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Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: Chanter16 ()
Date: July 24, 2010 07:23PM

Moderator note:

I attempted to merge a new post on a new thread created by this message board member with this thread.

Unfortunately the post was placed at the top of this thread instead of the end where it belonged.

I have deleted the post and it was necessary to change the title of the thread back to the original.

Sorry.

Next time someone attempts to start a new SGI thread I will close the new thread and post a link to this one.

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Former SGI members
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: July 02, 2008 10:58PM

Hi, just wondering how many former SGI members are active on Rick Ross? My wife was a member for years in NYC and very active in YWD (Young Women's Division) and finally "got away" from them. It was easier than she expected it to be and the ""friendly phone calls" from members trying to re-establish contact eventually dwindled and died out. The people I met were'nt bad folks, but they did have some odd reasons for practicing this religion. It reminded me of some of the odd evangelicals who preach prosperity Christianity.

I have seen members "testify" on stage at big meetings that they wanted something (more money, a new car, etc.) and they chanted and chanted for these material items and lo and behold, in a few years they saved enough to buy a new car! Thank you, SGI!

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: July 03, 2008 05:23AM

I was a Soka Gakkai member for -- I hate to say it -- eighteen years. At the time I joined, my life was going pretty badly. My fiance had left me and I had also just been fired. So, needless to say, I was miserable and didn't know what to do next. My best friend, who was also having problems with men, work and her family, had just joined SGI, and encouraged me to go to meetings with her. The members seemed so kind, positive and enthusiastic. They talked a lot about improving their lives and helping others. They encouraged me, telling me that if I chanted and participated in the organization's activities, I could change my bad karma and become happy too.

I felt that I had nothing left to lose; could life be any worse? So, I joined and threw myself into activities, even those that I thought were somewhat hokey. I planned meetings, organized study groups, babysat for prospective members so that they could go to meetings, scrubbed toilets at the center where we held our meetings, you name it. At the time, I was happy to do it. I liked the members, enjoyed many of the activities, and felt that I was contributing to "kosen-rufu." (Besides, suddenly having no boyfriend and no job, I had a lot of free time.) We were all supposed to work for kosen-rufu, a time when we would have world peace because a large percentage of the population were practicing this Buddhism.

I was bothered by the pressure to do "shakabuku," or converting everyone to our sect of Buddhism. Back in the late eighties, we were expected to go up to complete strangers and invite them to members' houses for Buddhist meetings. This to me seemed dangerous as well as presumptuous....I had friends and family who were happy practicing other religions. Who was I to say that they'd be better off practicing this Buddhism? There was just such intense pressure to make new converts -- if our numbers weren't high enough, our senior leaders became angry with us. Yes, we had quotas.

In the late eighties, the organization also had an enormous number of activities. We were expected to participate in five or six meetings and activities a week, and accused of having weak faith if we didn't. Initially, I was happy to do this -- then I started going back to school and working. When I reduced the number of activities I was doing, my leaders lectured me on my "bad attitude" and "lack of faith." They told me that the organization was there for me when I had needed it -- and now it was time for me to give back. Why was I so selfish that I didn't want to help others as I'd been helped? I owed my happiness and success to the Soka Gakkai. If I stopped participating in the organization, I would lose all of the good fortune that I'd created for myself. I owed SGI a "debt of gratitude!" And apparently, this debt has such a high interest rate that you will never pay it off, no matter how hard you work.

Yes, as Sparky says, we were told that we could get, or achieve anything if we chanted enough -- and worked for the SGI enough. At every meeting, members were asked to "give an experience" -- if you were not giving experiences often enough, leaders would tell you that you weren't practicing hard enough! An experience is a mini-story. Someone has a problem -- job, family, relationship, health, it could be anything. They try to solve it, and they can't. They chant about it. Usually, the problem stays the same, or gets worse. They then go to a leader for "guidance." The leader then tells them to chant more and work harder for the organization. The person does, and finally solves their problem -- and they're so grateful to SGI and vow to work ever harder for the organization.

Members learn to reframe their experiences. If you get a good job, a new car, good grades, whatever, it's because of your chanting and participating in SGI activities -- not that YOU studied, saved money, or spent a lot of time job-hunting. Likewise, you are told if you leave the organization -- or criticize it, bad things will happen to you.

