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Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 10, 2009 12:51AM


TIME Magazine

November 20, 1995 Volume 146, No. 21


On Sept. 1, Akiyo Asaki, 50, a local assemblywoman from Higashi Murayama, a city on the western outskirts of Tokyo, walked out of her office without explanation and without taking any identification. According to police, a few hours later she climbed the external stairs of a nearby office building to the fifth floor, scaled a 1.2-m-high wall and jumped to her death. Police concluded that Asaki had taken her own life--until her family protested. "She was not the type to commit suicide," says a close friend and fellow assembly member, Hozumi Yano. "She was always cheerful, even though she knew she was up against a powerful organization."

That organization is Soka Gakkai, Japan's most powerful Buddhist sect. It has at least 8.12 million members; assets estimated to be as high as $100 billion; and a political offshoot, the Komeito (Clean Government Party), that has long been a force in the Diet and in regional assemblies throughout the country. In Asaki's view, Soka Gakkai (Value-creating Society) was becoming a bit too forceful. She was helping ex-Soka Gakkai members who were being harassed for quitting, and based on her own investigations, she had accused Komeito politicians of using their clout to give local government contracts to Soka Gakkai members. In recent months she had received anonymous death threats on the phone.

No one in authority has suggested that Soka Gakkai had a role in Asaki's death, and the group has categorically denied any connection with the mysterious incident. The sect filed a criminal defamation law suit against Shukan Gendai, a national weekly, for publishing a story in which Asaki's husband and daughter alleged that Soka Gakkai was responsible for her death. The National Police Agency has since instructed local law-enforcement officials to investigate the incident "carefully." And a member of the Liberal Democratic Party has raised the case in a special committee hearing in the Lower House of the Diet that began two weeks ago to review the freedoms enjoyed by religious groups. Other party legislators are preparing to bring up the Asaki incident in similar Upper House hearings due to begin later this month. At issue is not a single unexplained death but growing revelations about the complicated, sometimes sinister nexus of religion and politics in modern Japan. The outcome of the debates in the Diet will have a profound effect on religious freedom, as well as on the volatile world of politics.

The hearings center on a proposal to revise the 1951 Religious Corporations Law, which grants broad freedom from official scrutiny and taxation to thousands of officially recognized religious groups. The Lower House special committee approved the revisions last week and, following several weeks of debate in the Upper House, the proposed changes are almost certain to be approved by both chambers next month. Put forward by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's administration, the revisions would introduce more government oversight. In the past such a tightening would have sparked an outcry against authoritarianism, but polls today show that more than 80% of Japanese are ready to put out the watchdog.

In large part, that change of mood is a reaction to Aum Shinrikyo, the apocalyptic cult whose leader, Shoko Asahara, will soon stand trial for ordering the March 20 sarin-gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. Almost as shocking as the 11 deaths that day was the realization that Aum and all other national religious groups face virtually no official scrutiny. As a result, Aum members allegedly were able to carry out a string of serious crimes, including the murder of dissident members and troublesome critics, without attracting much police attention--until the subway attack.

Asahara's lethal, comic-book conspiracy to take over the government did not come close to success, but it left Japanese wondering what other madness might be lurking in the wings. No one was reassured to learn that the police habitually turn a blind eye to the activities of religious groups, in part because they fear being tarred as "oppressors." Fifty years ago, Japan's secret police locked up anyone who opposed "state Shinto," the religion of Emperor worship that lost its official status only when Japan was defeated in World War II. After the war, Japan righted the wrong by granting almost boundless freedom to religious groups.

As a result, a tiny, extreme group like Aum Shinrikyo prospered, as did far more powerful, mainstream Buddhist organizations, such as Soka Gakkai. They face no taxation on activities generously defined as religious and benefit from cut-rate taxes on their extensive business operations. Not only Soka Gakkai but also other large Buddhist sects cultivate politicians; many political leaders proudly associate themselves with Buddhist and Shinto religious organizations.

No group is quite so disciplined, determined or focused on political power as Soka Gakkai, which is well positioned to wield immense influence over national affairs. For years its members have constituted a vast army of volunteer canvassers and fund raisers for Komeito, which until recently had 52 seats in the powerful 511-member Lower House, as well as a strong position in many city and prefectural assemblies. Last year Komeito merged with Shinshinto, the main opposition party.

Shinshinto's chief rival, the L.D.P., like most parties in Japan, has been badly weakened by the political turmoil of the past two years and is terrified by the prospect of a showdown with Soka Gakkai, given its tacit support for Shinshinto. The Liberal Democrats' fears are well grounded: Shinshinto officials admit that in a July Upper House election, Soka Gakkai was responsible for about half the party's 12.5 million votes, the best showing by any political faction.

