Postive about Soka Gakkai?

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Mon Sep 03, 2012 10:03 pm

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:49 am

Why do they get labeled a New Religion then?

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Tue Sep 04, 2012 1:39 pm

Because some scholars put them in that category.

Other scholars do not.

"Shinshukyo" is a term coined by some scholar in a religion department some decades back. Since then, there have been debates about what is and what is not "Shinshukyo". In the last 20 years there is yet a new label called "Shinshinshukyo" "New 'New Religions'" for movements that emerged since the 70s.

Its all rather tedious and meaningless unless your subject of study is Japanese Religions.

Some people use the term as a pejorative. If you actually know about the academic meaning of the term, its kind of innocuous. If you don't, and you assume that "old" religions are better than "new" religions, it could be used as a slur. Kind of silly when you take a survey of religions and think of the outlandish things people think are true in the name of religion simply because its a belief that's been held for a long time. Its like, once a story enjoys a certain level of esteem and passes a certain vintage, it enjoys a level of perceived legitimacy regardless of how crazy the story actually is.

:shrug:
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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Tue Sep 04, 2012 3:56 pm

All I could figure it that there is a huge stigma to the word "cult," and so people wanted a new term. The term "New Religion" or "New Religious Movement" is obviously preferable to "cult," because as you pointed out -- the term cult gives visions of people falling over dead in the jungle whilst holding a cup of cool-aide. New Religion, obviously, sounds much more legitimate. And that's an excellent question you raise, and one that I've heard raised before: why believe that just because something is more established it isn't more crazy than what could be brand-new?

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Tue Sep 04, 2012 4:26 pm

Hi OB,

One thing I need to stress is that 'Shinshukyo' is a technical term used by scholars who study Japanese Religions. It does not apply to religious movements outside of Japan except to the extent that they have expanded their presence overseas. I think I might be a stickler about this because I have been trained as a religion scholar. What we mean by "Shinshukyo" and what lay people seem to mean when they adopt the term "New Religion" to describe something are often at variance.

Another example, we (religion scholars) use the term "cult" without the pejorative connotations. Nichiren Buddhism can be described as "the cult of the Lotus Sutra". Similarly, there are Amida cults which would include most, if not all, Pure Land Buddhism. There are cults to Kannon/Kuanyin/Avalokitesvara that transcend sectarian divides. Christianity can be described as the "Cult of Christ"; Islam the Cult of Allah.

"Cult" as used by the broader community has a very different meaning than the technical term scholars use. My point is, "shinshukyo" is not a politically correct substitute for "cult". It refers to religious movements that are a mix of indigenous Japanese religions (that include kami worship and Shamanism) and Buddhism - but Buddhism usually to a lesser degree. Shinshinshukyo (New New Religions) also include non-Japanese influences like Hinduism and Judeo-Christian ideas. These are rough descriptions, and some movements fit more neatly into these categories than others. A Shinshinshukyo would be the infamous Aum Shinrikyo whose members staged the sarin gas attacks in Tokyo.

Soka Gakkai is not considered Shinshukyo by my professor because their ideas are predominantly Buddhist in nature. Contrast with "actual" Shinshukyo like Tenrikyo.
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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:28 pm

Yes, thank you. I first became aware of that type of use of the word "cult" when I was a teenager and started reading about Latin American history and read about the "Cult of Masculinity" within that continent. (I authored the Wikipedia article about Eva Peron: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eva_Per%C3%B3n ) So, I've been aware for some time that "cult" does not necessarily always mean a group of people with strange religious beliefs who kill others. But when used in a religious context, that is usually the general perception. To call a religion "a cult" will mean, to the average person, "a religious group that is relatively new, crazy, and somewhat dangerous."

I am also aware that the term (shinshukyo) referred only to Japanese religions.

However, I took a class at the university this past term where Soka Gakkai WAS referred to as "A New Religion in Japan." And while you may differ or say it's incorrect (I personally have no agenda either way in the matter), some sources DO refer to shinshukyo as being translated as "New Religion."

