ASIA212Varley

340 culture in the present age but it is clear in

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Unformatted text preview: will joyously attain the highest rewards that this world offers. To dramatize this promise, the more affluent of the new religions have constructed lavish national centers—equipped with the most modern luxuries and conveniences—to serve as meccas for visits and pilgrimages of the faithful and to enable them to sample the paradisiacal sweets conjured by their religions. Yet, as Carmen Blacker observes, even in the building of such meccas there is a harking back to the traditional—in this case, an attempt to “impose on the present world a kind of mythical or Culture in the Present Age 337 eschatological geography,”44 much like, for example, the representation of the Pure Land Buddhist paradise in the Phoenix Hall and garden of the eleventh-century Byòdòin at Uji. The most important of the new religions—and one of the most startling religious, social, and political phenomena in postwar Japan—is Sòka Gakkai, the Value Creation Society. Founded in the early 1930s for the purpose of religious education, Sòka Gakkai is a modern outgrowth of a branch of Nichiren Buddhism. In contrast to most of the new religions, which are highly syncretic, it shares the exclusivism and intolerance of other religious sects that have always been the hallmarks of Nichiren Buddhism. Sòka Gakkai achieved only minor success in prewar days and was even disbanded when its leaders were jailed during the war because of their refusal to show reverence to state Shinto. But after the war, under the dynamic if not fanatical leadership of Toda Josei (1900–1958), the society enjoyed a phenomenal expansion. Employing such strong-arm, browbeating methods of proselytizing as shakubuku (breaking and subduing) and seeking to recruit not merely individuals but entire families, Sòka Gakkai claimed a membership by the early 1960s of ten million. In addition, through its political arm, Kòmeitò (Clean Government Party), Sòka Gakkai went to the polls and established itself as the third largest force in the upper...
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