Soka Gakkai is a Japanese new religious movement based on Nichiren Buddhism. It has been described as Japan’s most successful new religious movement in terms of the number of members, including non-Japanese members in the West. It claims to have 8.27 million member households in Japan and a further 1.5 million members across 192 countries and territories worldwide.
Soka Gakkai started as an educational reform movement, emerging in Japan between the First and Second World Wars. It was established by a school principal, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871-1944), who had earlier converted to Nichiren Shoshu, a minority lineage following the teachings of the thirteenth century monk Nichiren Daishonin (1222-82). Nichiren opposed the support that the military establishment of the time gave to certain Buddhist schools and challenged the status quo in other ways. As a result, the government exiled him twice and also tried to execute him. Nichiren’s teachings have inspired religious expressions amongst several Buddhist sub-schools throughout the centuries.
This section was written by Dr Shanon Shah.
Shanon is a Research Officer at the Information Network on Religious Movements (Inform) and holds a doctorate in the sociology of religion from King’s College London.