Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 24, 2013 05:20AM

sleepy, I can't be 100% sure, but I believe Byrd's blogs were removed because she was a polarizing figure for the SGI. She was a sincere person who wanted to open up the SGI, she saw wrong and wanted it make it more right for the members. From what I've read, SGI leadership make it difficult for her and when she passed away, didn't show much sympathy.

One more example of trying to budge the SGI mindset, in sincerity for its membership, and having it end up in...well, we know.

There are several quotes from Wendy Byrd's blogs in this thread --- just do a search, using "byrd."

I never met her in person, but I used to read her writing on "Fraught With Peril," when I was debating whether to stay in SGI or leave. She seemed intelligent, kindhearted and sincere. She seemed to love SGI, and its members, and she wanted to correct the wrongs of SGI. And she had the courage to say so in her blog. For this, the leadership of SGI treated her horribly, wanted to shut down her blog, and told her not to come to meetings. This was maybe 2008. She had a massive heart attack shortly after, and died. After her death, SGI members and leaders had many awful things to say about her.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: TaitenAndProud ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:33AM

This was maybe 2008. She had a massive heart attack shortly after, and died. After her death, SGI members and leaders had many awful things to say about her. - tsukimoto

Tsuki, I don't know if I mentioned it here - I think I did, but it was pages and pages ago, and your sad tale of Wendy brought it back to mind.

When the SGI leadership learned that I was planning to buy "heretical" Nichiren Shu gohonzons as decor items (original calligraphy) for my home (because I asked one of them to translate the kanji, just to know what it said, besides the obvious Nam myoho renge kyo), I started getting lots of home visits, warning me about vague bad things that would happen to me if I proceeded. When I challenged a Jt. Terr. WD leader (who was Japanese) on what exactly was the doctrinal basis for forbidding me from using whatever I liked to decorate my home, she told me to chant until I agreed with her. There was another sr. leader, an American woman, who came by shortly thereafter. The Japanese leader's position was that these 6-foot-tall calligraphy scrolls, with a simple NMRK down the middle and a few kanji characters accumulated at the bottom, would "confuse" the members. The American leader disagreed, said she saw nothing wrong with them. Besides, they were out of the way and could not be seen from my living room, where I held meetings (which were apparently canceled after that, though nobody actually *TOLD* me).

This became a topic of discussion at certain nearby SGI meetings, I heard - at one, a member asked, "What if she had a museum of Japanese artwork?" The answer from a senior leader: "She doesn't HAVE a museum, does she??" As if that settles everything!

Well, 2 weeks after giving me that "guidance", the Japanese Jt. Terr. WD leader dropped dead. Massive brain clot or some such - I'm not sure. She was comatose and vegetative for some days before they unplugged her, but for all extents and purposes, it was game over when she collapsed. And oh, the outpouring of grief and anguish! She was only in her 50s - it was quite a shock.

But nobody speculated that she had been punished for presenting her own *opinions* as Buddhist doctrine, and it's a harsh lesson, but the Mystic Law is extremely strict! Not *one* person apparently came to that conclusion.

HOWEVER, if it had been ME who dropped dead, you KNOW that they all would have been wagging their heads and tongues, stating with complete confidence and authority that the reason I met that untimely end was because I went against sincere guidance, and it's a harsh lesson, but the Mystic Law is extremely strict! And I would have been brandished as an example of what will happen to the members if they do not whole-heartedly and unquestioningly obey all the guidance they get from their seniors in faith! I would have become the monster in the closet, the thing under the bed, that will come and get you unless you do as you're told.

I know this, because I saw it happen with other members. Their hardships and misfortunes were put to good use by the SGI leaders to scare the other members into compliance and submission.

This was one of the events that really drove home to me how you can have no real friends within an intolerant organization, whether it's a cult or a church or whatever. The whole attitude is "Either you are WITH us, or you are AGAINST us!" Anyone who leaves will be shunned. You are only acceptable if you are going along with the organization and serving it - as soon as you disagree, the flags go up and the walls come out. It's all conditional - there's no real love there. Either you're useful, or you're useless. Like Spartacus, sent out to ignominious parking lot duty when the most important meeting for that kaikan was going on - you WILL get the message that you have been blackballed and your reputation/standing within that community will never recover - because SOMEBODY has decided that you're done. Regardless of your history with that organization. What you discover is that no matter how much you have contributed, it has *no* value unless you remain completely obedient and submissive to the organization. There's no sense of having built anything, or demonstrated respectworthy character, or contributed more than others. Unless you have the right attitude of obedience and submission, it's all worthless: "What have you done for us LATELY??"

