Re: Former SGI members
Date: May 31, 2010 01:35PM
You know, after reading many of these posts, I'm wondering a few things, and one of those things is "how much do any of you have really read the Gosho, how many of you have any real understanding of the cultural and historical context in which modern day Nichiren Buddhism is framed, how much do you know about the role of one mentor out of the three mentors, and if any of you know exactly how karma works and where is springs from?
First, let's talk about the 3 mentors and why they are important. The 3 mentors are the Law, the priesthood and the person. The first mentor, the Law of cause and effect, is to utilize the Law to YOUR greatest capacity. The only thing not making it work in people's lives is not the Law itself, it is the belief in the Law by the practitioner. Cause and effect are absolute, and governs every single phenomenon in the entire universe, right down to the quantum level. In quantum physics, for a phenomenon to exist, there has to be an intelligent being to observe it. Everything, and everyBODY, is subject to the Law, and every person on this planet is able to work with the Law to their benefit, it all depends on how they perceive things. Karma is the effects of causes, which for the individual, comprise words, actions and deeds, which all spring from the very nature of the THOUGHTS that people have. That means that the very nature of a person's thoughts determines what kind of causes they make, and also the effects, since cause and effect occur simultaneously. Therefore, to follow the Law is to understand that people make a peaceful world, as the world (and the universe itself) is the creation of infinite numbers of people thinking billions of thoughts simultaneously, and it is the responsibility of individuals to follow the Law to better control the very nature of their thoughts. Those that do chant for the happiness of others and themselves in the Saha world are following the mentor of the Law. Those that don't are contributing to the "negative balance" of Karma in the universe. That's how powerful we really are, and that's why we are all so important, as we are ALL, Buddhist or not, shaping the very reality around us for everyone around us in every waking moment in our lives with every thought. That's the "top floor" level.
The mentor of the priest is much more simple, but just as crucial. The role of the priest as mentor is due to their efforts to protect, understand, codify and explain the Law to lay believers. By following the example of the priest as mentor, lay believers strive to do the same to deepen their understanding. It also represents Nichiren and Shakyamuni. That's the "middle floor" level mentor.
The mentor of the person is for those of us as lay believers to have a "real" person to follow as a concrete "real world" example of how to actually practice this Buddhism. We are imperfect beings, all too human, and we need concrete examples to emulate. That's just how we work. Daisaku Ikeda is the current mentor of the person, because through his example, we can follow it to overcome all of the things in our life that we need to overcome. That's the "street level" mentor, in the mundane, everyday world, and in that way, every one of us that practices is a mentor equal to President Ikeda.
What exactly has he done? Starting out in post-war Japan, he followed Toda who had followed Makiguchi in following the example of Nichiren by not succumbing to the wishes of an oppressive government that wanted to stifle religious freedom and a philosophy of peace and security for the people. Nichiren was a rebel, and so were Makiguchi and Toda. They knew that the military mindset that had ruled Japan for centuries was wrong, and they both stood up to it. THAT is the start of the Soka Gakkai, the desire to fight oppression and insane policies based on control and dominance through arrogance, stupidity and greed, resulting in extreme violence.
After Toda died, he took on the dream of making people happy, and turned it into an international organization, which Nichiren foretold would be the case in the Latter Day Of The Law, where the spread of Buddhism would be worldwide in scope for the happiness of all humanity. Has that happened under Ikeda's leadership? Yes, it has.
What did he have to overcome personally to do that, and how did he do it? First, he had to assist Toda in rebuilding his publishing companies in post-war destruction. As a staff writer, Ikeda followed Toda's practice of serialization, which he employed in writing The Human Revolution in the same way that Toda did to encourage members. Next, he had to overcome tuberculosis, which doctors diagnosed would take his life before he reached the age of 30. He's 82 now. He's had to overcome a juggernaut of yellow journalism, which in Japan, makes Rash Lambaste look like the Walter Cronkite. Vicious, virulent and extremely profitable, these publications sell by the millions to a buying public that thrive on drama and scandal, even if it's totally and utterly contrived.
So, as a mentor, we can look at Ikeda's example of what can be achieved through the practice of Buddhism, as he's just another human being like the rest of us. But, he has successfully followed the first 2 mentors to bring it to the rest of us. So, in effect, Ikeda is not the only important mentor after all, he's just the one out of 3 that has a human face just like the rest of us, and we all fulfill the same function in society. We're just not as good as he is at it.
That's what he has done, but the rest of us, we mainly whine and bitch about things but still try to practice, grudgingly.
However, the existence of the function of the SGI must also be viewed through the cultural and national context in which it was conceived, and that's where I believe the perceptual disconnect happens for many Americans.
A little about me: My mother is Japanese (and not an SGI member), my father was an American serviceman, and living all over the world, I've come to understand that fundamental and crucial aspect of understanding the cultural context of others. One must see things from the perspective of its origins, and not through the prism of personal cultural mores and preconceptions.
That being said, the very language that is used is a stumbling block to understanding, as many concepts in Japanese culture get lost in translation, as the word in English has a different meaning or connotation. The words "master and disciple", in particular, has an extremely negative aura around them, as the word "master" means to many as "controller" or "one who subjugates". The correct term is MENTOR, not master. Please stop saying "master and disciple". That is incorrect. Ikeda is not our "master", he is one of 3 MENTORS. Jebus, get it right people!
