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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Isabella ()
Date: January 09, 2009 11:46PM

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tsukimoto

I think that it may be worse in Japan. I have a Japanese friend who is a member; she and her husband went to an SGI meeting. While there, her husband had a heart attack and had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. She was dismayed to find that her fellow members were angry with her and her husband, blaming them for disrupting the meeting!

Wow this seems such a cruel thing to do? I mean when somebody is injured, hello, who cares about meetings? Not a very "love others like yourself" attitude these people had.

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tsukimoto
It is very true that if you want to be an SGI leader you have to eat, sleep, crap, and breath SGI 100% of the time...but it seems if you are white, African-American, Hispanic, or an Asian American who is not Japanese, you will encounter a glass ceiling. You are welcome to stay at the lower and middle levels of the organization and work. There are a few token white or African-American leaders on the National level, but not many. Positions of real power? Headquarters in Tokyo usually sends a Japanese -- and usually a Japanese man, to fill them.

Also this is somehow the case in all cult-like organisations. Look at Opus Dei which was founded in Spain in the 40s. The founder was Spanish. And when he died, the next leader was also Spanish and so on.

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tsukimoto
I have heard that SGI-USA is losing members and really isn't gaining many new ones -- and I think that this control by Japan is a huge part of the reason why.

I think as time goes on, eventually just a small, fanatical core group of older members will be left...and I think that the SGI will further splinter and break down when President Ikeda, who is in his eighties, dies.

Naaah, I cannot quite believe this. Time will show, but a leader will sometime be found. First everybody will be dazed and confused but people adapt quickly. I think on the contrary in our economic climate right now with people losing their houses and their jobs and on the other side having to pay more and more for gas and electricity and so on, the ground for cult-like organisations is just perfect. People will feel the need to bring stability into their lives, so they will join.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: January 14, 2009 04:30AM

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Isabella
Naaah, I cannot quite believe this. Time will show, but a leader will sometime be found. First everybody will be dazed and confused but people adapt quickly. I think on the contrary in our economic climate right now with people losing their houses and their jobs and on the other side having to pay more and more for gas and electricity and so on, the ground for cult-like organisations is just perfect. People will feel the need to bring stability into their lives, so they will join.

The bad economy certainly may drive people to join, but how long will they stay? I have seen so many people join, full of enthusiasm, only to gradually quit coming. Sometimes it took a couple of months, sometimes several years, but I know more drop-outs than active members. As to what this small active core group actually will do once Ikeda passes -- anyone's guess. He's so charismatic, popular, powerful, and identified with SGI, I can't imagine that one leader could replace him. My guess is that the members will argue about who Ikeda's true successor is, unless he clearly designates one. If he doesn't, the SGI may become divided, with some members following one leader and others following another. My hope is that things will become better after Ikeda's death...maybe then, the members will realize that it's about following the Buddhist teachings, rather than one man. That's my hope. I'm probably being unrealistic.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Isabella ()
Date: January 18, 2009 07:19AM

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tsukimoto

The bad economy certainly may drive people to join, but how long will they stay? I have seen so many people join, full of enthusiasm, only to gradually quit coming. Sometimes it took a couple of months, sometimes several years, but I know more drop-outs than active members. As to what this small active core group actually will do once Ikeda passes -- anyone's guess. He's so charismatic, popular, powerful, and identified with SGI, I can't imagine that one leader could replace him. My guess is that the members will argue about who Ikeda's true successor is, unless he clearly designates one. If he doesn't, the SGI may become divided, with some members following one leader and others following another. My hope is that things will become better after Ikeda's death...maybe then, the members will realize that it's about following the Buddhist teachings, rather than one man. That's my hope. I'm probably being unrealistic.

There is nothing wrong with hoping for better times, mate! :D

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: dasutari ()
Date: January 22, 2009 12:54AM

I feel that I must weigh in my opinion as a current SGI-Member, and I hope my views can be heard without burning me at the stake as a member.

