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]
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*:
*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]
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.
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