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Talking to a Soka Gakkai truck driver — 6 Comments

  1. Thanks for removing that part about “hating Christians.” Please understand that the average Japanese person (including my wife and her family) don’t really understand that much about Buddhism or its history anymore than most Christians know about the history of Christianity or the founders of its different denominations. In fact, my wife’s family at first did not want her to marry me because they thought I was connected to Soka Gakkai. When they realized that I was Nichiren Shu and therefore had no connection with Soka Gakkai or the Nichiren Shoshu (the SGI used to be part of) then they were okay with me. So these things really do matter. Nichiren Shu should not be seen as guilty by association with SGI because the two groups are not associated.

    Please let me try to explain that Soka Gakkai has no more connection with Nichiren Shu than say the Jehohvah’s Witnesses or the Mormons have to the Catholic Church. Sure to outsiders they both seem Christian but to a Catholic (and I am a former Catholic) it would be absurd to say that Catholics and Mormons are basically the same thing (no offense to either side intended here). So if you would be comfortable saying that between the Christianity of the Apostle’s Creed and the Bible and that of the Mormons is basically the same because there are some historical connections and they both revere Jesus, then I guess you can say what you wish about Nichiren Shu and SGI. However, if you want to know the truth, I have condensed it below:

    To try to make it short – Nichiren left six major disciples who continued to spread his teachings. These were consolidated forcibly by the Meiji government in the late 19th century. Eventually some lineages were allowed to split off and form their own group. One of these sub-lineages became Nichiren Shoshu in 1912. This lineage, based at Taisekiji temple at the base of Mt. Fuji, held to some ideas that no other Nichiren lineages accept (such as replacing Shakyamuni Buddha with Nichiren). The Nichiren Shoshu is very separate and very distinct from Nichiren Shu and other Nichiren schools. It is in fact seen as holding non-Buddhist beliefs that are not in accord with either Nichiren’s writings or the Lotus Sutra – even though it started off as a sub-linage of Nichiren Buddhism. The Soka Gakkai (which was formed as a teaching reform association in the 1930s and then reconstituted as a mass movement in the 1950s) was originally a lay association connected with Nichiren Shoshu (NOT Nichiren Shu). In 1991 the Shoshu excommunicated the Soka Gakkai. The Shoshu and Gakkai are now separate. Neither of them should be confused with Nichiren Shu which is a much more mainstream Mahayana Japanese school of Buddhism.

    Ryuei

  2. Hi James.

    I am actually an ordained priest in the Nichiren Shu (I assist at the San Jose Nichiren Buddhist Temple in California) and I want to let you know that Soka Gakkai has no connection with Nichiren Shu and never has. Also, Nichiren Shu is no more intolerant of Christianity than any other form of Japanese Mahayana Buddhism. I don’t know what may have given you that idea. Certainly we do not accept the Christian worldview or beliefs (though we do share many values such as selfless compassion and loving-kindness and basic morality), but this is also true of Zen, Pure Land, Tendai, Shingon and other Buddhists who, if they are honest, will also have to state that their worldview and beliefs are not the same as Christianity. But this does not mean that we hate Christians or harbor grudges or intolerance. I was really shocked to see you connect SGI with Nichiren Shu and then to say that we are intolerant and hate Christians. That is far far far from my personal experience with both Nichiren Shu members in North American and in Japan. And again, I am not casual lay member but an ordained priest in the tradition. If Nichiren Shu were intolerant or hated Christianity I would certainly know by now.

    Ryuei

    • Hello Ryuei,
      Thank you for sharing your comments. Please know I do not intend to offend you or any member of your religion. I just express my perceptions on my blog, right or wrong.

      You wrote, “I want to let you know that Soka Gakkai has no connection with Nichiren Shu and never has” but this is not exactly what I have heard. I’ve been living in Japan now for 34 years and have met many Sokkagakkai people and Nichiren people. Both of them recognize Nichiren as the source of their basic teachings. Just last month two Nichiren ladies I met hitchhiking confirmed that Sokkagakai came from Nichiren. Both groups have the same matra, the one you used. Certainly sounds like there was at least a historical connection. I’m not saying there is one at present.

      It could be that you followers of Nichiren and his teachings have mellowed out in recent years. 40 years ago my impression was that Nichiren people were antagonistic toward Christians, but I could be wrong. After living in Japan for so long and meeting so many Buddhist people including priests, I can say that the vast majority have been courteous toward me, even friendly, not antagonistic. I enjoyed conversing with them.

    • I removed sentence about hatred for Christians. I don’t want to dwell on such things anyway. My message is one of love for others. Everyone must take responsibility for their own actions and attitudes. It shouldn’t really matter to me what attitudes others may have. I can only control my own attitudes.

  3. James,

    We follow your “journey” around japan with “total interest”.

    Have to say though, “not from a religous” point of view, if that dosn`t offend!

    The effort you put into this website is a great insite to travel and the way of life in Japan.

    We live – not so far from you – in Kita karuizawa,(close to Asama Bokujo) Gunma,

    We are in Japan (from uk) May till September) each year – good luck with all that you do and “perhaps” one day we might meet up!!