My primary goal is what to do with this gohonzon. I called the temple and they said that a local member would call me and arrange for pickup. I thought for sure I would be swamped with calls. So far... nothing. I am not of the mindset to drive out to Hollywood to return it.
Sporatica, that gohonzon is YOURS. You have the legal right to leave the SGI; its rules and regs have no hold over you once you have resigned your membership in the organization. You can do whatever you want with YOUR gohonzon - you can hang it on the wall as an objet d'art, throw it away, burn it, wipe your ass with it - it really makes no difference what you decide to do with it. The SGI is not legally permitted to make your returning it a condition of your leaving; US law has set the precedent that any member can resign unilaterally from a religious organization, and once the member has declared his resignation, there is *NOTHING* the religious organization can do about it. They HAVE to accept your resignation and they cannot put strings upon your leaving.
You can, of course, tell your (former) leaders that they are welcome to buy your gohonzon back from you - feel free to charge them, what, $40 or so. If they want it bad enough, they'll pony up the dough. It's supposedly a priceless sacred object, right?? YOU paid for it, didn't you? If they want it back, they should at least reimburse you the entire amount you paid for it - that's fair, isn't it?
When I left a few years ago, after 20+ years of practice, no one even contacted me. Nobody even *mentioned* the state or whereabouts of my gohonzon! To this day, 5 or 6 years later, NO ONE has suggested that I should return my gohonzon. It's sitting in my butsudan, which is sitting out in the garage gathering dust. But the Nichiren Shu gohonzons that I bought off eBay, each about 5 feet tall, are proudly displayed in my vaulted stairwell. No, I have no Nichren Shu leanings - they're just beautiful examples of classic calligraphy, and each over 100 years old! See for yourself:
Those ^ marked the point in my SGI membership where push came to shove. And I was not about to let myself be pushed around! Those objets d'art are symbols of my emancipation, my liberation from manipulation and coercion. And I've never looked back.
Here is a copy of my resignation letter that I sent to the SGI (it's long, if you don't want to bother) - they have not sent me the confirmation I demanded, so I guess I need to send them a "reminder" letter that they are required to do as I say. Or else I can sue them for many thousands of dollars - the precedent has already been set. If you give notice that you are resigning, they HAVE to remove your membership information - they are no longer allowed to keep it on file, even! And I intend to make it stick. So here's MY story:
SGI-USA Membership Department March 25, 2013
606 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dear SGI-USA Membership Department:
I hereby resign my membership in the SGI-USA, effective immediately, and request you to remove my name and that of my minor children permanently from your membership records. Your receipt of this letter acknowledges my notification that I no longer give my permission for SGI-USA to keep my personal information or that of my children on file at any SGI-USA location anywhere. I hereby withdraw my consent to being treated as a member and I withdraw my consent to being subject to SGI-USA rules, policies, beliefs and 'discipline' (if any). As I am no longer a member, I require that my name and those of my children be permanently and completely removed from the membership rolls of the SGI-USA.
The SGI-USA is no longer permitted to use my personal information or that of my children for any purpose or in any capacity.
I wish no further contact from representatives of your organization except to confirm that our names have been removed from your records throughout the SGI-USA organization. I expect to receive that confirmation within a reasonably short time.
My name: (Taiten and Proud!)
My children’s names: (Son and Daughter of Taiten and Proud!)
I received my gohonzon in Minneapolis, MN, in August of 1987. I served as YWD group/district/chapter/headquarters leader in Minneapolis, MN.
I practiced in St. Thomas, USVI, from 1992-1995.
I exchanged my gohonzon in either Lawrence, KS, or Topeka, KS, in 1995.
I practiced in Raleigh, NC, from 1995-2001. My children received membership there in 2000.
I practiced with Olive District in Vista, CA, from 2001 until I stopped attending meetings in about 2008. My last district leaders were Oliana Lutu-Topley and David Topley.
My resignation should be processed immediately, without any 'waiting periods'. I am not going to be dissuaded and I am not going to change my mind. There will be no discussion of this. This is my decision alone and the SGI-USA’s only course of action is to accept and respect my decision.
I expect this matter to be handled promptly, with respect and with full confidentiality. This is my official resignation.
After today, the only contact I want from the SGI-USA is a single letter of confirmation to let me know that I am no longer listed as a member of the SGI-USA and that the SGI-USA has removed ALL of my personal information and that of my children from its records systems. The SGI-USA is no longer permitted to use my name or my children’s names for any purpose whatsoever.
After much study, I arrived at the conclusion that what the SGI-USA is promoting is a significantly inferior deviation from the Buddha’s teachings. For example, SGI-USA members often hear about first President Makiguchi’s statement that “Buddhism is win or lose.” That Nichiren Daishonin wrote, ““Buddhism primarily concerns itself with victory or defeat, while secular authority is based on the principle of reward and punishment. For this reason, a Buddha is looked up to as the Hero of the World, while a king is called the one who rules at his will.” Second President Josei Toda said, “Society revolves around reputation. Governments concern themselves with what is right and wrong. But in Buddhism, the criteria is victory or defeat.”
Take a look at what the Buddha said, according to the Dhammapada:
Winning gives birth to hostility. Losing, one lies down in pain. The calmed lie down with ease, having set winning and losing aside.
THIS is the correct Buddhist attitude. Everyone in the SGI-USA has it wrong, as they fail to recognize that “win or lose” is an expression of attachment, for all they acknowledge that attachments are the cause of suffering. Chanting for whatever you want or to attain a certain outcome is another expression of attachment; it is elevating the attachment to a priority. Where is the understanding that circumstances are to be accepted, that there is no need to bend reality to your will?
