Re: Former SGI members
Date: December 02, 2008 11:17AM
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.