If Prime Minister Murayama's Liberal Democratic-led coalition loses out in elections expected over the coming six months, Shinshinto could form the next government and ex-Komeito members would emerge in many Cabinet posts. Komeito previously had seats in two short-lived Cabinets without scandal, but some fear that Soka Gakkai would use Komeito members to shield the sect and its leader, Daisaku Ikeda, from investigation, promote its militant Buddhist tradition or abuse power in other ways. Says independent legislator Keigo Ouchi, Health Minister in the 1993-94 coalition Cabinet that included Komeito: "Their [Komeito politicians'] loyalty is to Ikeda first and the country second. That is frightening." What also raises suspicions is the sect's strict internal discipline and followers' well-documented allegations of violent intimidation tactics against critics and ex-members. Says Shizuka Kamei, a right-wing Liberal Democratic legislator, former police official and anti-Soka Gakkai campaigner: "Japan is finished if Soka Gakkai takes over. State Shinto will look good by comparison."

The sect's spokesmen deny that Soka Gakkai is interested in political power and point out that it severed formal ties with Komeito in 1970. That contention is not widely accepted in Japan; nearly all Komeito legislators were Soka Gakkai faithful before the merger with Shinshinto and presumably still are, although they typically insist they are nothing more than religious men with a political calling. Asks Masao Akamatsu, a former Komeito member and now a Shinshinto legislator: "What's so strange about having a religious group behind a political party? All we do is chant our prayer."

Not quite. They also look to the leadership of Ikeda, 67, the enigmatic figure who is the sect's honorary president and unquestioned commander. At a closed meeting of top officials last August at a Soka Gakkai facility in Karuizawa, a small resort town in the Japan Alps, Ikeda showed his hand. According to a member who was present, he said, "This time, not the next time, [the election] is going to be about winning or losing. We cannot hesitate. We must conquer the country with one stroke."

For some Liberal Democrats, tightening the Religious Corporations Law is one way to head off the Soka Gakkai challenge to the L.D.P., as well as help prevent another Aum incident. The new legislation would place nationally based groups under the supervision of the Ministry of Education, one of the most conservative institutions in the country, and force them to disclose to tax authorities and their membership all details of their financial transactions. The aim is to get more leverage over groups, including Soka Gakkai, whose members sometimes act as though they are above the law.

Junko Ando, 38, tells a not untypical story. The piano teacher says she joined Soka Gakkai eight years ago because "I had no religion of my own. I wasn't unhappy, but I found a lot of fulfillment in the teachings of Buddha and Nichiren,"a 13th century Japanese monk. She became disillusioned because of sect officials' emphasis on fund raising, election activities and what she calls "the Ikeda personality-cult tendency." She quit and helped more than 30 others leave as well. That move led to threats and eventually an attack in which a man she recognized as a sect member twisted her arm and took away a camera she was carrying. Shaken but unhurt, she jotted down the license plate of his car as it drove away and complained to the police. But as often happens in cases involving religious groups, the authorities did not investigate fully, explaining that there was insufficient evidence to track down the suspect.

Soka Gakkai opposes the religious-law changes, as do most other religious groups to varying degrees, with the exception of Reiyukai, a major Buddhist group, and the Association of Shinto Shrines. Most opponents point to the Liberal Democrats' obvious political motive. "The L.D.P. has openly stated that the proposed legislation revision is intended to rein in our activities," says Einosuke Akiya, president of Soka Gakkai. "This is sinister indeed." Shinshinto's chief, Ichiro Ozawa, is similarly indignant: "It's an appalling piece of legislation. It's reminiscent of the prewar years."

Critics also point out that the real issue, at least in the case of Aum Shinrikyo, was the failure of the police, not an excess of religious freedoms. The Roman Catholic bishops' conference issued a statement warning that the proposed changes "open the way to guidance and direction by government agencies and make it possible that the 'separation of church and state' may be denied."

In the eyes of Soka Gakkai members, there is considerable reason to fear state authority. The sect was founded in 1930 as the lay arm of the Nichiren Shoshu, one of 38 Buddhist organizations that claim to represent the teachings of Nichiren. Soka Gakkai's founder, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, was eager to reform the school system to include Nichiren's teachings, but the very idea was enough to land him in prison in 1943 for opposing state-ordered Emperor worship. Makiguchi died behind bars, but his disciple Josei Toda survived imprisonment to lead the group after the war. Toda believed political influence was the key to protecting Soka Gakkai from persecution, and the sect began putting up its own candidates for local elections in 1955.

Two years after Toda's death in 1958, Ikeda, a longtime Soka Gakkai official, assumed the presidency and accelerated efforts to gain political influence for the sect. Toshimitsu Ryu, Soka Gokkai's first political strategist and a senior official until he quit the sect in 1991, helped design a plan in the 1960s aimed at winning office in Tokyo and then other major cities. In 1965 Komeito gained 23 seats in the then 120-seat Tokyo assembly, and ever since has been the fulcrum of power in the fragmented chamber. Says Ryu, a former Komeito Tokyo assembly member: "They have used their position to gain influence over city officials and the Tokyo city budget, particularly the police budget."

