Non-Fiction Books:

A Time to Chant

The Soka Gakkai Buddhists in Britain



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A Time to Chant by Bryan Wilson
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Fifty years ago Soka Gakkai was an organization of a few hundred people, all of them in Japan. Today it is one of the world's most rapidly expanding religious movements with members in virtually every country in Europe, the Americas, and Australasia, in most of Asia, and in several parts of Africa. It is also increasingly well publicized, sponsoring and promoting a variety of cultural and educational causes and establishing a high profile for itself in world affairs. All of this has created a movement which is a significant social phenomenon; yet to date Soka Gakkai has received little attention from Western academics. Bryan Wilson and Karel Dobbelaere have undertaken a thorough survey of the UK membership to try to trace the source of the movement's attraction and analyse its potential. In addition to a questionnaire survey they carried out some thirty interviews with members, who were encouraged to tell their story in their own way. These interviews and the questionnaire responses are liberally quoted throughout the book and add illuminating detail to its analysis. The decline in belief in an anthropomorphic deity; the sense that traditional religious institutions have become hollow; the emphasis on the private nature of belief and on personal autonomy are all characteristic features of contemporary western values. The authors suggest that Soka Gakkai has found a ready resonance with these changing currents of thought in contemporary society and conclude that Soka Gakkai's appeal to young people in particular makes it a faith whose time may have come.

Author Biography

Bryan Wilson, the world's leading sociologist of religion, has held visiting Professorships or Fellowships at the universities of Louvain, Toronto, Melbourne, Queensland, and California (Santa Barbara). He was presented with an honorary doctorate by Soka University, Japan in 1985 and was a Fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. In the UK, he studied at Leicester and the London School of Economics (where he gained his Ph.D.) and taught at the University of Leeds (1955-62). He has lived and taught in Oxford since 1962. Karel Dobbelaere lives and works in Belgium, but he was a visiting fellow at All Souls College, Oxford in 1977 and 1990-1 and at the London School of Economics in 1987. He has held visiting posts around the world: in the US, at Union Graduate School, Kent State University, Marquette, Akron, Minnesota, and Loyola; in Sweden, at Lund and Uppsala; in Japan, at the Nanzan Institute for Religion and Culture, Tokyo, Sophia, and Soka; in The Netherlands, (Tilburg); in Italy (Padova); Germany (Bielefeld); and in Zaire.
Release date NZ
January 20th, 1994
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Clarendon Press
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