Have you noticed the reports of celebrities who are taking up Buddhism? Have you noticed that several of them are in some way affiliated with Soka Gakkai? (There are exceptions - Richard Gere is more interested in Tibetan Buddhism.) Have you noticed that the ones that do tend to be in the music industry? If you haven't, it may be because you are not interested in celebrity or you are not interested in Buddhism, but it has caught my attention. Herbie Hancock has been practicing Buddhism with the Soka Gakkai for many years, as has Tina Turner, who even demonstrated what may be a portion of the Gongyo recitation from the Lotus Sutra on Larry King's show a few years ago. I am not a big celebrity fan, but when I hear about some star taking up Buddhism, it peaks my interest. More recently the list has included Orlando Bloom, Courtney Love, and now, Amy Winehouse.
Then again, a lot of Hollywood types have converted to Scientology.
Scientology is controversial in part because it was founded on the writings of a science fiction writer, and critics have suggested its claims and methods are, to be charitable, very questionable. The stereotype of Hollywood celebrities as shallow and vain individuals who want to appear to have depth of intellect and social conscience, which is unflattering to say the least, has cast its shadow over the popularity of Scientology among such a crowd. Warranted or not, this has helped fuel the lampooning of the movement. Similarly, critics of Soka Gakkai have accused it of becoming a cult of personality centered around its current President, Daisaku Ikeda. The celebrity appeal of the Soka Gakkai, though smaller than that of Scientology, can in a perverse way cast a similarly disparaging cynical glow over that organization.
Is that fair? No.
Whatever faults Soka Gakkai may have, the fact that people with celebrity have been introduced to their practice isn't relevant. But it certainly makes for an easy target. Perhaps the next question should be - when will Soka Gakkai be featured on South Park?