Religious Experience

Soka Gakkai members, especially converts in the West, are often happy to relate their religious experiences. In an interview, Tina Turner responded to a question about the relationship between singing and spirituality by saying:

Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a song. In the Soka Gakkai tradition we are taught how to sing it. It is a sound and a rhythm and it touches a place inside you. That place we try to reach is the subconscious mind. I believe that it is the highest place and, if you communicate with it, that is when you receive information on what to do. Singing a song can make you cry. Singing a song can make you happy. That’s spirit—the spirit inside of you. If you look up ‘spiritual’ in a dictionary, you will find that it is your nature, it is the person you are. When you walk into a room, a person might say, ‘Oh, she’s got great spirit.’ Or you can walk into a room and someone will say that you don’t have spirit because it’s not visible. You’re kind of off or negative. Meditation and praying change your spirit into something positive. If it is already positive, it makes it better (Miller 2016).

The British rapper, poet and activist, Shauna O’Briain (also known as MC Angel) – who also identifies as lesbian – recounts a history of drug and alcohol abuse before she encountered Soka Gakkai. According to her:

Other than going to discussion meetings, I initially struggled with doing activities and developing a bigger involvement in the SGI. Thanks to the persistent and compassionate support from local members and leaders, I slowly began to do more….I started to take responsibility for my life and I gave up drinking around four years ago. I threw myself into SGI-UK activities within the youth division. Previously I had felt heavy in the mornings, but after SGI-UK activities, alongside other young people, I felt light. I started to realise the fatigue had been caused by deep suffering and that Buddhist activities were transforming my negative tendencies. Through my Buddhist practice I have transformed so much of my life and I have received such care and love. I have felt supported through every challenge and obstacle, while empowered to make healthier choices for my own life (SGI-UK 2017).

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