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Richard Hughes Seager
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In total, it is not a sacred image in the traditional sense but an abstract representation of a universal essence or principle. Nichiren wrote: "I, Nichiren, have inscribed my life in sumi ink, so believe in the Gohonzon with your whole heart. The Gohonzon exists only within the mortal flesh of us ordinary people who chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

The Soka Gakkai often uses Nichiren's metaphor of a mirror to explain its faith in the Gohonzon. The Gohonzon "reflects life's innate enlightened nature and cause it to permeate every aspect of member's lives".

Members chant to the Gohonzon "to reveal the power of their own enlightened wisdom and vow to put it to use for the good of themselves and others". The primary practice of the Soka Gakkai, like that of most Nichiren sects, is chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is the title of the Lotus Sutra, and simultaneously considered the Buddha nature inherent in life.

Unlike other Nichiren sects, 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. Believers claim that the Lotus Sutra contains principles or teachings that are not readily apparent.

In addition, the Soka Gakkai publishes study materials, including the writings of Nichiren and the Lotus Sutra, and has a well-developed program of study. 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, and the study of Buddhism, combine with "faith" in what the Soka Gakkai considers "the three basic aspects of Nichiren Buddhism" - faith, practice and study.

Gakkai meetings have been called "formal liturgies" in that their format—"chanting, relatos experiences , teachings, inspiring entertainment"—is identical from place to place. At discussion meetings, participants are encouraged to take responsibility "for their own lives and for wider social and global concerns".

At one time, the Soka Gakkai's expansion methods were controversial, as it employed a Buddhist method called shakubuku , a term employed by Nichiren, translated as "break and subdue attachments to inferior teachings.

The reason for propagation, as explained by Josei Toda, is "not to make the Soka Gakkai larger but for you to become happier There are many people in the world who are suffering from poverty and disease. The only way to make them really happy is to shakubuku them. In Ikeda prescribed a more moderate approach, "urging its members to adopt an attitude of openness to others"; the method Soka Gakkai prefers since then is called shoju - "dialogue or conversation designed to persuade people rather than convert them", though this is often referred to still as "shakubuku spirit.

Formerly, the Tenets said the Soka Gakkai "would seek to realize its ultimate goal - the widespread propagation of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism throughout Jambudvipa the world , thus fulfilling the Daishonin's mandate. The following are categorized records of the first three presidents of the organization, their leadership and list of contributions. 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.

Makiguchi, as did Nichiren, attributed the political troubles Japan was experiencing to supposedly false religious doctrines that held sway. His religious beliefs motivated him to take a stand against the government, earning him a reputation as a political dissident. The details of Makiguchi's indictment and subsequent interrogation were covered in July, August, and October classified monthly bulletins of the Special Higher Police.

With its leadership decimated, the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai disbanded. His health had been severely compromised and businesses destroyed. He immediately set out to rebuild the organization that had been repressed and dismantled by the government during the war. While imprisoned, 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".

The groundwork for the organization's growth can be found in Toda's work during the years between his release from prison and his inauguration Brannen, a Christian missionary writing in , [] describes the Soka Gakkai's study program at this point as "the most amazing program of indoctrination Japan has ever seen".

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New members attended local study lectures, subscribed to weekly and monthly periodicals, studied Toda's commentaries on the Lotus Sutra, took annual study examinations, and were awarded titles for their achievements such as Associate Lecturer, Lecturer, Associate Teacher, or Teacher. During "The Great Propagation Drive" of —58 the Soka Gakkai doubled and tripled in size each year, resulting in a claimed membership of , families.

The drive began with the inauguration speech of Josei Toda when he assumed the presidency of the organization. Before 1, assembled members, Toda resolved to convert , families before his death. The goal was attained several months before Toda's death. There are several competing narratives that attempt to explain how the Soka Gakkai was able to achieve this rapid growth.

One narrative portrays a drive powered by the "seemingly unlimited enthusiasm" of its members [] : that was masterminded by Toda and channeled by his younger followers. Ikeda explained his own efforts to introduce others to the Soka Gakkai. Ikeda gives accounts of how the momentum for propagation was created in Kamata [] [] : and Bunkyo Seager [38] : 57—59, 80, 99— and Strand [] : — document support for this narrative.

A second narrative examines the Soka Gakkai's expansion through a sociological lens. White, in the first English-language sociological work on the Soka Gakkai, attributes the growth, cohesion, and sustainability of the organization to the organizational skills of its leaders, its system of values and norms that match the individual needs of members, and its ability to adapt to changing times.

A third narrative tracks criticisms of the Soka Gakkai in the popular press and by other Buddhist sects. This narrative implies that the propagation efforts succeeded through intimidating and coercive actions committed by Soka Gakkai members [6] [12] : 80, [] [] : such as the practice then of destroying the household Shinto altars of new members. All scholars agree on the effectiveness of Toda and Ikeda's leadership throughout the Great Propagation Drive. Strand calls Toda "the most innovative, most dynamic, most successful religious leader of his day".

