Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: writeforchange ()
Date: June 30, 2010 03:36PM

Hello, everyone. I have been reading this site since December and feel I know many of you. This site gave me a blue print for dealing with SGI when they made me feel like I was going crazy. I am particularly grateful to Nichijew for some of the serious scholarly links he posted. I have read all of them, some more than once.

Sunday I was called by someone about this site. We have talked about it since January but they say they can never find it and want more information. I have not heard from this leader since March. I told them I would send it to them. So I came here to find 30 more pages and I read every comment on every one of them. So I am convinced something is going on with leadership in LA and they are focused here.

So this is the place for me to tell my story in depth. It will be long so I will serialize it.

I started chanting in San Francisco in 1971. I really do not remember how I hooked up with the group. What is true is for the next ten years I was a devote seeker and tried everything. I liked Nicherin Shoshu because I found it calming. I do not remember any one ever telling me any great detail about Japan in the 12th century etc. I would sit on pillows with a group and chant a while and meditate a while. No one ever told me I had to chant constantly. I recently found a Sally Field movie from 1971 called I'll Be Home in the Spring where there is a substantial scene of hippies chanting Nam myoho etc around a campfire roasting marshmallows. That is essentially how I experienced the practice.

At that time I was 26, a recently divorced Catholic one of the first dissolutions in California. My family was horrified. Everyone took the position I should remain celebrate for the rest of my life and devote my life to the church and my family. I just could not stuff myself in that box. But I settled on not doing anything so far out as becoming a Buddhist for fear they would take my daughter from me as being an unfit mother in their view. But I have chanted all this time. Just not the way I am supposed to according to SGI and I never knew anything about SGI until Nov.7 2009. In that time, I have come to experience the power of chanting and I often visualize projecting a clear white light of protection when I do it. I also learned to understand and respect be careful what you ask for in case you might get it.

My spiritual life for a long time was slowly peeling off all the myths and actual lies of how the world functions that had been slathered on me all during my childhood. I do not think that is unique. Most people do not grow spiritually until what ever they are doing is no longer working for them. Being a good Catholic woman in the age of rising women's consciousness was just no longer a valid concept. I was taught you were either the Virgin Mary, an obedient nun, or a Catholic submissive wife with many children all given back to the church---anything else made you a slut. At that time, all of my family remained in Texas and I stayed in California without seeing them for 16 years.

I think from all my brainwashing I needed structure and rituals that were at acceptable to the most conservative viewpoint. Ultimately, after ten years, I converted to Judaism and while I was attracted to all the readings of the orthodox; I found their practice to be highly hypocritical. It took me ten years to convert because the fifth and final vow I take the Jewish people to be my people was very difficult for me. My reality was the best people in the world I knew were Jewish and the worst people in the world I knew were Jewish. It took me a while to realize that the Jews are just a microcosm of the world----there are all kinds, races, colors, and practices. I was comfortable in Judaism for 25 years.

If you have ever been to a high catholic mass entirely in Latin which you did not understand and you do a high orthodox Jewish service in Hebrew which you don't understand. The hats are different and the colors of the clothes are different but the rhythm and the procedures are almost the same. The priest goes Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, and the Rabbi goes Kodosh, Kodosh, Kodosh. My favorite joke is sprinking water on the chicken and making the sign of the cross saying you were a chicken but now you're a fish. I studied Judaism intensely for years, read tons of books, learned to speak and sing Hebrew and yiddish slang extensively. There was no one who could tell I was not born a Jew if I did not choose to tell them which most converts don't because on a whole Jews consider converts a Trojan Horse and even wrote an article about in in Tikkun in the 80s. I was often the idealized token convert until I married a major mench in the Jewish community. I immediately became a shiksa.

In my progress in spiritually as a Jew I concurrently studied Jungian therapy and Buddhism. I became what is called the Jew in the Lotus since neither mutually excludes the other. I went on equal spiritual retreats to places like the House of the Book and The Shrine of the Lake. As I grew older and hopefully wiser I found myself choosing less structure and more mindfulness. Becoming mindful of all things and at all times has been the great gift of Buddhism to my life. I have been practicing Tantric Buddhism and the Tao within myself for about 15 years. After my husband's death, I was through with organized religion on a whole. I was also done with practicing as a Jew because I can find no difference between the Wall of Warsaw and the Wall of Gaza.

