Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: doubtful ()
Date: May 29, 2010 03:32AM

@tsukimoto I loved reading how your health problem enabled you to awaken from your delusions about SGI. I also agree that the SGI mentality is very childlike, full of grand world-saving talk and dreams but ultimately too lazy or self-absorbed to realize any of those lofty goals. The word compassion gets thrown around the organization so much that it has lost its meaning. If fact, the Christian sense of compassion appears to be much more useful and apparent than in any SGI activities. At least there are organizations like World Vision that actually bring relief, food, shelter--hope to people in need. The billion dollar SGI thinks that a deeper solution is getting people to chant daimoku, not so that they can fix their own terrible circumstances, but so they can then introduce more members! I am quite embarrassed that I spent the last 2o years in such delusion.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: lthomas ()
Date: May 29, 2010 05:20AM

@doubtful- take your time when telling people that you want to leave and understand that it is a process. It does not happen overnight. Also, understand that their may be a tendency to go back and to falter after having made such a drastic lifestyle change. My advice to you would also be to seek counseling with a therapist and maybe join a support group. I know that that is what is helping me get through my four years of being in SGI.

Take Care,

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: May 29, 2010 06:22AM

Doubtful: "I attended a study meeting in my district last night where the central figure had not even read or studied the material in advance and blatantly relied on me(the district leader) and another leader to "help" her out. "

"Okay, people make mistakes and no one at our level is getting paid so I cannot fault the scheduled presenter, even though this is the second time she came unprepared to our study meeting. I guess studying the Gosho or Nichiren does not demand serious attention but RTE and May contribution do."

Quiet One: "After I had doubts about SGI, it was literally a few years before I could leave. I was a member for 33 years, and my whole life revolved around SGI. All of my friends and social life were SGI. My kids were raised in SGI. It was a major step to leave. "

 "I find that I'm having some of the anxiety that others here have spoken about. This surprises me, because things have seemed so much better for me, but I guess it's so hard to leave a cult after it has become so much a part of your life."

Rothaus: "The things you cherish about the core ideas of Nichiren Buddhism do not have to go overboard though if you still hold them dear in your heart." 

" But do not rush or feel urged to make a decision … at the same time be aware that the changes you would like to see come true in SGI i.e. the end of personality cult and demonising those who believe in different things will not come true."

lthomas: "@doubtful- take your time when telling people that you want to leave and understand that it is a process. It does not happen overnight. Also, understand that their may be a tendency to go back and to falter after having made such a drastic lifestyle change."

I agree with all of these statements. I too was a junior leader under some very disorganized, distracted leaders. Like you, Doubtful, I often would jump in and lead a discussion when I realized that they hadn't even glanced at the study material before the meeting. Their seniors just kept them so busy that they didn't have much time for study -- which to me, was really the point of being a Buddhist in the first place: You study and reflect on the teachings of Buddha. If the point was just to have a lot of meetings, then weren't we just a social club? When I joined, I hoped that the practice of Buddhism would help me create more peace in my life. This frantic rushing around, running ourselves ragged for the organization was NOT what I had in mind!

I envy Nichijew that he could decide to leave SGI in three weeks. For me, it took years, and I left and came back. There were people and activities that I liked, as well as things I didn't. It's like being in a bad relationship, I think. There are things you love -- or used to love -- about the person you're with. You made a committment and you believe in keeping your committments. The person has some appealing traits, along with the bad ones, and they've been so much a part of your life, it's hard to imagine life without them. Things may not be great, but are they bad enough to leave? At what point do you decide it's hopeless and throw in the towel? If you leave, are you admitting you were wrong to be with that person in the first place? You think, "If I work harder, I can fix this." You hope that they will change. (It doesn't happen.)

