Re: Former SGI members
Date: July 01, 2010 08:36AM
Thank you all for your participation in this forum. I normally refrain from involving myself in any on-line forums, etc. However, I have been struggling with SGI for a while, and questioning myself and my perspective. In desperation one night I just started searching all over the web for some help, and that is when I found all of you.
I was introduced to SGI by a friend of a friend. She had extreme mental health issues and was in and out of hospitals. I took her talk of SGI with a grain of salt, as clearly it was not working so well in her life! I practiced Shin at the time, and was open-minded to learning of her practice, but had absolutely no intention of "converting."
Although I very clearly expressed I was not interested in joining, her & her friends pressured me incessantly. They pointed out how the other people in my life were not positive, happy people, and explained to me how the practice would bring me happiness, wealth, and much friendship. I was fairly educated in other sects of Buddhism, and simply could not understand how these meetings & videos & singing were going to bring about world peace. They explained my life condition was such that I could not yet understand, but the more I became involved, the better my life condition would be, and then I would understand.
I went to a meeting and knew immediately it was not for me. I thanked them profusely for inviting me and sharing their beliefs with me, and kindly explained I was going to stick with my own practice. I thought this would be the end of it.
Instead, people just started showing up at my home! I'd open my bedroom door, and they'd be in the living room (I had roommates who let them in.) Initially, I found this to be abhorrent behavior. They explained they were just so concerned for me, and I needed to receive the gohozon to change my life. I was in dire straights at the time, and responded that I didn't even have the $30 for groceries, nevertheless some scroll for a practice I did not participate in!
I was going through a really rough spot in life. That's an understatement. I was experiencing great challenges and had no support system. Although I did not have any desire to convert, it felt so good to "have a friend." These people insisted they were my "family" and I would never be alone again, and if I just bought the gohozon, I would never have to worry about money ever again.
As years went by, they continued to pressure me to join. I found this to be odd behavior, but thought two things: 1.) they do seem like such nice people 2.) they are the only people in my life right now.
Time went by and I felt continually pressured. There would be times I'd be facing a challenge, and they'd tell me to chant about it. I began lying and pretending to chant. As someone who HIGHLY values honesty, this was a very big deal to me. Then, when a positive outcome would arise, they'd say see, this is how your life changes when you chant! I never had the heart to tell them I wasn't actually chanting.
This one lady in particular was pressuring me very very hard to receive the gohozon. Five years had gone by, and I was in a better financial place. It seemed worthwhile just to spend the $30 to make the phone calls stop.
Afterwards, I didn't hear much from them anymore. I kept in touch with one of the ladies who was just the sweetest person on earth. She promised me she would stay friends with me if I left the practice, but I didn't really believe her. A few years went by and things were pretty quiet, until suddenly some rock the era event was being produced. I began receiving phone calls and pressure to come to meetings. I was very lonely at the time, and those were the only phone calls I was receiving. The ladies would tell me there was no need to be lonely, as I had lots of friends! But when I went to the meetings, I felt more alone than ever before. I would read The Lotus Sutra and ask questions about it, and they'd tell me there was no need to be reading it. That I should just read The World Tribune, Living Buddhism, and Sensei's daily guidance.
One of the District Leaders took me for coffee one day. It was nice. I don't really have many friends, and I was so happy to have someone to spend time with. To my dismay, she would speak of nothing other than chanting. Nothing else! And when I tried to add to the conversation by sharing my experiences with Shin, I was quickly quieted. At the end, I thanked her so much for the coffee, and she happily explained that since she was a district leader, our time together was considered a meeting so she would write my coffee off her taxes. I can look back on it and laugh. But at the time it really hurt my feelings. Made me feel so small, and worthless. I wasn't a friend. I was just a tax write-off.
Through the years I have actually come to enjoy chanting. Unfortunately, throughout the years I have also taken their guidance with regards to who to have in my life, and surprisingly now the only people in my life are SGI people. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, the more I think about it.
The thing is, they say they are my friends and I never have to feel alone in the world. But when I invite them over for dinner, they don't want to come. Only to chant. When I invite them to watch a movie, they don't want to join me, only to chant. When it is my birthday, no one calls me. But when it's May contribution, my phone doesn't stop ringing.
This year I was unemployed for May contribution, and did not have any money to spare. They told me to sell my couch!
I said, I like my couch!!!!!!!
They told me I was never going to improve my life condition unless I contributed to May contribution to change my karma.
They used to be pretty nice to me, but since not contributing to May contribution, and now not "confirming my attendance" for the RTE, I am no longer receiving happy phone calls, but angry ones.
I am adult, and shouldn't be scared of these people, but somehow I am.
I am also scared because somehow over the years, I never meant for it to happen, but there is no one else in my life but SGI folks. It feels like I either stick with them, or I have nobody.
It's just confusing. At the Shin center they have lunch after the meditation ceremony, but no one gets angry with you if you don't have lunch with them. I don't understand why people are so angry with me because I don't wish to attend RTE. I also don't understand how RTE is contributing to world peace.
I also am so confused. I don't understand how someone who never even wanted to be involved in the practice, can turn around and look at my life and see I have become completely isolated from anyone other than SGI folks.
The last phone call I received was an angry one from someone who wants me to confirm my attendance to RTE. She said the performers have been rehearsing for months, and I would be disrespecting all their months of hard work by refusing to show up, and that I am harming the entire world by not participating in an event which will transform America.
I don't know what to do anymore. I can't even believe I ended up involved in this mess.