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI-Byrd
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:39AM

One of Wendy Byrd Ehlmann's posts that SGI objected to, from

----------------------------Beginning of Quote-------------------------------------------------------------

Byrd's Eye View, Fraught With Peril

October 06, 2007

Lost in Translation

I've really been thinking about the strange situation which has developed in the SGI-USA in the Antelope Valley, just north of Los Angeles. As I wrote in my last blog entry, it is not really clear what the "rules" are in regard to the members' ability to hold SGI meetings in their homes if someone else in the same family belongs to a different Nichiren sect. The SGI-USA's current position appears to be that Nichiren believers who practice with traditional sects are not merely members of another denomination, but practice a different religion entirely, despite the fact that we all chant the Daimoku, revere and recite the Lotus Sutra, and study Nichiren's writings.

Nichiren addresses the issue of unity among believers repeatedly in his letters to his followers. Here is one exerpt from the translation with which most of us are probably familiar (I copied it from the SGI-USA webpage gosho concordance):

"All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation can be fulfilled. But if any of Nichiren’s disciples disrupt the unity of many in body but one in mind, they would be like warriors who destroy their own castle from within."

Now, here is a different translation of the same piece, which I gathered from a prayer book which is used by people who practice in the more traditional Nichiren Shu (they sometimes read aloud from the Gosho as part of their daily service -- bold emphasis is mine):

"My disciples and lay followers should eliminate discrimination between themselves and others. Cooperate with each other just as fish and water, and chant "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" with one mind although you are different in person. Cooperation is the most important thing for your transmission of the teaching liberating from birth and death to your posterity. This is exactly what I have tried to disseminate until this day. If you can carry this out, our great vow to disseminate the Wonderful Dharma throughout the world will be fulfilled. If any one of you is different from the others not only in person but in mind, he will be like a castle destroyer within a castle."

I don' t read Japanese, so I can't make a choice between these two translations based on accuracy. However, these two different renderings of the same piece provide interesting food for thought on the topic of unity among believers. If Nichiren's followers are to "cooperate" with each other, my friends in the Antelope Valley (a very happily married husband and wife team, one of whom is an active SGI member and the other of whom is studying to convert to the Nichiren Shu) would seem to be a shining example. She supports his SGI membership and activities, he supports her right to practice with the school of her choice. This couple is a total, complete, shining example of cooperation. I love these two, I am proud they are my friends.

Alas, however, there has been talk regarding this pair from SGI leaders about heads being "broken into seven pieces" and all the other dire warnings that usually accompany a threatened "break in unity". Personally, I think the kind of cooperation which is being demonstrated by these two believers and their friends is exactly the kind of unity needed to move ahead into what the SGI is calling the "second bell" of American kosen-rufu.

Does anyone reading this actually believe that we'll move toward world peace by shunning Nichiren believers who choose to affiliate with a different denomination? By treating them as if they have some strange contagion that will seep out of the walls of their home and infect SGI members who stray into the same space? Heck, the world has been running according to those rules for centuries, and it bought us a Hundred Years' War in Europe and countless witch burnings. Not a recipe for world peace at all.

Which translation appeals to you, and why? What do you think kosen-rufu (widespread propagation) will look like? Will there be room for freedom of conscience regarding denomination, or will we all be yoked in the identical governance structure?

I'm interested in your thoughts,
Byrd in LA
P.S. And oh, by the way, neither of my friends is at all "confused" about the situation. They are two of the least confused people I have ever met.
---------------------------------------End of Quote-----------------------------------------------------------

Room for freedom of conscience in SGI!? Cows will fly first.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/24/2013 06:41AM by tsukimoto.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: TaitenAndProud ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:42AM

I'd never heard of Wendy Byrd, but in a search, I found these references to her: [] The embedded links are useless, but it's an interesting discussion.

Tsuki, what you mentioned about the pettiness of SGI members complaining that the Nichiren Shu rep wasn't chanting "correctly" reminded me of this wonderful story:

The True Sound of Truth
A devoted meditator, after years concentrating on a particular mantra, had attained enough insight to begin teaching. The student's humility was far from perfect, but the teachers at the monastery were not worried.

A few years of successful teaching left the meditator with no thoughts about learning from anyone; but upon hearing about a famous hermit living nearby, the opportunity was too exciting to be passed up.

The hermit lived alone on an island at the middle of a lake, so the meditator hired a man with a boat to row across to the island. The meditator was very respectful of the old hermit. As they shared some tea made with herbs the meditator asked him about his spiritual practice. The old man said he had no spiritual practice, except for a mantra which he repeated all the time to himself. The meditator was pleased: the hermit was using the same mantra he used himself -- but when the hermit spoke the mantra aloud, the meditator was horrified!

"What's wrong?" asked the hermit.

"I don't know what to say. I'm afraid you've wasted your whole life! You are pronouncing the mantra incorrectly!"

