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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: December 04, 2008 07:31AM

Rangdrol, thanks for sharing your story. You left SGI shortly before I joined, in 1987. SGI, in the eighties, was certainly in its manic phase. Activities every night of the week, intense pressure to do 'street shakabuku' (ie, go up to complete strangers on the street and ask them if they knew about Nam myoho renge kyo,) quotas for the number of 'shakabukus' (new converts) you were supposed to get. Many of the long-term members seemed crazy to me, hyper and brainwashed, and if this frantic pace had continued, I don't think I'd have stayed as long as I did.

Things did calm down a bit in the later eighties, and I actually enjoyed some parts of my practice. I like chanting, and some of the Gosho and the Lotus Sutra, and I enjoyed some of the activities. Many of the members and leaders could be very nice (though I discovered later that the niceness vanished pretty fast if you questioned or disagreed with them.) I felt torn sometimes, between liking some parts of the practice -- and being bothered by many aspects of the organization. Then the whole priesthood issue came up, SGI's split with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood. I found myself questioning even more and feeling more alienated from my fellow members. Was something wrong with me -- or with them? I often wondered. There were periods where I wouldn't go to meetings at all, and then I'd miss it and go back for awhile, until I got tired of the bull again and quit going. In the latter years of my practice, I was going back less and less. It's like the song, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" I couldn't decide.

In 2006, I had a medical emergency, becoming very sick with appendicitis on a holiday weekend. My doctor told me that I needed to get someone to drive me to the ER ASAP. Well, my family doesn't live in my town, and many of my friends were away. I was making calls, feeling sicker and sicker, and finding nobody home. I was so scared! The doctor said I didn't need an ambulance, so I didn't want to call 911. I finally reached some SGI members. They did not have young children, they had no plans to go away for the holiday weekend, and they weren't working that weekend -- and they STILL could not be bothered to help me! One of the woman, a leader for many years, actually said, "It's not convenient for me to help you today." I couldn't BELIEVE this! I just couldn't believe it! I called a taxi, went to the ER, had the scan and was diagnosed with appendicitis. The hospital arranged an emergency appendectomy immediately. Obviously I survived -- but my tolerance for SGI's bull did not! Maybe the surgeon removed it along with my appendix!

After the surgery, I just felt grateful to be alive. Later I thought about my so-called friends' actions, and I was just outraged and shocked. These people had known me for years, told me many times how much they loved me, talked endlessly at meetings about how important it was to 'open our hearts to others." What a crock! After my discharge, as I was recovering at home, who helped me? Not any of my so-called SGI friends. No, it was my neighbors, people with no particular religious affiliation at all! There were just so many things that had bothered me about SGI throughout the years --- the over-audulation of Ikeda, the hatefulness toward other sects of Buddhism, the 'magical thinking' (chanting is the answer to everything, leave or criticize SGI and you'll have bad luck), how you are attacked if you question your leaders. So I didn't leave JUST because of their refusal to help me. It was the straw that broke the camel's back. I think that the last thing that kept me in that organization was believing that the members were nice, if flawed people, who cared for me. I so wanted to believe that. When I realized the truth, that nobody really gave a damn about me -- it was easier to leave. So really, I have to consider the appendicitis -- and the members' unfeeling response -- a blessing in disguise! It forced me to see what I should have seen earlier, and do what I needed to do -- leave, and not look back. When you finally see the truth, there's freedom in it! The appendicitis also made me realize how precious life is ---it can be over suddenly, when you least expect it. After the surgery, I realized I didn't want to waste any more of my life following someone else's ideas of what I should do.

One of these people who refused to help me left a message on my answering machine a few months later. The message? Did I want to attend a special weekly meeting to chant for nuclear disarmament. I laughed and deleted the message. It was so crazy! Save the world and leave the friend to die on the kitchen floor! These middle-aged adults reminded me of some children I knew! The kids talk about cleaning up the world and stopping pollution, yadda yadda -- and drop their candy and gum wrappers all over the park! And when I say, "You know, if you want to clean up the world -- this park's part of the world too," they look so surprised. Ah, children! They love the idea of having some grand, world-saving mission; it makes them feel so important -- but it's such a bother to do the little, nitty-gritty but necessary things that are in front of them.