When I started to see the comments of ex-SGI members on this website and other, I was in shock. This is because the behavior and feeling they seemed to be conveying seemed to be nothing like the organization I was a part of, in very key ways.

I think that maybe my region's chapter is very different from others. When I joined, I read the material, including books written by Ikeda. All of these messages were about positive thinking, cultural understanding, and ambition. And then I got into the chanting. My life started to improve, not because of some magic chant that grants wishes, but because I felt more motivated, more driven to do good in the world. I will address the concerns one by one.

1. Ikeda
Yes, this man has a lot of power. And I do hate the concept of New Komeito. I think that he does have some very meaningful lessons to teach, however. I would never compare him to King Jr. and Ghandi, but it is important to note that even they were not pure people. They both did things I disagree with. As such, I disagree with alot Ikeda has done. There are some things about King Jr. and Ghandi I do not like at all, but they still have very important things to learn. And in my chapter of the organization, we all read what he has to say, but were not afraid to have a laugh at his expense. MOST (there are some bad apples as with any religion) of my fellow members think Ikeda his too prevalent, he is important but minor compared the real source. In contrast, catholics beleve that the pope is next to god on earth, and his judgment is infallible! Ikeda is very fallible, a smart man, but oh so fallible.

2. Chanting
In my region we are very discouraged from chanting for material goods or person gain. Chanting to have money to feed your family? ok. Chanting to win the lottery. NO. chanting for fancy things? NOOO. We are encouraged to chant for ourselves, but also more importantly others in suffering. We are told that simply chanting to the Gohonzon will not grant wishes, it is a tool to inspire us to do better. Chanting, I was told, is meaningless and useless without REAL EFFORT.

3. Lotus Sutra > other sutras.
I was told that the lotus sutra was the most important sutra, the foundation of this Buddhism. When I asked if I should read the other sutras, they said by all means noting is lost in searching for more wisdom, just pay special attention to the lotus sutra.

4. Nichiren Soshu
I brought up the needles hate, and most agreed with me. They don't agree with the idea of a priest, and they do believe that it is the wrong way to practice, but at least in my chapter we ignore them. I could never picture us chanting for their ill will! O.o

5. "Ask Too Many Questions"
My regional leaders praised me for my willingness to ask so many questions. They told me that one should not follow another just because they say too, but because I learn it for myself.

6. Peace
This is a religion based on peace and living a good life. And that's what I do. So I don't appreciate being told i'm brainwashed. Oh no, I want to help out my coummunity. Me and my friends are starting a peace initiative, a NON-religious one, at my school because of our faith. What's wrong and brainwashed about that?

As you can see, I am very surprised by others experiences. It also makes me nervous. Is our region an exception? If the top leaders of SGI came to our community center, would they be aghast at our behavior? This is very disconcerning to me.

I would love any thoughts. I can see know why people don't like the SGI, but I honestly belive that this buddhism, practiced the way we practice it in my town, is positive and not a cult. Maybe in the main HQ in Japan it is, and if thats the case, I will continue to practice this buddhism away from the SGI. But the people in my town are real, good people.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: January 22, 2009 08:25AM

Welcome, Dasutari -- nah, we're friendly, nobody is going to burn you at stake. I myself was a member and leader in SGI for many years, and there are things that I liked and now miss about it. For me, there were just too many bad things mixed in with the good. For you, the good outweighs the bad.

SGI groups certainly CAN differ greatly -- depending on who the leaders and members in that country, state, or town are. There are groups who've been ruthless and cruel, dismissing good members simply for having a different opinion. My group would not have gone that far. I think I would still be welcome to participate in my local SGI chapter if I wished. Most members and leaders would be polite to me -- but my questions clearly made them uncomfortable. Likewise, I was uncomfortable, having questions that nobody wanted to me to ask. So, I chose to leave. If I had belonged to a group where we could discuss different viewpoints, I'd probably still be a member.

