Maybe I was too hasty in my response to the arrival of an SGI member. Let me tell you about how I met SGI. I was once in the service of my fine country, stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas- and what a toilet it was! I was going through some hard times there, and I had a fortunate meeting one day with a Buddhist minister. Of all the places I hadn't expected to meet a Buddhist, I met a minister from SGI. I attended his service many times, got to know him and his wife, and chanted their Gongyo (like mantra work) many times. He was polite, kind, and genuine, even if my studies of Buddhism since then have revealed that he wasn't the most well informed person regarding Buddhist philosophy. I needed kindness; I needed some focus and peace, and I found it through him. He was my first meeting with a Buddhist minister. I had only read about Buddhism before that, but not much.
Maybe he wasn't the most informed person on Buddhist philosophy beyond his own sect, but then, who is? Everyone has their own vision of Buddhism, their own unique understanding, and I suppose that's for the best. I never joined SGI, but I was friends with him and he taught me some things.
I called SGI a cult because I have (since those years) met other members- (not Tina Turner) who were just downright scary; I had been relieved to find a religion (Buddhism) that seemed to lack crazy evangelicals- but then, I met some. I was told by SGI members that other forms of Buddhism were wrong, decadent, and misguided, and that chanting the Gongyo and following their vision of Nichiren's writings was the only way to achieve enlightenment, and to save the world.
I then researched the upper echelons of SGI, aided by two friends of mine who lived in Japan (one was Japanese) and discovered that the leadership is fabulously wealthy, and more disturbing things- they are very political, and even maintain communes in Japan, guarded, gated apartment blocks where members live, and aren't really allowed much outside contact.
While the original SGI members I knew were good people, other members later revealed that their understanding of Buddhism was very materialistic- it seemed that people chanted their supreme Mantra, NAM YO HO REN GE KYO, to "get" things, like cell phones, cars, money, and relationships.
I know cults. I have to deal with people everyday who think I'm in a cult. I've studied cults and cult psychology in my Criminal Justice MA program. SGI members- attractive asian females- have approached me and male friends of mine, paying us huge compliments (saying we looked like movie stars) and trying to get us to come to meetings. They have used more than one "cult recruitment tactic" directly TO me and friends of mine. Trust me, while I don't think I'm ugly or anything, I ain't no movie star. And as much as the idea of a threesome with absurdly hot Japanese girls sounds like a great idea, in the spiritual life, we have to look a bit deeper sometimes.
I think that during World War Two, the earlier founders of SGI were against the War Effort- they were critical of the Japanese Government's war, and one was even jailed, and put through hell for his beliefs. I think he was right to oppose the war, but since him, the organization seems to have drifted to what I consider to be materialistic, cultish behavior, and everyone knows that they are very zealous in their missionary work- and harshly critical of other Buddhists.
Now, this has been my experience. There are websites online- good websites- which give information and testimonies both for and against SGI. For my part, I must say, I knew a very kind man and his wife that were SGI, and I came to meet some real fucking snots who were in it. I recently added a gentleman to my friends list who is a member- I hope that he will speak up here and help me to understand SGI better, by sharing his own experiences. Wikipedia has a good article on SGI, and even though it is a Wiki article, and its neutrality may be up for grabs, it has links to websites both supporting and criticizing SGI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soka_Gakkai_International
If I was too hasty, I apologize. Would anyone else here like to add their knowledge or experiences?