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Back to listMar 30, 2005

Dr. Karel Dobbelaere, Former International Society for the Sociology of Religions President, Speaks on "Soka Gakkai in a Globalized World"

Dr. Dobbelaere speaks on Soka Gakkai's place in a globalized world

On March 29, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy (IOP) hosted a special lecture by Dr. Karel Dobbelaere, former president of the International Society for the Sociology of Religions, at the Nihon Seine Kaikan in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. In a lecture titled "Soka Gakkai in a Globalized World," Dr. Dobbelaere spoke about the global character of the SGI, why SGI spread throughout the Western World and the relationship between religion and society, focusing on the social activism of religious organizations. Quoting various scholars' definitions of globalization, he explained that globalization allows people the world over to communicate without barriers of time and space, such as via the Internet. Swiftness of information has brought about a global dependency--"what happens in one part of the world has repercussions all over the world."

Globalization has also stimulated "regional particularism." Dr. Dobbelaere said that the SGI, too, has undergone growing pains arising from particularism--stemming from differences in culture and customs--as it expanded from Japan to countries throughout the world. His advice is to realize "glocalization," combining global thinking with a local expression.

President Akiya (left) greets Dr. Dobbelaere and his wife, Dr. Voyé

Pointing to the decline of Christian beliefs, such as the idea of a personal God, Dr. Dobbelaere concluded that the SGI, with its beliefs and ethics, fills this vacuum and "offers an esoteric means to achieve control over one's life, which attracts people in need of help." He believes the principle of causality, which is at the heart of the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism and emphasizes human responsibility and empowerment, is ideally suited to contemporary society. Dr. Dobbelaere also expressed his belief that the SGI's philosophy of "human revolution," an inner-directed positive reformation, when rooted among ordinary people who practice Nichiren Buddhism, "would promote peace and sustainable development." He concluded that "Soka Gakkai, as a religion, is an important driving force to promote peace and sustainable development."

Prior to the lecture, Dr. Dobbelaere and his wife, Dr. Liliane Voyé also an emeritus professor at the Catholic University of Louvain, met with Soka Gakkai President Einosuke Akiya at the Soka Gakkai headquarters in Shinanomachi, Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo. The couple also visited the Min-On Culture Center, down the street from the headquarters.

[Karel Dobbelaere is emeritus professor of the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) and the University of Antwerp (Belgium), where he taught sociology, sociology of religion and sociological research. He is Doctor Honoris Causa of Soka University (Japan) and is an elected member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and Fine Arts (Section of Human Sciences) and the Academia Europaea (Section of Human Sciences). He served as visiting fellow and professor at various institutions spanning the UK, Japan, France and the USA. He is an elected fellow of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion (USA). He is a former president of the International Society for Sociology of Religion (1983-1991) and its actual Secretary General (2001-2004). He was twice dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Catholic University of Louvain (1971-75 and 1990-1993). He has authored more than 200 publications, including 20 books, in Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Polish. His main fields of interest are: religious and church involvement, pillarization, new religious and sectarian movements, and secularization.]