Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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A lay organization of the Nichiren Shoshu (after Nichiren, a thirteenth-century Buddhist evangelist), a sect within Japanese Buddhism. Soka Gakkai was founded in the 1930s by a school-teacher, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. After World War II, the movement expanded dramatically and quickly became the largest of the new Japanese faiths. In Japan, Soka Gakkai has been associated with the conservative Komeito, or the "Clean Government" party, and with Japanese nationalism. Religious practice, both in Japan and in the United States, emphasizes chanting (diamoku) and intensive efforts directed toward the conversion of new members (shakubuku). Soka Gakkai is evangelistic and its main goal is kosen rufu , or the spreading of Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism to promote peace and happiness for all.

In the mid-1960s, Soka Gakkai and its U.S. organization, Nichiren Shoshu of America, began to recruit non-Japanese Americans. The organization has since built a significant non-Japanese segment of its membership. Like many new religious movements in the United States in the late 1960s and 1970s, Soka Gakkai initially was able to recruit a fairly large membership, which later declined (Hashimoto and McPherson 1976). Scholarly interest in Soka Gakkai in Japan has focused on its response to a values crisis in Japan after World War II and its political impact (e.g., Solomon 1977). Soka Gakkai in the United States has been examined as one of many new religious movements that arose in the 1960s and 1970s (e.g., Hurst 1992, Hashimoto and McPherson 1976). Of particular note is the Snow and Phillips (1980) study examining the adequacy of the Lofland-Stark conversion model in relation to Soka Gakkai in the United States.

See also Buddhism, New Religious Movements

Edward F. Breschel


H. Hashimoto and W. McPherson, "Rise and Decline of Sokagakkai in Japan and the United States," Review of Religious Research 17(1976):82-92

J. Hurst, Nichiren-Shoshu Buddhism and the Soka-Gakkai in America (New York: Garland, 1992)

D. A. Snow and C. L. Phillips, "The Lofland-Stark Conversion Model," Social Problems 27(1980):430-447

T. J. Solomon, "Response of Three New Religions to the Crisis of the Japanese Value System," Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 16(1977):1-14.

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