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Buddhadharma : Summer 2006
summer 2006| 70 |buddhadharma chant “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.” This mantra, which is the sutra’s title in Japanese, is believed to embody the essence of the teaching. According to Nichiren and the evolving Nichiren traditions, the invocation of the title forms the central spiritual practice in this age of degeneration (Jap., mappo); it is the only remaining path to attaining enlightenment. Subsequent chapters introduce the leading figures and reli- gious concepts of SG. In 1930, Tokyo teacher and schools administrator Makiguchi founded the Value Creating Educa- tion Society. In view of Japan’s increasing militarization and its eventual entry into World War II, Makiguchi’s primary interest was to foster values, happiness, and benefit – though not neces- sarily using a religious tone. His resistance to venerating the emperor and State Shinto brought him into conflict with impe- rial Japan. Makiguchi was imprisoned and died a year before the war ended. His successor was Josei Toda, who transformed the disbanded group of educators into a mass movement and strengthened ties with the Nichiren Shoshu. The SG grew rapidly in postwar Japan, as Toda emphasized the transformative force of Buddhism in culture and politics. During the1950’s, the SG’s evangelical style of proselytization emerged. Youth divisions and other organizational units carried out campaigns to empower voiceless people, such as working- class men and women, small-business owners, shopkeepers, and housewives. “Often traditional in background and instinct, these people had been displaced by war and rapid social change,” Seager writes. “They were also neglected by big government, unions, and business and plagued by the kyodatsu condition [state of postwar depression]. To these people the Gakkai gave meaning, motive, and community.” Toda and his people worked to raise consciousness and pro- mote transformation on both the individual and social levels. Among the activists working with Toda was Daisaku Ikeda, who became Toda’s successor and the third president of the SG, governing from 1960 to the present day. Ikeda promoted outreach of the SG with his journeys to the Asian mainland, the Americas, and Europe, and in 1975 he established the globally operating Soka Gakkai International (SGI). Ikeda promoted the ideal of Buddhist Humanism, worked for reconciliation with mainland Asian nations, and emphasized the importance of cre- ating peace through culture and education. During the 1970’s, he encouraged members to moderate the aggressive mission style and adapt Nichiren Buddhism to local settings. A spirit of openness, egalitarianism, and democratization pervaded the SG, giving new life to the idea of self-empowerment. In 1991, these liberalizing developments led to the split between the Japan-oriented, priestly Nichiren Shoshu and the laity-based, globalized SGI. The conservative priesthood excom- municated the SGI, depriving it of its central place of pilgrim- age, the Taisekiki Temple. It also stopped issuing gohonzons (the objects of worship) to SGI members. Now on its own, the SGI developed new places of central religious importance, like the Makiguchi Hall in Tokyo, and legitimated the prime objects of worship through the Tokyo headquarters and another Nichiren high priest. The final two chapters of the book provide informative snap- shots of the SG’s global outreach and adaptation. Seager inter- viewed rank-and-file members, children, and leading officials in Singapore, the U.S., and Brazil. In each of the different settings, uPAYA zen center JOAN HALIFAX ROSHI PERSONAL RETREATS SOCIAL ACTION WOR K SHOPS SEMINARS SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO WWW.UPAYA .ORG 505.986 .8518 Mountain Seat finally an answer to pain in meditation The Monastery Store · Dharma Communications P.O. Box 156 · Mt. Tremper, NY 12457 · (845) 688-7993 www.mountainseat.com U.S . Patent-Pending The Monastery Store · Dharma Communications Developed by Zen monastics in conjunction with physicians, physiotherapists and kinesiologists, the Mountain Seat cushion and mat blend traditional designs with the best orthopedic technology. Viscoelastic foam responds to heat and pressure and “flows” to accommodate the contours of the body, encouraging proper alignment while easing pain in the back and joints. The handcrafted cushions come in three sizes. For assistance in selecting the best cushion for you, please contact Dharma Communications’ Monastery Store.