Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: wakatta1 ()
Date: June 01, 2010 06:14AM


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

Here is an interesting counter to your thought above. Why is it that there is virtually no scholarly discussion within SGI except for the anointed few? In any other organization where the membership is actively engaged and participating on all levels, there is always considerable discussion and published dialogs running freely. Now look at SGI. Is there any approved channel for members to dissent broadly (aside from the few BBS's out there)? How about books and pamphlets between the noteworthy and knowledgeable american (western) members. Sorry, there is no such thing. SGI has a one-way channel to the membership that they carefully control. Do you believe this is because the members are stupid, slothful, ignorant and incapable of better? Or is it an organizational sanction in which the "right" leaders do what they are instructed to do, think what they are told to think, and do their best to hold the membership in lock step with them?

If you want to find a source for the lack of passion and of support, it may be because the organization has SQUANDERED THE ENTHUSIASM AND THE TRUST OF THE MEMBERSHIP! It has taken advantage of the members, who from the start were always treated as second class citizens. I wish I had a dime for every new hand-picked Japanese leader that would show up in Chicago and tell the leaders what the problem was. Hmmm, I wonder why nothing ever changed?


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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: doubtful ()
Date: June 01, 2010 06:41AM

Hey FMTW, I too feel I was brainwashed for years, 21 to be exact. However this forum has given me the courage to finally open up about all my concerns. It's exhilarating to find that I am in good company. It also has helped to get honest with my partner, my mother(who also practices with SGI), and any other disgruntled person. More than anything I do not want to support the process of hooking new victim. Perhaps you can relate to this because even though you have been unsuccessful at shakubuku you have contributed to meeting where it was taking place. Finally, I have been examining my own behavior. Too often I have been unwilling to share with non-SGI people my fears or concerns about the way SGI does things. Now I see that was a problem in and of itself: worrying that reasonable disinterested third parties would not be able to see the value of SGI's bs. So glad I am leaving. It feels great.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: doubtful ()
Date: June 01, 2010 07:21AM

@GwT Boy do you have arrogance. Most of us on this forum have excellent reasons for despising what SGI has done to our expectations of Buddhism, our contributions, and our own peace of mind. No, pressuring members into giving May contribution to change their karma or to support and attend some cult-like RTE event in July, and pressuring people from all areas of your life into joining does NOT create any kind of peace anywhere. It creates anxiety, stress, and a feeling that somehow something is wrong with us here. You are so entrenched in the SGI perspective that you worship at Ikeda's altar. Your injunction to "Get the hell over yourself, start to believe in yourself, and chant like there's no tomorrow"; and your idea that one should think, "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." You are absolutely full of it to make these statements right after supposedly clarifying SGI/Ikeda's importance. First of all, NONE of what you wrote has anything to do with Buddhism. Its purpose, the original one and the true one, is to help people overcome their sufferings, their delusions, their attachments; to improve their perceptions; to illuminate their fundamental darkness or negativity; to realize their greater identity, not the one created by their reliance on impermanent phenomena; and to achieve inner and outer harmony. Some who joined SGI probably thought they would get at least some of those things. INSTEAD, they got Ikeda is the only mentor; you must choose him; and use this practice to accomplish your dreams. BULL__! Neither of those two thing have anything to do with Buddhism. Good luck with your supposed conversation with the higher level SGI leadership. Neither of you will be discussing Buddhism.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: DavidM ()
Date: June 01, 2010 07:45AM

Dear GwT,

First of all, welcome to the forum. Before responding directly to the points you made I'd just like to say a couple of things regarding this forum and the people here.

Firstly, it would be good to bear in mind that the main purpose of this forum is not to discuss whether SGI is 'good or bad'. The main purpose of this forum is to be a support network for people who are having/had trouble in SGI. Other than people who have a doctrinal or 'teaching' issue with SGI, you will find that most poeple who have posted their personal experience on the last 180 pages of this forum did so because they wanted help with the personal, negative experiences they had with SGI. The people who posted their personal experiences on this forum were looking for help, acceptance and human kindness.
They got it.

