A Cult of Personality tantamount to idol worship is evidenced by the extreme obsession of SGI members for their ultimate hero and frequently personal savior (otherwise known as master/mentor), Daisaku Ikeda. Individual members will vehemently deny worshiping the ground he walks on, but close observation of the SGI membership behavior and attitude reveals how the organization consistently places a superhuman-like Ikeda high upon a pedestal of adornment, elevated far beyond all others. Since the embarrassingly mud-slinging split between SGI (lay org) and NST (temple Org) two decades ago over control of the vast membership and its potentially enormous monetary donations, the push by SGI to establish Ikeda as absolutely essential to each member's personal practice has only deepened and intensified, further pressing home the point regarding the claims that the unelected, unselected, self-appointed, and unaccountable Ikeda and his SGI empire do indeed qualify as a religious cult. (Note: not trying to claim here that something positive can never result from associating with this organization - just pointing out some grotesquely major flaws in the organization’s dogmatic doctrines that are contradictory with the essence and spirit of Buddhism as commonly understood and accepted).
Ikeda is presented to the members as a father figure, whose requisite guidance is absolutely indispensable to maintaining so-called “correct” faith. The CULTivation of a special magical relationship gushing with emotional devotion for Ikeda by each member is obligatory for advancement in practice and/or leadership position by SGI. This characteristic of the SGI alone should begin to set off warning bells with anyone interested in joining, as well as for those newer members not yet spell bound and ensnared by polished propaganda and constant pressure by leaders to "make a determination” to get "closer" to the perpetually unapproachable master/mentor.
Ikeda is regarded by the SGI as the equal of Gandhi and M.L. King, and in hushed tones, even as the Buddha of modern times. He is treated with super-star status by the membership (a feat devotedly enabled by generating mentor propaganda to the membership by his organization's leaders). His books and publications fill SGI bookstores to the brim, where members are constantly pressured by leaders or through sales campaigns to buy in-house publications and to purchase subscriptions that provide enormous profits. Members have been known to sacrifice their homes, personal finances, and life savings (and sometimes even spousal relationships) in order to provide cripplingly large and often unaffordable monetary donations during regular SGI contribution campaigns. The SGI even has a program to help arrange legal documentation so that the SGI (and consequently Ikeda) will automatically receive your estate instead of your family upon your death. Ikeda has become a multi-billionaire that has built his enormous wealth upon the backs of countless unpaid hard working, dedicated, well-intentioned, and purposefully mentally-conditioned membership, programmed to volunteer themselves into a sleep-deprived oblivion, while unknowingly advancing the unscrupulous objectives of Ikeda to obtain ever increasing amounts of wealth and power by their supposedly flawless mentor/master.
The SGI reinforces the artificial importance and magnitude of Ikeda in the indoctrinated minds (attending schools be they public or religious almost universally deliver indoctrinated minds) of members through many different means. One example: the indication that no other human alive could be as awesome as Ikeda at dispensing wise and magnificent guidance. Or in another example, the unwritten direction regarding the placement of his picture directly upon their altars, or hanging beside the altar on the wall. An even more bizarre example exists in the self-surrendering acceptance of Ikeda by each member as his or her life-long master (mentor). For many decades, the overly self-indulgent Ikeda has enjoyed the jet-setting idolized rock star lifestyle of the ultra-privileged elite while hidden behind closed gates, limos, army of bodyguards, and presidential hotel suites, He has long enjoyed his celebrity status while misusing adoring disciples to serve as hand servants and vassals for his personal prestige, while steadily building his corrupt empire, financial holdings, and counterfeit appearance of legitimacy. Ikeda’s thinly disguised level of total control and influence over the minds and hearts of SGI members is appalling to the average Buddhist or the outside observer and hard as rock evidence of indulgence in cult behavior.
Soka Gakkai and Ikeda also established a powerful political party with the intention of taking control of the Japanese government’s parliamentarian Diet. Ikeda and his radical followers have been convicted of criminal interference with elections. Soka Gakkai members under Ikeda's leadership are widely known in Japan for their extreme and militant behavior, and excessively radical forced conversion methods. Furthermore, Ikeda has used his massive wealth to purchase precious artworks and to obtain a garish number of university degrees, and has used internally publicized “dialogues” with highly recognized and influential individuals in an obtuse attempt to establish legitimacy and credibility both within and beyond his wealthy and powerful organization.