"Oh, Dear! That is terrible. How should I say it?"

The meditator gave the correct pronunciation, and the old hermit was very grateful, asking to be left alone so he could get started right away. On the way back across the lake the meditator, now confirmed as an accomplished teacher, was pondering the sad fate of the hermit.

"It's so fortunate that I came along. At least he will have a little time to practice correctly before he dies." Just then, the meditator noticed that the boatman was looking quite shocked, and turned to see the hermit standing respectfully on the water, next to the boat.

"Excuse me, please. I hate to bother you, but I've forgotten the correct pronunciation again. Would you please repeat it for me?"

"You obviously don't need it," stammered the meditator; but the old man persisted in his polite request until the meditator relented and told him again the way he thought the mantra should be pronounced.

The old hermit was saying the mantra very carefully, slowly, over and over, as he walked across the surface of the water back to the island.


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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: TaitenAndProud ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:53AM

I found one of Wendy Byrd's columns, "Choices and Voices", archived at Buddha Jones [] - here it is:

July 10, 2008
Choices and Voices
As usual, I've been thinking about Nichiren Buddhism and how it translates into Western language and culture. I've also been thinking again about a discussion I had a couple of months ago with some SGI-USA leaders, one of whom had recently been to Japan.

I think we Americans puzzle our Buddhist mentors in Japan. Why, if we in the US have such a diverse population, and so many people here who can benefit from the Nichiren Buddhist practice, is the SGI-USA organization not growing by leaps and bounds? I can see the earnest souls in Tokyo scratching their heads and wondering, "What's wrong with the Americans?"

I think I can answer that question (or at least kick off a discussion), and I hope I can do so in a way which will aid in our mutual understanding.

So, starting today, I will be writing on the question of why the SGI-USA is stalling, and what, if anything, can be done about it? In other words, "What's wrong with the Americans?"

One simple way of approaching the issue (and it's easy to remember because it rhymes!) is to keep in mind that Americans like to have CHOICES, and we like to have VOICES.

Americans define ourselves in terms of how we use our choices and our voices. We're a nation of pamphleteers -- in fact, our country was founded by people who were inspired by a seditious little book called "Common Sense". We started out with pamphlets, and now we've become a nation of bloggers. That's just the way we are - we treasure our choices and our voices. If Americans don't have choices or voices, we get frustrated, bummed out, depressed, cranky, and, ultimately defiant of whomever or whatever we believe to be depriving us of our choices and our voices.

That's just the landscape of this country - it's not rhetorical or ceremonial. It's a part of how we see ourselves, and who we are. We don't surrender our choices and our voices without resistance, and this, I think, is where the SGI-USA has run into trouble.

The entire governance structure of the SGI-USA is built on the principle that world peace (or "kosen-rufu") can best be achieved by depriving individuals of meaningful choice. This approach will not have long-term success in the United States. For example: we have no voice or choice in who our "leaders" are. We have no voice or choice as far as what we can read or discuss in a group (our "study materials" are assigned on a national level every month). We have no choice or voice as to whether we can pursue any program of higher learning or advancement in the church. We have no choice or voice as to acquiring property for the members to use. We have no choice or voice in how our donations are spent. The organization reacts with alarm and disciplinary action when people exercise their choice to worship with members of other Nichiren denominations. We have no choice or voice in anything, really. I suppose we might have a choice or a voice as to what the theme for this month's discussion meeting will be, but that's not a very substantive choice or voice.

The organization typically responds to this kind of observation ("we don't have a choice or a voice") by crying, "Don't complain!! Be the change you want to see!" Actually, I don't think it's complaining so much as it's observing, and yes, I am being the change I want to see -- that's why I've been cultivating interdenominational gatherings of Nichiren Buddhists and supporting them in whatever way I can. Of course, if I do that (being "the change I want to see"), I'm "breaking unity", but that's another blog entry.

Another example of this issue (choices and voices) is the SGI-USA's recent push to have the organization's leaders sign off on a mandatory code of conduct form, a push which has met with some grass roots resistance. This has to be confusing to the Japanese...the SGI-USA general membership has been complaining for years about leadership misconduct on various levels, so why are Americans resisting a set of rules? It's simple....the leaders who were being asked to sign didn't have a choice, and they didn't have a voice. It's also possible that these Americans (both as individuals and as a group) simply went without choice or voice in the SGI-USA for so long that they decided to put their feet down and say "this far and no further" to any more directives from above. Not being a leader myself, and therefore not being privy to what is discussed at leaders' meeting, I can only speculate, of course.

