Values and Commitments

Understanding how moral values and a sense of obligation can come from beliefs and experience;

 

Evaluating their own and others’ values in order to make informed, rational and imaginative choices.

 

 

Moral Issues

As a consequence of their beliefs about karma and the cycle of rebirth, Buddhists hold all life as sacred. This can lead to complicated positions on issues such as abortion because, according to early Buddhist teachings, individual human life begins at conception. Interpreting these early sources in light of modern scientific discoveries, most Buddhists hold that individual life begins at fertilisation. Abortion is therefore illegal in Sri Lanka and Thailand but is legal in Japan. As with many other Buddhists in the West, SGI followers may hold a range of personal views on abortion. Regardless of the official doctrinal position on abortion, however, some Buddhists in Japan offer the ritual of mizuko kuyo, or a memorial service, for aborted children (Keown 1996: 102–3).

Ethical Guidelines

Soka Gakkai place great importance on achieving a balance of individual health and happiness and the larger transformation of the world (SGI-UK 2017). While organisations such as SGI-UK do not pass judgement on individuals who abuse drugs or alcohol, it highlights the stories of those who have left these lifestyles behind after encountering Soka Gakkai.

In relation to gender and sexual diversity, SGI-UK embraces members of diverse identities and backgrounds. It also does not pass judgement on the morality of non-marital heterosexual relations.

Individual Responsibility

SGI positions itself as a movement of ‘human revolution’ – the world will only change when the people’s individual hearts change. Small-scale activities are meant to have big impacts. Individual practices become the building blocks of local discussion meetings, which in turn become the building blocks of larger-scale initiatives for community support and social change. What remains unclear, however, is the extent to which members of SGI organisations (and SG within Japan) are permitted or empowered to express dissent and disagreement. The outcome of tensions between rank-and-file Soka Gakkai members and New Komeito in Japan could provide a clue as to how this could play out in the future (Baffelli 2011; McLaughlin 2015).

Community Support

In the UK, SGI has four centres which are open to movement members and the public. The UK headquarters are located at Taplow Court, Buckinghamshire, and there are three centres in London: SGI-UK West London Centre, South London National Centre and the London Ikeda Peace Centre. Each centre contains at least one room dedicated to chanting in front of the Gohonzon. In SGI, core activities are organised locally in what are known as ‘districts’ (SGI-UK 2017: 5). These is where old members and new encounter community support in their daily practice and faith. There are roughly 630 local districts in the UK, and meetings can be found through the search function of the SGI-UK website (SGI-UK 2018).

At the same time, Soka Gakkai upholds the ‘mentor and disciple’ relationship that is characteristic of Nichiren Buddhism – followers regard Ikeda as their mentor and seek to emulate his example (SGI-UK 2017: 45).

The Environment

Soka Gakkai is explicit about its deep regard for environmental sustainability. The preamble to its charter names the “degradation of the natural environment and widening economic chasms between developed and developing nations, with serious repercussions for humankind’s collective future” as one of its concerns (Soka Gakkai International (SGI) 1995). The ninth point of the Charter states: “SGI shall promote, based on the Buddhist ideal of symbiosis, the protection of nature and the environment”.

Global Vision

Since 1983, Daisaku Ikeda has written peace proposals which are sent to the United Nations and other world leaders. Soka Gakkai regards Ikeda’s proposals as reflecting and influencing global efforts such as the United Nationals Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals (SGI-UK 2017: 11).

Soka Gakkai also states that it stands behind the values of universal peace, and endorses the work of organisations such as the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) (SGI-UK 2017: 10).

Websites

Soka Gakkai International – https://www.sgi.org/

Soka Gakkai UK – https://sgi-uk.org/

Soka Gakkai USA – https://www.sgi-usa.org/

Daisaku Ikeda Website Committee. 2018. “Infusing Culture into the Soka Gakkai.” Daisaku Ikeda Website. 2018. http://www.daisakuikeda.org/main/culture/cultivating-the-human-spirit/infusing.html

“History | SOKA UNIVERSITY | Discover Your Potential.” 2018. Soka University. 2018. https://www.soka.ac.jp/en/about/philosophy/history

Lee, Minerva. 2017. “Differences in Doctrines and Practices: Nichiren Shu, Nichiren Shoshu, and Soka Gakkai.” Lotus Happiness (blog). January 22, 2017. http://www.lotus-happiness.com/differences-doctrines-practices-nichiren-shoshu-nichiren-shu-soka-gakkai/

McLaughlin, Levi. 2013. “Soka Gakkai”. World Religions and Spirituality Project. https://wrldrels.org/2016/10/08/soka-gakkai/

Min-On Concert Association. 2018. “Who We Are”. http://www.min-on.org/index.php/about-min-on/who-we-are

SGI-UK. 2017. An Introduction to Nichiren Buddhism. Taplow: SGI-UK.
———. 2018. “Home.” SGI-UK. 2018. https://sgi-uk.org/

SGI-USA. 2016. “What is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo?” Soka Gakkai International – USA. 20 January 2016. https://www.sgi-usa.org/2016/01/20/what-is-nam-myoho-renge-kyo-2/

Soka Gakkai International (SGI), Soka Gakkai. 1995. “SGI Charter.” Soka Gakkai International. 1995. http://www.sgi.org/about-us/sgi-charter.html

Soka Gakkai International. 2015. “Life and Death”. http://www.sgi.org/about-us/buddhist-concepts/life-and-death.html

Soka Gakkai International. 2015. “The Gohonzon”. https://www.sgi.org/about-us/gohonzon.html

Soka University of America. 2018. “About Soka Overview.” Soka University of America. 2018. http://www.soka.edu/about_soka/default.aspx

Media Articles

Harding, Robin. 2016. “Abe’s constitution dream collides with Buddhist allies”. Reuters. 14 July 2016.

Miller, Andrea. 2016. “Tina Turner: What’s Love Got to Do With It?” Lion’s Roar (blog). March 7, 2016. https://www.lionsroar.com/tina-turner-whats-love-got-to-do-with-it/

nusch. 2018. “Celebrity Buddhists.” Listal. 2018. http://www.listal.com/list/celebrity-buddhists

Bibliography

Baffelli, Erica. 2011. “‘The Gakkai Is Faith; the Komeito Is Action’: Soka Gakkai and ‘Buddhist Politics.’” In Politics and Religion in Modern Japan: Red Sun, White Lotus, edited by Roy Starrs, 240–77. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gebert, Andrew. 2017. “Soka Gakkai – Buddhism.” Oxford Bibliographies. May 5, 2017. http://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/view/document/obo-9780195393521/obo-9780195393521-0053.xml

Hammond, Phillip E, and David Wayne Machacek. 2002. “Soka Gakkai International.” In Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, edited by J Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann, 1189–91. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC.

Keown, Damien. 1996. Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

McLaughlin, Levi. 2015. “Komeito’s Soka Gakkai Protesters and Supporters: Religious Motivations for Political Activism in Contemporary Japan.” The Asia-Pacific Journal 13 (41): 1–31.

Montgomery, Daniel B. 1991. Fire in the Lotus: The Dynamic Buddhism of Nichiren. London: Mandala.

Reader, Ian. 2002. “Japan”. In Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, edited by J Gordon Melton and Martin Baumann, 1189–91. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, LLC.