The Middle Way
The diversity within Buddhism has resulted in diverging interpretations of common concepts, such as the ‘Middle Way’. For Soka Gakkai, drawing upon the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin, the Middle Way is exemplified by the Daimoku – “the ultimate Law or truth of all things”. They see it not as a compromise between extremes, but as a way to attain balance in life (SGI-UK 2017: 31).
This framework is what enabled the second president of Soka Gakkai, Josei Toda, to focus his teachings on the attainment of health, wealth, and spiritual and worldly happiness. Toda likened happiness to the flavouring in soup, which should contain the right balance of sweet and sour. Too much sour would make the soup inedible, and some sweetness would need to be added. Toda even proclaimed, ‘If you do as I tell you, and if things don’t work out as you want by the time I come to (this town) next (year), then you may come up here and beat me and kick me as much as you want. This is a promise.’ (Montgomery 1991: 185)
This passionate emphasis on personal empowerment and salvation was appealing to substantial numbers of Japanese, especially residents of Tokyo who had to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of the Second World War (Montgomery 1991: 185). The focus on personal transformation continues to be a prominent feature, for example in the testimonies of SGI-UK members who have struggled with grief, addiction, divorce and abuse (SGI-UK 2017).