Some people in the SGI-USA have criticized me for worshipping with members of the Nichiren Shu and for advocating some traditional Nichiren practices, such as copying the sutra, chanting the sutra in my native language, or chanting to the beat of a taiko drum. In my defense, I must point out that having these kind of choices keeps my practice fresh and interesting. It keeps my prayers from becoming mechanical. After almost 24 years of chanting, I appreciate that.

As long as Americans have to surrender their choices and their voices in order to practice "united" Buddhism within the SGI, our organization will have an extremely limited appeal in this country. Of course, that doesn't mean that Nichiren Buddhism needs to have a limited appeal - not at all.

Thanks for reading, everybody. For those of you scratching your heads on the other side of the Pacific, my next entry will discuss the differences between UNITY and UNIFORMITY.

Stay smart, stay happy, stay cool,

Byrd in LA
Posted by wahzoh at July 10, 2008 07:53 AM

I remember when we were told we could choose to exchange our Nikken inscribed gohonzon for the SGI Nichikan. Turns out, there was no real choice at all. Currently, we are told that the disciple chooses the mentor. Again no real choice. I wonder what the Japanese understand the word choice to mean. - Brian
Posted by: Brian Holly at July 10, 2008 03:16 PM


I wonder if having a published code of ethical conduct and signed agreement form might be a new IRS for officers of non-profits? I ran into this elsewhere.

Posted by: robin at July 10, 2008 06:38 PM

That's a good point, Robin - but of course, the SGI "leaders" being asked to sign the form are not "officers" of the SGI as a non-profit corporation. They're just functionaries, with no actual decision-making powers (that I know of). Interesting question, though.

Bye for now, Wahzoh
Posted by: Byrd in LA at July 11, 2008 07:21 AM

I omitted the word requirement.
Posted by: robin at July 11, 2008 08:37 PM

With a fraternal benefit society I work with, anyone who handles society money has to sign a pledge this year.
Posted by: robin at July 11, 2008 08:40 PM

That may be a revenue requirement, Robin - I don't know. But it hardly applies to the general membership of the SGI, as the average Joe has no contact with assets at all.

I was more interested in issues surrounding choice of what to read, discuss, whom to admire and why, etc.

I will get into other issues next week - for now, I have a writing deadline to hit.

Bye for now, Wahzoh
Posted by: Byrd in LA at July 12, 2008 10:53 AM

Hi Byrd, interesting post. There are some things I don't get though. First, you do have a choice, you can always leave. If the organization is as bad as you describe, why do you continue to stay with it, even with one foot in and the other out? It sounds like torture to me.

Secondly, the mistake that many people make is in thinking that this is "their" organization, it's not. Mr. Wada long ago explained that Buddhist Democracy (SGI Democracy?) is different than "American" Democracy, making it clear that everything is a satellite that revolves around Japan, meaning Pres. Ikeda. By now, do you really think it's likely to ever change?

I don't know anything about it, but on the surface a code of conduct for leaders sounds good and long overdue. Forcing people to sign it sounds bad. If I was still in the SGI and a leader, I wonder what would happen if I went to my higher-ups and said, my junior leaders are misbehaving, so can I force them to act a certain way? I think I would get a resounding "no" and be told to chant for their happiness, chant for the change. Why don't things like that ever apply to the "officers" of the SGI? Why don't they chant for people to sign the pledge? Another example, I think, of the SGI not practicing what it preaches.

Asian Buddhism is dead meat in America, simply because what works for the Asian mind is not necessarily what works for the Western mind. There are similar problems to this in other traditions. Asian "leaders" keep pushing, American "followers" keep resisting and no one goes anywhere. Stuck in a holding pattern. I say that if you don't like it, cut loose. Start putting your energy into helping home-grown group develop. That is, after all, the next step in Buddhism's Western evolution.
Posted by: David at July 12, 2008 03:18 PM

If I raise those same points I am trying to start an argument.

Posted by: Bruce Maltz at July 13, 2008 11:07 AM

"Didn't you hear? We have to vote for the best man. 'Oldest is Bestest,' you know. That's what Democracy means, the freedom of choice. They read us the ages and we choose which is oldest."

from Search the Sky by Pohl and Kornbluth
Posted by: Jeff Jones at July 13, 2008 11:20 AM

Byrd and David,
The whole mandatary signature form for leaders In the SGI-USA is exactly confusing unity with uniformity, or what it actually is: conformity. But it isn't going to happen because 50% of the leadership are actually thoughtful people who refuse to acquiesce regardless of the religious fanatics who promulgate their own narrow minded and exclusive visions which have absolutely nothing to do with Buddhism or that misnomer kosen-rufu, and regardless of what they regurgitate out of their mouths while clutching Nichiren's book of letters and piously wrapping themselves up in a Gohonzon. And the SGI-USA isn't willing to lose those heretics just yet because there isn't anyone to take their place, not even more religious fanatics who love to be told what to do and think by those who love to do the telling. SGI isn't practicing what it preaches because a lot of the practitioners are fighting for change by staying for the fight. And they stay even though fingers are pointed at them by their fellows. That's the courage Rev. Greg showed.
Posted by: joe at July 13, 2008 09:07 PM

Gohonzon is the Ceremony in the Air, it is not Nichiren's life, I had talked about that with Greg, if you want things to change, you leave focus on the SGI and get Buddha in your mind, not Ikeda in your mind, or Nichiren in your mind, or Georgia on your mind. OK..don't start throwing rocks at me, but in the SGI you were not taught Nichiren's way, you were taught Ikeda's way, that is your problem.