For many years, the Soka Gakkai was part of Nichiren Shoshu, a Japanese Buddhist sect. The Soka Gakkai is an organization of lay members. In the early 1990's, the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu split -- very bitterly. The leaders had told us for years to support the Nichiren Shoshu priests -- suddenly we were being told that the priests were corrupt and evil. And apparently the senior Soka Gakkai leaders had known this for years! It didn't add up.

Our once-positive meetings became filled with angry, self-righteous ranting about how evil the priests were. If you did not hate the Nichiren Shoshu priests, and the lay members who stayed with them, you apparently are not a good Buddhist. I asked once, "If we feel that the priests are practicing this Buddhism incorrectly -- can't we just say that -- and then just focus on practicing well ourselves?" Well, apparently, that was a bad attitude too. The High Priest, Nikken Abe, was to come to New York City to visit the temple there. We were told that we had to chant for his visit to be a failure. Apparently, we didn't chant hard enough as his plane did not crash enroute to New York. A California temple was having a potluck for the members. Some California Soka Gakkai members decided to chant for the potluck to fail. What in the world did they expect to happen? That everyone would bring jello--canned fruit molds? I didn't become a Buddhist to chant for the failure of someone's luncheon.

When I tried to discuss my questions and concerns with my leaders, I got no answers. They just got angry with me for questioning. One of our senior leaders, a Japanese man, yelled at me and said, "Americans ask too many questions!" And yet at the same time, the SGI talks about how "democratic" the organization is and how they believe in "dialogue." Yes, just don't disagree with any leaders or any organizational policies and you can have a great dialogue!

At this time, the audulation of the SGI president, Daisaku Ikeda, seemed to increase. We were being told that we had to take him as our mentor -- a man that most of us have never even met. Members speak of loving him and wanting to 'fulfill his expectations," to 'be good disciples.' We were told that "You must accept President Ikeda as your mentor. Without a personal connection to him, you will not reach enlightenment and you will fall into the hell of incessant suffering."

Whoa. The Buddha said, "Follow the law and not the person." The SGI is now saying the polar opposite of that...follow the person and not the law. That's not Buddhism. The Soka Gakkai is no longer practicing Buddhism. They are practicing Ikedaism. Members who question this are told that they are "disrupting the unity of the organization," as well as sinning and bringing bad karma upon themselves. At this point, I knew that I could not stay in the organization any longer. Nor have I been able to remain friends with any of the members. Some act as if they are afraid of me. When I run into them by chance, they seem surprised that I'm healthy, still employed, and enjoying my life.

I feel that I should also mention the New Komeito Party, as some of the American members I met didn't know about it. I learned of it from Japanese friends who are not SGI members. The Soka Gakkai has its own political party in Japan -- the New Komeito. The Japanese Soka Gakkai members are pressured to both vote for, and spend much time campaigning for New Komeito candidates at election time. In the past I had donated money to the SGI -- and I wonder now if it could have gone to the New Komeito. My leader said no, but nobody really knows. The SGI refuses to let members know anything about its financial affairs. A group of American members, called the IRG, or Internal Reform Group, petitioned the leadership of the SGI for more financial accountability and for general members to have more say in organizational policy. For their efforts, they were branded troublemakers and kicked out.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: July 03, 2008 06:37AM

I was never in SGI, but I know many who were.
Some of them became quite pushy in recruiting, over and over.

One girl I knew was chanting for rich boyfriends, cars, etc.
I talked to one girl about it, and AGI ain't Buddhism, I agree.

Another young woman I knew in SGI got sick, with cancer. She had hundreds chanting for her, she was really a great person, not pushy about SGI or anything.
Her cancer got worse, and she died leaving a new child.
Chanting does not cure cancer, there is no evidence it has any effect at all.

This chanting for products, cars, more sex, money, is not Buddhism, I agree with that. Its appealing to greed. Its the opposite of classical Buddhism.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: July 03, 2008 07:35PM

Anticult, it doesn't really bother me that people chant for "stuff." I think it's human nature. I have a good Catholic friend who prays to St. Anthony for lost items and parking spaces. She still is a very sincere and compassionate Christian. What bothers me more about SGI is the worship of Daisaku Ikeda, the constant demands on your time, the nastiness toward other Buddhist sects, and that members cannot express opinions or ask questions that differ from the 'party line.'

It is a problem that SGI claims that chanting and working for the organization keeps you safe and healthy. And, that by extension, disagreeing with, or leaving the organization will cause bad things to happen to you.