According to Ryu, it was Ikeda who transformed Soka Gakkai's strategy of self-protection into a bid for political power. In 1964 Ikeda formed Komeito, and it made its debut in national politics a year later by winning 25 seats in the Lower House of the Diet. In 1970, after a scandal in which Komeito leaders tried to persuade retailers not to sell a book critical of Soka Gakkai, Ikeda announced that the sect would stay out of politics and Komeito would be independent. But Soka Gakkai is still widely thought to be calling the shots behind the scenes. "It's a lie," says Ryu. "On the surface we pretended that Komeito was separate, but it was always the political arm of the organization."

To most Soka Gakkai members, the world of politics is far away. They see the sect as a source of community and spiritual comfort. It teaches a variant of Mahayana Buddhism developed by Nichiren. He taught that followers could attain salvation by chanting every day the simple words, "I take my refuge in the Lotus Sutra." The Lotus Sutra, one of the most widely venerated scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism, teaches that there is only one path to enlightenment and it is accessible to everyone.

Soka Gakkai followers are taught to chant and recite passages from the Lotus Sutra in front of a small altar that holds the Gohonzon, a copy of a small scroll inscribed with Chinese characters that symbolizes the Lotus Sutra. They fervently believe their prayers bring them good fortune in this life as well as the next one. Japan's rapid economic growth through the end of the 1980s was the best recruiting agent Soka Gakkai could have desired. Says Masao Okkotsu, a former member who has written extensively on the organization: "As Japan entered an era of high economic growth, people moved from rural areas to industrial centers. They were lonely, poor and cut off. Soka Gakkai offered companionship, easy loans and an ideology to fill the gap." Nichiren taught that chanting makes Buddhists better people and that that in turn improves society as a whole.

Most members get their news from the daily Seikyo Shimbun (circ. 5.5 million), the sect's official publication, and many send their children to Soka Gakkai--sponsored schools. The best go on to Tokyo's highly competitive Soka University. Near the group's nondescript headquarters in Shinanomachi, Tokyo, the sect owns many surrounding buildings, and security is a major worry. Members in blue blazers with walkie-talkies stand on street corners for blocks around. Last year, according to a leaked police report, Aum Shinrikyo allegedly tried to kill Ikeda.

Dedicated members--housewives are the biggest group--immerse themselves in raising money, making converts and canvassing for political causes. Their persistence is well known: they call neighbors repeatedly before elections, and then afterward to ask how they voted. Most members are quite ready to hand over a significant part of their earnings to the group--anywhere from $100 a year to tens of thousands of dollars. "Soka Gakkai followers believe they will be compensated in their own lifetimes," says Yoshiyuki Wakamatsu, 52, a Tokyo factory worker. "The more you give, the more you receive." Soka Gakkai's yearly fund drives raise an estimated $2 billion in cash.

At the center of this universe is Ikeda, a balding, stocky man whose appearance at rallies makes people burst into tears of joy because he is revered as a great teacher who has shown his flock the way to happiness and fulfillment. Says Chie Sunada, 22: "[Ikeda] teaches us the basics of how we should live. He is really a great master."

Soka Gakkai's greatest vulnerability is its dark side. Nichiren was deeply intolerant of other Buddhist sects. He insisted that all Zen followers are devils, and he justified militancy and even violence to defend his sect and to repress rival organizations. The government under the Kamakura shogunate exiled him twice for predicting disasters and foreign invasions if the country's leaders did not stamp out competing sects. Soka Gakkai shares Nichiren's militant aspect. It is openly hostile to other creeds, and members, especially important ones, run a frightening gauntlet if they try to quit.

According to ex-followers, Soka Gakkai spies on its own ranks, trailing and intimidating those who are unsure of their commitment. Shuichi Sanuki, editor of a biweekly newspaper for the 10,000 members of the Soka Gakkai Victims Association, claims to have overseen, among other activities, the sect's alleged spying apparatus in Tokyo. He quit, along with many other disenchanted members, in 1991 when the Nichiren Shoshu, which provided the sect's priesthood, grew angry over Ikeda's attempts to take over the religious wing and excommunicated him. Sanuki says he received death threats over the phone, and members of the Soka Gakkai Housewives' Association even contacted his wife and urged her to divorce him. Says he: "I know what the group does to people whom it regards as its enemies. It's not safe for anyone who dares to criticize it." For its part, Soka Gakkai resolutely denies any involvement in such harassment.

So do Komeito legislators, who claim to stand against corruption and pacifism. Yet the party had long-standing back-room ties with the most corrupt faction in the l.d.p., the group formed around the late Kakuei Tanaka. Though Liberal Democrats denounce Soka Gakkai today, the sect has been helpful in the past, most notably supporting the l.d.p. on the passage of a controversial 1992 law that permitted Japan to send troops overseas on U.N. peacekeeping missions for the first time. In return, admitted the late Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe in a 1993 magazine interview, the l.d.p. government quashed a tax case aimed at the sect.

