Doctrinal reasoning, the practice of chanting nam-myōho-renge-kyō
and its vision for kōsen-rufu
has been how Sōka Gakkai (SG) promulgated Nichiren Buddhism. This paper explores, in an in-depth anthropological manner, how doctrinal issues matter significantly in the meaning of funeral practices in contemporary SG. So-called Friend Funerals have become widely common and demonstrate how SG members’ understanding of death and mortuary rites differ in some significant ways from common practices in Japan. To understand why specific funeral rituals are not in and of themselves considered of primary importance when a person dies in SG, this paper discusses its reading of key tenants of Nichiren Buddhism. What hotoke or buddha means is commonly seen in Japan as something achieved upon death facilitated by specific funeral rites. How such views fundamentally differ in SG is explored here based on long-term fieldwork and participant observation, as well as interviews and review of its doctrine. The research suggests that SG members engage in a cross-generational endeavour for kōsen-rufu where personal actions—what could be described as the ‘political’ existence of this life—matters but in a non-dualistic way as this simultaneously becomes the sphere that ‘transcends’ that contemporary existence. How one views death is not only seen as something relevant at the end of life, nor only to those remaining, but is taken as a reality that becomes the impetus for giving deeper meaning to how one acts in daily life as part of a cross-generational movement.
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