One guy that I know was told this by leaders. He pointed out that one of our national leaders from Georgia died of cancer, a leader from New York lost his teenage son (who was also active in the organization) to an accident, a leader from California was on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11 -- and a leader from New Jersey also lost her husband on 9/11; he worked in one of the World Trade Center towers. These people were all extremely devoted to SGI, spending many hours in organizational activities, chanting with others, and trying to convert others. If not practicing and supporting SGI brings bad karma upon you -- and supporting SGI and constant chanting brings good karma -- why weren't these people protected?

The leader's response? "Well, you cannot know what someone else's karma is."

"Exactly my point," said the guy.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: July 06, 2008 06:42AM

tsukimoto, great points. You are right, president Ikeda is a "living god" to the followers of SGI. My wife was hoping that Ikeda would marry us in NYC (he was in the country and there were rumors that he might show), but to no avail...David Kasahara(sp?) whom you wrote about in a prior post (Leader in NYC who lost his son in an accident [FYI, it was a in-line skating accident...he was hit by a car and killed near central park...even wearing all the protective gear at least 15 years ago]) was the one who "married" us. He had no J.P. credentials and we were married the day before by a J.P. My wife, who at that time was a devoted follower was horrified at me calling Mister Kasahara "Dave". Gee, "Dave" didn't seem to mind, but looking at the horrified followers of SGI who were in attendence, you would have thought I was an early christian calling Saint Paul "Pauly Walnuts".

Luckily for me, she is still married to me.

Here, for your pleasure, is a link to a rape accusation against president Ikeda. If you haven't seen this beofre, please enjoy:

[www.freedomofmind.com]

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: July 07, 2008 04:35AM

Sparky, our mutual friend doesn't mind being called "Dave." He does, however, get irritable when you call him "Snookums." Dave was the leader who told me that Americans ask too many questions. We were discussing the SGI's party line about the Soka Gakkai/Nichiren Shoshu priesthood split. I had not even called him; he called me. One of my local leaders had asked him to (without telling me that she was doing this) because she was tired of me asking her questions. Ah, so much for dialogue.

I had seen that account of the rape. President Ikeda and senior SGI leaders have been accused of many things: election fraud, money laundering, wire-tapping. It's alleged that Ikeda, in his younger days, beat up an elderly Nichiren Shoshu priest. The Soka Gakkai, for their part, accuse Nikken Abe, the late high priest, of having had an argument with a Seattle prostitute over payment for services rendered when he was on an official visit to the U.S. The Nichiren Shoshu priests came back with an accusation that the Japanese woman, a Soka Gakkai member who reported this, is a former prostitute herself. It just goes on and on, and what do you believe?

What aggravates me is that the Soka Gakkai for years sponsored an exhibit, "Gandhi, King and Ikeda." (For all I know, maybe it still is going on.) It compares Daisaku Ikeda to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. That's just ridiculous. Ikeda has done nothing comparable to either man, even if all of the allegations against him are false.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Rangdrol ()
Date: December 02, 2008 06:17AM

Hello, Everyone

I wanted to share that yes, I was a member, for 7 years. I finally left SGI and Nichiren Shoshu in 1986. I was a member in both Boston, and in Montreal, and Quebec city, Canada, where I lived for two years.

I will make it really short: any spiritual practice that encourages numbers (quantity) over quality, is mis-guided. NSA and NSC had lots of little training regimens for their "leaders". After seven years of their ridiculous claims and practices i finally had the gumption to leave.

The did other things which are really important signs that they are cultish. First was the name calling:

If you ever questioned the practice or your leaders, they would dub you as being "negative" or "heavy". That in itself should have immediately told me that there was something wrong. At the time I had a serious hip problem and had given up my ballet scholarship and I was on welfare, in pain 24 hours a day.

"Hi, have you ever heard of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo?" some guy asked me one day. I should have kept walking. The fact was that I was an atheist and had been raised in another cult—the Catholic Church—but I always had an interest in Buddhism, and I trusted that these people were telling the truth.

At some level, they were. I don't think the people in the USA are aware that what they are doing is wrong, both ethically and morally. But the Japanese had a scheme and it was perfect for lots of Americans and westerners.