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:47 pm

“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Thu Sep 06, 2012 11:42 am


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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby dsaly1969 » Thu Sep 06, 2012 3:59 pm

I was introduced to Lotus Sutra centered practice through SGI. I quickly found that I was uncomfortable with their distinctive teachings which were at variance with mainstream Buddhism as well as the mentor-disciple focus on Ikeda. So I left and found a far more congenial home for me in Rissho Kosei-kai (RKK).

RKK tends to consider itself more a Lotus Sutra school than a Nichiren school (RKK does not view Gosho/Goibun as authoritative) although it has congenial relationships with both Nichiren Shu and Tendai. They have been a ecumenical partner with the Unitarian Universalist Association for many years). Compared to SGI, RKK has a more mainstream Buddhist, "Ekayana", and interfaith perspective even though the daily practice is similar to SGI's. The differences in practice are more recitation of portions of the Lotus Sutra and smaller amounts of Odaimoku - and the recitation is done in English so you can mindfully consider and integrate what you are chanting. I also think hoza is RKK's greatest and most distinctive contribution to Buddhist practice.

However, I still think highly of SGI and its adherents - I generally met very nice people who may have been a touch overzealous but generally sincere in their concern. Certainly they have been one of the most successful in spreading and opening Buddhadharma to populations that the mainstream have not reached. As someone who is a former Mormon, I would say there are some similarities between Mormonism (or Jehovah's Witnesses - funny enough some of my Nichiren Shu friends who left Soka Gakkai were former Jehovah's Witnesses) and SGI - including the "missionary zeal" and different "theology".

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Sep 06, 2012 5:37 pm

“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates a problem."
-Modest Mouse

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:14 pm

Hi Dsaly,

I've thought that if I were going to join a club again, I would consider RKK.

I really appreciate their efforts to publish English language resources, especially with a broader Lotus oriented scope and their appreciation of scholarly research. I am grateful for their support of people like Paul Swanson in his efforts to translate Zhiyi's Mohochikuan. I hope he is able to complete the project and I hope RKK continues their projects.
“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates a problem."
-Modest Mouse

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby dsaly1969 » Thu Sep 06, 2012 6:20 pm

And it really is a club.... Really all traditions in Buddhadharma are expedient means - just join one if it helps you to support your practice. It's probably why I never spent too much energy worrying about SGI after I left. Obviously Soka Gakkai works for many people.

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:21 pm


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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:31 pm

“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates a problem."
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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Wed Sep 12, 2012 2:11 am

Thanks for the response. I guess I was just totally, um, wrong in my understanding of the Dai-Gohonzon. I had thought it was, like, the "main" Gohonzon inscribed by Nichiren himself, and revered by ALL Nichiren Buddhists. I guess I, perhaps oddly, thought it was kind of akin to the Vatican or something for Nichiren Buddhists, sort of the focalpoint of Nichiren Buddhism.

So, Nichiren himself may not have even inscribed the Dai-Gohonzon?

To be honest, I'm not that interested in Nichiren Shoshu's teachings. I'm interested primarily in the history of Nichiren himself.

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Fri Sep 14, 2012 10:50 pm


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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby lobster » Sat Sep 15, 2012 3:43 am

that IS an interesting article :thumbsup:
Will go check them out. :woohoo:

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby DGA » Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:01 pm

I think SGI should get some credit for building (sometimes at great material expense) Buddhist institutions outside of Japan. Soka University outside of Los Angeles is a good example of this: a private liberal arts school with an explicitly Buddhist charter. I'd like to hear from faculty, students, and staff at Soka U on what has been attempted, what has worked, and what new initiatives are underway.

It's an important task to imagine just what a Buddhist education that prepares people for the contemporary world looks like, and to implement it. Soka U is in a position to contribute significantly to that project.

(If you think about it, the Lotus Sutra is concerned in many passages with pedagogy, with learning and guiding beings to the truth, creating situations in which people can learn, and so on)

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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby infinitywaltz » Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:28 pm


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Re: Postive about Soka Gakkai?

Postby Queequeg » Mon Sep 24, 2012 8:44 pm

“Once you have given up the ghost, everything follows with dead certainty, even in the midst of chaos.”
-Henry Miller

"Language is the liquid that we're all dissolved in.
Great for solving problems, after it creates a problem."
-Modest Mouse


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