One of the things that people have been identifying as commonality is what attracted them to SGI. The bottom line seems to be a time of vulnerability. And that vulnerability almost always gets immediately expressed to the "mentor" of sponsor you have in SGI. After all what could possibly happen to you from one of the oldest most peaceful religions in the world? What could you possibly fear from a mentor who only wants to bring you peace and happiness and "Buddhist Mercy."

From the fear expressed on the board --- a lot. You have just put your mental and moral life on the line and access to your reputation, your internal character, and possibly your ability to provide and maintain your family. Because I am also a professional nurse, teacher, psychologist, and writer, I am willing to put down the details of how this ripped and rippled through my life. I am 65 years old with the experience, education and coping skills to survive this but many people are not. They become the walking wounded. This is not Buddhism. This is not enlightenment. I am speaking up for the harm that has been done to me, the community, and ultimately my country. SGI and its corruption is not an exception but what makes it so devastating is that it is done by using the mask of seeking spirituality to really gut the soul. For many people, it is the last part of them that is finally eviscerated.

Til tomorrow night my fellow travelers. Peace.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: doubtful ()
Date: July 01, 2010 03:00AM

Welcome to the Forum. Thank you for your post. I am so glad to hear that your practice has been almost completely without SGI's influence since 1971. You wrote, "But I have chanted all this time. Just not the way I am supposed to according to SGI and I never knew anything about SGI until Nov.7 2009. In that time, I have come to experience the power of chanting and I often visualize projecting a clear white light of protection when I do it."

From a scientific point of view I find that fascinating since your experience (and language) of benefit, mentor-disciple, split with the priesthood, Soka Spirit etc are bound to be very different from most of us here. It's akin to those soldiers left on islands who think the war is still going on(okay maybe that's a stretch). Furthermore, your deep involvement in other faiths has certainly broadened your knowledge and experience. I can't wait to hear what SGI has done to you since you wrote, "This site gave me a blue print for dealing with SGI when they made me feel like I was going crazy. I am particularly grateful to Nichijew for some of the serious scholarly links he posted. I have read all of them, some more than once."

I too have been in touch with Nichijew, but I wanted to read up more before continuing to communicate with him. I hope he sees this.
I have almost finished reading a book recommended by a couple of people here, Montgomery's Fire in the Lotus. I could not put it down since yesterday. Now I am within 2 chapters of the end, but I have already finished all the parts leading up to and including the rise of SGI. When I started the book I suspected that the writer was biased in favor of SGI, which he may have been. Nevertheless, his traversal of Buddhism from Shakyamuni through Nichiren's disciples and schisms was excellent. It is a highly readable book in which he presents a different view of the Dharma Flower (Lotus Sutra), Nichiren, kaidan, Hongaku, the Dai-Gohonzon, authenticated texts (aimed at the Gosho and the Ongi Kuden), and the evolution of SGI from Makiguchi onward. I learned so much about why SGI is the way it is. Now more than ever I am certain that it won't change for the better. Profound study of Buddhism, especially that other than Nichiren, has never really been SGI's concern and I can see why to a certain extent. Here's a quote referring to Toda, "he was now marketing a sure-fire product. He knew that what people want most in the world is not 'truth,' but health, wealth, and happiness. This is what he offered them, and at a very nominal cost; he called it the 'happiness machine.' "(p.189). Nevertheless, Montgomery does not disparage Toda for this perspective--probably since Toda did advocate shakubuku in a big way since he wanted a believer to think, "the more converts he brought in, the more material and spiritual benefits he could expect"(p.185). I was glad to read that he still advocated hard work, not just converting and chanting. Given that many did in fact convert and many did see an improvement in their material circumstances, I have to admit, maybe he was on to something. I am just not sure that something accords with Nichiren or Shakyamuni's Buddhism. Like you, I have found that studying other faiths has been very helpful. While I shall remain a Nichiren Buddhist and continue to do gongyo and chant abundant daimoku as I have been doing, there are many ways up the mountain. I can also see why some people avoid organized religion. I shall after this.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 07/01/2010 03:13AM by doubtful.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: scaredtoleave ()
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.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: dsm ()
Date: July 01, 2010 09:57AM

It seems like you had friends before these people came into your life, and as I read through your story, I see the old friends have disappeared.

Maybe they got chased off?

