Being Japan’s largest and most influential new religious organization, Soka Gakkai (Society for the Creation of Value) and Soka Gakkai International (SGI) claims to have 12 million members in 192 countries around the world. Founded in the 1930s by a group of teachers focused on educational reform, Soka Gakkai has since evolved from its grassroot origins as a movement inspired by Nichiren Buddhism to a highly significant source of influence in contemporary Japanese education and politics. In Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution: The Rise of A Mimetic Nation in Modern Japan
(University of Hawaii Press, 2018), Levi McLaughlin
argues that Soka Gakkai comprises a great deal more than Buddhism and is instead best conceived as the product of “twin legacies” – lay Nichiren Buddhism and modern Euro-American humanist imports. Drawing on nearly two decades of archival and non-member fieldwork in the Soka Gakkai communities in Japan, McLaughlin offers a comprehensive study of the new religious movement and suggests a new framework which understands Soka Gakkai as mimetic of the nation-state in which it took place. To demonstrate this argument, McLaughlin traces in his book Soka Gakkai’s Human Revolution the history of the movement from intellectual collective to religion and examines their creation of new religious canon, such as Ikeda Daisaku’s The Human Revolution, as well as pedagogy in the movement through standardized education and the Soka Gakkai idea of women as Good Wives, Wise Mothers.
Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. She mainly researches on Buddhism in twentieth-century Inner Mongolia and Manchuria. Her research interests also include the role Buddhism plays in modernity, colonialism, and transnational/transregional networks.