISBN 978-4106100727.) (in Japanese). Tōkyō: Shinchōsha.
- Brannen, Noah (September 1964). "False Religions, Forced Conversions, Iconoclasm". Contemporary Religions in Japan V (3). Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- Heine, Steven, ed. (2003). Buddhism in the modern world : adaptations of an ancient tradition ([Reprint.]. ed.). New York [u.a.]: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 0-19-514697-2.
- Brannen, Noah (September 1962). "The Teachings of Sōka Gakkai". Contemporary Religions in Japan 3: 248–249. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
- Naylor, Christina (March 1991). "Nichiren, Imperialism, and the Peace Movement". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 18 (1).
- Kawanami, Hiroko (2001). Ian Harris, ed. Buddhism and politics in twentieth-century Asia. New York: Continuum. p. 114. ISBN 978-0826451781.
- Nakano, Tsuyoshi. "Religion and State". In: Tamura, Noriyoshi and David Reed, eds. 1996. Religion in Japanese Culture: Where Living Traditions Meet a Changing World. Tokyo: Kodansha International, p. 127.
- Shimbun Akahata. 宮本顕治委員長（当時）宅電話盗聴事件の判決は？
- Daniel A. Metraux. "Why Did Ikeda Quit?" Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, vol. 7, no. 1 (March 1980): 55-61.
- Jane Hurst. "A Buddhist Reformation in the 20th Century: Causes and Implications of the Conflict between the Soka Gakkai and the Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood".
- The Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1992 - 19/4, The Dispute between Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu D. Metraux, p. 326
- Fire in The Lotus, Daniel B. Montgomery, Mandala 1991, 1991, p. 200
- Kunii, Irene (November 20, 1995). "Fighting Against the Tide". Time.
- Reader, Ian. "Review of "A Time to Chant" by Wilson and Dobbelaere". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 22 (1): 223.
- Shimbun Akahata Tokubetsu Shuzaihan (2000). Seikyō ittai: Kōmeitō, Sōka Gakkai seiken sanka o tou 3. Shin-Nihon Shuppansha. pp. 58–9. ISBN 4406027378.
- Seikyo Shinbun, December 7, 1999 『創価学会全面勝訴』
- Felonies and Favors: A Friend of the Attorney General Gathers Information from the Justice Department. United States House of Rerpresentatives Committee on Government Reform, July 27, 2000
- Martin Baumann Book Review of Hugh Seager - JGB Volume 7
- Prebish, Charles S.; Tanaka, Kenneth K., eds. (1998). The faces of Buddhism in America. Berkeley, Calif.: University Press. pp. 285–286. ISBN 978-0520213012.
- Williams, Paul (1989). Mahāyāna Buddhism: the doctrinal foundations. Routledge. p. 142. ISBN 9780415356534.
- SGI-USA: Beginning Your Practice: FAQ's: What is the Gohonzon? Why do we need it?
- SGI Library Online - The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin
- Temple Issue Resources
- Sokaspirit.com - Reaffirming Our Right to Happiness On the Gohonzon
- About the Dai-Gohonzon — Soka Spirit
- Lotus Seeds,The Essence of Nichiren Shu Buddhism,p.61 ISBN 0970592000
- [dead link]
- The Wisdom of the Lotus Sutra, vol 5 p. 164, World Tribune Press, ISBN 0915678705
- SGI Library Online - The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism
- Kisala, Robert (2000). Prophets of peace: Pacifism and cultural identity in Japan's new religions. Honolulu, HI, USA: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 978-0824822675.
- Daniel B. Montgomery: Fire in the Lotus, Mandala 1991, S. 185-186
- Tamaru in Machahek and Wilson 2000, p32.
- Magee, Michelle (December 27, 1995). "Japan Fears Another Religious Sect". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 7 December 2013.
- Benjamin Fulford; David Whelan (9 June 2006). "Sensei's World". Forbes. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- Matsutani, Minoru (2 December 2008). "Soka Gakkai keeps religious, political machine humming". The Japan Times. Retrieved 6 December 2013.
- "聖教新聞 公称550万部で毎日新聞の400万部を上回る数字". NEWSポストセブン. 5 March 2013. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
- Pyle, Amy (17 November 1991). "Various Soka Groups Appear Linked". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
- "Soka University : FIGHT BREWS OVER LAND IN THE SANTA MONICAS". The Los Angeles Times. 12 December 1993. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- Loesing, John (13 March 2003). "Environmentalists beat Soka University—again". The Acorn. Retrieved 5 December 2013.
- Ehrhardt, George. 2008. “Jiminto-Soka Gakkai-Komeito; Komeito-Soka Gakkai no Shinjitsu; Komeito vs. Soka Gakkai; Soka Gakkai to wa Nanika.” Politics and Religion 1/1, p. 146.
- Time, BBC News, San Francisco Chronicle, AERA, Fulford, Furukawa, Yamada, Shimada 2004 & 2006, Taisekiji, and Yano 2008 and 2009, among others.
- Rethinking the Komeito Voter, George Ehrhardt, Appalachian State University, Japanese Journal of Political Science 10 (1) 1–20
- Lecture by Levi McLaughlin at Princeton University on SGI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jx1st9FSK98
- McLaughlin, Levi (2012). "Did Aum Change Everything?". Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 39 (1). pp. 51–75
- The Constitution Of Japan
- On Politics and Religion | About Us | KOMEITO
- Matsutani, Minoru, "Soka Gakkai keeps religious, political machine humming", The Japan Times, 2 December 2008, p. 3.
- The Soka Gakkai and Human Security, p. 55 D. Metraux, Mary Baldwin College, Virginia Review of Asian Studies 
- "Board of Trustees". Soka University of America. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
- Lawrence Edward Carter Sr. Bio | Morehouse College
- Gandhi, King, Ikeda. A Legacy of Creating Peace
- Gandhi, King, and ... Ikeda?
- Engaged Buddhism in the West, p.194, Christopher Queen, Wisdom Publications ISBN 0-86171-159-9
- The Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1992 - 19/4, D. Metraux, p. 326
- Soka University of America Is A School On A Hill http://www.ocweekly.com/2011-03-10/news/soka-university-of-america-aliso-viejo-gakkai/
- Buddhism in America. Richard Hughes Seager. Columbia University Press, 2000
- 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 Sōka Gakkai Revolution by Daniel A. Metraux (University Press of America, 1994)
- 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
- "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
- (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.
- The Value of a Grandfather Figure by Polly Toynbee, Manchester Guardian/May 19, 1984
- 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 "Engaged Buddhism: A Skeleton in the Closet?"
- 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 5-02-330372-0. 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.
News media (websites)
- "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 Gakkai International
- SOKAnet - Sōka Gakkai's official website (in Japanese)
- Soka Spirit, published by SGI-USA