How Soka Gakkai Became a Global Buddhist Movement: The Internationalization of a Japanese Religion

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The Soka Gakkai is a massive Japan-based New Religious Movement based on the Buddhist teachings of the medieval Buddhist monk Nichiren. This work examines Soka Gakkai International chapters in Australia, Southeast Asia, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Quebec to determine why the movement has developed strong roots among people from widely divergent cultures.


“This study invites cross-cultural comparisons, say, with the migration of Hinduism from India to Indonesia; the enlargement and diffusion of the early Pauline Christ story beyond Palestine and Hebrew tribalism; and the medieval and current ingredients for the spread of Islam, up to "missionary work" of the Taliban, Somali sharia advocates and proselytizing in American prisons. It also implicitly raises my curiosity about how Japan's cultural uniqueness could still generate a global movement. Is its appeal the result of Japan's own syncretism that blends Buddhism, Shinto, Confucianism, Christianity and animism? And in the secular world, is the universal appeal of American pop culture—a la Michael Jackson—a function of our own melting pot experience? Professor Métraux gives us a lot to think about.” – Wilton S. Dillon, The Smithsonian Institution

“Professor Metraux has written a fascinating in-depth cross-cultural analysis of how Japan’s Soka Gakkai has built successful chapters in many foreign lands. In a nuanced yet lucid manner, Metraux successfully demonstrates why this unique form of Japanese Buddhism has appealed to people in a vast array of nations including Chinese in Southeast Asia and former Catholics in the Philippines and Quebec.” – Prof. Carrie B. Douglass, University of Virginia

“. . . clearly explains the origins and expansion of arguably the least understood, yet most ethnically diverse form of Buddhism practiced North America. Dan Metraux’s extensive research about this lay-led religious community provides an important scholarly explanation of why this hopeful, empowering movement has spread beyond Japan.” – Prof. Bruce Dorrries, Mary Baldwin College

“. . . Metraux provides a model by which religions adapt themselves to diverse cultures and foreign communities. What is it about a religion that is able to adapt itself to multiple cultures? What is it about a religion that appeals to the spiritual needs of people from widely different nationalities and ethnicities? Metraux’s answer is woven throughout this intriguing journey from Tokyo, Japan to Montreal, Canada.” – Prof. James E. Gilman, Mary Baldwin College

Table of Contents

Foreword by Wilton S. Dillon
1. The Origins and Global Expansion of Soka Gakkai
2. The Soka Gakkai in Australia and New Zealand
3. The Soka Gakkai in Southeast Asia
4. The Soka Gakkai in Cambodia
5. The Philippines: Buddhism in a Very Catholic Land
6. The Soka Gakkai in Quebec
7. The Soka Gakkai’s Unique Relationships with China and South Korea
Conclusion: The Soka Gakkai as a Global Community
Appendix I: Brief Commentary on the Soka Gakkai in the United States

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