I'm not saying any of this to attack to you, I'm only saying it so that you understand the main purpose of this forum. I'm also saying it to help you understand why some of the people on this forum may not be very friendly towards you, or very interested in discussing SGI's teachings. Some people are still very angry and very hurt from their time in SGI. You might not (I hope you haven't anyway) seen or experienced anything very bad happening in SGI. But negative things have happened to people. From my reading here this has usually been down to bad advice from leaders, too much pressure to donate or do activities, or disagreements over doctrinal and teaching issues. None of the attacks towards SGI that you will read on this forum come from the 'yellow press' or other Buddhist organisations wishing to harm SGI. They come from people who have years of personal experience in SGI, who were committed to helping SGI, ran activities, became high level leaders, and gave a large portion of their life to SGI.
But for one reason or another they left SGI. Their range of experience is too wide to go into in detail here, but the last 180 pages of this forum will be there for as long as you need to read them.

I hope you will read people's responses to your post (and future posts I hope) with an open mind and heart. You may disagree with what they say, and as I said, some people may come aross as angry and upset. But the only reason anyone would post to you on this forum is because they want to share their thoughts and feelings about SGI with you.

Take care, this forum is always here if you need it.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/01/2010 07:59AM by DavidM.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: rattyboy ()
Date: June 02, 2010 11:57AM

Gee, I felt good about having the big boy pants on since NOT chanting. I was thinking of re-enshrining the Gohonzon for the month of June and get over my avoidance of chanting, but without SGI involvement. Maybe this re acquantence with chanting might embellish some of the freedom I'm finding. I could do well without it actually and the people around me would benefit from my approach to life WITHOUT chanting.. there was a life and a direction before SGI and NSA and I am 'determined' to find it. 'Moving ahead boldly' I will....never mind. Peace.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: SoniqueSc ()
Date: June 03, 2010 01:37AM

Hi Everybody,

I am a current SGI member who would like to have a sincere dialog with ex-members and even Nichiren Soshu members (I keep trying, can't find them). I don't want to unearth bad feelings or cause anyone hurt. The hope here is to engage on a human level, and create as much value as possible.

I wanted to ask about a few key points:

1) a few posts back I saw something about homosexual members being treated unfairly and even shunned. I haven't seen this where I practice (I have become very close with two leaders who are gay). Has this occurred in many places?

2) Mentor/Disciple - This seems to be a big sticking point, and I wanted to as your thoughts on my take on it. I've seen where members can take this way too literally or as the master/slave relationship. I think of this as more of a call to follow in Toda and Ikeda's footsteps by engaging in humanistic conversation. When I watch Daisaku Ikeda speak in the videos, that's what I get. Connect with others on a human level. He often quotes non Buddhist sources. I find that very encouraging. I'm encouraged to share my beliefs and share how anyone can be happy, but I'm not pushed to convert. Most importantly, I'm encouraged to help the next generation surpass me in every way (much like a good mentor wants their disciples to surpass them).

3) Priesthood - This is such a huge issue. Here is my take on it. Please let me know your thoughts. I joined long after the temple issue occurred, so I'm not too familiar with how things were before 1991. I will say that I have a hard time with the very concept of priesthood. How can someone claim to know more than anyone else? That's why I like the mentor/disciple relationship. Walking side by side, each learning from the other and growing through their dialog. I like the idea that we all work together and study together. No leader is "better". I would not have joined SGI if there was a priesthood. I'm sorry if that sentiment offends anyone. I agree that the rhetoric is often so harsh that it makes me cringe. However, I can also say that I checked out the Nichiren Soshu website and found that it's all about reverence to priests and not about human revolution. I don't think revering priests (or Ikeda or anyone else for that matter) is the way to grow. Also,I know a couple former temple members, and they don't speak very well of they way they were treated. With that in mind, I can see where a lot of the emotion comes from.

Thank you all and I look forward to a nice dialog.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: DavidM ()
Date: June 03, 2010 06:19AM

Hello SoniqueSc, welcome to the forum.