In Japanese culture, history and society, the mentor and disciple relationship is deeply ingrained, and has a positive connotation, one that's more akin to "teacher and pupil". That's the true nature of the words and the concept from a Japanese perspective, and in many other Asian cultures. Anyone that's seen a Kung Fu or Samurai movie knows that, and I'm sure that many people can also see that the American organization is suffering from "culture shock".
But, that cultural and linguistic disconnect of a teaching that is thousands of years old and that has traveled from India, to Nepal and Tibet, to China and Southeast Asia, to Korea and finally to Japan, makes things incredibly difficult for us in the West to understand and equally difficult for those from the East to explain. So much of our practice is not just Buddhist, but Japanese, as they have been intertwined for centuries.
That's been my major stumbling block, even with a multicultural, multilingual and multiracial makeup, translating all of these concepts into plain old everyday English so that I can understand what it is that I'm DOING when I'm practicing. It's taken me 30 years to do so.
It's taken me all of these years to get past the laborious texts, the lectures, the negativity of people, to get right down to the nitty gritty of what this Buddhism is about. To sum it all up in a few sentences:
"Get the hell over yourself, start to believe in yourself, and chant like there's no tomorrow."
"It doesn't matter what anyone else says or does, the important thing is to believe that I can fight and be victorious another day."
"If my life sucks, CHANGE IT. BELIEVE that I can change it. KNOW that through the practice of the Law, making ever greater causes for my happiness and fortune in life, I AM contributing to a better, happier and more peaceful world. I AM creating a better life through the very nature of my thoughts."
And my favorite, stated by one of the women's division: It's time to stop the pity party and put your big girl panties on."
That last one always makes me smile and get over myself. Seriously, I can generate some major negativity, and if I let it get the best of me, life just sucks worse than a quantum singularity. Sometimes, just thinking to myself, "Dude, where's my benefit" is enough to bust me out of a funk. Other times, it takes the encouragement of pioneer members, their knowing smile, their quiet compassion. Sometimes, it's hard to understand their words, but if I get over myself and listen with my heart, I can feel what they are trying to say, and reignites my sense of appreciation for my own life and for the lives of others that have helped me.
Appreciation is the operative word. Many don't appreciate what others have done for them, and only focus on their own crud. Sometimes I get that way too, but I snap out of it eventually.
The bottom line is that cause and effect is absolute, applies to all of us, Buddhist or not, and everything in our lives is the result of the thoughts we have thought, the choices that we have made, and actions that we have taken. It's not the fault of the SGI that your life sucks, it's yours, and that's the thing that so many people can't take, including, sometimes, myself. Yeah, people do dumb things, even when they chant. Just because you practice Buddhism doesn't mean that all of a sudden, you're perfect. And, I know for a stone cold fact that I'm not.
This past week I've gone through a major trial of negativity, one so severe that Danny Nagashima is going to call me this week to let me vent. I've been so pissed off, my fundamental darkness so strong, my personal obstacles so severe that my senior leaders gave me the number to the national level to call, I talked with Jim Nobukuni, and he passed me to Danny to handle, as that's how crucial a point in my faith that I''m at.
He's going to hear about how I can't stand the constant negativity of members, the lack of passion, the lack of support and the years of trying to understand an incredibly complicated philosophy that has most of it couched in arcane language and too much metaphor with no current historical context that it makes the simplest concepts too difficult for us Americans to understand and grasp. He's going to hear that thousands of members are quitting because they can't grasp Buddhism and are not getting benefit. He's going to hear that we need a different kind of evolution in the organization, since the structure and practices that are employed now have resulted in epic fail for thousands of people. He's going to hear that the SGI-USA needs to be dynamic, vigorous, passionate and exciting and readily accessible and understandable if it stands a chance of surviving in America, where one thing we do very well is complain about anything and everything. He's going to hear that we have to be more "americentric" in the way that we conduct activities in this country, with clarification of concepts IN PLAIN ENGLISH, and not base things on an operational model that worked 50 years ago in another country and culture, one that is misconstrued, misunderstood and misinterpreted, because it's so foreign. SGI-USA really DOES have to be "Made The American Way" in order to be successful and for people to really get benefit. He's going to hear that Buddhism has ALWAYS evolved and adapted to the culture in which it was practiced in for centuries, and we DON'T have to have one universal methodology based upon Japanese culture. He's going to hear that we need more MALE voices in teleconferences and publications, and allow us men to stand up and fight to change our Karma instead of just supporting the other 3 divisions. Actually, those are all things that I personally need in order to continue on practicing, but I know that I'm not the only one that feels this way.
I'll be sure to let everyone know how he responds, and I hope that what he has to say can clarify a lot of things for you folks (and for myself). I hope that he says "be the leader to make the change", to which I'll reply "I'd love to, as our local leadership are all in their 60s and 70s. Can you please "retire" some of them so that I can chant at toso with a passionate, fighting spirit without being bogged down?"
I think that's the biggest obstacle: complacency and lack of spirit.
Time to take off the Underoos, and maybe go commando. ;-)
See? We all have something to complain about. The difference is that I'm going to practice this Buddhism to do something about it.