Last year 64 Komeito members of the Upper and Lower houses of the Diet merged with Ozawa's Shinshinto in a move to improve their chances in the next national elections. Ozawa could not resist the temptation to win the backing of Soka Gakkai's grass-roots activists. Shinshinto denies that it receives any funds from Soka Gakkai and insists that Shinshinto is in the driver's seat. Says Hajime Funada, a Shinshinto legislator who is not a member of Soka Gakkai: "As long as they have no more than 50% of political power, it's all right. But we do need to take care to keep their influence in check."

The debate about Soka Gakkai's intentions leads back to Ikeda, whose favorite phrase when exhorting his senior followers is Tenka o toru (conquer the country). In his rare public interviews, Ikeda presents himself as a moderate who has been miscast by the press. "I am an ordinary and serious man," he told the BBC in an interview this year. "The mass media, with the exception of the bbc, make up this image of me as a dictator and so forth. This troubles me very much."

Whatever his political ambitions, Ikeda enjoys the limelight on his own terms. Like many wealthy, would-be world figures, he seeks chances to meet international celebrities such as Margaret Thatcher or, just this year, Nelson Mandela, in order to enhance his stature among the followers. He has also built up a pricey art collection for Soka Gakkai, including two Renoirs, sometimes buying numerous paintings at a time from a single gallery and having aides pay for the works with suitcases of cash that they carry on trips.

To his followers he is irresistible, the pinnacle of the organization that means so much to them. But on the rare occasion when he appears in public, like at a 1993 meeting of Soka Gakkai International in California, Ikeda comes off as surprisingly voluble and erratic. On that occasion, he repeatedly pounded the table with both hands and mocked President Bill Clinton. Former close associates like Ryu insist that Ikeda is not very religious.

Whatever Ikeda's strengths or failings, the spotlight is on Soka Gakkai, and the sect is determined to prove it is a benign if not benevolent force in society. President Akiya has declared the sect will drop its antagonistic views toward other groups. Says former Komeito member Akamatsu: "I can understand why the l.d.p. is saying that Ikeda is intent on seizing political power. In the past, Komeito wanted to spread the Nichiren prayer for the good of the people. But those days are over." In the view of the Liberal Democrats, however, Soka Gakkai's past leaves too many questions unanswered. Says Koichi Kato, L.D.P. secretary-general: "If Shinshinto wins the next election, it will be thanks to the Soka Gakkai engine. So, of course, Soka Gakkai can exert influence over the government. I don't think that will be a good thing." In the end, the voters can decide for themselves.

--Reported by Irene M. Kunii/Tokyo

Copyright © 1995 Time Inc. All rights reserved.

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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 10, 2009 12:58AM


Sensei's World

Benjamin Fulford David Whelan, 09.06.04

Soka Gakkai, a strikingly wealthy Japanese sect, tries again for U.S. glory with a splendid new campus. Daisaku Ikeda's unaccountable empire can thank lax treatment of the nonprofit world.
Walk the hilly campus of Soka University of America in Aliso Viejo, Calif. and you enter the fabulous world of the international nonprofit. The three-year-old school has so far put about $300 million into its 103 suburban Orange County acres, and this is still a work in progress. As of this fall, only 400 students will meander among the rich, Romanesque architecture.

The primary benefactor of Soka U is a controversial offshoot of Japanese Buddhism called Soka Gakkai, headed for 44 years by the sometimes messianic and persistently self-aggrandizing Daisaku Ikeda. But significant secondary support comes from favorable tax treatment in Japan, the U.S. and around the globe, just as enjoyed by other philanthropies big and small. In the U.S. the nonprofit sector is spending $875 billion a year and employs 9% of the work force yet has precious little accountability, other than the public financial statements required of most charities. Religious entities don't even have that degree of accountability. They enjoy all the benefits of tax exemption without any requirement that they say what they are up to.

Soka Gakkai is a shadowy case in point. Ikeda, now 76 and president of Soka Gakkai International, the sect's global umbrella, claims 12 million followers and has amassed an empire that was put at $100 billion by a Japanese parliamentarian a decade ago. (The sect says that's wrong but otherwise won't comment on its finances.) A nasty split from Nichiren Buddhists set off a cycle of alleged violence, blackmail and intimidation. Soka Gakkai members in Japan have been charged with illegal wiretapping and breaking into private databases. The sect says it has nothing to do with those activities, noting that its ranks include nearly 10% of all Japanese. But yet-darker allegations have been made (see box, p. 130).