First of all, I would like to direct you to the post I made on this page which is a few posts up. It explains a bit about the purpose of this forum and the people here. It will definitely help you if you keep it in mind when engaging in dialogue with the people on this forum.

You said, "I am a current SGI member who would like to have a sincere dialog with ex-members and even Nichiren Soshu members". I find the wording you used here quite worrying, you said 'even Nichiren Shoshu members', as though they are inferior or dangerous in some way. Maybe you didn't mean it in that way but that is how it sounded to me. Please don't take that as a personal attack, but the way you said it does sound like you are personally attacking Nichiren Shoshu members. (Which I am not one of btw.)

I'll concentrate on the second point that you made but if you want me to go into detail on points 1 and 3 then I will do.

First of all, from your post you seem like a balanced and happy person. The 'issues' surrounding the mentor/disciple relationship, shakabuku and contrubution may not be very big things for you in your district (they weren't for me) but the truth is SGI is different everywhere. Your district may be moderate and well balanced, but many, many people (who I imagine will post soon after me) have experienced life in districts very different you yours. Districts where people felt a pressure and expectency to take Ikeda as their mentor, where they were encouraged to study his writings instead of the Lotus Sutra or the Gosho, and where they were treated harshly for publicly refusing to take Ikeda as their mentor.
What do you think would happen in your discussion meeting if a member said, "I don't feel that I can ever accept Ikeda as my mentor, I don't feel a personal connection to him, I will probably never meet him, there are important people in my life who I feel have really been my mentors, so I feel it is inappropriate and strange to call Ikeda my mentor."
If in your discussion meeting you think that no one would have a problem with that, and that the person would be accepted in a warm and friendly manner (without people secretly thinking that they will change this members mind) then you are very lucky to be in the district you are.
Many people who have said they cannot accept Ikeda as their mentor in faith or in life have been shunned, embarrassed and scolded. They were also then the subject of a campaign from increasingly 'higher up' leaders who wanted to correct their 'faith.'
I think that is the primary issue. In SGI, it is unnacceptable to whole heartedly believe in the Lotus Sutra, to whole heartedly believe in the Gohonzon, to whole heartedly believe in their own buddha nature - without believing that Daisaku Ikeda is the primary example in modern times, and that SGI is the only organisation which can help lead them to happiness.
For many people, that is not 'true' buddhism. The examples from the Gosho regarding the neccessity of the mentor/disciple relationship are tenuous and abstract at best. Where as the majority of Nichiren's writings (and Shakyamuni's) instead stress personal responsibilty and a lack of reliance on 'other people' when it comes to faith and practice.
Also, Ikeda has not once spoken out against human rights abuses around the world. He has said some 'positive and encouraging' things about human rights, but he has never specifically spoken out against a particular instance of human suffering or oppression which is currently going on. Shouldn't he, as a religious leader and figurehead of buddhism, be at the forefront on global human rights and equality issues?
Over and above that, many people have a lot of doubt regarding Ikeda (and the top level SGI leadership.)
As an objective and intelligent person, you must realise that there is a large amount of secrecy regarding the top level leadership of SGI. Now you could defend that by saying it is for 'security' or 'privacy', but does that justify SGI's refusal to give out any financial information whatsoever (other than the absolute basics of what is required by law.) To this day no one but the top level leadership knows who actually owns the SGI USA HQ or the American community centres. It is not SGI USA, as the total revenue and assets on its offical tax return is '$0'.
You might not think that is really a problem, but for many people, it makes them wonder what else in SGI is being kept hidden. The point here is not 'greed' or a desire for control from SGI USA members, but simply honesty and openness.
As the figurehead (and for all intents and purpose, still the President) of SGI, Ikeda must answer the calls of members who are not comfortable with that level of financial secrecy, especially when they are giving their May contribution.
You could also argue that Ikeda has not really done anything special. Yes he was the President of SGI during its time of rapid growth and expansion, but what about the other people who were just as important and instrumental in spreading Nichiren buddhism around the world.
In that sense, there is nothing 'wrong' with taking Ikeda as your mentor, but there is nothing especially good about it either. For many people it places for too much emphasis on one person.
So what is the point and necessity of it?
If tomorrow SGI never said anything about the mentor/disciple relationship again, and stopped emphasising Ikeda's experiences and writings, would SGI lose all that much?

