Expression and Worship
From its earliest days, Buddhism has been a missionary religion (Keown 1996: 70). The Soka Gakkai are therefore not unique in upholding their concept of kosen rufu, or the mission of converting people to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism (Baffelli 2011: 223).
What many people have often found controversial about the Soka Gakkai is the missionary zeal of its followers, including new converts. The movement’s argumentative mode of recruitment, shakubuku, placed it under increased scrutiny especially after the Second World War in Japan. It led to tensions with other schools of Buddhism and religions, and raised panics that Soka Gakkai members were brainwashed (Hammond and Machacek 2002: 1190). In the decades immediately after the War, the giant rallies and parades sponsored by Soka Gakkai sometimes reminded onlookers of the demonstrations of the wartime fascist groups. These features resulted in Soka Gakkai gaining notoriety in Japan and being labelled a ‘cult’, led by unscrupulous leaders with ulterior motives.
This image needs to be balanced with other perspectives of Soka Gakkai’s worship, especially outside Japan. In the USA, for example, the influence of celebrities within sports and entertainment (including Tina Turner, Orlando Bloom and Miranda Kerr) highlights the creative and inclusive aspects of Soka Gakkai practices.