Soka Gakkai (literally, "value-creating society") brings in, conservatively, $1.5 billion a year to the top line, according to our best estimates of its membership, its tithing demands and its commercial activities. Most of that revenue is collected in Japan, where the sect sells its flock funeral plots, assorted religious paraphernalia and a newspaper (5.5 million subscribers). The group's far-flung international assets include estates in France and the U.K. In gilded Santa Monica, Calif. a Soka-owned office high- rise and auditorium sit across Wilshire Boulevard from each other, near the town's beach. In the nearby hills a Soka affiliate holds the King Gillette Ranch-- which was used for footage of "Tara" in the film Gone with the Wind. A thousand spiritual centers worldwide include a site worth $6 million near New York City's Union Square.

In wealth and claimed following, Soka Gakkai exceeds more familiar sects such as Hare Krishna, the church of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon and today's hippest (Madonna, etc.) group, members of the Kabbalah Centre. In the U.S. a church can lose its federal tax exemption for getting into politics. Soka managed to get around a similar restriction in Japan, where Ikeda has built up a political party, New Komeito, that helps the long-governing Liberal Democrats hold power.

Soka University of Japan opened in 1971. Soka University of America, first established in 1987 on what is now a graduate campus in Calabasas, Calif., near Malibu, recently obtained preaccreditation for its undergraduate program from an outfit certified by the U.S. Education Department. A parallel process that will cover graduate students also is moving forward.

The preaccreditation means that for the past year American undergrads at Soka U--which reported to the IRS that its assets exceed $740 million--have been eligible to obtain up to $23,000 in federal Stafford loans over the course of their education. Needy recipients can get up to an additional $4,000 a year in Pell Grants.

What are Ikeda's aims? Five years after gaining command of Soka Gakkai, he told a Japanese writer: "I am the king of Japan; I am its president; I am the master of its spiritual life; I am the supreme power who entirely directs its intellectual culture." In the years since, "world peace" has been the sect's mantra. New Komeito promotes pacifism in Japan. Representatives of the sect have worked the UN and other official venues touting international harmony and goodwill--and usually Ikeda. Followers mount a traveling show equating him with Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.

In the sect's 1,000 meeting halls Soka members exercise the "life-enhancing" power of chanting. Believers are encouraged to be "many in body, one in mind." This means "You have to make sensei's [teacher's] heart your own. You have to fulfill [Ikeda's] dreams instead of your own," maintains Lisa Jones, a former aide and follower who ghostwrote an Ikeda book and now maintains a Soka-doubter Web site. "His dream is kosen-rufu, or what Soka members call ‘world peace,' which will be achieved when one third of the world chants, one third merely celebrates Ikeda, and the other third doesn't care," she says.

A Soka bid for favor in the U.S. a generation ago, drawing on the era's culture clash and some affiliated celebrities, attracted unwelcome press, and the sect receded a bit. But it has never given up efforts to establish legitimacy and further Ikeda's vision. He founded the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century in a 13,000-square-foot Georgian building next to Harvard University. Ikeda has enticed Mikhail Gorbachev and Henry Kissinger into numerous discussions. He also met with historian Arnold Toynbee, double Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling and civil rights figure Rosa Parks (Soka's U.S. arm boasts a sizable black membership). Some of the conversations with luminaries have been published and sold.

More idealistic or benign than sinister and manipulative? The veil that surrounds the nonprofit world, especially religions, ensures that only the outlines are visible. Soka University files an IRS form; the organization behind it doesn't.

Congress is training its sights anew on nonprofits. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, held hearings in June on tax-exempt abuses. "Far too many charities have broken the understood covenant between the taxpayers and nonprofits," he said. He was angered by local news reports about the looting of family foundations. On Aug. 10 the Internal Revenue Service promised to increase from 230 to 300 the agents it assigns to nonprofit entities. This tiny crew is supposed to take on 1.6 million tax-exempt organizations and an estimated 400,000 additional religious groups that do not have to submit annual tax forms to the IRS. Investigations are typically initiated only in response to complaints. Exceptions to this passive role include the IRS' decades-long losing war with the Church of Scientology.

In the post-Sept. 11 era some Muslim groups have come under scrutiny for ties to terrorism. The Department of Justice recently prosecuted the former head of the American Muslim Council and indicted seven leaders of the Dallas-based Holy Land Foundation. But unless you're tied into terror, you can shout from the rooftops and no one is likely to come looking at your books. "Every revenue agent you assign to a corporate tax return will generate millions of dollars. Every [revenue agent] you assign to a tax-exempt one may not pay his own salary," says Marcus Owens, who headed the IRS' Exempt Organizations division from 1990 to 2000 and is now a private Washington attorney.

So the Ikeda-related wealth here is virtually untouchable. In Japan, Soka has not only its 8,000-student university but also its enhanced political power. At least 20% of the Liberal Democrat deputies could have lost without the support of Soka followers last October, enough to give the opposition Democratic Party a plurality in the Diet. "It's like becoming addicted to amphetamines," says Katsuei Hirasawa, an LDP member of parliament, of his party's link with Komeito.

