Since the 1960s, most of the Asian religions practiced in the United States have enjoyed a brief period of popularity followed by decline. The Soka Gakkai International's constituent organization in the U.S., SGI-USA is an exception. Having gained widespread acceptance in American society, the Buddhist organization has achieved a stable presence by contributing to society through various activities related to peace, culture and education.
What makes SGI-USA different? How did the Japanese Soka Gakkai take root and achieve such success in the United States? In "Soka Gakkai in America: Accommodation and Conversion," Phillip Hammond, professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and David Machacek, who also teaches at the university, offer answers to these and other questions.
Drawing on "A Time to Chant" by Bryan Wilson and Karel Dobbelaere, published in 1994, a study of Soka Gakkai members in Great Britain, Hammond and Machacek base their findings primarily on surveys, interviews and informal conversations with members.
The authors conclude that SGI-USA has thrived because it respects American culture, because it emphasizes personal growth and responsibility and involvement in society at large, and because it recognizes the compatibility of scientific rationalism and religious value. The authors predict that SGI-USA will endure as a significant force in the American religious landscape and that its members will serve as pioneers in this era of dramatic change as we approach the new millennium.