More on Byrd from Buddhajones:
Sun Aug 01, 2010 at 11:56:47 AM PDT
We're approaching the two-year anniversary of the death of Byrd, also known as wahzoh. I did not know her personally; I knew her from her very personal blog. After Byrd died, DD remarked:
Byrd was brave for putting verbal snapshots of herself online. She allowed people who would otherwise be strangers to witness her life.
I was a witness to her life, in a way. Also, I was a witness to what happened after her death. Two years after the fact, looking back, I see it was a turning point in my attitude. Continued after the jump...Immediately prior to her death, Byrd was officially shunned by her sangha for publishing her frank and insightful views online. I wrote about it here. (Byrd's writings have since disappeared from the web.)
Having been a member of that sangha in the past, I shouldn't have been surprised at how they reacted to Byrd. Potentially destructive dynamics were at play in that sangha, I knew, but I was surprised at the hostility and cruelty directed at Byrd. She was the opposite of hostile and cruel. She was thoughtful, intelligent and articulate.
Members of that sangha continued to trash Byrd after her death. Prior to that, I believed my former sangha would eventually lighten up and become, somehow, more "Buddhist." In seeing how they responded to Byrd's death, I lost all hope regarding that sangha's potential for reform. It became clear to me that it is not a healthy place for anyone to explore Buddhism, and never will be.
Ironically, Byrd would probably be very sad to hear me say this. I know there are many people online (and on this board) who will defend that sangha no matter what, and will accuse me of "Gakkai bashing."
Hmf. Time softens hard edges, and we tend to forgive as we forget, and vice versa. Two years after Byrd's death, I feel less emotional about it all. I simply feel awake to and aware of the fact that not all sanghas are worthy of the word sangha, and that these counterfeit sanghas do far more harm than good.
Reverend Ryuei wrote on his blog about what happened with Byrd:
My second phone call yesterday was from a member of my Sangha who called to tell me about the spiteful words being said about Byrd (who was, however, not named but it was clear it was about her) by another member of this same organization on a yahoo newsgroup. This person had been one of the people who was involved in banning Byrd from the activities of her chosen Sangha. One reason was because she dared to attend a retreat I was leading and had pictures of her and myself together at the retreat on her blog here at fraughtwithperil. Byrd died a few weeks later of a heart attack, but her body was left undiscovered for something like two weeks. None of her ostensible Sangha members ever thought to check up on her - afterall she was persona non grata due to her association with me. The apartment was later swept by a Hazmat team and for quite a long time sealed up. When these psuedo-Buddhists finally came in they found that Byrd's butsudan had been knocked down (it could have been by her abandoned cats or later the Hazmat team) and was collecting cobwebs (supposedly - and even then not surprising as her apartment had been sealed for quite some time). This psuedo-Buddhist posted that everything Byrd had ever written was questionable because due to the condition of her butsudan she had been neglecting her practice). So much presumption here! I don't even know where to begin. But to impugn the reputation of a woman who has passed away, furthermore a woman who the poster was instrumental in alienating and isolating before her death due to some misguided sectarian agenda and paranoia!
I wholeheartedly agree with Ryuei's assessment:
Can Nichiren Buddhists repair our "really horrible reputation" by trying extra hard to play nice with or just ignore abuses within our larger sangha? I don't think it's helpful for good people to zip their lips when the topic of a harmful sangha comes up. It doesn't help to apologize and make excuses for a harmful sangha that won't change. It needs to be discussed openly and frankly.And yet, it doesn't help to continually criticize a harmful sangha, either. People tune it out as "Gakkai bashing."
It is so obvious to me why people are scared of Nichiren Buddhism. No wonder they don't want to have anything to do with us when this is the kind of pettiness, meanness, sectarianism, and total lack of compassion that has come to characterize Nichiren Buddhism.
What drives me nuts of course is that it is not Nichiren Buddhism per se, it is a certain group within a certain group or some individuals within certain groups (though they all seem to be members or ex-members of the same group) that acts like this. But they manage to scare off everyone else by creating a really horrible reputation for us all.
For myself, I have developed a circle of friends of many faiths -- including Nichiren Buddhists, Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, respectful agnostics and others -- and we all feel as we're on the Island of Misfit Toys with regard to our various faith communities. Perhaps this is the way it's supposed to be...
Still, I long for a global Nichiren Buddhist sangha in which all can find refuge. Such a sangha does not exist yet.
I highlighted parts that particularly stuck out while reading this again. With the many different types of people that end up interested in SGI or who are actually in it still, it's probably good to use many approaches. Some harsh, some not so harsh so we can reach out to as many people as we can. I think we're all on the same page here and with everyone's different contributions (aeeioy, that word is ruined too) maybe more people will be likely to find inspiration from any of us and they leave or never join to begin with.
Spartacus, there is nothing interesting about my name unfortunately. I saw a documentary on skunks and I've become kind of obsessed with them. That and I'm always sleepy. Always, never fails. I hate winter.