Oh, I’m sorry; that’s the Dalai Lama. It’s just that the Washington Post has had at least one item (often two or more) about his visit to the DC area for at least the past week. No need to be snarky or whiny here; he is doubtless a well-spoken exponent of peace and understanding. He is revered both as a political leader (most Americans love championing the underdog; as the exiled leader of the theocratic Tibet he qualifies) and as a charismatically hipper version of the familiar Buddhist monks. So what is it then, that I am trying to say here? That news reports might mislead the uninitiated or uninformed into thinking that the Dalai Lama’s significance in the world of Buddhism is greater than it is or that Tibetan Buddhism is a dominant form of Buddhism.
The fact is that Daisaku Ikeda, leader of the Nichiren-Buddhist international lay organization, the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), has received over 200 honorary degrees from prestigious universities throughout the world. The SGI has members in more than 190 countries and is the largest Buddhist organization in both Japan and the United States. Its membership is exceedingly diverse (not just intellectuals, Hollywood celebrities, New Age types, etc.) racially, ethnically, educationally, economically, and otherwise. This certainly cannot be said of most Western religions and not even of other Eastern religions, including Tibetan Buddhism. Why is this so? It is because the practice of Nichiren Buddhism can be easily learned by anyone, creates value for everyone and provides a plausible hope of peace and happiness for the entire world. Don’t take my word for it; look at the 20-minute video on the SGI website.