A Time to Chant: The Sōka Gakkai Buddhists in Britain
Fifty years ago Soka Gakkai was an organization of a few hundred people, all of them in Japan. Today it is one of the world's most rapidly expanding religious movements with members in virtually every country in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, in most of Asia, and in several parts of Africa. Increasingly well publicized, the movement sponsors a variety of cultural and educational causes, is conspicuous in its work for world peace and the preservation of the environment, and has established for itself a high profile in world affairs. Soka Gakkai is also a significant social phenomenon in its own right, yet it has received surprisingly little attention from Western academics, despite considerable public controversy surrounding its development in Japan. Bryan Wilson and Karel Dobbelaere have undertaken a thorough survey of the UK membership to try to trace the source of the movement's appeal to its socially diverse constituency. The results of their questionnaire survey were augmented by interviews in which members were encouraged to tell their own story in their own way. Their responses are liberally quoted throughout the book and add illuminating detail to its sociological analysis. The decline in belief in an anthropomorphic deity; the sense that traditional religious institutions have become hollow; the emphasis on the private nature of belief and on personal autonomy are all characteristic features of contemporary Western society. The authors suggest that Soka Gakkai has found a ready resonance with these changing currents of modern thought, and conclude that Soka Gakkai's appeal to young people in particular makes it a faith well in tune with the times.
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