Today, SGI (Soka Gakkai International) is a world-wide Buddhist organization. Many celebrities are part of it and they are very active in their faith and in making Buddhism mainstream in the West.
Among these celebrities, are Tina Turner, Roberto Baggio, Orlando Bloom, Dallas’ Patrick Duffy, Kate Bosworth, journalist Mariane Pearl, Grammy Award winners Herbie Hancock model Miranda Kerr, actors John Astin,and Vanessa Shaw, former MLB player Orlando Cepeda and politician Hank Johnson.
In 1975, Soka Gakkai International was created to spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout the
world. Although the organization was already in the United States since October of 1960, it
continued to be called Nichiren Shoshu of America (NSA) until Nichiren Shoshu ex-
communicated them in 1991.
Because of the way the SGI aggressively recruited in the past, they have often been labeled a
cult. Various stories have circulated that members often roamed the hall of hospitals and talked
to sick people or the family of the dying, offering them comfort and guidance in their most
vulnerable moment as a means of recruitment. The members were also very extreme in the
practice, often splitting families and even neighborhoods in Japan. They were seen as the “Jehovah’s Witness” of Japan and other countries.
Soka Gakkai is still controversial in Japan
In the United States, in October of 1989, the Boston Globe wrote a scathing article about the
then NSA and their cult like behavior which sent shockwaves throughout the entire Soka Gakkai
organization. As a result, Ikeda was forced to do damage control by coming to the United
States in February of 1990. Several officials were reprimanded or fired as a result of the strong-
arm tactics being used in recruitment and there were many changes made in the organization.
After the ex-communication 1991, the organization discontinued using NSA and all
organizations are now SGI.
The basic practice of Nichiren Buddhism for SGI members is based on faith, practice, and
• Faith: Practitioners chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo for varied length of time everyday to a
scroll called a Gohonzon (object of worship). By doing this, it is believed that the
practitioner is making the ultimate cause to eliminate their negative karma and thus
eliminate their suffering in this and all future lifetimes. The Gohonzon has Nam Myoho
Renge Kyo written on it in ancient Chinese characters and it represents an enlightened
state of life (or Buddha Nature) as Nichiren intended to pass to his followers.
• Practice: Twice daily in both the morning and evening, the practitioners recite key
portions of the Lotus Sutra to the Gohonzon using Japanese phonetics. This practice is
called “Gongyo”. Afterwards they chant for as long as they wish. At the end of Gongyo,
silent prayers are offered. Although optional, members also participate in their
community activities and share Buddhist faith with others (recruitment).
• Study: Part of the practice is to dedicate some time to the study of important Buddhist
texts like the teachings of Nichiren, called the Gosho (the writings of Nichiren
Daishonin). Soka Gakkai also offers various publications highlighting their activities and
the experiences of members through their faith.
Followers believe that chanting energizes and refreshes the practitioner both spiritually and
mentally, leaving him or her happier, wiser, more compassionate, more productive, and more
prosperous in all areas of their lives.
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What Others Have Said
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