My neighbors acted so surprised when I kept thanking them for helping me during my recovery. One of them said, "Oh, anyone would help a sick neighbor or friend." Well, no, not everyone would. But I think that's the difference between them and my so-called SGI friends. My neighbors were mature adults and the "real deal." They didn't need to be saviors of the world. They don't talk all the time about how compassionate and spiritual they are. They do what needs to be done, without all this, "oh, how wonderful we are!' that you hear constantly in SGI. My neighbors have grown up; some of my former SGI friends probably never will. This whole experience really made me see how being in a cult for years can keep a person childish, following someone else, dreaming grand dreams, while being clueless and insensitive to the people around you.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: December 04, 2008 10:11AM

tsukimoto and Rangdrol,

Man, you guys bring me back...shakabuku! What a scream! Can any logical person believe that SHOUTING in sanscript at strangers at stop signs etc. is going to make them say "Hey...SGI...wow, that's for ME! Just look at how they abuse strangers! I canb't wait for them to abuse me as a member!"

I remember my wife (girlfriend at the time) walking into a doll shop (they sold upsacle dolls for rich people) because "an old friend of hers from SGI worked there". We walked in and the poor girl behind the counter went white with fear. I think she, at that time, started to get a feel for the fear ex-members had for the still initiated.

Induldge me, you two, since was was never an official member but sat through numerous meetings and "Gongyo"-fests that my head could explode...induldge me and others, what is the term for an "escapee" or "ex-member"? I can't remember at this time...

Thanks

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Rangdrol ()
Date: December 04, 2008 10:53AM

HI Tsukimoto!

Wow, that's a fascinating exposition! Everything you described is exactly what I remember! I think you have a short story here, I mean a real fiction novel, centered around the phone call when they invite you to a disarmament meeting! That is so sad it's downright freaky!

After I left SGI and NSC NSA I waited 7 years and didn't do anything–who would, after what I had been through! When members called they would say things like, Oh, yeah well we don't do those things anymore, and Oh, well, no we don't do that now, we've changed. But really, they had not and have not changed. One day, after I had left, I said to someone, Well, I knew back then that what NSA was doing was wrong, so I am more enlightened than the organization, then! Of course I didn't really mean that, but what I was saying was that it didn't matter what they did or didn't do but the issue was whether or not they were sensitive to me or not, and they never were.

In 1997, ten years after I stopped practicing NSA Buddhism, I met a Tibetan teacher, and have been practicing Tibetan Buddhism ever since. In 2002 I took vows in India, in a Tibetan monastery. A year or so later I sent an email to a Canadian friend, who was an NSC member, where I had also practiced. He went off on me! He was so insulting to me, telling me that I was a bum, and what kind of person was I to rely on others to feed me, etc., he went on and on. This was not a 20 year old, either, this was a man who had been a good friend and who was, at the time, in his late 50's. I was humiliated, once again. I realized that he too, is brainwashed. All he was doing was acting out what SGI and NSC had told him about monasticism. I was so insulted I sent him an email and he refused to even discuss what he had said. So we never communicated after that. Very sad, but this is a classic example of the peer pressure tactics that someone devised.

May I ask what city you practiced in? I used to live in Boston but I am back in Montreal now. Also have you ever wondered why there are not many SGI members here? Well, they would have to have recovered, wouldn't they, to find there way here? Imagine that, like millions of members and just a few of us here to share our experiences! In any case, I want to thank YOU for sharing. I don't want to be a www.culteducation.com groupie but it does feel good to get this off my chest after all these years.

Please see my other posts re my work for Rev. Ike!

Okay, so take care and thank you for sharing. Arigato!

Rangdrol

Rangdrol (CJ Plourde)

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: December 04, 2008 11:00AM

Quote
Sparky
tsukimoto and Rangdrol,

Man, you guys bring me back...shakabuku! What a scream! Can any logical person believe that SHOUTING in sanscript at strangers at stop signs etc. is going to make them say "Hey...SGI...wow, that's for ME! Just look at how they abuse strangers! I canb't wait for them to abuse me as a member!"

