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Soka Gakkai

(lit. "Value Creation Society"). Japan-based independent lay Buddhist movement. A theological offshoot of Nichiren Buddhism, it was founded in 1930 as the Soka Kyoiku Gakkai (Value Creation Educational Society) by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, educator and follower of the Nichiren Sho sect. The government disbanded the group and arrested its leaders during World War II for its criticism of the Japanese involvement in the war. In 1945 the group was reorganized and renamed the Soka Gakkai by Makiguchi’s disciple, Josei Toda. The society’s promises to help adherents achieve happiness and success appealed to millions of Japanese in the difficult years of the postwar era; the movement also stresses the need for world peace. Under its third leader, Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai experienced enormous growth; it has now spread to over 120 countries and has 1.26 million members outside Japan, including 330,000 in the United States; within Japan there are 10 million members. Often criticized for its evangelism and exclusiveness, Soka Gakkai had developed ties with many outside organizations by the early 1990s and had become a nongovernmental organization member of the United Nations. In 1964 the Soka Gakkai organized Komeito, an independent political party that became the second largest opposition party in the Diet. Komeito was dissolved in 1994 as part of a realignment among Japanese opposition parties, but the parties that arose from it reunited in 1998 to form New Komeito. In 1999, New Komeito became a junior partner in the Liberal Democratic-led government. (The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Copyright © 2001-05 Columbia University Press.)

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