Most states have a very simple "cease and desist" law by which you can tell anyone to stop bothering you and unless they have a legally legitimate reason to ignore your request, they then can face charges of stalking or harassment of some kind, especially when it is to demand contributions of money.

I call this the "$5 lawyer" because once you have decided you want nothing to do with someone or some group, you send them a simple certified letter saying that you are not interested in their group and you want them to leave you alone. If they bother you after that, they can face serious consequences because the proof is on your side that you wanted it to end. Causing fear in someone in order to receive contributions is a crime, you know. They know it, too.

Now if they really have you believing that they are your only friends, this would not be an easy thing to do. They might respond with all kinds of "sorry" "forgive us" stuff that will pull on your heart-strings. So before doing anything like this, make sure you have a support network ready. Find out what happened to old friends, maybe they actually tried to warn you but you weren't paying attention. Make some new friends or find a counselor who can help give you the moral support you need.

But don't let them intimidate you. Stand up to them and let that strength find its way into your whole self. People like them prey on the weak and run from the strong. Always remember you are stronger than you think.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: dragon14 ()
Date: July 01, 2010 10:25AM

Much writing about reading here lately. My one experience about being inspired by President Ikeda and reading some of the classic novelists who inspired Ikeda was met with blank stares and no dialogue at a large home meeting. At this large gathering they couldn't wait for me to change the subject. Reading other material was so off base. I'll never forget that tense look on Rob Eppsteiner's face, and, especially at another meeting when I said, immediately after gongyo, that I had to leave...before Mr. Eppsteiner had a chance to to step into our trance. The look on his face when I spoke first. I heard there was a lot of tense talk at that meeting. Maybe they keep control for a reason. I haven't seen many, if any books at long term members' homes other than SGI related. Back in the day I heard that Mr. Eppsteiner was one of the few non-Japanese Ikeda trusted. This was stated by a member to emphasise Eppsteiner's influence with no regard for the lack of trust on Ikeda's part.

Rob Eppsteiner was the "homencho" of the Boston territory for the entire 12 years that I lived there. He's one of the most eloquent American-born speakers I've heard in the SGI (better than *anyone* in SGI who's not a native-born English speaker), and he was very popular with the members. He was otherwise a fairly typical leader. One-on-one guidance came across like he was mentally referring to a leader's handbook, and he often said things because "that's what a leader is SUPPOSED to say". It serves as a reminder to me even today to say that you don't know the answer when you don't know the answer instead of saying something unhelpful because you think you're supposed to say something sage when asked for guidance. I haven't seen him since I moved out of Boston quite a number of years ago, and he has apparently climbed up the ranks in a big way. Sounds like he's drunk deeply of the proverbial Kool-Aid. I guess that's what happens when you're on the payroll. A shame - too bad. He was less bad then just about anyone else who was a leader in New England, and it sounds like he's slipped into the well.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: July 01, 2010 11:41AM

Scared To Leave, many of us joined SGI when we were going through some kind of crisis or loss in our lives. It seems quite common that people join cults at a time like that. They're desperate and ready to try anything that might help. Cult recruiters know this.

I think someone on this thread talked about leaders giving members guidance on doing shakabuku. The leaders advised finding out what the target's problems are, or what they want -- and then using that to get the person interested in the practice. I have witnessed members talking this way to guests at meetings.

If a guest says, "But I'm Christian," the SGI member will say "Oh, you can still be Christian and chant!"

If the guest has a health, money, or family problem, some member who has had that particular problem will share an experience of how they resolved it through chanting/President Ikeda's guidance/doing activities for SGI.

If the guest mentions wanting to help others, members stress how SGI is working for world peace.

If a guest seems lonely, the members act super-friendly.

You say that they are your friends. Yet they only contact you when they want you to do, or give something for SGI -- and that contact is angry and demanding. Real friends don't act that way. Real friends spend time with you because they want to, because they care about you and enjoy your company -- not because they want something from you.

You deserve so much better than this -- and you can have it.

Many of us have had similar experiences -- leave SGI and none of the members calls us again -- except for things like the May contribution or going to some meeting. Never just to say "Hello, how's it going?" No, if they call -- they want something.

