I feel that I must weigh in my opinion as a current SGI-Member, and I hope my views can be heard without burning me at the stake as a member.
When I started to see the comments of ex-SGI members on this website and other, I was in shock. This is because the behavior and feeling they seemed to be conveying seemed to be nothing like the organization I was a part of, in very key ways.
I think that maybe my region's chapter is very different from others. When I joined, I read the material, including books written by Ikeda. All of these messages were about positive thinking, cultural understanding, and ambition. And then I got into the chanting. My life started to improve, not because of some magic chant that grants wishes, but because I felt more motivated, more driven to do good in the world. I will address the concerns one by one.
Yes, this man has a lot of power. And I do hate the concept of New Komeito. I think that he does have some very meaningful lessons to teach, however. I would never compare him to King Jr. and Ghandi, but it is important to note that even they were not pure people. They both did things I disagree with. As such, I disagree with alot Ikeda has done. There are some things about King Jr. and Ghandi I do not like at all, but they still have very important things to learn. And in my chapter of the organization, we all read what he has to say, but were not afraid to have a laugh at his expense. MOST (there are some bad apples as with any religion) of my fellow members think Ikeda his too prevalent, he is important but minor compared the real source. In contrast, catholics beleve that the pope is next to god on earth, and his judgment is infallible! Ikeda is very fallible, a smart man, but oh so fallible.
In my region we are very discouraged from chanting for material goods or person gain. Chanting to have money to feed your family? ok. Chanting to win the lottery. NO. chanting for fancy things? NOOO. We are encouraged to chant for ourselves, but also more importantly others in suffering. We are told that simply chanting to the Gohonzon will not grant wishes, it is a tool to inspire us to do better. Chanting, I was told, is meaningless and useless without REAL EFFORT.
3. Lotus Sutra > other sutras.
I was told that the lotus sutra was the most important sutra, the foundation of this Buddhism. When I asked if I should read the other sutras, they said by all means noting is lost in searching for more wisdom, just pay special attention to the lotus sutra.
4. Nichiren Soshu
I brought up the needles hate, and most agreed with me. They don't agree with the idea of a priest, and they do believe that it is the wrong way to practice, but at least in my chapter we ignore them. I could never picture us chanting for their ill will! O.o
5. "Ask Too Many Questions"
My regional leaders praised me for my willingness to ask so many questions. They told me that one should not follow another just because they say too, but because I learn it for myself.
This is a religion based on peace and living a good life. And that's what I do. So I don't appreciate being told i'm brainwashed. Oh no, I want to help out my coummunity. Me and my friends are starting a peace initiative, a NON-religious one, at my school because of our faith. What's wrong and brainwashed about that?
As you can see, I am very surprised by others experiences. It also makes me nervous. Is our region an exception? If the top leaders of SGI came to our community center, would they be aghast at our behavior? This is very disconcerning to me.
I would love any thoughts. I can see know why people don't like the SGI, but I honestly belive that this buddhism, practiced the way we practice it in my town, is positive and not a cult. Maybe in the main HQ in Japan it is, and if thats the case, I will continue to practice this buddhism away from the SGI. But the people in my town are real, good people.
Hi and thanks for sharing. The important thing to remember is that the Lotus Sutra is but one of hundreds of sutras. There is no such belief in Buddhism that the Lotus Sutra is THE only one, the BEST sutra. Only Nichiren believed this because he believed in an end-time apocalyptic era. He saw the earthquakes, other natural disasters, wars, as "evidence" that the Japanese were being punished. This is why he went about trashing all other forms of Buddhism, and that was why he was banished to Sado Island.
Just think of it, the man is fighting with others, telling the Zen that they are causing the calamities in the world! Of course they thought he was nuts. His books and teachings are the letters he wrote to his students, would be students, while on that island.