I've read that smokers often have to make several attempts to quit smoking before they can stop permanently. I've also read that abused wives often make several attempts to leave the abusive husband -- and return to him, and leave again, before they can leave for good. I think lthomas is right. Personal growth and change is a challenging, uneven, and often anxiety-producing process. Some days you may feel positive, confident, and full of insights. The next day, maybe you doubt yourself and feel anxious, the day after that, you go back into the old bad habits, and the following week, you pick yourself up and begin moving forward again.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: May 29, 2010 06:51AM

Does anyone feel like this? Sometimes I am so disgusted by my own behavior over the past 2o years that I want to take down my Gohonzon and get one not issued by the SGI.When I recall harassing uninterested members; trying so hard to hook the guests; building resentments toward guests I would bring who clearly didn't want to come back(Oh boy I did that--can anyone here relate?); trying to get my family, friends, and co-workers to join; putting time and effort into planning and executing meetings instead of actually making a difference in the world; indulging in magical thinking(Oh boy!); being perplexed when others outside SGI did not share my logic; turning a blind eye to how unimpressive MOST SGI members are; deluding myself that I could make SGI better in my small way; ignoring the fact that true "seeking spirit toward Buddhism is clearly not considered important; my own intolerance when guests or newer members would mention other Buddhist sects or other religious practices; my incessant arrogance, arrogance, arrogance expressed as condescending judgment of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Kabbalists, Tibetan Buddhists etc; fear of karmic retribution for leaving or criticizing members or SGI; mistakenly thinking that it was okay for me to hide books about self-help or other Buddhist teachers whenever members were coming over; and finally the big one--watching my mother, whom I introduced 20 yrs ago, get subjected to guilt for failing to introduce new members, spend money on May contribution, pester relatives to join, and worst of all, watching her becoming an Ikeda groupie. How do I deal with the guilt, betrayal, and manipulation?

I took a couple of journalism courses in college, and reading this made me think of something our professor, a no-nonsense, hardbitten old reporter told us: "If you can read something that you wrote last year and still be satisfied with it, then you haven't learned a damn thing in a year!"

I thought at the time, "Damn,that's harsh! We're just supposed to be dissatisfied with our work, and never feel like we've done a good job?"

Now, I think he meant: if this is what you want to do, then you need to keep learning about news and the world around you -- and constantly sharpening your writing skills. Maybe what you wrote last year was wonderful -- considering who you were and what you knew last year....but in a year, you should have developed some insight or skill that would make you realize, "Okay, I could improve this piece in this or that way."

I have the same discomfort about my behavior in SGI -- I stayed, even though there were a lot of red flags, I tried to convince friends and family to join, I had this smugness that I was practicing the one true religion and other people weren't...and I had the delusion and arrogance to think that I was saving the world with my chanting and participating in SGI meetings.

On one hand, I don't like to think about it. I feel some shame that I believed all this nonsense. My friends and family always told me that I was smart...well, I wasn't acting or thinking like a smart person while I was in SGI.

Yet, the positive thing, Doubtful -- is that we feel embarrassed because WE HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING! Like the journalism student who looked at last year's paper and said, "No, I'm NOT satisfied with this! Why did I write this, and why didn't I say that...and this paragraph's awkward, it doesn't flow at all!" The student's dissatisfied because in a year, he's learned something that he didn't know before!

Discomfort, pain, embarrassment is not always a sign that something is wrong! It can also be a sign that a person has grown and learned and become more aware! I mean, you could numb yourself with alcohol, pot or prescription tranquilizers. You would feel very calm, and have little pain, shame, or frustration, but you would also be weakening yourself emotionally, spiritually and physically.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Morgaine ()
Date: May 29, 2010 03:31PM

Hi all,

I am a very long term member who grew up in the SGI and was extremely SGI, my friends called me Gakkai Princess, but over the years and too many experiences to recount here, I realized all was not right in OZ. I think the main thing I would encourage anyone that wants to leave to do is , to go ahead and leave, then you will know for sure what you want to do. It may even be that you leave for a while and refocus your life and your practice on the Gohonzon and Nichiren and then can rejoin later. The only thing I would encourage is to let go of the superstition . I have seen many people leave and none of them have had any horrible things happen to them. Some have continued to chant on their own and others have followed a different path. Remember why you started practicing in the first place. The power in your life is your own.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: doubtful ()
Date: May 30, 2010 12:25AM

