A Time to Chant: The Sōka Gakkai Buddhists in Britain

Front Cover
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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About the author (1994)

Bryan Wilson, the world's leading sociologist of religion, has held visiting Professorships or Fellowships at the universities of Louvain, Toronto, Melbourne, Queensland, and California (Santa Barbara). He was presented with an honorary doctorate by Soka University, Japan in 1985 and was aFellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. In the UK, he studied at Leicester and the London School of Economics (where he gained his Ph.D.) and taught at the University of Leeds (1955-62). He has lived and taught in Oxford since 1962. Karel Dobbelaere lives and works in Belgium, but hewas a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford in 1977 and 1990-1 and at the London School of Economics in 1987. He has held visiting posts around the world: in the US, at Union Graduate School, Kent State University, Marquette, Akron, Minnesota, and Loyola; in Sweden, at Lund and Uppsala; inJapan, at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Tokyo, Sophia, and Soka; in The Netherlands, (Tilburg); in Italy (Padova); Germany (Bielefeld); and in Zaire.