Launched 11/18/04


About the Press
Clark Strand interview

Dr. David Chappell is a renowned expert in Tien tai Buddhism. Although not a practitioner of Buddhism, he researched SGI for a chapter he contributed to "Engaged Buddhism in the West" edited by Christopher S. Queen (Wisdom Publications). 

[From "Social Architecture for the Grand Main Temple" April 2000 Living Buddhism, p. 25]

Dr. Chappell:
In the USA the largest Buddhist group for many decades was the Buddhist Churches of America (Jodoshinshu, Nishi Honganji) that has been in America for more than a century but whose membership is still over ninety percent Japanese ancestry.

However, in less than forty years SGI has become fully integrated so that less than twenty percent of its membership is of Japanese ancestry.

Even at the national level SGI is also becoming more diverse through the appointments of such leaders as Shielah Edwards and Ronnie Smith, both African Americans. 

With the memory of the propagation campaigns of 1960s and 1970s in mind, Jan Nattier made a special category called "evangelical" Buddhism to account for the unusual pattern of SGI.  However, perhaps a better term would be "socially inclusive."

It is clear that the racial diversity of SGI-USA is one of the social values -- one of the kai -- that is a necessary foundation for a peaceful world, and represents the kind of social architecture that is needed to build a lasting Buddhist kaidan. 

On the next page Dr. Chappell lists the racial breakdown on the 2,449 district chiefs that are in nine different U.S. cities*:

White: 38.7%
African American: 26.7%
Japanese: 18.7%
Hispanic: 5.7%
Other Asians: 3.6%
Asian American: 3.2%
Caribbean: 1.4%
*The cities were Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington DC.

Dr. Howard Hunter, the Chairman of the Department of Religion of Tufts University, studied the phenomnenon that is the SGI. Although not a practitioner himself, he traveled around the world in the 1990s interviewing SGI members. 

[Excerpted from the Feb. 27 2004 Living Buddhism, page III]

Dr. Hunter:
So the excommunication is really, in an interesting way, a self-excommunication. The priests really cut themselves off. They were dispensable. They proved to themselves that they were small-minded by destroying the property of the lay people [the Grand Main Temple], who had spent so much money and time and effort.

And the lay movement could only prosper after this, with regret for the loss and for the distance and for the damage, but none the less they didnít lose any power or authority. They had it within themselves, in the various individuals.

When I ask SGI members in the United States, in Japan, in Italy, in Mexico, in India, in England, where is the source of authority for you, every member responds in a similar way. The authority is here, in me. I am participating as an authoritative person within the movement. SO the authority is not with some temple far away with a group of monks or priests and all that.  The authority is in my heart. And this is a great source of strength and satisfaction.

You can be from any level of society, very humble or very learned, and still have the exact same sense that you are the authority for yourself with regard to the teachings and goals of the Soka Gakkai.

See also the Tricycle Magazine article (in pdf).
See also the Clark Strand interview.
This website is owned and maintained by Kathy Ruby. No one else is responsible for its content. Any resemblance to any other website is purely accidental and/or satirical. Any abusive email will be read and chuckled over. Any articles documenting my personal experience are just that -- my personal experience. Your mileage may vary. Isn't that so true in life? Pages are subject to change at any time based on my whim.