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/03/2010 06:36AM by DavidM.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: evergreen ()
Date: June 03, 2010 06:43AM

SoniqueSc - just wanted to say that according to the guidance I used to get we are not allowed to think of ourselves as mentors surpassing anyone age wise or other wise. I was told that I had an incorrect view of the "oneness" of mentor/disciple when I alluded to the fact that there were several people who mentored me in SGI while growing up. sounds like this may be different from your experience, you sound like you have had a positive experience. also seems as if you're not on the path of leaving this cult. this forum is for people who have left or are in the process of leaving.

also the word dialogue carries a negative connotation for most of us on the forum. its something a speechwriter came up with a long time ago. dialogue is an English word but in SGI land its attached to much more. for example Ikeda publishes many dialogues. many of us do not like Ikeda, his writings, or being made to read his so-called dialogues. personally, I have not been inspired by them. also, discussion meetings are supposed to be set up on this dialogue model. however, my experiences are that you must tow the party line. members have been discouraged from disagreeing, which is a key component of any legitimate dialogue.

this is so that you may understand more where we might be coming from. we are trying to leave a cult and its serious business.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: June 03, 2010 07:21AM

Regarding Ikeda and the mentor/disciple relationship:

Mentoring, or being a sensei (teacher) in the traditional Asian culture involves choice, on both sides -- and personal connection. Ikeda, for example, chose Josei Toda as his mentor, or teacher, and Toda chose Ikeda as his student. Toda taught and advised Ikeda not just about Buddhism and SGI, but about literature, human relations, business and the arts as well. The two men worked together daily for years, becoming closer than many fathers and sons.

Millions of SGI members cannot have the same relationship with Ikeda that Ikeda had with Toda. It's impossible; most members have never met Ikeda, and will never meet him. Ikeda doesn't know most of the members. When you say you admire him, what do you really admire? An image on a screen, words on a page? It's been well-established that Ikeda uses ghost-writers. What you are really seeing and reading and hearing is an image, carefully crafted by SGI's public relations department.

SGI's admiration for Ikeda is excessive. I was told by leaders that I would never attain enlightenment unless I accepted Ikeda as my mentor. That to me, just felt very bizarre and wrong. Is he a Japanese-Buddhist Jesus Christ? I find nothing in the Lotus Sutra or any Gosho to support this. Nichiren Daishonin said, "Do not seek this Gohonzon outside of yourself," and "Follow the law and not the person." SGI is advising members to follow the person and not the law, and to seek the Gohonzon outside of themselves.

Regarding the Nichiren Shoshu priests, SGI expressed outrage that the high priest said that you needed to follow him to reach enlightenment. Well, how is that different than SGI's claim that you need to follow Ikeda to attain enlightenment? It's not different -- it's two sides of the same coin! Why is the priesthood wrong for telling members to follow a man, when SGI is promoting the same principle, just a different man!?

Members keep telling me that Ikeda has done so much for world peace. Ikeda has approved an exhibit comparing himself with Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Please tell me what Ikeda has done that is comparable to either man? Gandhi and King put themselves in harm's way fighting for justice and equality -- and were killed for their principles. What has Ikeda done that is equivalent to that? He's a rich man who lives in luxury! Ikeda visited the United States in the 1960's. Surely he knew of Martin Luther King, but there is nothing on record to suggest that Ikeda said a word in favor of King at that time, when King was controversial -- even unpopular with many Americans. No, Ikeda didn't praise King until years later when the popular culture had made an icon of King.

King and Gandhi opposed the death penalty. Ikeda has never done so, despite Japan's heavy use of the death penalty. Japan has the highest rate of executions for first-world democracies, even executing mentally ill individuals who may not even understand the crime that they've been convicted of. Not a peep from SGI about this.

SGI's political party, the New Komeito Party, voted in favor of sending financial support for coalition military activities in Afghanistan and Iraq. How can this be, when SGI says that it's a "world peace organization."? Well, the Komeito's partner, the Liberal Democratic Party, was in favor of it...the Komeito felt that they had to support the more-powerful LDP to stay in power.