Hey all, thanks for your encouragement(oops that's Gakkai-speak). Last night I broke down and told my mother about my problems with the SGI. Not surprisingly, she had many of the same reservations. In fact, she was also aware of the shaming, superstitious techniques her district tried to use on her when she relinquished her leadership role. They kept telling her that position would enable her to change her karma faster. She didn't buy it. They also asked her to give an experience concerning financial contribution and she told them she did not have one, although she contributes every year. She was familiar with members predicting doom and gloom for leaving the organization. She basically takes what she wants and leaves the rest. She enjoys chanting alone and with others. She enjoys studying too( althought that includes the Human Revolution--UGH!). She attends meetings when she wants to. When the Ikeda worship begins she simply tunes it out. I could almost go for this approach, except that I cannot support the meetings when they try to hook new members. It's like being in some kind of supposedly spiritual Amway pyramid scheme but knowing it's a scam and then helping others get the victim to commit to sell products. Fortunately she and I can still chant together. Finally, while I was having this hour long rant with her, a senior leader called to schedule a meeting with me and another leader. Oh-Oh. This must be because I told another leader last week that I will never choose Ikeda as my mentor, especially since they keep insisting that I must in order to be a Nichiren Buddhist. So I am informing you all that I shall meet with them probably Wed or Thurs of next week and I will tell them how I feel. However, I shall not mention this forum because I don't want them trying to figure out who I am.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: quiet one ()
Date: May 30, 2010 01:08AM

I'd like to share one of my experiences with the May contribution. One year, we gave what we could, but we didn't have too much money. But we did have a garage full of junk, so my husband and I had a garage sale. It was a lot of work for both Saturday and Sunday, but we raised some money and gave it to SGI. Then our "financial fortune" changed. We found out that we owed thousands of dollars to the IRS. Our car lease was up and they wouldn't take back the car unless we paid $11,000 (don't ever lease a car). Many other huge bills came up. I said to my husband, "Hey, this is not what is supposed to happen after the May contribution!" We actually both got a laugh from what SGI was telling us.

Morgaine, I'd like to hear some of your experiences. After so many years, you must have some interesting things to tell!

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: doubtful ()
Date: May 30, 2010 01:51AM

Oh Nichijew, your experience as a YMD driving around Manhatten in a truck; wearing white shirt/pants on weekends; giving your last dime for activities; being underslept; being pushy with friends and family who could not see your enlightenment as something they wanted to emulate; and the clincher--not studying the Gosho much or at all. Fortunately I can only relate to some of this but I have known MANY YMDs who CAN relate to all of it. The sad thing is some think it was all worth it. Why? None of them are particularly more successful in any way than any non-SGI people I know. In fact, in some case they are doing significantly not as well as others. In addition, I am so glad you mentioned that SGI is HIGHLY selective about Gosho passages studied. We did study Ikeda's interminably long "Heritage of the Ultimate Law" lecture most of 2008. Then others that mention something that could be twisted into the need for mentor-disciple. Gee wonder why. I have always been super encouraged by "Letter to Niike," since it has some of Nichiren's most beautiful writing. That Gosho has yet to be studied, especially since the split with the priesthood probably because in it, Nichiren does not condemn all priests, just corrupt ones. Well, I am sure it would not be advantageous for SGI to open up a discussion of the real import of this amazing Gosho. It's too bad because some of it could also be used to support Ikeda's significance too. Nichiren says that, "if a person has the wisdom to know the spirit of the Lotus Sutra...worship him and serve him as though he were a living Buddha." However, in the same Gosho Nichiren praises those who "give alms to a priest who knows the heart of the Lotus Sutra." My imminent departure is now bringing me back to reading the Gosho, which is what a Nichiren Buddhist is supposed to do, not make a fool out of himself doing activities, pestering people into joining, giving money to a rich organization, and deferring to leaders who think they know "the spirit of the Lotus Sutra" simply because they accept Ikeda as their mentor. If SGI were actually practicing as Nichiren intended why have so many of my guests (including my 11 year old second cousin) over the past 20 years told me that the SGI meeting showed us to be quite materialistic? Of course, some hardcore members would say that those guests' karma kept them from seeing the truth. I now see, I was the one not seeing the truth. If True Buddhism (that's what it used to be called when I joined 21 years ago) were the real, the "True" thing why do so many leave a meeting thinking, "No way"? Why does it look like SGI members are just unsuccessful people who think doing this will make them successful?