I remember my wife (girlfriend at the time) walking into a doll shop (they sold upsacle dolls for rich people) because "an old friend of hers from SGI worked there". We walked in and the poor girl behind the counter went white with fear. I think she, at that time, started to get a feel for the fear ex-members had for the still initiated.

Induldge me, you two, since was was never an official member but sat through numerous meetings and "Gongyo"-fests that my head could explode...induldge me and others, what is the term for an "escapee" or "ex-member"? I can't remember at this time...

Thanks

Taiten! In SGI lingo, Rangdrol and I are taiten. Which is Japanese for "Filthy traitor who will deserves to fall into a tank of sharks at feeding time for betraying the one true faith and our beloved master Ikeda. I mean, mix the letters and add a 'd' and whaddya get? Tainted!" "Taiten," I have heard, actually means, "to stop advancing." Those of us who have actually gone taiten, say, "To stop advancing in the wrong direction."

I was actually introduced to Buddhism when I was living overseas. I just started going to meetings with a friend, and the people seemed normal. (Little did I know.) I didn't witness the screaming at stop signs thing then...I think I'd have run the other way if I had. It was very striking to me when I returned to the United States and got involved with an SGI group here....how intense the American members were. I've heard in the past that the earlier Japanese members were extremely obnoxious, harrassing people who did not want to join, hanging out on their doorstep and chanting loudly for hours. It gave them a very bad reputation in Japan, and they were forced to tone it down. Perhaps the organization sent some of these Japanese members to the United States to establish SGI USA.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Rangdrol ()
Date: December 04, 2008 03:18PM

Isnt it weird, Sparky, that it is just us???

Okay, read my forum, Rev. Ike: The Toilet Ministries, if you want to hear about my experience working for the King of Sling! :)

PS, Taiten On!

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: December 05, 2008 06:44AM

Rangdrol, Yes, maybe someday I'll get a t-shirt made up, with "Taiten and Proud" on the front, and "Stop Advancing In the Wrong Direction" on the back! (But I won't wear it to an SGI meeting.)

There are a lot of ex-SGI members in cyberspace, and two websites in particular helped me feel better about my decision to leave. I also joined Yahoo's "Taiten" group, but that was after I'd left. Ex-SGI members either don't come here much...or just don't post much if they do, but there certainly are vocal and disenchanted Taiten members out there...as well as those who feel, "Tried it, didn't like it, so what?"

Getting that message inviting me to come and chant for nuclear disarmament was surreal. It was not the last time I heard from an SGI leader, however. A few months after that, I got an envelope in the mail with the return address of one of the women who'd refused to help me. "What!?" I thought. "Did she write me a letter?" I opened it, to discover a green envelope with the community center's address on. No note, no personal message, just this green envelope. It was a zaimu envelope -- zaimu is when you make financial contributions to SGI. You can just put the money into the envelope and mail it to the nearest community center.

At that point, I had not spoken to any members or been to a meeting for over a year. A sane person would realize that giving this organization money was the LAST thing I would do! However, please remember that we are dealing with hardcore SGI members here, so flip the logic upside down. They had been brainwashed into thinking that anything you do for the organization or for their save-the-world schemes helps you improve your karma and "create benefit." Yes, if I chanted for nuclear disarmament, went to a meeting or contributed money --- I was improving my karma -- according to them. They thought they were being NICE to me by giving me a chance to create benefit and gain karmic brownie points! Well, by then, I didn't agree. I decided that I'd 'create benefit' in my life by thinking for myself -- and I tossed that green envelope in the trash. That was the last time I heard from them...but it still wouldn't surprise me to get another envelope this spring.

That's what's so scary about cults....just how they can turn logic and common sense upside down and inside out. Do you remember hearing about "strict guidance" in the eighties --- proverbs like "Good advice is harsh to the ear," and "If you see your friend practicing incorrectly and fail to correct him you are his foe, not his friend," were quoted at us constantly...we were supposed to accept harsh criticism from leaders with the idea that they were really doing us a favor -- pushing us to be better people. One person's "strict guidance" is another's verbal abuse, I guess. It's interesting that we members did not get to criticize our leaders to help them become better leaders. The organization itself -- and especially President Ikeda -- are exempt from all criticism! No, we're supposed to take all criticism from seniors and grin and say 'thank you' -- but if we criticize anything, we're "heavy," "negative," "disloyal," or we "just don't get it."

