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Encountering the Dharma: Daisaku Ikeda, Soka Gakkai, and the Globalization of Buddhist Humanism Paperback – March 16, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0520245778 ISBN-10: 0520245776 Edition: 1St Edition
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In a readable and engaging study, Hamilton College professor Seager (Buddhism in America) argues that Soka Gakkai, a recent form of Japanese Buddhism, is "best understood as a liberal or modernist movement" that intentionally tries to adapt Buddhism to contemporary society. Peace, culture and education sit at the heart of the movement; adherents understand these as three important ways to express the dharma in a world beset by inequality and injustice. In Seager's view, Daisaku Ikeda, the current president of Soka Gakkai International, has, more than any other leader, developed the movement's Nichiren Buddhist Humanism. Several chapters focus on the exportation of Soka Gakkai to the rest of the world, including the U.S. and Brazil. Soka Gakkai has aroused much controversy over the years—onlookers have worried, for example, that Ikeda is a power-mad potentate. Seager airs but ultimately dismisses these concerns. He capably infuses the book with a strong first-person element. Shortly before Seager began this book, his wife died, and his bereavement transformed a disinterested scholarly project into something of a personal quest. Still, the finished product is an academic study, not a memoir, and Seager integrates autobiography to good effect—it illumines but does not overshadow Soka Gakkai. (Mar.)
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Review

"Seager does a superb job of giving outsiders an inside look at Soka Gakkai Buddhism." - David Machacek, author of Soka Gakkai in America: Accommodation and Conversion "This book paints vivid portraits of the major players of Soka Gakkai. Seager is forthright about the checkered political path Soka Gakkai has taken in Japan, while providing insight into why the rough spots occur." - Phillip Hammond, D. Mackenzie Brown Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara "Encountering the Dharma is a marvelous book that bristles with fresh observations about Japanness and Americanness, the local and the global, spirituality and secularity. Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, this is the definitive work on the globalization of Soka Gakkai." - Stephen Prothero, author of American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon"
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1St Edition edition (March 16, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520245776
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520245778
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #141,757 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Kush Mirchandani on April 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
I found the style of this book to be unconventional and thereby uniquely engaging. This was not just Seager teaching you about Nichiren buddhism, soka gakkai, and Ikeda..but rather him taking you along as he leared about them more deeply himself. Having the opportunity to join a knowledgeable person as he himself derives conclusions and impressions from his experiences makes the book, or the story really, much more interesting and enjoyable to read.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By wahzoh on March 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
"Encountering the Dharma" is an interesting, highly personalized look at the Soka Gakkai by Professor R.H. Seager, a professor of religious studies. This book makes a good introduction to the Gakkai for people who are interested in learning about the development of this broad, international Buddhist movement. It explores the Gakkai's explosive growth after World War II in Japan and overseas, as well as the rocky relationship between the Gakkai and its parent sect, Nichiren Shoshu. Professor Seager also had access to Daisaku Ikeda, the movement's international leader, for a rare series of interviews. Since so many Westerners think of Buddhists as being lofty Asians in orange robes, this book is a refreshing wake-up call for a socially engaged, multi-ethnic Buddhist lay organization.

Professor Seager gives warm credit to the Boston Research Center, a Gakkai-sponsored group for helping him, and it is pretty clear throughout the book that he got very special, hands-on treatment from the organization about which he was writing. That being the case, Professor Seager could hardly have been expected to pursue the "hard questions" (for example about the Gakkai's lack of financial transparency with its donors in the US). For me, that clear influence on the part of Professor Seager's subject is the difference between four and five stars, although I'm sure there are those who will feel differently. All in all, a book I would recommend for those who are interested in Buddhism in America, the Gakkai,or modern religious/social movements in general. Not a dry academic text at all, very personal and engaging.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Wise Heart Jackie on November 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
As a Soka Gakkai member, after reading this book I was very inspired. It challenged me to look at my practice and feel proud to belong to such an amazing organization. I recommend this book to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Brian Johnson on May 12, 2007
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I loved reading Richard Hughes Seager's book, he has a beautiful writing style, he gives lots of insight into himself as well as the subject matter, in this case Daisaku Ikeda and The Soka Gakkai. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone. As a Soka Gakkai member I found Seager's work factual, thought provoking and he gave me a glimpse of Soka Gakkai that I haven't yet been able to explore myself, reading his book was like being in Japan with him. In my view this book would satisfy an academic as well as anyone interested in Buddhism and the truth. Read and enjoy!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By JSpangler on August 1, 2006
Format: Paperback
Believe it or not, this is a book you might not want to put down --they don't come much better than this. It's a very engaging combination of scholarly inquiry and Mr. Seager's personal experience as he traveled to several countries and interviewed SG members at every level, including Daisaku Ikeda. Satisfying, moving, and highly recommended.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Daiho VINE VOICE on October 15, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought "Encountering the Dharma" not knowing I'd just finished another of the author's books. If I had, I might have skipped it. And in doing so I would have missed a good story - in spite of not being the kind of book I was expecting. While Seager introduces Soka Gakkai's theology, as well as some of the issues that have made the organization controversial in Japan, neither topic is covered in much detail.

After 17 years in Japan I feel somewhat ashamed of having learned little about one of the nation's largest religious organizations. I knew people in SG and to their credit their proselytizing was low key, consisting of nothing more than a few English language pamphlets. It seems American author/researcher Richard Hughes Seager knew about as much as I did. Maybe even less. At least I had lived in Japan, speak Japanese, met some SG members, knew about their political party, saw a few promo videos, and heard other Japanese speak about SG (most somewhat suspiciously). To his credit, Seager is forthright about his ignorance of Japan, which may just make you wonder about the value of a book about Soka Gakkai from a researcher on a Soka Gakkai grant.

Not having any particular agenda, Seager doesn't have any bones to pick or axes to grind. He has done the reader a great service in describing scenes and offering impressions that we might never have, short of several trips to Japan, the US, Singapore and Brazil, as well as access to much of SG's leadership. He records not only what he learns about SG, but how he learns - the situations, the people, his personal state of mind. It is very much a contemplative account of one reseacher's encounter with SG.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Allan W. Horbach on June 5, 2007
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A very human look at the life and times of Presiden Ikeda and the SGI. I'm an SGI'er but I'm also an American who works and lives in Asia and as such was always ready to try and see the dark side of everything. Is Ikeda evil? Is SGI a cult? Google "Ikeda cult" and he's blamed for everything except kidnapping the Linberg baby. The proof is in the practice. If you chant nam myoho renge kyo you will see a change in your life condition just as sure as if you start to go to a gym and start lifting weights. You will get stronger with each practice. That's the point and I think the book covers that very well. I like the book's "prove-to-me-you're-the-real-deal" approach. I have to honestly say I see President Ikeda in a very positive light as a direct result of this read. Why is President Ikeda slammed so much in Japan? There's a saying over here that is so very not the American way of looking at things in general that goes "the highest nail always get pounded down first." Indeed.
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