In a July op-ed in the Asahi newspaper, Koji Ishimura, a professor of tax law at Hakuho University, argued that Soka's political activities were an abuse of its status as a religion. "The influence of a ruling party that relies on a specific religion's organization to form its power base is growing stronger," wrote Ishimura, who called for Soka's donations to be taxed.

Ikeda established his fundraising prowess early on. According to University of North Carolina professor James White, who wrote a book about Soka, Ikeda threw a scare into the Japanese insurance industry in the 1960s in a crash four-day drive for a key temple at Mount Fuji. Record sums were raised, with some members cashing in life policies to help.

Soka's initial U.S. academic beachhead in rustic Calabasas met with bustle-wary neighbors. After an extended development fight, the 660 acres today may be home to only half a dozen linguistics students destined for jobs as language instructors for Japanese Soka emissaries.

The action shifted to Aliso Viejo in 2001, with promises of a nonsectarian institution with a first-rate library and renowned secular faculty. The new master-planned community was accommodating. Campus athletic and arts attractions, as well as the library, were open to the public. Popular U.S. author Joe McGinniss was a notable instructor hire.

But reality began to kick in when McGinniss and others complained of interference from on high. Several staff have left--McGinniss' contract wasn't renewed--and one sued. Another filed for arbitration and lost.

Earnest university officials are at pains to showcase an arts-and-letters idyll devoted to the betterment of mankind. Soka U insists it is an independent, nonsectarian school not even as religiously influenced as, say, Brigham Young or Notre Dame universities. But at least a majority of Soka U's trustees have direct Soka Gakkai connections. Today 70% of matriculants are Soka Gakkai members.

Some secular faculty felt squeezed. The university was sued in 2002 by Linda Southwell, a fired fine arts professor. Her complaint disputed a "commitment to rigorous academic endeavor, free and open dialogue, and an appreciation for human diversity" when "in reality the curriculum is intended to reflect cult beliefs and perspectives" and speech and association are limited. She also claimed Soka members were favored faculty.

Soka University settled the discrimination and wrongful termination in a "satisfactory" manner that included a confidentiality clause, Southwell's lawyer Brian Glicker says. Another professor, who quit her "frightening" job, begs off discussing the specifics of her beef.

Glicker maintains he's heard from several other non-Soka Gakkai International staff members. "Many or most non-SGI staff or faculty are at least considering leaving," says one disaffected professor. "The university was only able to hire 7 or 8 of the 21 faculty it tried to hire." University officials say they'd not heard this and attribute departures to the growing pains of a new school. They claim an 81% retention rate.

An initial goal of 1,200 students remains a ways off. Has the academic friction been a roadblock? The university says more hiring and building await full accreditation, which it expects soon. On campus, the image is of serenity and strength. The buildings use the same stone featured in the Colosseum in Rome. Ikeda insisted on using it because he intends his university to last 2,000 years, a Soka U spokesman explains. The campus also sports a security camera network rivaling that of any casino.

The university includes a sizable "guest house" and a larger "athenaeum" overlooking a regional park. The sumptuous residence is set aside for VIPs, such as, in the words of one university official, "the president of Venezuela or Daisaku Ikeda." It has ornate furniture, a portrait of Ikeda and many artworks, all covered in white cloth until the VIPs show.

The undergraduate catalog says that "as leaders and decision makers," Soka's graduates "will be guided by the ideal of a contributive life, a humanistic approach drawn from Buddhist thought." But Soka Gakkai newspapers and other publications, filling a prominent shelf in the Soka University library--named for Ikeda--all feature Ikeda's interpretations of Buddhism: To wit, achieve world peace and democracy by becoming one in Soka and chanting. The university notes it also has other Buddhist texts.

Like other students approached at Aliso Viejo, Fabiana Sanchez, 21, a senior and a Soka Gakkai member, says she wants to do something for society or peace. She plans to return to her native Venezuela upon graduation and get involved in some sort of work "linking education and politics."

Soka U denies a rumor that the aging sensei plans a visit soon to his American academic citadel. Succession at the sect's helm is uncertain: Two sons are vice presidents in Soka but the sect denies a hereditary rule. Meanwhile the tax-favored billions continue to roll in, almost entirely outside the purview of authorities anywhere.

Chant of the Faithful
Prominent believers in Soka Gakkai include Mariane Pearl, the widow of murdered journalists Daniel Pearl, jazz musician Herbie Hancock and Patrick Duffy of Dallas Tv show fame. Singer Tina Turner was identified with Soka Gakkai in years past, but her spokesman would not confirm an association.


Death Watch

Benjamin Fulford, 09.06.04

Soka University in Japan trains students for government employment exams and touts their success. Might a presence of followers in the civil service be of more than spiritual use to Soka Gakkai? Consider this case from the files of the Tokyo civil courts.

In 1995 Akiyo Asaki, a politician in the Tokyo suburb of Higashi Murayama, complained vociferously that all city garbage collection contracts were going to Soka Gakkai-affiliated companies.