The SGI-USA is promoting voodoo Buddhism under a cult of authoritarianism. One of the last events that culminated in my finally giving up childish magical thinking and imagining that Nam myoho renge kyo had special power involved two gohonzons I bought off eBay. These are both old – over 100 years each – and are a different kind of gohonzon than the SGI-USA promotes as its devotional object.
(same images as above, this post)
As you can see, they’re very beautiful, and they look wonderful on the tall wall in my vaulted stairway. The problem, apparently, was that they were from a different Nichiren sect and were, thus, technically “heretical objects.” Different leaders tried to convince me to first not buy them, and then to get rid of them.
The last leader to attempt to dictate my décor was Junko Cohenour. I asked her why I shouldn’t have these and display them if I wished, and she was unable to explain, finally declaring that I should chant until I agreed with her! Two weeks later, she collapsed and never regained consciousness. She died.
That should be the end, an unfortunate circumstance, and, of course, it’s very sad that she died so suddenly and so relatively young. What bothers me is that, if it had instead been *me* who died, she and the other leaders would have been wagging their heads and tongues, offering me up as needed as a cautionary tale about the dire calamities that await anyone who disobeys SGI-USA leaders’ orders. I’d certainly seen this happen often enough with SGI-USA leaders while I was a leader. But because she was a high-ranking leader, it apparently never occurred to anyone to suggest that perhaps she met her untimely end by presenting her own opinion as official Buddhist doctrine. Would that be a despicable thing to say? Perhaps SGI-USA leaders should think twice about exploiting others’ misfortunes to try and claim points for their opinions and for the purpose of manipulating and controlling the members.
The other issue I wish to bring to your attention is the rank hypocrisy in the SGI-USA’s rhetoric about being the “most ideal family-like organization”. From the SGI-USA’s District Leaders Handbook:
The SGI is like a family, a living body in which each person is all-important. Although we should be well organized, the members should not be made to feel regimented or restricted.
That’s funny! Really, it is! I moved around several times while I was a member, and every time, I found that those who remained behind wanted *nothing* further to do with me. Once I was no longer around to do things for the organization and its leaders, nobody cared about anything that might happen to me. It was quite shocking, the disconnect between the organizational rhetoric and leaders/members’ behavior.
Here’s a news flash: Requiring the members to meet in small groups in somebody’s home does not make it “family-like.” When I stopped attending meetings, nobody contacted me except to invite me to a Womens Division General Meeting (how predictable). Several times I ran into members I knew well; they ignored me. Didn’t even say hello.
An intolerant organization divides the world into “us” and “them”, and severely criticizes anyone who leaves. Typically, an intolerant organization will forbid (to whatever degree and through whatever means) members from associating with apostates. This is exactly what I experienced when I left the “ideal family-like organization” of the SGI-USA. It’s quite a dysfunctional family, to tell the truth, but typical of every other intolerant religion and organization. No different from most Christian churches, truth be told.
For example, my last women’s division district leader, Oliana Lutu-Topley, used to tell everyone at the meetings, from time to time, in hushed, reverent tones, how “ohana” in her home culture (Hawaiian) means “no one is left behind.” And that was how she understood the SGI-USA’s directives about member care. Guess who never even called me once after I stopped attending meetings? That’s right, Mrs. “No one is left behind.” I guess if you aren’t showing up to make the meetings a success, you don’t count as a person. This letter, by the way, is my first official notice to the SGI-USA of my leaving. For the last five years, I have simply not been attending any SGI meetings.
Finally, the cult of Daisaku Ikeda is quite disgusting. As is the lack of financial transparency within the Gakkai. The way the SGI-USA pays for things to be named after Ikeda is appalling. What a colossal ego! That is one insecure, pathetic individual. I will leave you with a concept from the real Buddha:
"Don't blindly believe what I say. Don't believe me because others convince you of my words. Don't believe anything you see, read, or hear from others, whether of authority, religious teachers or texts. Don't rely on logic alone, nor speculation. Don't infer or be deceived by appearances."
"Do not give up your authority and follow blindly the will of others. This way will lead to only delusion."
"Find out for yourself what is truth, what is real. Discover that there are virtuous things and there are non-virtuous things. Once you have discovered for yourself give up the bad and embrace the good." – from the Kalama Sutra
Nichiren Daishonin would have done better if he’d understood the peacefulness and magnanimity, as well as the fundamental respect for everyone, of the Buddha, instead of relying on his own hateful intolerance, competitive nature, and desire for the spotlight. The SGI-USA would do better to study more of the Buddha’s teachings and less of Nichiren Daishonin’s writings. And to get rid of the cult of Ikeda entirely. His poetry is *terrible*, his photos are pedestrian and dull, his posturing and grandstanding are offensive and repellent, and the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Exhibit is a joke - more like "One of these things is not like the others!" Do you really think anyone would put Daisaku Ikeda, who has done *nothing* but amass an obscene fortune, into the same category as Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? The way Ikeda at the very minimum allows so many monuments with his name on them to be placed on display worldwide demonstrates a truly breathtaking hubris. The whole scenario is revolting. He should be embarrassed. A REAL Buddhist would not stand for it.
Also, the way Daisaku Ikeda's effectively anonymous son Hiromasa is being shoved into the spotlight tells me that this callow youth, who hasn't actually accomplished *anything* on his own, is being positioned to take over the International President-ship once Daisaku kicks the bucket. To take over what has already become a hereditary dynasty rather than what the gullible and easily deceived members think is a leadership position earned by merit. It's just gross.
Thank you for your attention. I await your confirmation of the removal of my name and my children’s names from all the SGI-USA’s organizational records. And the SGI-USA had better not have any of my husband’s personal information on file, as he never gave permission to the SGI-USA to keep his personal information on file!
Yours most sincerely,
(my name and address)