I guess at base I sort of don't like the divisions. Why can't everyone just be a "Nichiren Buddhist," you know?
Because some Nichiren Buddhists say you have have to be like them to be a Nichiren Buddhist - Like SGI, for example.
That's me being flippant.
The reality is that there are differences. One of the biggest in the Nichiren community is the identification of Nichiren as the Eternal Buddha. Sounds like an innocuous assertion, but in terms of teachings and practice, it makes a huge difference. It changes the significance of the Lotus Sutra, previous Buddhist teachings, all the way down to what it means to be you.
The question then turns to what did Nichiren actually teach? What did Dengyo teach? What did Zhiyi teach? What did the Buddha actually teach?
Distinctions are based on what people say these people taught. And the competing stories can have profound impacts on your life - 30 years devoted to one creed as opposed to another is going to result in very different lives.
I guess I'd like to just see the positive. But that's life. Both exist. I mean, sometimes I think that, due to the negative I've heard about SGI, I shouldn't use their materials. Then I think that it can't be all that negative when their materials have been so helpful for me. THEN, I think, well, if their materials have been so helpful, maybe I should attend one of their meetings ... then I remember that talk of it being a cult and I think, no way -- I'll never go. Hmm....
If you want to study Nichiren Buddhism, study Nichiren.
Forget Ikeda's commentary. Limit yourself to primary sources like translations of Nichiren's writings published by SGI. Ignore the footnotes and end notes. Try and understand what Nichiren taught, rather than what Ikeda or anyone else teaches about what they think Nichiren taught. If you can, try and get other resources like translations of Nichiren's writings done by others, like Nichiren Shu. Both are translations reflecting idiosyncratic interpretations, but maybe with alternate versions you can get an approximate sense of the text.
SGI is not a cult like Jim Jones. They're more like Mormons. Very sincere bunch of folks who have a tendency to lay it on a little thick and get creepy. Its all out of a sincere desire to save you.