Rangdrol, I could be wrong, but I think that your friend's harsh message was in the spirit of "strict guidance," and "If you see your friend practicing incorrectly, and fail to correct him, blah blah blah." As you know, the hardcore SGI members are paranoid about other sects, that practicing with any sect but SGI will lead one to "fall into the hell of incessant suffering." He perhaps felt that harsh words might shock you out of what you were doing. Maybe he thought he was helping you. Odd, I know, but that's SGI. In his mind, he might have felt that he was saving your soul, sort of like the Jehovah Witnesses when they come around trying to shakabuku me periodically. To me they're annoying pests who are interrupting my work and play -- and trying to push me to believe things I don't believe. Yet they consider themselves heroic and compassionate, trying to rescue me from an eternity in Hell. Ah, SGI -- the Jehovah Witnesses of Buddhism.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Rangdrol ()
Date: December 05, 2008 01:47PM

Hello Tsukimoto,

Thanks for sharing! Yeah, your comments bring it all back, shaming people into practice, now that's a revolutionary idea...NOT! : Are you Japanese? I assume so, because of your name. Your English is perfect! What does your family think? Or are they not members either?

Luckily, I have forgotten most of the stuff they told us, but your comments brought it all back. I do miss the cheap incense, I must admit! :)

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Isabella ()
Date: January 05, 2009 02:04AM

Hi people,

I cannot say how grateful I am to all your helpful comments! I live in Europe and a couple of months ago met a group of people who say they are Buddhists. Since I do not know really much about Buddhism, we talk about religion and especially the concept of Buddhism a lot. To me as a "newcomer", everything seemed so fascinating. As I wanted to read an introductory book, they gave me one to read. Fortunately for me in the first chapter the book states that Nichiren claims to have found the only and true way to practise Buddhism. Now - when somebody tells me that he has found the one and only truth to follow, a lot of alarm bells start ringing inside my head. The publisher of the book was SGI - and when I saw this, I thought hmmmm - let's see what we can find out about them before reading on! So last weekend I spent a lot of time in the Internet to find out about SGI. I came across this forum and carefully read all your comments. I am now aware that my friends will certainly at one point or another ask me to join SGI - which I of course will not do after all I have read here. And I have not read their book after all but went to the local bookshop and bought a neutral book about Buddhism. Thank you so much for all you have said about SGI here. With this knowledge I can now relax and see what happens.

Isabella

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Rangdrol ()
Date: January 05, 2009 12:17PM

Isabella,

Hi, I think it's important to remember that Buddhist philosophy is very real, and very powerful. In my opinion, there is no philosophy like Buddhism, and all the amazing things the Buddha taught are now being embraced, and proven! by scientists from many fields.

The fact is that NSA and SGI really are not practicing the Buddhism of the Buddha, and so if you want, you can find out about Zen, or Tibetan Buddhism by going to a FREE meditation session, etc., and I assure you, no one there will call you, force you to become a member, etc. In fact, quite the opposite! The Buddha never believed his philosophy should be sold, door to door. I am not a scholar in any way, but I have carefully examined many aspects of Buddhist philosophy and I wish some great Buddhist teacher out there confronted SGI and their ideas of what Buddhism is...Bon Chance! Remember, Buddhism is FREE! FREE! FREE! Even HH Dalai Lama said we should take at least!! 10 years before selecting a teacher! Tell that the the Nichiren Shoshu people! :0

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: January 05, 2009 03:02PM

SGI is actually the opposite of classical buddhism in many ways.
They promote greed, self-obsession, vanity, aggressive recruitment, and many other things along those lines. There are SGI people "chanting" for Mercedes cars, Rolex watches, bigger breasts, fame, whatever they want.
SGI is basically the "Greed Is Good" version of "Buddhism", which obviously makes no sense.

They are trained to never give up to try and bring you to their meetings, they never stop. They are conditioned its "good karma" to recruit. It seems to never end.

Don't forget to read up on this page too.

Soka Gakkai
[www.culteducation.com]

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