After receiving death threats, Asaki plunged off a building. When police arrived at the scene, they recognized her and, even though she was still alive, kept her from getting medical help, according to her daughter, Naoko Asaki. She says that when her mother died, the police tried to have her body immediately cremated.

The prosecutor's initial investigator, Masao Nobuta, and the officer in charge of assigning him, Hiroshi Yoshimura, were both members of the sect. They said Asaki's death was a suicide and linked it to her being questioned about the shoplifting of an item of women's clothing.

This explanation, seized on by Soka to counter her family's accusations of murder, became the focal point of a civil court crossfire of defamation cases, several won by Soka. Autopsy evidence, allegedly withheld by police, was presented to show large bruises under her arms, suggesting she had been dragged. Naoko Asaki maintains her mother had left a phone message in a tense, fearful voice before she died. One court ruled inconclusively on a suicide. Soka spokesmen say the religious affiliation of the investigators in the case was a random circumstance and that, in any case, others reviewed their work.

Probes of the death petered out after Soka's Komeito party joined a coalition government in Tokyo. Naoko Asaki is cynical: "Do you think a government that depends on Soka Gakkai is going to investigate?"

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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 10, 2009 01:07AM

So it seems SGI is possibly the richest sect/cult on the planet?

"What are Ikeda's aims? Five years after gaining command of Soka Gakkai, he told a Japanese writer:
"I am the king of Japan; I am its president; I am the master of its spiritual life; I am the supreme power who entirely directs its intellectual culture."

"Soka Gakkai is a shadowy case in point. Ikeda, now 76 and president of Soka Gakkai International, the sect's global umbrella, claims 12 million followers and has amassed an empire that was put at $100 billion by a Japanese parliamentarian a decade ago."

Soka Gakkai (literally, "value-creating society") brings in, conservatively, $1.5 billion a year to the top line, according to our best estimates of its membership, its tithing demands and its commercial activities.


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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: Rothaus ()
Date: August 10, 2009 02:28AM

good grief anticult those articles are already on the SGI page here in rick ross

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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 10, 2009 05:11AM

Didn't notice those articles there, and its common practice to cross-post articles and excerpts, to hi-light information and points.
That also helps with Google indexing in months and years to come.

and the article, THE POWER OF SOKA GAKKAI, from TIME, does not come up on this site.

Also, no one seems to know if SGI is worth 5 billion, or 100 billion. Pretty important, probably the most important question.
SGI cannot escape that question.

It seems on this forum, people can post pretty much what they want, subject to the rules of the forum.
That being said, if someone doesn't like a post, they can press "report this message" and the Moderator can remove it.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/10/2009 05:14AM by The Anticult.

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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: Rothaus ()
Date: August 10, 2009 05:33AM

Its not about criticising you, its just when you spent just a bit of time in google or bing one will find the articles you quote, which makes me wonder – if I may ask- if you have been a member of SGI yourself.
Personally I could not care less how much money SGI has but rather how they got this fortune and where it is invested apart form the obvious real estate.
I have no reason whatsoever ever to report you to any moderator.

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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 10, 2009 05:47AM

To report a post is fine, perhaps its inappropriate, and the Moderator makes that decision.

I've mentioned before, that I was not a member of SGI, but have been attempted to be "recruited" to SGI countless times, more than any other sect, and attended some chanting meetings. And have known many people who are SGI.

But many of those in SGI in the west, know the least about it. They don't know anything about SGI, or how cults and sects work.
They have never seen any of those critical articles, they don't know anything about it.
Some of them don't know really anything about classical "Buddhism", just the recent SGI stuff.

But the billions, from an outsider's perspective, is the MOST important question.
SGI just appears to be a massive business. That appears to be what SGI is really all about.
Power, and money is one aspect of it.
How did they get the billions? From who? Billions don't grow on trees.
What are they doing with it?
How many dozens or hundreds of front-groups and front-companies are they running?
None of this has been properly investigated.
That kind of power in the hands of someone like Ikeda, and whoever takes over, is very dangerous.

Why is SGI not known widely as the "richest cult on earth"?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/10/2009 05:52AM by The Anticult.

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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: commongirl ()
Date: August 11, 2009 02:43AM

In the interest of complete and accurate information, this letter was printed in Forbes in response to Benjamin Fulford's article.

As a longtime print journalist, I'm all for afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted. That said, I draw the line at sloppy reporting and pushing personal agendas agendas.

When I first read this article, the biggest flaw (besides incomplete and inaccurate reporting) was that it never addressed/proved the original nutgraph of the article. Rather the tax angle seemed a thinly veiled means to manufacture the same, tired fluff that has appeared in Japanese tabloids over the years.

Having worked as a business journalist for nearly a decade, I was surprised that Forbes didn't do a better job fact-checking the article.

