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Japan: Buddhism meets Shintoism in Japan

"Japan: Buddhism meets Shintoism in Japan" Continued...

Issue: "Troops hunt for weapons," June 14, 2003

Thus, for Nichiren, politics was next to godliness, and crucial for the success of Nichiren's mission: If Nichiren adherents could gain power and command all Japanese to recite the Lotus Sutra, everything would change. Nichiren's anger only intensified as he suffered persecution and then exile for 11 years to a remote island. He attracted those dismayed by Buddhist monks who averted their eyes from problems that could break into their meditative day. Nichiren did not weep as Jesus did when confronted by the death of a friend; instead, when an epidemic occurred, Nichiren raged at government officials, claiming that their bad karma (as well as the misdeeds of other Buddhists) caused the deaths.

Soon, entire villages filled with anger adhered to Nichiren ideas and demonstrated-sometimes fought-against other Buddhist sects. Today, Japan's Sokka Gakkai-"Value-Creation Society"-is a Nichiren group with perhaps 6 million to 8 million well-organized members. Its daily newspaper, Seikyo Shimbun, has a circulation of 3 million. Its political wing, the New Komeito-"Clean Government"-Party has 31 of the 480 seats in the Japanese parliament, thus making it the third-largest party.

I met two Sokka Gakkai leaders, Masaya Tomooka and Shigemi Furukawa, at their Kansai Culture Center in Osaka, and heard Mr. Tomooka's claim that "self-actualization" comes less through meditation than through "constructive engagement in securing the welfare of others." According to this semi-secularized Buddhism, "Nichiren did not teach to eradicate all desires, but to direct desires in the right direction." For Nichiren followers, Buddhism is not an ascetic, reclusive, or passive religion; it is Japan's religious left, pressing for more centralized power that Sokka Gakkai can then use to get all Japanese chanting from the same page.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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