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Rothaus ()
Date: May 30, 2010 02:44AM

@quiet one

This reminds me to a family that I knew while still active. They inherited some money and gave a couple of ten thousands of € to SGI ( can not remember if it was 50.000 or 60.000 € or even less it was alot ). Anyway the last thing I heard was that the guys business went down and they had to sell their house. Well if SGI were a person and lets say I would be that person --- I would have severe problems looking into those peoples eyes knowing that they once gave me so much.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/30/2010 02:45AM by Rothaus.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: wakatta1 ()
Date: May 30, 2010 08:27AM


I have seen many people leave and none of them have had any horrible things happen to them. Some have continued to chant on their own and others have followed a different path. Remember why you started practicing in the first place. The power in your life is your own.

Good advice.

Superstition plays to the "what if" or the mystic side of people's belief. Wanting good things to appear in your life without making any greater cause besides chanting would then suggest that doing something "bad" to SGI (such as removing yourself and causing their membership numbers to drop, or going taitan feeling you may "discourage" other members) could easily cause bad things to happen too. "Divine punishment" comes to mind, and no one wants that to happen - SGI depends upon the fear of that to keep the edges of the herd tight.

However if you look at who is the godhead in SGI these days you have top lay leaders who have erected themselves as equals to the object of worship. Seems to me they aren't too worried about Divine Punishment are they? In fact, I'd say that Divine Punishment is upon them in the form of members leaving, and taking their potential revenue with them but in their arrogance they don't seem to see it, instead they apparently just ramp up the rhetoric and demonize those who have left.

Now, with regards to those here who feel obligated to continue to service their roles in SGI, let me impart a little allegory, and a little experiment to reveal some of the thought processes at work here.

Find yourself a bucket and fill it with water. Then, place your hand within the bucket of water. Leave it there for a few seconds to make sure the water really knows it is there, and then, just as fast as you can, pull your hand out of the bucket. As you remove your hand, observe the hole it leaves behind it in the water. Do this experiment as many times as you need to in order to ensure that you clearly see the void that remained after removing your hand.

Like the water filling completely behind your hand, the SGI organization will also move in to fill the hole you leave behind - like all such organizations, SGI is fluid. That behavior exists to ensure that their organization continues to survive, and your coming and going is just the merest flyspeck on the organizations radar. Compared to the organizationsl wealth, your contributions would barely pay for the time it would take to simply total them up and realize how inconsequential they are. To those near you who are fully committed to SGI, they will continue on with their practice and activities (until eventually they wake up) but they will (of necessity) just work around the inconvenience created by leaving ( and maybe frown and offer a "tsk-tsk - did you hear that so-and-so stopped practicing?"). Remember, in SGI, the belief is that the only irreplaceable member is the Sensei. (All the rest of the folks are expendable foot soldiers suited only to build human pyramids, make contributions and to sing "Forever Sensei".)

Now ask yourself: is the void I'm afraid of creating really inside the SGI organization, or is it just in my mind? I'll bet you see that it is really the sense of obligation you have created for yourself through mere repetition. Your SGI acquaintances may suffer momentary feelings of loss, but when the sun comes up the next day they will continue on without you to serve "Sensei".

Armed with that perspective you are in a better place to decide whether you "endure in agony" or get started on a "new day".


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/30/2010 08:34AM by wakatta1.

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