NSA promised miraculous results: cars, money, lovers, jobs, art gigs, recording contracts: it is no small wonder that several prominent musicians, authors, artists, dancers, painters, etc., are members throughout the world.

The other way they controlled people was through peer pressure. The best way to do that is to get young people, freshly out of college, who are open to new ideas, who are concerned about the planet, and who want to improve their lives. SGI was run like a media campaign. They sent their members out at all hours of the night to local universities like Boston University, and Harvard, and MIT.

Then they would take those kids, and separate them. Segregating and keeping people apart is a cultish behaviour, it helps those in power maintain order, and control. They simply put the boys with the boys, and the girls with the girls. Then they organized the boys in two ways, artisitic: brass band; physical: gymnastics. Then they sent the boys out to do thier activities. On the outside,it appeared a positive thing. But in groups, young men are subjected to the various psychologies of group and peer pressure, so we were all competing against one another. The girls were doing their thing, dressed in exotic lavender skirts and shirts—talk about sexism!

The other thing they used was forcing you to do things by shaming you. Words and phrases, and dialogue like, Oh, come on, you can do it. Think positive." All this kind of new age mumbo-jumbo. It took me seven long years but eventually I left.

They really used to like to get the guys to go out and do stuff together in groups too, that seemed to reinforce the group behaviour—like wolves I assume—and when they did that, it also meant that there were now four, five, or six people standing in front of you, "encouraging" you (that's the word that they like to use) to do things you DID NOT want to do!

The final straw was when they tried to get me to buy the monthly magazines. They were garbage. There was nothing about Buddhism in those books! I resisted, but because i was in my early twenties, and because I didn't really know what Buddhism was, I believed them. That was my mistake.

I could tell you about the machinations both in plain sight and behind the scenes, but it's not necessary. The fact is that NSA and SGI are the only Buddhist organization that are based on the teachings of a man whose mental health was seriously questionable!

Nichiren Daishonin believed that Japane was experiencing the natural calamaties like earthquakes and other disasters because the gods were unhappy with what the Japanese were practicing! He believed in end-time theology! Does that sound familiar? The sad fact is that he was imprisoned and banished to an island because he went around telling all other Buddhists that what they were doing was wrong! This is the only so called Buddhist group that does this! The fact is that this is totally against Buddhist practices!

SGI and NSA don't talk about vows in Buddhism. They never take vows to not take life, or take the other lay vows, and most Buddhists take those vows. And I am not talking about monastic vows here, I mean just the regular non-monks/nuns vows.

In addition, they have no idea what enlightenment is, and they never discuss very important issues which are at the heart of the Buddha's teachings, which include enlightenment, emptiness, non-duality, and they would be hard-pressed to explain any one of those topics. Worse any Buddhist doesn't believe in killing animals, yet they regularly boil lobster, eat mussels, and go fishing. Now there is no vow that says you can't eat meat if you are a Buddhist, but there are commitments not to kill animals.

One day, I asked a member what she thought enlightenment was. Her answer was, "Well, if I am having a bad day, and I don't give the person the finger, that's sort of like enlightenment," She was, unfortunately, being honest. She had no clue, and she has been practicing SGI for over 25 years!

My experience with NSA and NSC was typical. I was not mentally ill, I did not suffer any hospitalization, etc. but anyone who questioned the teachings or their leaders were severely criticized and treated poorly. After I left, I did not receive one email or phone call from any of the people I had known during my 7 years of practice...

The horror stories re SGI and international Nichiren Shoshu problems started a long time before the head church excommunicated the SGI. There are plenty of documents on this site about dealings with the Department of Justice issues in the USA, and conspiracy theories, murder and rape attempts in Japan, problems in centers in Africa, etc. Then there is the story of the University in California, and the problems they had there, the SGI and its political connections not just in Japan but also in the USA (they did the touring of the Liberty Bell, years ago).

The dangerous thing about SGI is that they are able to somehow brainwash people. I know very few people who are able to completely separate themselves from the organization. I later went on to practice Tibetan Buddhism and I am very happy. I have travelled to India and other asian countries and I have a healthy practice. I keep on my guard. There are money-makers everywhere, even in Tibetan Buddhist circles. I have learned about Buddhism and it is nothing that I read in the glossy media magazines of the Seikyo Times or something Tribune.

When I was in India two years ago, i saw posters of Daisaku Ikeda. My friend, a recovering SGI Japanese member and I looked at each other—freaky! It was the language on the poster that was really troubling. To imagine that guy in his silk suits, setting up a roost in India...it was really bizarre.

