Following the Leader

Time Magazine/November 20, 1995
By Irene M. Kunii

Emiko Tezuka, 40, rises at dawn, dresses and goes directly to the Buddhist altar in the living room of her large, Western-style house in Tokyo. She carefully dusts the Gohonzon and offers dishes of water and rice as a sign of her devotion. Then the Soka Gakkai believer kneels before the altar, clasps her hands together around prayer beads, and for the next 25 minutes recites scriptures and chants over and over again: Nam myoho renge kyo (I take my refuge in the Lotus Sutra). "I feel so good afterward," she says, "refreshed and ready for the day." Three hours later, after sending her banker husband to work and her eight-year-old daughter to school, she returns to the altar for a 45-minute session.

Such zeal is shared by millions of Soka Gakkai members around the country, many of them housewives like the warm and outgoing Tezuka. They believe that by reciting the chant, or daimoku, they will improve their lot as well as the world around them. "I've found compassion and fulfillment," says Tezuka. A modicum of prosperity too. "We're taught to be very industrious," she says, "so of course, our economic situation is going to improve." Some of the fruits of that improvement are directed into the coffers of Soka Gakkai, which reportedly collects $2 billion or more during its annual fund drive. Tezuka declines to say how much she and her husband Yoshio, 40, a second-generation Soka Gakkai member, donate. "It's up to every individual to decide how much to give," she explains. "But Soka Gakkai has many facilities to maintain and many expenses to meet."

For years, the Soka Gakkai family has attracted a following among the displaced, especially people who have moved from rural to urban areas in search of jobs and success. Tezuka was one of these, an 18-year-old from Yamagata in northern Japan who arrived in Tokyo to attend college. "I was lost and empty," she recalls, "and I needed a philosophy." She found it a year later when a friend introduced her to Soka Gakkai. Tezuka was not enthusiastic at first, thinking, "I'll drop out if I don't like it." But she found an extended family in the sect and began to enjoy the chanting. She fell in love with her husband in 1982 at a local Soka Gakkai gathering and now holds a responsible position as a kanbu (official) of her local Soka Gakkai Housewives' Association.

Tezuka credits her happiness and success to Daisaku Ikeda, the sect's leader. He is a "wonderful and brilliant" master, she says. After all, she adds, "we've been told that intellectuals around the world are able to appreciate our sensei (teacher) more than we can." For Tezuka, that is reason enough to believe in Ikeda.

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