No,Byrd, I am not trying to start an argument here, I am trying to offer solutions. I was there in 1967, I saw the beginning, I know what happened, you guys have just no idea, I know, the Org, I know Ikeda, the Japanese Org.

You guys, just don't know Nichiren or the Lotus Sutra, sorry, but it is true.

You don't see me in water drowning in your problems, I am the one trying to pull you out, and NO, don't try to pull me in with you.

Posted by: Bruce Maltz at July 14, 2008 08:43 AM

I agree with Bruce, up to a point, and to expand on his thought, I'll say that Nichiren's Way is not Buddha's Way, which is broad not narrow. That is however, a great suggestion, just have Buddha in your mind. That's all you really need.

You should forget about which sutra is superior, which Buddha is True, which group is upholding justice or practicing authoritarianism and all that stuff--Buddha would never have gone in those directions.

The future of Buddhism in America is non-sectarian. Small steps are being made in various quarters, but based on what I see online, in the Nichiren community everyone is either caught up in anger, whining, elitism, or busy being some kind of cheerleader.

Those who are unsatisfied with the status quo will someday have to face up to the fact that "if you want things to change" then you're going to have to move on, or at least move beyond. If you want to be the change you want to see, then you have to leave the past behind and quit trying to fix something that can't be fixed.

Of course, if everything is hunky-dory with you, then stay where you are. That's my four cents.
Posted by: David at July 14, 2008 12:00 PM

We are talking Ichinen Sanzen. We have Buddha Nature, and when we have Buddha in our mind, we have all possibilities open to us. All the members of SGI know this, but they become hard of hearing when it comes to SGI, you can't make the distinction between Buddhist teaching and Ikeda teaching. No need to rocks or bombs, or shouting or bazookas. Anyone want to talk? Whisper? Shout? Yell?
Mental telepathy?
I am tele-pathetic!
Posted by: Bruce Maltz at July 14, 2008 01:14 PM

Sorry, I know that's long, but there were some *excellent* comments below and I couldn't resist! :P

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI-Byrd
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 24, 2013 06:54AM

Another post of Wendy Byrd Ehlmann's, from

------------------------Beginning of Quote---------------------------------------------------------------------

April 06, 2008

Apology to the Members...?

Well, according to the staff member who wrote to me last week, with copies to various other staff and area leaders, I owe an apology:

To all SGI members for characterizing them as lacking understanding of Buddhism and being mindless followers. Etc, etc, etc,...

I don't think I have characterized the membership as being mindless followers. If I have, please point this out to me, and I will address it.
I genuinely do not want to be offensive, but I also wish to be as clear as possible. I'm glad we have an open marketplace of ideas in which to do this, aren't you?

I think my general perspective on the SGI-USA membership is that they are strong, capable, and mature adults, with all the rights and privileges pertaining thereto. We operate in this country on the assumption that other adults are adults, and I think that's where I've been operating from. For example:

1. I think the SGI-USA membership is capable of managing their own local finances, and I have said so.

2. I think the SGI-USA members are smart enough and mature enough that they do not need to be "protected" from exposure to the ministers of other denominations, or from doctrinal discussions on the worldwide web. I think they are more than capable of handling that kind of stuff. The fact that people of good faith may differ with each other may take a little getting used to, but I think the members can manage it. I don't think they're dopes at all.

3. I think that the SGI's members are capable of engaging in the kind of nuanced reasoning about the Gakkai's history which I discussed in my last blog. Perfectly capable. I don't think they need to be given a watered-down version of history. I think they can handle differing perspectives, and I think they can handle the truth. I think they are capable of standing up and taking the lead in establishing a truly Western Buddhism which will be readily accessible to people in our country. I think the members are more than capable of doing that. Of course, they might have to apologize to the ancestors if they try, but that's another matter.

4. I think they are capable of choosing their own leaders, as well as those leaders' terms of office and powers over the general membership population. I think they are fully capable of that - I have said so on many occasions.