Sometimes I feel like I wasted 7 years of my life, because I would have been able to practice real Buddhism, which is what I wanted to do. But it did make me stronger—and more cautious of every group and teacher I come across. I've met some really unhealthy people in some Buddhist groups, but I was able to walk away form them and that group.

Now, if I see someone who seems to have control or personality issues, then I take a step back and ask myself, Hey, what is going on here?

There are charlatans everywhere. Unhealthy people who want to use you, make money from you, rule over you. SGI has power, and money, and influence. Unfortunately, none of those are the teachings of the Buddha.

If you are an ex member, I believe that you had a good motivation, and that this is inevitably what saved you. Don't blame yourself if you stayed in longer than you wished you had, you were brainwashed, you really were. All that pressure, the sales tactics, those are all well devised tactics—much like Amway uses to sell products. You wanted knowledge but instead you were offered a pyramid scheme in a cardboard altar. You should be proud of yourself, because you were able to extricate yourself, and now you have your freedom. Many of the others have not been so lucky.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: December 02, 2008 08:48PM

Rangdrol, congratulations on escaping SGI on your own. My wife had her eyes opened once we left Manhattan for a neighboring suburb in another state. The people weren't hip celebrities, but insane hangers on to New-Age thought. Also the constant need to buy incense from the SGI stores and all the drivvel that Ikeda wrote...(for a LOT of $$$, btw), not to mention the World Tribune magazine "good buddhists" were required to subscribe to was enough.

Leaning on my innate skeptism on many things, she escaped and never looked back. Eventually all the calls from members stopped.

You are a strong willed person. Sorry to hear of your ballet injury.

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SGI: Card Board Altars
Posted by: Rangdrol ()
Date: December 03, 2008 02:31AM

Hi Sparky,

Thanks for your comments. I wonder if your wife practiced for a long time? And how did she resolve issues of her faith? It is sad that many people who leave an organization like SGI then assume that all Buddhist philosophies are the same. That is very sad.

I stopped ballet in 1984 because I had hip disease. I am not better today, because I also now have degenerative disk disease, but I am doing the best I can. I mentioned ballet in my post because at the time I was trying to show that I was vulnerable—because I had been sick for a year—and trusting, and that the issues in my life had left me more vulnerable to a group like them. While I do hold them responsible for what happened, I too am responsible, even more so than them. Most of the members, out in the street, they are just brainwashed too, this is a huge organization, and they don't say, "Okay, we are going out today and brainwash more kids at Harvard." it is much more subtle than that...I can honestly say that all the people in our Boston center (1,000?) were ALL brainwashed. Including the leaders, I really believe that.

I left the org in 1986, I saw the members and how cultish they were and how closed-minded they were. In 2002 I took vows in a Tibetan monastery in India. When a year later I sent an old NSC member in Canada an email telling him about my vows, he sent me the most hateful, scathing email Ive ever gotten from anyone. And this guy was my very good friend for many years. I was shocked, and hurt. He accused me of being a bum for asking people to take care of me and went on and on.

It took me a few weeks, but I realized that this wasn't my friend. My friend was a brilliant man who loved literature, was kind, had a great job as a senior editor in a great company of higher learning, and that just wasnt my friend.
He had been brainwashed and was still an NSC member. SGI taught members that the Japanese clerics were bad, manipulative men who thought that they were above everyone else. I doubt that this is true, because in all Buddhist schools, were are taught to have respect for monks, nuns, priests—not because they are better than anyone else, but because they have taken vows to help people, and to act as representatives of the Buddha's message of enlightenment.

I guess I was brainwashed too. I write my personal experience because I carried it in me for 20 years.

I still have to be careful, maybe I am too careful. I am a guy with some psychic abilities and I have had them for years but I denied my abilities. Today I am learning about self-healing, and I continue to practice Tibetan Buddhism, but I always question my friends, my teachers. In the "new-age" world, there are many charlatans, we do have to be careful. That said, I think it is healthy to keep an open mind, and not lump everyone who might have an intuitive skill that someone doesn't have as a nut, or charlatan. For me, participating in the world means finding a balance between openness and caution. Completely not trusting anyone or any group, or teacher, etc, is just as harmful as being totally open to everyone. Be well! :)

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