More than charismatic or persuasive, he was effective due to his deep personal conviction that only the Soka Gakkai could renew a society in despair. Toda died on April 2, 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.

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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. Three months after Toda's death Ikeda, at age 30, was appointed the organization's General Administrator, in he became the head of its board of directors, and, on May 3, , its third president.

Ikeda would come to be a moderating and secularizing force. Within the first 16 months of Ikeda's presendency the organization grew from 1,, to 2,, members. Between and the organization's Study Department members who sit for graded examinations on doctrinal matters grew from 40, to 1,, In October , five months after his inauguration, Ikeda and a small group of staff members visited the United States, Canada Toronto , [] and Brazil.

He encouraged attendees to become good American citizens, learn English, and get driving licenses. Ikeda also expanded the scope and pattern of the Gakkai's activities. In Ikeda created an arm of the organization, the Culture Bureau, to accommodate nonreligious activities. It had departments for the study and discussion of Economics, Politics, Education, Speech, and, later in the year, the Arts.

Seven of its candidates were elected to the House of Councillors. Religious scholar and political analyst Masaru Sato explains that there is nothing surprising about Komeito becoming a member of a ruling coalition as the Soka Gakkai has become a world religion as SGI and history shows a link between ruling coalitions and world religions.

He explains that in postwar Japan there were two major parties, the Liberal Democratic Party representing financial interests and large corporations and the Japan Socialist Party largely advocating the interests of labor unions. There was no single party that represented people who belonged to neither such as shop owners, housewives, etc. Until the appearance of the Komeito Party, such people were left on the sidelines.

History of Soka Gakkai International(SGI) - Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism

In , a prominent university professor named Fujiwara Hirotatsu authored the book I Denounce Soka Gakkai Soka Gakkai o kiru [] in which he severely criticized the Gakkai. When Fujiwara went public with the attempted suppression, the Soka Gakkai was harshly criticized in the Japanese media. In response, Ikeda made major shifts to the Gakkai's message. Admitting that the organization had been intolerant and overly sensitive in the past, Ikeda called for moderating conversion activities, openness to other religious practices, and a democratization of the organization.

On May 3, , Ikeda gave a speech at the Soka Gakkai's 33rd general meeting which radically shifted the direction of the organization. He stated that Nichiren's message could be understood as absolute pacifism, the sanctity of human life, and respect for human dignity.

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In the s Ikeda helped transition the Soka Gakkai from an internally focused organization centered on its own membership growth to one adopting a focus on a motto of "Peace, Culture, and Education". On October 12, , at the official opening of the Shohondo at Taiseki-ji Ikeda announced the start of the Soka Gakkai's "Phase Two" which would shift direction from aggressive expansion to a movement for international peace through friendship and exchange. Over the years the Soka Gakkai has matured under Ikeda's leadership and its values accord with progressive internationalism.

Ikeda initiated a series of dialogues with prominent political, cultural, and academic figures which he labeled "citizen diplomacy".

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In he held a dialogue with Richard von Coudenhove-Kalergi centered on East-West issues and future directions the world could take. Toynbee between and which resulted in the publication of the book "Choose Life". In response, the Soka Gakkai countered by outlining Nichiren Shoshu's deviation from their own interpretation of Nichiren's doctrines, along with accusations of simony and hedonism among its ranking priests. The sect also condemned Ikeda for abandoning the aggressive propagation style shakubuku that led to some social criticism of the lay group, though not the priesthood.

The priesthood further accused the organization of impiety and sacrilegious behavior, citing the song Ode to Joy along with the promotion of its musical performance, The Ninth Symphony as evidence for non-Buddhist teachings. In , the Soka Gakkai rewrote its bylaws to reflect that it no longer had any relationship with Nichiren Shoshu or its doctrine. A "Soka Spirit website established in the s that criticizes Nichiren Shoshu is still active.

The Soka Gakkai practices what has been called " Soka Humanism" , which it attributes to Lotus Sutra teaching that the "Buddha is life itself". Accordingly, the organization also claims that the goal of human activity and religion is the welfare of human beings. Daisaku Ikeda writes:.

The human being is most important. Nationality, social position, ideology -- none of that matters. The human being is the foundation. In May , Daisaku Ikeda clarified the Soka Gakkai's role, transcending proselytizing, was to create a foundation of humanism in all aspects of society. In the s, the Soka Gakkai began to re-conceptualize itself as an organization promoting the theme of "Peace, culture, and education.

In later years, the three themes were institutionalized within the charter of the Soka Gakkai International.

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A petition drive against nuclear weapons by the Gakkai's youth division garnered 10 million signatures, and was handed over to the United Nations. 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.

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. 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. Each year, Ikeda publishes a peace proposal which examines global challenges in the light of Buddhist teachings. 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 Soka Gakkai uses its financial resources for a number of civic activities. As a non-governmental organization of the United Nations, it has participated in many activities and exhibitions in conjunction with the UN. The Soka Gakkai has been active in public education with a focus mainly on peace and nuclear weapons disarmament, human rights and sustainable development.