For those people who are happy with the status quo, that is fine. I am hardly forcing anyone to read this blog, nor am I forcing anyone to agree with me on anything. No one is duty-bound to examine the differences between Japanese and Western culture and how they impact the organization. No duty at all. But if someone is interested in doing it, I for one think it's a heck of a fascinating arena for discussion. I'm sure those who wish to do it are capable of doing it. In other words, the SGI-USA membership is....

Not mindless at all.

As far as the issue of whether or not I have characterized the SGI general membership as "lacking an understanding of Buddhism"...

That, I will admit, is true, I have made that characterization, but it is not necessarily an insult. A well-trained Catholic or Lutheran doesn't necessarily have a broad understanding of Christianity. A sincere Hassid doesn't necessarily have a broad understanding of Judaism. In fact, their denominations may actively discourage a broad understanding of history or of context. Unorthodox views may not be tolerated. That may be how the sect survives. I hardly insult them if I observe that. Their understanding of faith issues is sectarian, and developing that sectarian mind of faith is well within their rights and the rights of their denomination. I don't quibble with that, or expect anything else from the SGI as a denomination.

The difficulties for SGI members arise when we try to interact with other Buddhist or with people who have some passing knowledge of Buddhism in general. I am embarassed by the fact that most SGI members I have spoken with cannot articulately place Nichiren Buddhism in a context other than to say, in some way, "we are better". Perhaps taking too strong a cue from our founder's combativeness, we are too often driven to prove our practice's superiority to others', and in the process, we lose whatever insight we can gain from others' perspectives. I have seen Gakkai members, time and time again, move to refute or rebuke other practices of which they have little or no understanding at all other than that which was framed in the 13th century. This has earned us a reputation among many other Buddhists as being closed-minded, and not the 'world citizens" which President Ikeda encourages us to be.

The above observation on my part is not intended as an insult, and I don't have to apologize for it. Nichiren Buddhism is a noble and a valid tradition. We should be able to dialogue intelligently and confidently with other Buddhists. I think our failure to develop this skill is a detriment to the overall goal of worldwide propagation. I think that SGI members in general are more than intelligent enough to develop this kind of broad understanding. Again, that is my opinion, and I don' t have to apologize for it.

So, for what it's worth, I come to the end of another blog.

I am genuinely interested in how my readers here feel I have injured the general membership. Feel free to write in and let me know.

Have a good week, everyone.

Be clear, be calm, be cool.

Byrd in LA

P.S. I'm sorry if I hurt anyone's feelings by saying that they were capable, intelligent grown-ups.

--------------------------End of Quote-------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I agree with most of what Byrd said. I think that her error is in assuming that SGI is about Buddhism....and that it's not a cult. In a noncult, these would be perfectly reasonable things to say. To the SGI leadership, this was a declaration of war. That she would actually dare to think for herself...oh, the horror! How dare she!?

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: TaitenAndProud ()
Date: February 24, 2013 07:02AM

Say, I ran across another blog by Charles Atkins, who was excommunicated from NST (twice!) AND SGI! He's got some interesting things to say, too: []

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 24, 2013 07:04AM

Byrd's post from April 14, 2008. At this point, SGI has apparently contacted her, by e-mail, with objections to her blog.

-------------------------Beginning of Quote-------------------------------------------------------------------

April 14, 2008

See For Yourself! The Amazing Talking Building!

Last week, I discussed how happy I was to receive some written response, however scolding, from an SGI-USA staff member. One of the groups I was supposed to owe an apology to was the area leaders who govern the SGI-USA Area where my friends Michele and Richard Chavez live - Richard is the fellow who was told he couldn't have SGI meetings at his home anymore due to the fact that his wife was joining a different Nichiren denomination.

Anyway, apparently, I owe an apology to these area leaders for misrepresenting the reasons why meetings were discontinued at this particular home. The problem is, we still don't know what the reasons were, except that whatever I say is a misrepresentation. At least that's a rule we can all count on.

Anyway, when I first received the apology demand related to Michele and Richard's home, I forwarded it to Michele. I mean, it did concern her and her home and her husband, right? And it did come from an SGI e-mail account, and an SGI staff member, right? Why shouldn't she know about it?

Well, she got sort of a laugh out of it, and drafted an explanation of her and her husband's perspective and sent it to the staff member in question, copying all the leaders he had originally copied on his request for an apology from me. So, now, for the first time ever, the people who apparently made the decisions are actually hearing from the people they've been making the decisions about. I guess that's a step in the right direction.

Anyway, Michele didn't receive a response which spoke to the actual issue of why her husband was no longer able to host Gakkai meetings, but she did get a mesage which made it clear that the staff member's e-mail to me had been "meant as a private message" - in other words, the staff and the area leaders were supposed to be talking about Michele and Richard and demanding apologies from me about them without Michele and Richard even knowing about it by way of a pesky forwarded e-mail. I guess I was just supposed to get an e-mail about them from Gakkai Central, copied to a whole bunch of leaders, and keep them in the dark about it? Gee, where's that written in the new personnel manual?

