This data was last updated on 1 August 2018.
Address: 303 Boylston St, Brookline, MA 02445, USA
Phone: (617) 264-2000
History: Soka Gakkai International ("International Value-Creation Society," or SGI) is the largest and most diverse lay Buddhist organization in the world with more than 12 million members in 190 countries and territories worldwide. Following the teachings of Nichiren Shonin (1222-1282), scholar Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and disciple Josei Toda first established the lay group Soka Gakkai in 1930. Speaking out against the second world War, the two were imprisoned in 1943 as were other Soka Gakkai leaders. Although Makiguchi died in prison in 1944, Toda was released and set out to develop membership throughout Japan through a commitment to help people overcome their suffering in the post-WWII society. In 1960 Daisaku Ikeda became the third leader of Soka Gakkai, establishing chapters in the Americas within the first six months of his presidency. In 1975 SGI was officially established as the umbrella organization encompassing chapters throughout the world. Since its inception Soka Gakkai and SGI was affiliated the Nichiren Shoshou Priesthood. However, doctrinal disagreements between the priesthood and the lay believers resulted in an official break between the Nichiren Shoshou and SGI in 1991. SGI now boasts enormous membership numbers, with nearly 100 SGI-USA centers throughout the country. SGI advocates egalitarian leadership policies in order to achieve individual happiness and world peace. Established in 1968, SGI-New England was first located on Charles Street in Boston before moving to Quincy in 1973, then to Back Bay in 1980, Waltham in 1998, and finally to their current location in Brookline.
Practice: SGI members are encouraged to unite their Buddhist practice with their daily lives through three main values: faith, study, and practice. One's faith is cultivated by chanting "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo," or "Adoration to the Scripture of the Lotus of the Perfect Truth." This chant is said to be the single principle or law that expresses the workings of the universe. By invocating this phrase, the ultimate expression of individual empowerment, one is said to unlock hidden potential and achieve harmony with the earth. The individual practice of SGI members is to gather weekly in regional groups to recite the first two chapters of the Lotus Sutra, to introduce others and to share experiences with applying Buddhism to daily life. Practice, the third value of SGI, manifests in countless social and civic engagements, inspired by President Daisaku Ideda. Based on humanistic principles, SGI-USA is involved in non-sectarian, public awareness activities to promote the values of peace, culture, and education. SGI-affiliated organizations include: Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue, Min-On Concert Association, Victor Hugo House of Literature, International Committee of Artists for Peace, Institute of Oriental Philosophy, Tokyo Fuji Art Museum, and Victory Over Violence. Another affiliate organization in the area is the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century, or (BRC), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an international peace institute that seeks to support an evolving global ethic for peace. One of the major events at BRC is the annual Ikeda Forum for Intercultural Dialogue, which explores the connection between the American literary renaissance of the nineteenth century and Eastern philosophy. Additional guidance for SGI practice comes from a weekly newspaper, the World Tribune, and a bimonthly photo magazine, Living Buddhism. Also, SGI-USA offers weekend retreats at the Florida Nature and Culture Center, near Fort Lauderdale.
Activities and Schedule: SGI-New England serves as the central headquarters for over 3,000 SGI members in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont, These states are divided into 71 districts, encompassing numerous local chapters. Chapters meet weekly in the homes of regional leaders for a more intimate experience of discussion, chanting, and study. Between 500-600 members will travel to Waltham on the first Sunday of every month for the World Peace Prayer service, a gathering for chanting, sharing, and a telecasted message from SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. In order to accommodate those in the more urban areas of Boston, SGI-New England also rents the Roxbury Center for the Arts (Hibernia Hall, 182-186 Dudley Street Roxbury, Massachusetts) on the first Sunday of the month to celebrate the World Peace Prayer. Throughout the month the facility is utilized as a meeting space for various SGI interest groups, including divisions for women, men, youth, high school students, Spanish-speakers, addiction recovery, LGBT, performance groups, educators, artists, etc. SGI-New England hosts an annual youth festival, “Arts for Peace,” featuring the talents of performance groups, as well as a Family Festival in April. Also, often different months of the year will feature themes that the Center will highlight such as women or African American history.