YOUR group may be very nice -- but that doesn't mean that there are not bad things going on elsewhere. In some areas, Soka Gakkai members have harrassed Nichiren Shoshu members who were on their way to meetings or services. There are SGI groups that have expelled members who have criticized SGI and/or President Ikeda. There were cases, one in California and another in Texas, where SGI members were married to or living with a member of Nichiren Shu (which is another Nichiren sect -- similar doctrine to the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, just not following the high priest or Ikeda.) Well, the Soka Gakkai in those areas refused to allow Soka Gakkai meetings at those members' homes. The Nichiren Shu member was not recruiting -- but to the Soka Gakkai leaders in these areas, Nichiren Shu and Nichiren Shoshu members are a threat -- and not to be associated with.

Your leaders will NEVER tell you about these things. SGI suppresses things like this, that make them look bad. Ever hear of the IRG? Probably not. They were SGI members who organized a few years back, wanting reforms in the SGI -- for the organization to actually be more open with members about the SGI's finances and give members more say in running the organization. Of course, those members got expelled too, and SGI has suppressed any mention of them. A Japanese man named George Williams was the SGI-USA national leader when I joined in the late 80's. (We were actually NSA, Nichiren Shoshu of America then -- this was before we split with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood.) Williams actually had a Japanese name, but changed it to "George Williams." Anyway, he was quite popular, and worked hard for the organization -- and then suddenly he just disappeared too, and nothing was ever mentioned about him again. Why? If he did something wrong, why can't it be discussed? He is still alive -- if he just wanted to retire, again why not just tell people that? Why pretend that he never existed? Many say that his real crime was that he was just too popular, and his popularity threatened Ikeda.

As for chanting and the Lotus Sutra -- yes, I still read the Sutra, chant daimoku and do gongyo. I love the Sutra's message that all have the Buddha nature and are worthy of respect. I love the clarity and peace of mind that I can get from daimoku and gongyo. As for what people chant for --- I don't care, I think it's their business. You may start out by chanting to get rich, or find a good-looking girlfriend, or for a bag of marijuana...whatever. If you keep chanting, I think that these things will become less and less important to you.

I can't say that I'm sorry I joined. I appreciate that I could learn about chanting and the Lotus Sutra. But I also can't say I'm sorry I quit...I should have done it sooner. I couldn't live with the Ikeda worship, the Nichiren Shoshu feud and the no-question mindset.

It's true that nobody is perfect -- not Ikeda, not Gandhi, not Lincoln, not Martin Luther King Jr. I wouldn't mind Ikeda's faults -- if the organization didn't keep insisting that I must accept him as my mentor. In fact, some leaders insist that if you DON'T accept him as your mentor, you will never attain enlightenment! What do your leaders say about that? How does that fit with "Do not seek this Gohonzon outside of yourself?" and "Follow the law and not the person?" Certainly Ikeda has helped to spread this Buddhism -- but he has also allowed or encouraged it to become a personality cult for him. The emphasis on him, in my opinion, distracts members from what they should be focusing on -- the Lotus Sutra, and the daimoku. He is wrong, and nobody is willing to call him on it.

As for the pope, I was a Catholic for the first thirty years of my life (not a very good one, obviously) -- and really, though the church teaches that the pope is infallible in certain matters -- few of the Catholics I know really buy into that. Mostly, they accept what they like, ignore what they don't. Most of the Catholic women I know use birth control, and most Catholics that I know would also like to see married priests. The Catholics that I know question and debate various issues in a way that I wish that my Soka Gakkai chapter did.

Was I brainwashed? How about my former SGI friends who are still there and loving Ikeda? Are they? I don't know. There WERE things I loved about SGI; I did choose to stay for many years. On the other hand, it was only after I left that I saw how influenced I had been by some of the things that leaders told me. On some level, I did buy into things like, "If you leave, or criticize SGI or Ikeda, or question things, bad things could happen to you." I didn't realize that I had -- but I did. I did not see this happen to me -- but all of a sudden, when I began to question, WHAM, I got hit with a big wave of anxiety, like "I can't say this. I shouldn't even be thinking this." Where did this anxiety, this belief that I wasn't even aware of, come from? I too was an idealistic young woman who just wanted to contribute to her community and have a better life. My practice of this Buddhism HAS helped me to do that -- but at the same time, I ended up learning some bad things too, this "If you criticize or question, something bad will happen to you."