Even stranger was the idea that I should get an e-mail all about the content of my blog from an SGI e-mail account, (and copied to several other leaders' private e-mails), and see this as being "private". I don' t get that. If you want an e-mail to be private, don't copy people I don't even know. That's kind of easy, isn't it? Anyway, as part of the non-responsive response, this individual also wrote to Michele in part:

Contrary to what you might have heard, the SGI Plaza does not know of yourself or Byrd. Because I work at the Plaza, my concerns are being represented as those of the Plaza.

This is what Washington correspondents call "backpedaling". Kind of like, "the White House denies that the President had any knowledge..." Maybe there was even a lawyer involved in that wording, although I doubt it. Not verbose enough.

Anyway, what is that figure of speech where you use a building to represent a person or a group of people? Like "The White House", or "10 Downing Street", or..."Dodger Stadium". Help me out here, someone. Because I know that the SGI Plaza Building itself doesn't talk. That's a good thing. I wonder what sorts of tales it would have to tell if it did.
Anyway, I'm kind of surprised that the good people at the SGI Plaza don't have any awareness at all of the online discussions which go on at this site. I find that just incredibly hard to believe. Even Patrick admits to writing to Gakkai Central about this site. Didn't they open his mail?

Curiouser and curiouser......anyway, the day after the good people at SGI Plaza didn't read my post about the apologies I owed to Makiguchi and Toda, I got a phone call from a WD Area leader who wanted to set up a home visit at my place with herself, me, and a Region WD leader. Coincidence, I suppose. Anyway, I look forward to the meeting, it should be interesting.

Anyway, the next time you're in Santa Monica, you can drive by the SGI Plaza. Bring a microphone. Put it up to the plaster walls. See what the Plaza knows. See what it is concerned about...

How incredibly wierd.

Well, anyway, it's back to painting my living room. What a fun job that's turning out to be. You can come by and ask the walls some questions sometime.

Bye for now, 
Byrd in LA
--------------------------------------End of Quote-----------------------------------------------------------

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: sleepy skunk ()
Date: February 24, 2013 09:20AM

Wow we're really on fire here! I found this one on Buddhajones which I will paste here for future generations since FWP was managed to be shut down in a way. One reason I like this one post is that it echoes what my outer and inner experiences were, as well as many others on the web have related similar stories. I'm including the link because the comments on this page is full of useful information as well as the previous posts. See the one titled "Harassing Prez Ikeda".

Tsuki, after thinking about it maybe it was Buddhajones that I read Byrd's stories on, either way the last post you made was the one I remembered I had read of hers.


The Big Sensei Scam
by: mroaks
Sun Mar 18, 2012 at 15:16:22 PM PDT

In a previous thread, I said that one of the hallmarks of a cult is reliance on deception. Cults deceive potential recruits, members and the general public about the group's true aims and core beliefs.

Suppose someone says to you, "Hey, come to a Buddhist meeting with me. The people are really nice. We talk about Buddhism and world peace..."

If you're reading this website, chances are someone has invited you to such a meeting.

I accepted such an invitation. Yes, the people were really nice. We talked about Buddhism. We talked about world peace. But there was something else, too. Something that wasn't "as advertised." It took me years to wake up to the fact that I had been initially deceived by and gradually lulled into the Big Sensei Scam.

Now, imagine receiving a different invitation.

"Come to a meeting with me. We're a group that adulates a Japanese billionaire whom none of us has ever met. We all consider him our mentor in life and an unerringly benevolent father figure. We quote his writings incessantly. We praise him incessantly. We liken him to Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., but he is greater than both of these men. He is a Buddhist teacher better than the Dalai Lama. You'll get to 'know' him through your own powers of imagination and projection. You will be peer-pressured by the rest of the group into praising and never criticizing him. You will pledge your life to him. So, please come to this meeting with me."

Would you go to that meeting? Hellz no!

This group calls itself the largest and most diverse Buddhist organization in the world. But Buddhism is just a front. If you think the primary concern of this group is teaching and promoting Nichiren Buddhism, you have been deceived. The true purpose of the group is to adulate, promote and immortalize the Big Sensei.

It may take years for you to see the truth behind the "Buddhist" rhetoric. It may take only a moment.

In my case, I saw the adulation of Big Sensei early on, but I talked myself out of my concerns. I had plenty of help from fellow group members.

There's nothing wrong with singing the praises of a great man, people said, and I believed. (But I wondered...what has he actually done that's so great?)

There's nothing wrong with pledging your life to a Buddhist teacher, people said, and I believed. (But I had friends in other Buddhist lineages who personally knew and worked closely with their teachers.)

