My high school classmate was a devout member of Soka Gakkai. Soka Gakkai used to be Soka Kyouiku Gakkai and it was founded in Japan in 1930 by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. Soka Gakkai is dedicated to the religious teachings of Nichiren Shoshu, a branch of the Nichiren school of Buddhism. Since Makiguchi and his associated refused to follow the order of the Japanese military telling them to participate in the Shinto rituals, they were arrested and Makiguchi died in prison in 1944.
After the war ended, an associate changed the name from Soka Kyouiku Gakkai to Soka Gakkai and the organization was resumed with this new name. Soka Gakkai has been the most powerful religious organization group in Japan with an estimated number of 8 million members. Soka Gakkai became the most powerful religious movement in Japan in the post-war area because their practice emphasizes on self-empowerment through Buddhism. In 1960, Daisaku Ikeda became the president of Soka Gakkai. I thought that he was the founder of Soka. But I was wrong..Ikeda managed to expand the religious organization outside Japan and now Soka Gakkai International (SGI) is estimated to have 12 million members overseas! Soka Gakkai also founded a political party called “Koumeitou” in Japan.
Is Soka Gakkai a cult? I don’t think so because Soka is nothing like Aum Shinryikyo which was led by Shoko Asahara. Soka Gakkai does not isolate the members from their non-member family or from the rest of the world. But SGI has been controversial in Japan when Nichiren Shoshu denounced any sort of affiliations with SGI. Daisaku Ikeda managed to build a religious empire around the world and their teaching was in conflict with Nichiren Shoshu, which was not happy with Ikeda’s strategic development of his organization.
This happens everywhere because there is a mormon church near my house and young men often stop by our house to talk about their religion and also to offer their brochure. SGI does that too..People often get annoyed by SGI’s somewhat aggressive recruitment. I met another dedicated Soka member in college. She is Japanese and she was constantly asking other people to attend their service and give SGI a consideration. Soka Gakkai International is huge and it is intimidating as hell but I don’t think they are “cult”.
I think SGI’s original motive was good and like any religion, there are things we can all learn from.
At the bottom line, I don’t know enough about Soka Gakkai (International) to make further assessment. My grandparents were Buddhist just like the majority of Japanese people..they practiced Buddhism as part of tradition and culture. Our family followed standard Japanese style funeral and other services for our deceased family members and we also went to temple occasionally. I don’t even know if they really believed in their practice and these religious ceremonies were carried out as part of Japanese tradition so I don’t really practice a specific religion and although I am interested in learning different religions out of respect, I don’t believe in aggressive recruitment and financial obligations. Good religions shouldn’t mandate the members to recruit other people, pay a certain percentage of your salary..that is starting to sound too much to me.. In my opinion, religions should be practiced in moderation..we spend time learning about the religion, attend the temple, church, shrine..wherever the sacred place you are supposed to be praying..and just practice your religion on your own term. The organizer of your religion should never obligated or mandate you to do anything against your wish.