I don't know, I guess I can compare involvement in a group like SGI with a long-term relationship with a person. You meet someone, or discover a group and you become interested. You see them more, and your interest increases. You come to really like or love the group or person, and want to make a commitment. You commit yourself and you're delighted with your decision...you think that you will always be that happy. Yet, as time goes by, you perhaps see that this person or group does and says things that you find hard to accept. You see things that you didn't see before. There are problems, differences...perhaps you work them out and love your person or group all the more. Perhaps you can't work things out..., but they've been so much a part of your life for so long, it's hard to leave. Maybe you stay where you are, not really happy, but not miserable enough to leave. Or perhaps you finally reach your last straw, and you just can't stay anymore, even though it's painful to leave someone or something that's been part of your life for so long. You feel both free and sad when you leave. You talk about the involvement and see that it may have been good for you in some ways, bad for you in others.

I don't know you, Dasutari, so I couldn't possibly say if you are brainwashed or how your involvement with SGI will affect your life. I can't tell you what you should do, except think and question, which you already do. I'm not even certain that I'll never go back -- if the organization changed to cut out the Ikeda worship and Nichiren Shoshu hate and allow questioning -- I just might return. I appreciate that you posted -- reading others' posts and writing my own helps me to understand my own thoughts better.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: January 22, 2009 01:12PM

also, as mentioned, some of the far-flung SGI groups have a different purpose.
What is that purpose? Recruiting, PR, and money-raising. They generate a profit. Where does that money go?

The far flung groups often have no knowledge of what is going on at head-office.
The people I know in SGI are generally totally wrapped up in their own personal practice, feelings and issues, and are not critical thinkers or researchers. So they don't go online and read about the problems in SGI.

Basically every person I have ever seen who does SGI, does it in a very self-centered and narcisstic way. To them, its all about me me me, my career, my income, my karma, my happiness, my love life, etc.
They constantly try to recruit you with booklets, to get you to come to meetings, to join up.
Remember, they want to recruit for their OWN karma, as they believe getting people to join is good for their karma.

Its completely disconnected with classical Buddhism.
When's the last time you saw a real Buddhist trying to hand out booklets, and recruit people to meetings?
Most people despise the SGI recruiting methods, as they never give up.
SGI members CONSTANTLY FORWARD EMAILS, full of SGI propaganda, at work, and to everyone they know. (that's a fact). Some have to be ordered by thsie boss to stop sending that junk at work.
That is the reality of what's going on.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: January 24, 2009 06:39AM

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The Anticult
The people I know in SGI are generally totally wrapped up in their own personal practice, feelings and issues, and are not critical thinkers or researchers. So they don't go online and read about the problems in SGI.

Basically every person I have ever seen who does SGI, does it in a very self-centered and narcisstic way. To them, its all about me me me, my career, my income, my karma, my happiness, my love life, etc.
They constantly try to recruit you with booklets, to get you to come to meetings, to join up.
Remember, they want to recruit for their OWN karma, as they believe getting people to join is good for their karma.
.

SOME members are like this...and unfortunately this kind of member often gets made a leader. Still, I've known members who chant for and work to help others, and members who don't feel obligated to convert the world. Online, I've found Yahoo's SokaGakkaiUnofficial group, www.buddhajones.com, and www.fraughtwithperil.com -- and have found that there are both current and ex-SGI members who are willing to debate, question and research various problems and issues. I just wish that some of them lived closer to me so that we could debate in person instead of online all the time.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: January 24, 2009 06:57AM

yes, that is just coming from the personal experience of knowing quite a number of SGI people.
They weren't bad people, just self-centered people, who seemed to try to cover up their self-centeredness by saying they were Buddhist!
Also, those are the folks making the most noise, trying to recruit you, etc. They were doing what they were conditioned to do by the SGI machine. They were True Believers at the time.

also, if a person was a progressive SGI person as you speak of, there is a good chance one would not even know they were SGI, as they wouldn't be trying to recruit someone they just met in the workplace and in social events!