WHen I started chanting I too loved it! I was sick and couldnt walk and after three months my hip pain went away and I could work and live again. But my pain came back a couple years later, and Ive lived with a degenerative hip and spine conditions for thirty years. THe Buddha said that the only way to end suffering, our individual suffering, was to attain enlightenment. The way to attain enlightenment was to understand and experience "emptiness", and they become enlightened. The only way to experience emptiness is through meditation. Why is it that there is no practice of other Buddhist texts, no meditation, and no conversations about the nature of emptiness in Nichiren Shoshu's Buddhism? Because he was a monk during the Kamakura period where drastic changes were occurring in Japanese Buddhism.
I say it was a cult because it was a cult. I was not allowed to ask questions. I was told that meditation was useless, and when I refused to buy the ridiculous jargon World Tribune publication one month, I was told that I was "heavy", by a senior leader who was sitting in my house, during my time, eating my food, as my guest! They couldn't take no for an answer. And when we asked questions yes we were accused of being Taiten.
I have been a Buddhist in the TIbetan lineage now for 15 years and I have never once been told that I was heavy. To understand the differences between the Theravada, the Mahayana and the Vajrayana is very important. Some of my teachers are clearly enlightened, and I saw the same in my travels to India, Malaysia, and other countries. Buddhism is not about selling monthly magazines, candles and incense.
And then there is the whole story about how the Soka Gakkai hired detectives in US Attorney Janet Reno's law offices to try to plant fictitious evidence in the Department of Justice's' database! And there are so many other horror stories, around the world. Yes, the Lotus Sutra is an important writing by Nagarjuna, an Indian philosopher and Buddhist. But it is just ONE of many sutras and tantras in Buddhism.
The sad fact is that because westerners don't know much about Buddhism, they are willing to believe. They are trusting, as I was. I saw the foolishness when we were sent out on midnight runs to recruit students at Harvard, and Boston University. Our "leaders" had the recruitment tactics down to an art, and they learned that from the Japanese senior leaders. The rest of us, we were blind. I am happy that I have an inquisitive mind, and that I am able to think and act for myself. I wasted seven years of my life in that group. Seven years! And no, their was nothing good about it because even though it claims to be a "Value Creation Society" the Soka Gakkai is a money-hungry organization, and it is no wonder the HIgh Priest excommunicated and ousted the lay organization.
Quite simply, the SGI is a cult. I have a Japanese friend and he tells me how his psychotic and homicidal father was allowed to live with his family and how members "encouraged" his mother not to divorce her husband, but to chant for his happiness...That lasted for a while, and then he stabbed her with a knife, nearly killing her. Today of course, members do not visit her. She is taiten, she is damaged goods. So much for compassion. I could write a book about the stories I have seen and heard. They are all the same.
Recently a stranger from India wrote to me about his wife. He told me that she had started chanting with the SGI people and that she had really changed and was always trying to get him to chant. He later wrote again and told me that the SGI in their group was telling members that during the time of the Buddha there was no such thing as monks or priests. That is so wrong and totally a lie.
I think the lay organization continues to speak ill of monks because they have lost many members (i.e., money) to the main church. I saw the posters of Daisaku Ikeda in these thousand dollar silk suits, posted on slum walls in India. Here they will make many new members, because of the caste system, and those individuals, mostly lower caste Hindus who are not allowed to participate in many of the Hindu rituals because of their caste, seek to belong, and for a small fee, the SGI will accept them. The sad part is that they are not practicing Buddhism.
I want to say that Buddhism is not about peace. There is no where in the teachings of the Buddha that he mentions creating an organization, a church, or anything like that, for peace. That is the most ridiculous thing about the SGI and shows how they have perverted Buddhism so much. Buddhism is about awakening, enlightenment, and that is all!
So, again, if you are happy, that is fine. But you really have to go out into the world and read about Buddhism and ask why is it that we don't meditate? Why is Nichiren Shoshu the ONLY Buddhist sect that doesn't meditate? Because Nichiren was out of touch with reality. He had a martyr complex, and that is why he was kicked out of his village. If he was a monk, at the time, he broke most of his vows simply because of the things he said and how he acted towards others. If he was here today, and we sent him to a psychoanalyst, surely they would have diagnosed him as a borderline personality!