Ikeda's carefully concealed ego and lust for power underlie his crafted meteoric rise to the top of the SGI organizational pyramid, where he commands millions (mostly in Japan) of deluded and obsessed minions as they lovingly hang upon his every word (leaders having sworn to "give their lives" for the continual expansion of the SGI organization, otherwise known as the twisted and tormented goal of "World Peace" - where Ikeda and his SGI would rule the world through their religious organization with absolute authority and power over all others.) However, none of these aspects would be immediately apparent to anyone naively attending a discussion (conversion) meeting or being love-bombed by happily zealous Ikeda-bots into joining the SGI (because making a conversion is considered to be a massive karmic benefit for… the gain-motivated member that receives credit for the conversion). How twisted is a top-down organization that encourages over-indulgence and greed by example, including guidance to chant for anything one may desire - with little or no concern of bad karma created by unwise choices.
As death approaches for the elderly Ikeda (if not already here - how would anyone know for sure?), Ikeda’s lackluster son is being groomed to take over the leadership of the SGI in a brash move that would establish an ongoing Ikeda family dynasty of SGI presidents. The imagined heroic martyrdom of the father will be forever established while the adoration of all SGI members would be magically transferred to his undistinguished and not so illustrious son, and would introduce a tradition similar to the current family dictatorship ruling North Korea.
Any one of the preceding statements regarding Ikeda/SGI should warrant serious caution and reflection, but taken together, demand extreme prudence and further independent research into the SGI and its cult behavior as exhibited by Ikeda, his SGI empire, and its self-perpetuating obsession with establishing Ikeda as the supreme mentor (master) of all Buddhists. Regarding one’s former faith, there is NO tolerance, only lip-service to tolerance - if you've been with a different sect or religion, your old religious or meditative practices are regarded as worthless (and eventually you will be “encouraged” to get rid of any connections to your former beliefs.) Contrary to rhetoric, relationships with perplexed friends and family may also need to be sacrificed in the wake of following unending guidance (control) in pursuit of becoming a perfect SGI member or leader and devotee of Ikeda.
Let this be a clarion call to naïve marks and unsusecting potential victims tempted to listen and accept at face value the outlandish propaganda spewed out by the SGI that serves to establish their leader as the supreme practitioner of all Buddhism and every SGI members' ultimate mentor (master). Advancing in one’s Buddhist practice cannot be so easily accomplished by unquestioningly following the guidance of a Jesus-perfect mystical leader (he magically knows when your chanting is sincere or your ichinen is pure) or a self-praising organization that declares "we have the ONLY way to happiness for EVERYONE” (because you know - all others will fall into hell and have their heads broken into seven pieces unless they practice exactly as the SGI dictates). The SGI misses the Buddhist mark completely with the adoration, veneration, and deification of Ikeda. What has always been essential in Buddhism is to doubt everything, and to then discover and to follow one's own true path – precisely the opposite of blind acceptance of a slickly packaged religious faith that dangles the proverbial carrot before hungry eyes.
Ikeda is no Buddha. Not by any means. Ikeda's carefully concealed lifelong quest for power and wealth are not even remotely consistent with the aspirations or objectives of a Buddha. Yet his extremely exaggerated importance and status as extolled by the SGI's dogmatic doctrines would have Ikeda's magnitude surpassing even that of the historical Buddha. The tenant regarding the extreme importance of “Ikeda as my master in life” has been inescapably encoded into the veiled (and sometimes not so veiled) doctrines of the SGI. Furthermore, after a lifetime of purportedly perfect SGI practice, Ikeda has not attained Enlightenment. What then does that signify for the SGI members under his ultimate and supposedly infallible leadership and guidance toward the promise of attaining Buddhahood without fail in this lifetime?
Since the (sales) pressure to join in but never leave can be tremendous yet subtle, it would be prudent for those interested in joining to first take a very close look at what is hidden under the SGI sheets before making any hasty decisions to get in bed together – for all this unbridled Ikeda-ism presents an extreme case of “buyer beware”!