|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
AERA 7/17 By Takeshi Ito
With the sound of a gong,a congregation numbering more than 150 began to recite the mantra slowly in unison -- “Nam myo ho ren ge kyo.Niji seson.Ju sanmai...”
Most of them know the 30-minute-long invocation by heart.
This is Santa Monica,U.S.A.,and the congregation is almost entirely non-Japanese.
In one of the five reports comprising an 11-page feature on Japanese religious groups' evangelistic efforts overseas, AERA offers a rare glimpse into the Sokka Gakkai's activities in the United States.
The report, complete with an eye-grabbing picture of Caucasians and Hispanics joining hands in prayer,first presents data.
A quarter of a century after kicking off its evangelistic mission in the United States, Sokka Gakkai today claims some 300,000 adherents.
More than 80 percent of this total are U.S.citizens,including a rising number of second- and third-generation believers raised by parents who follow Sokka Gakkai's teachings.
AERA introduces one Los Angeles family to demonstrate that the lay Buddhist organization is there to stay.
The family is headed by a 48-year-old Caucasian,a former YMCA employee who in the early 1970s tried sutra chanting for an entire week and found his wish had come true -- an end to the military draft.
Now,he and his equally devout Caucasian wife are parents of five children,all Sokka Gakkai believers.
The magazine quotes their oldest son,21,as saying,
“I've never been to a Christian church, but my Christian friends are all living gloomy lives because of their sense of sin.”
This family celebrates Christmas as a secular year-end get-together.
AERA informs that Sokka Gakkai's American devotees are no longer engaged in aggressive street-corner canvassing as they did in the 1970s and the early 1980s, when the religious group's canvassers frequently approached total strangers in supermarkets and coin laundries and passionately urged them to come to a “discussion meeting."
This controversial method of initiation,known as shakufuku,met its share of criticism in the United States.
In the early 1980s, many American parents asked the Cult Awareness Network (CAN),a Chicago-based counseling organization,for advice on how to rescue children allegedly coerced into Sokka Gakkai.
CAN representative tells AERA that Sokka Gakkai seems intent on improving its public image in the 1990s, but adds that her group is continuing to keep a watch on the lay Buddhist organization's questionable activities.
AERA reminds its readers that a number of U.S.researchers regard Sokka gakkai as a “cult,” an extremely negative label the organization is working hard to discredit.
A spokesman for Sokka Gakkai's U.S.branch informs the magazine that his office is suing U.S media which call the group by that name.
AERA avoids the delicate question and closes the nonjudgmental article with this disclosure -- the Sokka Gakkai is planning to establish its own university in California to educate young American believers.(TI)