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Q&A: Clark Strand

Author of Waking the Buddha

What initially drew you to Soka Gakkai International?Shortly before America invaded Iraq in 2003, I ran across a photograph of some Buddhist prayer beads made by Josei Toda, the second president of the SGI, while he was imprisoned for opposing the Japanese military during World War II. Toda chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo—the title of the Lotus Sutra—millions of times in his cell, and the experience convinced him that war was a great evil that every Buddhist should vigorously oppose. I’d never seen a Buddhist sect whose stance on war was as firm and well-articulated as that of the Soka Gakkai. It felt like a wake-up call with my country on the verge of yet another war.You write that SGI is fundamentally different from other religions. How so?For a religion to work in the long run, it has to be held accountable to life. It must demonstrate practical benefits for those who embrace it. Nichiren (the monk who founded the branch of Buddhism to which Soka Gakkai belongs) called this “actual proof”—positive changes you can actually see in your life. That is the main difference. Most religions favor a model of life …

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