Tell me again what Ikeda has actually done for world peace. Written peace proposals? (Or paid his ghostwriters to do that?) All that those ever say is how we should have world peace. Who wouldn't say that, other than Dick Cheney? Almost everyone wants peace. Ikeda hasn't presented any new ideas of HOW to achieve that.

Sonique, you have said the following: "I will say that I have a hard time with the very concept of priesthood. How can someone claim to know more than anyone else? That's why I like the mentor/disciple relationship. Walking side by side, each learning from the other and growing through their dialog. I like the idea that we all work together and study together. No leader is "better". I would not have joined SGI if there was a priesthood. "

But SGI DOES claim that Ikeda knows more than anyone else. Otherwise, why would anyone say that you must accept him as your mentor to attain enlightenment? SGI members DON'T walk "side by side" with Ikeda...they follow him. At least when I was in, the whole organization was driven by Headquarters in Japan. We members had no say at all in what we studied, what meetings were held, how the organization was run, how our donations were spent. We did what Japan told us to, period. If members questioned that, they were told that they were being negative, that they didn't understand. As a member, you are NOT considered equal to leaders, especially not Ikeda. Try questioning the things that they tell you, and you'll learn that quickly enough. As an example, how many members really wanted this big "Rock the Era" show? From what I hear, not many! The senior SGI leadership is scrambling to fill the seats. Members did not want it, but had no say -- Japan said, "Rock the Era!" And the SGI general membership is voting with their feet.

SGI does have a priesthood -- Ikeda and his cronies. They're just wearing suits instead of robes.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: DrJesusEsq ()
Date: June 03, 2010 08:35AM

Hello SoniqueSc, I would love to give you my thoughts as well.

I too never saw SGI as anti-homosexual in any way, but I also came in long after the split with the priesthood. However, what I learned about soka (Japan and other places) long after I joined is that they tend simply deny any mistakes they made. Even at the center(s) I was part of open preached equal rights for all sexual orientations, I would not be surprised if they preached otherwise years before I joined.

While it does seem like Ikeda does speak in a very simple manner and uses non-Buddhist materials, in my experience he is the only one that can do so. I remember one time I was going to give a talk and I was going to cite the Lotus Sutra, in both English and Japanese (the last three lines of chapter 16 in the liturgy book), I was told in no uncertain terms that I have to cite from the Living Buddhism magazine instead. The funny thing here, I was trying to use the Lotus Sutra to show how the priests were acting against it at the time.

Furthermore, at a lot of discussions, I was always the one suggesting to use other sources, even from traditional and classical Buddhist ones such as the 8 fold path and the 4 noble truths. Of course I was shut down, and this was before the SGI publications started talking about those things.

Also what disturbs me is how less emphasis the SGI places on the Lotus Sutra and the Gosho now than both the Human and New Human Revolution. If I remember right, to be a gajokai in Japan, those are the books they are tested more.

As for Ikeda being a mentor? I think at this point in time, he trying to be another abbot for his own temple. The relationship between Toda and Ikeda, and even Toda and Makiguchi, cannot compare to any average SGI's members' relationship with Ikeda. Ikeda and Toda were no faces in the crowd nor were they miles apart from their own mentors , both Toda and Ikeda were close to each other, working side by side. Makiguchi and Toda were also both in prison together.

What I am trying to say here is that a mentor is someone with a very close connection who one can have dialog with face to face; or just a dialog. One of my friends in the SGI who I still consider a mentor despite my leaving doesn't live in the same state as I do, but I can easily email him and call him over talking to Ikeda. At the same time, as others have pointed out, people usually chose their mentors. I have had experiences where I disagreed with Ikeda openly on a few things, only to have people treating me in a condescending manner, scolding me, or even yelling at me. From what I see in SGI, Ikeda is the "lifeblood" of SGI just like the current Shoshu abbot.

And I have a lot more things to say about the Human Revolution, but I would be ranting at this point.

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