Initially, I was sad about this...then angry. Now, I feel so much more free and happy without these users in my life. It frees up my time for more constructive and enjoyable activities -- and for REAL friends, not phonies.

dsm is sounds like you used to have nonSGI friends, and that you stopped seeing them due to pressure from SGI. Well, if you had friends before, you can have friends again. If you had even one can have more. Is it possible to reconnect with some of your old friends or your Shin group? Are there any activities (non SGI, of course) that interest you where you might meet people? Is there any way you can help someone? Some elderly neighbor who can't get out much and might welcome someone just stopping by for a little conversation? Volunteer in a soup kitchen once a week? If I'm lonely, the worst thing I can do is stay home alone. Doing something, anything helps -- taking a walk, going to the library and asking the librarian to suggest a good book, going to some shop, museum or part of town that I haven't been to in awhile. If talking to a counselor would help give you some perspective, then do so.

Angry phone calls are harassment, pure and simple. I like dsm's suggestion to send a certified letter. You have every right to tell them to stop, and to take legal action if they don't.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: SGBye ()
Date: July 01, 2010 11:52AM

Reading your post stirred up a lot of anger in me towards the SGI (again). The actions of that "Buddhist" organization seem to do that quite a bit. But, really, what are you scared of? What are they going to do? Fire you? It's not like they're your employer or anything. The worst thing that can happen is that they'll start leaving you alone. Actually, that's the best thing that could happen! You're afraid that you'll be all alone without SGI people, yet these people do nothing but cause you grief. Seems like a pretty easy decision to me.

The Blue Lady's situation also confused me. She had nothing nice to say about the SGI, yet it seemed like she didn't want to risk getting ousted from the organization. Wouldn't that have been a good thing?! I hope I'm not coming across as insensitive in saying that. I was very lucky in my situation when I left the SGI because I moved away from where I was practicing due to job-related purposes. Therefore, the SGI has no idea where I am now. But if I were still at my old place, I don't think I'd have any problem in telling those people to leave me alone. I'd go as far as to change my phone number if need be.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/01/2010 12:07PM by SGBye.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Morgaine ()
Date: July 01, 2010 11:57AM

Dear Scared to Leave,

These people are NOT your friends, they are people who have an agenda and a quota to fill and that is what they are doing, but don't worry, you sound very nice and intelligent and I am sure there will be genuine friends that will come your way. As for RTE, please do not make me laugh, that is a big joke, this event will NOT change the world in any way, shape or form, I would suggest you stay far away from such an "activity" if they ask you why you don't want to go , tell them you will be Rocking the Era from your house. Treat yourself to a good mani/pedi with the money you would have spent,it is time to take care of you.. Peace and Blessings.

@ tsukimoto. Very well said. Very well said.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: quiet one ()
Date: July 01, 2010 12:10PM

Hi, scaredtoleave. I can relate to your post. I practiced for so long and didn't know many people well outside of members. I too was "scared to leave"! But I have developed some new friendships, and I have actually reconnected with some people that I used to know many, many years ago! I find that I make more of an effort and am more friendly and open with people. I used to be just quiet!

My advice for you (if you would like it!) is to be open and try new things or try to renew some old friendships. You said that if you don't stick with SGI folks that there will be no one in your life. Yes there will be! Just try it! Old and new friends will appear. dsm advised possibly getting a counselor to also help give support. I think that this is good advice.

I am not around as many people as I used to be. We regularly had meetings in my house with 30 or more people attending. Sometimes as many as 60 including kids in the backyard! But the few people I am with now I truly enjoy!

I know just how you feel about the district leader who had coffee with you and considered it a tax deduction (after all, it was her duty as a leader to be friendly with you!) Try not to take it personally. She probably didn't mean to sound so cold! Membership in SGI really can affect your ability to relate to people well. Although many people that I've met in SGI are very nice folks, somehow relationships between members and some leaders are not very genuine or authentic.

RTE is not going to transform America. RTE is not contributing to world peace. If you don't want to attend, just don't! Don't let SGI members tell you that you should attend because the participants have rehearsed so much or because RTE will cause world peace. It won't!

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/01/2010 12:34PM by quiet one.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Nichijew ()
Date: July 01, 2010 12:20PM

Dear all:

Here in Oklahoma we have a "Make my day Law". Someone doesn't even have to come into your house, one foot on the property, and its, a former Yaku..I mean SGI member. Nah, really I would invite them in to chant with me to a real Gohonzon. I've made my address public and we have a guest bedroom. All are invited but please call first so I can put away the dogs. We also have a guard goat.


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