Encountering the Dharma
The University of California Press
By Richard Seager
March 1, 2006
From the publisher's Web site: In Encountering the Dharma, Richard Seager, an American professor of religion trying to come to terms with the death of his wife, travels to Japan in search of the spirit of the Soka Gakkai. This book tells of his journey toward understanding in a compelling narrative woven out of his observations, reflections, and interviews, including several rare one-on-one meetings with Soka Gakkai president Daisaku Ikeda. Along the way, Seager also explores broad-ranging controversies arising from the Soka Gakkai's efforts to rebuild post-war Japan, its struggles with an ancient priesthood, and its motives for propagating Buddhism around the world. One turning point in his understanding comes as Ikeda and the Soka Gakkai strike an authentically Buddhist response to the events of September 11, 2001.
Reviews"Seager does a superb job of giving outsiders an inside look at Soka Gakkai Buddhism as it is understood and experienced by practitioners themselves. This is an important contribution to the field, and stands out for its intriguing thoughts about the way the movement straddles boundaries of East-West, sameness-difference, and past-future."
--David Machacek, author of Soka Gakkai in America: Accommodation and Conversion
"This book paints vivid portraits of the major players of Soka Gakkai. Seager is forthright about the checkered political path Soka Gakkai has taken in Japan, while providing insight into why the rough spots occur. The story is clear and interesting, full of intimate details, and the writing flows wonderfully well."
--Phillip Hammond, D. Mackenzie Brown Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara
"Encountering the Dharma is a marvelous book that bristles with fresh observations about Japanness and Americanness, the local and the global, spirituality and secularity. Exhaustively researched and elegantly written, this is the definitive work on the globalization of Soka Gakkai, but it is also a powerful new model for truly humane scholarship--a model in which both scholar and subjects are fully present, and the author's interpretations, rather than springing fully formed from some supposedly universal mind, emerge out of particular, even peculiar, circumstances and evolve in real time."
--Stephen Prothero, author of American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon