I have really enjoyed reading everyone's insights into the questions posed by the new arrivals. Certainly there is a lot to be shared amongst us both in regards to insight into the practice, but also to put form to the many concerns that each of those of long standing have had.
Someone mentioned about old members and their reasons for holding on to the SGI. I agree, there are those who will stay through thick and thin, and others that will fade away "like the morning dew".
To my recollections I think things basically broke down into a couple different groupings of generic member types - hopefully I can add a little insight.
Group 1 - People who wandered into or were drawn into SGI randomly.
Group 2 - People who were drawn into SGI based upon intellectual curiousity.
Group 3 - People who were drawn into SGI because of a family member
Group 4 - People who were drawn into SGI because they married a Japanese member
First off, although groups 3 and 4 seem to be the same thing, I differentiate between them because of an important distinction: In the late 60's and early 70's, many Japanese brides returned to the US on the arm of a GI. For them, SGI represented a lifeline home, and today, many of these women now make up the core of the WD. Back then they were strangers in a new land and they wanted to recreate Japan in the US, and the place they chose to do that was within the SGI. In some cases it was innocent, and in other cases it was abusive. In all cases it had more to do with recreating a comfortable and familiar environment than it had to do with chanting or pursuing enlightenment. Very few war-bride WD I encountered knew much more about Nichiren buddhism beyond chanting, doing gongyo and paying zaimu. These ladies and their husbands today still form the core of members who will remain no matter what Ikea does. Also, the Soka Gakkai in Japan was well aware of the shakubuku power of young attractive ladies, and as I recall, many of them were told that they got "benefits" for each "fellow" they brought in and were encouraged to cultivate relationships with American GI's. Proseletization through hormones.
Group 3 folks may also be inclined to stay with the organization, but usually, once their family member is out of their environment or distracted with other things they fall away. Again, in many cases there is little to do with buddhism in regards to their participation.
Group 2 people fall into a couple different sub-categories. (1) Highly intellectual folks who seriously want to pursue buddhism and believe they can do it successfully through sgi. (2) intellectual folks who do buddhism because it makes them seem intellectual and (3) intellectual folks who have become leaders and no have "skin in the game" either through reputation or a sense of "mission". This is the cadre of folks running district, chapter and hombu activities (unpaid). The people in (1) will hang on until they are shown the organization is not what they thought and they will become disillusioned and fall away. Those in (2) are a coin-flip as to whether they stay or go, and those in (3) will be with it to the bitter end.
Group 1 folks seemed to come and go. In my experience a small percentage ever grew into more than just random curiousity, and in many cases I heard that they joined to meet girls/guys or that something about the practice "felt" interesting and they wanted to experience it more. Usually organizational changes would force them out such as forcing them to do "pac-man shakubuku" or street shakubuku was enough to chase them off.
Now, I have left one category out, and that is both the paid leaders and those leaders who were "hand picked" by the upper japanese leadership (american leaders weren't allowed to do such "anointed" actions). These people are the core of the bureaucracy that is the skeleton SGI is attached to. Many are good at giving speeches, looking pious, chanting for long periods of time, and in general fawning over the next level of leadership up. They will always be there, no matter what SGI does - they are like "salary men" with mitsubishii, toyota or honda. They are in it for life. SGI is their mother and their father, and it is embodied in the "sensei".
In some cases I'm sad good people got side-tracked into this quagmire, and in other cases I think some of these people deserve one another. Watching the Japanese WD and MD interact (in Japanese) was really an eye-opener to see the depths of unhappiness that lurked between the couples practicing at the high levels. Besides slanderous words there is another type of Onshitsu which was the very deep passive-aggressive anger both groups had for one another. Perhaps that is they reason they favored being separate so they didn't have to interact. Wifey can be the high-muckety-muck WD leader and hubby can do the same with the MD.
So there you have it, an x-ray view of my experiences with SGI as a whole. Sprinkle onto that a few, sincere and caring people who I have had the good fortune to have encountered during my practice and that's about it.
And that is why I call myself Wakatta
Yoku wakarimashita, indeed. I greatly enjoy many of your bulls-eye posts and thank you for sharing them. The above, in particular, is one such example.
I can only add to category #3, simply because it is the umbrella that I fell under. Once I reached an age where I was able to think critically, I pulled myself out. It is probably a general theme that can be found with others in different faiths and religions, too.
Each of our lives is a journey from ignorance to knowledge and we are all susceptible to being lead astray to varying degrees at different points during our lives. It is all also heavily influenced by individual circumstances.
Faith, in general, which is belief without evidence, is not for me. In my view, it's just different levels of hucksterism exploiting ignorance. Sgi/Sgi-x, in particular, is a fanocracy dressed up in pious robes as a cover, dispensing epaulettes from the top down with leaders maneuvering to clutch as many as they can and occasionally share with the membership of their choosing. The epaulette-collector-in-chief at the top is Ikeda, who is ultimately a man with some precarious self-esteem issues.
Those who stay obviously get something out of it and to each their own. I myself experienced a liberation by breaking the shackles, stepping out of and walking away from the soka-gakkai-nichiren-shoshu miasma. Thru this board, perhaps others will have a chance to follow as well. On that note, thanks to Rick Ross and all who make up this board.