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: January 24, 2009 07:03AM

tsukimoto and The Anticult and everyone else here:

Does anyone have any knowledge of an offshoot of a Nichiren sect which does Gongyo Verrrrrrrrrrry sloooooowly? My wife had a cab driver in NYC who was a member and got angry at her when he found she was doing Gongyo at light-speed saying that the "Power" of Gongyo is lost if you speed through the sandscrit (and let's face it, morning Gongyo takes too goddamned long. Give me my coffee and paper instead and I'll check back with morning gongyo chanters in 30 minutes. This cab driver must take an hour to do it.)

Also, the cab driver said that the best place to do gongyo is on mountain tops and hills?

And you thought SGI was populated with some nuts!

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: January 24, 2009 11:45AM

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The Anticult
yes, that is just coming from the personal experience of knowing quite a number of SGI people.
They weren't bad people, just self-centered people, who seemed to try to cover up their self-centeredness by saying they were Buddhist!
Also, those are the folks making the most noise, trying to recruit you, etc. They were doing what they were conditioned to do by the SGI machine. They were True Believers at the time.

also, if a person was a progressive SGI person as you speak of, there is a good chance one would not even know they were SGI, as they wouldn't be trying to recruit someone they just met in the workplace and in social events!

Well, yeah, most of my co-workers and acquaintances didn't know that I was a member of SGI. Does that make me progressive?:-)

If they asked, I said that I practiced Nichiren Buddhism from Japan. If they asked more questions, I'd tell them more. A couple of friends asked to come to a meeting with me; I took them. They weren't interested in going back, and that was fine with me. It was their business; spirituality is very personal. I know that I hate it when others try to push their religion on me, no matter what the religion is, so I don't do it to others. I'm also a quiet and private person. I don't tell all, in any area of my life, to people I don't know well. And I knew other Soka Gakkai members like me. The trouble is, you are swimming upstream if you have that kind of attitude. In the eighties, we were expected to do gesshu, approaching complete strangers and inviting them to meetings. I just couldn't do it. I worried that I'd approach some serial killer and end up in a ditch. Odds are the person would be okay...but it just felt intrusive and wrong.

Yeah, Anticult, the two women who would not take me to the ER because "it wasn't convenient," were like that. Self-centered True Believers, bought into everything the leaders told them, think they're saving the world.

Sparky, never heard of this slow gongyo. Though I had this leader who would always whiz right through it, and I never liked doing it that fast either. Chanting that fast made me feel stressed and rushed. Though too slow would probably have the same effect. The SGI actually shortened gongyo a few years back anyway -- one of their better decisions! It takes five minutes now instead of a half hour.

A cab driver in New York, though? This is a long shot, but years ago in New York, before the Nichiren Shoshu--Soka Gakkai split, there was a priest at the Flushing temple who apparently split with SGI and Nichiren Shoshu, and began his own sect. Reverend Tono. Apparently he didn't have enough followers to support him, so he drove a cab when he wasn't preaching. Well, I've heard different versions and pieces of this story. Who knows what the real one was. It would be way too bizarre if your wife's cabdriver was Tono...the guy wasn't Japanese, was he? I mean, how many cabdrivers are there in New York? Lots of them could belong to Nichiren sects.

On a mountaintop? Kind of makes sense. Didn't Nichiren, the monk who founded this Buddhism, chant Nam myoho renge kyo on a mountaintop for the first time? So what did the guy in New York do, perform gongyo on the observation deck of the Empire State Building?

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