Many thanks,


Forbes Magazine
December 27, 2004
[Abridged letter carried in the magazine's "Readers Say" section]

Soka Gakkai Responds

Rebuttal letter to "Sensei's World," an article published in the September 6, 2004 issue of Forbes magazine and statement from the editor in response.

In spite of multiple interviews, "Sensei's World" (Sept. 6, p. 126) does not include a single quote from Soka Gakkai representatives other than a third-party report from the 1960s. Hardly fair, balanced or accurate. A far more representative quote from Daisaku Ikeda, rather than the 1960s-era quote you used and one that is well-known by SGI members around the world, is: "The purpose of Buddhism is not to produce dupes who blindly follow their leader. It is to produce people of wisdom who can judge right or wrong on their own in the clear mirror of Buddhism."

The box about the Asaki case quotes the daughter of the deceased but doesn't share the ruling, affirmed by the Supreme Court of Japan, that required her and her publishers to publish an apology and retraction of all her accusations about her mother's death. None of the courts that dealt with the issue of Asaki's death found any Soka Gakkai involvement in the incident.

From characterizing our seven-story national headquarters building as a "high rise" in "gilded Santa Monica" to the description of Lisa Jones as "a former aide and follower who ghostwrote an Ikeda book," your hyperbole betrays its intentions and negates any sense of journalistic integrity.

Guy McCloskey
Senior Vice President
Soka Gakkai International-USA
Chicago, Ill

[Our description of the cross-defamation lawsuits between the family of Japanese politician Akiyo Asaki and the Japanese Buddhist set Soka Gakkai concerning Asaki's 1995 death should have noted that Soka Gakkai has prevailed in all of the defamation cases to which it was a party, not just "several" of them. The article referred to the constitutionally mandated separation between church and state in Japan; it should also have said that Japanese tax law does not prevent a religious entity from engaging in political activity.--Forbes Editor]

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Re: Former SGI members, Sensei's World,
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 11, 2009 03:04PM

The SGI progaganda machine, has posted many "rebuttals" to criticism of what SGI is doing.
And they don't want those western news articles in legitimate western sources, to be read by SGI members.

And the article is still published on the Forbes website, they stand behind it.
Same as the TIME article still stands.
The Forbes Editor just posted a small comment, which is not even a correction, just an addition.

And of course SGI is going to "prevail" in lawsuits in their home country...they appear to have 100 billion dollars to spend. Its not that hard to crush your opponents with those kinds of resources, and when you are deeply interconnected into politics and influence peddling.
Frankly, it makes it far worse that SGI have won ALL of them. What does that say? In Japan, SGI has the power to do almost whatever they want. Which media company in Japan wants to risk losing a fortune fighting SGI for years? That is called "chilling the media".

Even Scientology in the USA lost to TIME magazine after many years for the article, The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power - TIME []

Its interesting that the phrase about the "tabloids" in "Japan" is used by some SGI people, to try and distort the sources of information about SGI from Japan, to those in the west.
That is a very common theme, one sees here and there from the SGI PR people.

The reality is, the Japanese tax-system seems to be far worse than even that in the USA, in terms of "new religions" running amok, and hiding behind the tax-free status, and getting involved in politics.
That is how they can accumulate billions so quickly, and have such power in society.

And these groups can work behind the scenes as well, they can control politicians that may not be in their main party, but perhaps carry swing votes, and things of that nature.
The more one looks into SGI, the worse it gets.

And as far as that article...the words of Ikeda were not challenged...
"I am the king of Japan; I am its president; I am the master of its spiritual life; I am the supreme power who entirely directs its intellectual culture."

The man is a meglomaniac. Thankfully he failed.
And it does appear SGI could be worth 100 billion, and have its financial tentacles all over the world.

The real SGI ain't about chanting.
People need to be seriously warned about the tactics being used on people by SGI in the west. They have gotten a lot more subtle, and that makes them more powerful and dangerous.
More investigation needs to be done, as its appearing that SGI is one of the richest, if not THE wealthiest and most powerful cultish sect on the planet.
And they are experts at catching certain people in the west in their web, and turning many of these folks into SGI fanatics, constantly trying to recruit and promote for SGI. That is not done by magic, that is been carefully trained into people, using the techniques they have developed and refined over the decades.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/11/2009 03:12PM by The Anticult.

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SGI members, Sensei's World,, The Cult Of Greed
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 11, 2009 03:38PM

In Japan in 2005, SGI assets, if over 100 billion, would be one of the larger corporations in Japan.
(one needs to press each company to see its assets)

They would also be high on the list of asset of global corporations.

All of those billions don't sit around in a bank, they would all be invested in many areas. And whoever controls those investments, would be controlling various companies they are invested in.
There is probably no media organization in Japan that could take on SGI, and do a full investigation of them.

SGI has exploited the religious tax-advantages in Japan, to build up their billions.
Would the Buddha be a multi-Billionaire political power-broker?
Of course not.

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