There's nothing wrong with condemning and punishing the enemies of one's Buddhist mentor, people said, and I had a hard time believing.

Fellow members insisted: The fact that Big Sensei has enemies proves that he is the bigger-than-Nichiren Buddha of our lifetime. How lucky we are to praise him and serve him!

The more critical I became of the adulation of Big Sensei, the meaner my fellow members became toward me. They upped the pressure on me to revere the man. They threatened karmic retribution for my failure to recognize the greatness of Big Sensei. They questioned my personal integrity, sincerity, intelligence, and sanity. They whispered to others that I was emotionally unstable. They shook their heads and whispered that I "just didn't get it." They told people that they were concerned about my safety, implying that I might harm myself or others...because only a malicious, suicidal, crazy person would ever question the greatness of Big Sensei.

I asked myself: How did I get here?

I was suckered by the initial deception: Come to a Buddhist meeting. I didn't know it was an invitation to a meeting of the Big Sensei Club disguised with a little Buddhist window dressing.

I stayed because I was persuaded by everyone (including myself) who passionately talked me out of my concerns about the adulation of Big Sensei.

I was hurt when my fellow members turned on me. I didn't understand it. I was still operating on a flawed assumption based on the initial deception. I assumed that the group cared about Buddhism and helping people practice. They only cared about Big Sensei.

That's how I got mixed up with a cult. You might scoff and say, well, that's not really a cult -- it's only a cult of personality at worst.

A cult of personality is a cult, my friend. It's a cult. If you haven't felt its viciousness and its teeth tearing into yet, it's just a matter of time.

Do me a favor. If you have any links that demonstrate the adulation of Big Sensei, please post them below.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/24/2013 09:34AM by sleepy skunk.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: sleepy skunk ()
Date: February 24, 2013 09:32AM

Another goodie:


Free At Last
by: hereigoagain
Wed Jan 25, 2012 at 16:02:19 PM PST

(Welcome to the club of people who left the club. :) - promoted by Nine Lives)

Lately, I have been thinking about how, a few months before I ran across an SGI-USA member in the late 1980's, I dabbled in Scientology for a minute. I hightailed it away from those people when I realized that the only way I could TRY to get "clear" (the equivalent of enlightened) was to dole out cash for someone to "audit" me. Then, I still would never reach clarity in this lifetime, because I had to get audited WAAAAAY back in the past for who knows how many lifetimes.

I realized I'd bumped into a cult. Soon after, I met my friend, the SGI-USA member.

As Brittany sang, "Oops, I did it again."

I was an SGI-USA district leader until today. I told my leader I resigned. But actually I had not really been doing the 1,001 things this position required for a while. I just stopped. It was just too much.

The leader said she understood if I was "too busy." I corrected her. I was not just too busy I was not willing to do all that stuff anymore.

But I can understand her not really getting it, especially since I left out the biggest reason for my disaffection. I can no longer can make excuses for how the SGI-USA is. Even more fundamental, I can't keep ignoring the fact that I don't believe what SGI teaches.

Here's the big thing, and many other Buddhists, former SGI ones too, my feel differently: I absolutely believe that I am the Buddha, the Law, NMHRK, the eternal Shakyamuni, the universe itself. My entire life confirms this for me in countless ways. This is what Nichiren said in the Gosho and Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings.

I know this concept can get confusing because both Shakyamuni (at least as recorded in the sutras I've read) and Nichiren sometimes said things that made it seem as though the Law or Gohonzon was something we pray "to."

But the big truth that Nichiren stated more than once, and that Shakyamuni implied in the Lotus Sutra, is that we (or I) are IT--the whole shebang.

The SGI says this sometimes. But mostly I hear or read about how great the Law, chanting, NMHRK or the Gohonzon are as if these are genies and the actual person who made something move in her or his life was secondary to how much s/he chanted and "worked for kosen rufu."

When I look around me, the world doesn't work that way. There are plenty of people who never chant but are happy and resilient and living well. What is more important than how much somebody does those tasks is the quality of one's life, one's heart or spirit, her attitude, and, I think especially, her self view. From there, everything else springs. SGI rarely conveys this essential message

I also got tired of the fear-mongering. That is, being told of the evil that happens if I don't chant enough or don't fight enough for kosen rufu or don't believe in the SGI enough or read the incredibly long, unedited and self-aggrandizing (New) Human Revolution enough.

I started fighting back in my head. Yes, I can chant just three times today, or just in my mind, or not at all, and all is still well with me. Because I am just as eternal now as I was before and after I learned of Buddhism in this lifetime.

And from my thoughts spring everything. Realizing this frees me.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/24/2013 09:34AM by sleepy skunk.

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