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Re: Former SGI members, Nichiren Daishonin
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: February 14, 2009 01:11PM

I hope you find this as amusing as I do.

Years ago, I too was into "Buddhism" in the sense of chanting, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the whole nine yards. I don't recall exactly how I was approached, but I do recall her saying that Nichiren Daishonin was the only form of Buddhism not involved in wars, or something like that. So anyway, I tried it for a while, but frankly felt like an idiot chanting those syllables and got tired of her asking me to weekly chanting meetings and paying dues, so I just started avoiding her office!

Later I read Siddhartha, and all that No-Mind stuff too. So I became very familiar with the literature and ideas.

I always assumed that the "Nichiren Daishonin" form she was talking about was more classical Buddhism, but I do recall some of the chanting meetings were along the lines of chanting for a Mercedes.
Hmm, actually, I just remembered THAT is what turned me off, going to a chanting meeting in someone's home, and having some skinny dude with a beard, with a photo of a Mercedes on the wall he was chanting to/for. That just struck me as profoundly idiotic to the extreme. (he had a collage of photos up on a little altar he was chanting to).
We don't get enough ADVERTISING for luxury cars, that we need to chant to pictures of them? Chanting for Brand-name luxuries = idiocy.
Even back then I knew that was fucking ridiculous. Its all coming back now.
Sacred chanting for Rolex watches is just foolish. If you want a watch, you save the money, then you buy it. No chanting needed. Or better yet, buy a knock-off, and save your money.

Now doing a little looking into it, it seems that may have been an earlier version of SGI, as they claim the Nichiren Daishonin lineage as well.
But at the time, they never mentioned SGI, just Nichiren Daishonin, over and over.
So a person can be involved with these groups, and not have a clue what was going on. Now thank goodness, we have the internet to do a little research.

I think chanting for a spiritual sense of detachment or calming for a few minutes a day is probably healthy, its really a form of deep breathing. Classical chanting is one thing.

But when you are chanting before an altar with photos of a Mercedes and Rolex watches, its beyond silly season. Its like a comedic parody.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 14, 2009 01:24PM

Quote
Sparky
SGI is a "militaristic" org. They DO want to take over power in Japan and Americans are rich useful idiots (like american socialists are to militaristic communism). I have seen first-hand how SGI-USA has tried to "calm down" their crazy devotees. Many people (occidentals) would bow and shout "HAI!" (Nipponese for "YES!") in response to the slightest request by a leader. I have seen and heard leaders in NYC tell people not to do this "anymore" since it isn't necessary any longer. What? When WAS this necessary?

I am sure our mutual friend, tsukimoto, will attest to this.

I think this is part of the morphing of SGI-USA into a happier friendlier religion to attract more people. Japanese culture is steeped in warrior-honor(samarai) culture which the USA is not. "Toning it down" makes it more West-friendly.

Yes, I have lived in Japan, and I have served in the United States military -- and I found great similarities between the American military culture and the civilian Japanese culture:

--Rigid hierarchy; you obey your leaders and never question them. You never say no to a leader's request. You should feel honored to serve them. They have more status than you, so they are more important than you. Men have more status than women, older people have more status than young.

--The group is more important than you....you're nothing without the group. You should feel terribly ashamed if you let your group down.

--You must conform; if you can't, or won't, you will be bullied and isolated.

--You never complain that something is too much work or too difficult. You are stoic, and you just suck it up and do whatever must be done, no matter what toll it may take on your happiness, your health, or your family. Duty is everything.

--Civilian Japanese, like the military, also wear uniforms -- even store employees, public school kids, bank employees, etc. tend to wear uniforms. And this is so rigid, that if, say, a school girl has a bit of a wave or loose curl to her hair -- she has to bring a note to school from a parent or doctor saying that her hair has this natural wave, she didn't curl it!

(I used to drive past a car dealership in Yokohama early in the morning -- and I'd see the women who worked in the dealership standing out in the parking lot, in their uniforms in the nice weather. Their manager gave them a morning speech and then lead them in calisthenic-type exercises! The military had us do morning physical training too, but I couldn't quite see why these civilian office ladies who worked for a Toyota dealership would have to do it.)

When I was involved with SGI-USA in the 1980's, I saw these traits reflected in our activities all the time. You never, never questioned the leaders, no matter what they did or said. A woman would only lead the chanting if it was an all-women's meeting...otherwise a man led. And yes, if a leader asked you anything, you shouted "HAI" (yes) with great enthusiasm. Another thing that people shouted a lot was "A-O, A-O, Washoi, washoi, washoi!" I don't even remember what that means, but they shouted it with such enthusiasm. We'd put on huge conventions -- and of course, wear whatever we were told for that...all white, special t-shirts or whatever. Our schedule was intense, meetings nearly every night of the week. We'd have tosos and chant for hours! Anyone who complained was lectured on their bad attitude -- chant for more energy, more determination, a better attitude, you slacker! Whaddya mean, you can't keep up -- what kind of wuss are you?

The thing was, I'd been in the military...and the freedom of civilian life DID seem a bit odd to me after I got out...so I could accept the Soka Gakkai's militaristic traits back then. If I'd encountered the Gakkai before I had joined the military...maybe I would have thought, "These people are weird!" As it was, the Gakkai felt like my home, in a strange, but comforting way. I disliked some things, but it just felt so damn familiar!

This all began to change rather suddenly in the late 1980's. It was maybe 1989 when President Ikeda visited the United States. He decided that we would suddenly just cut down on all of our activities -- and change the tone of our meetings. There was less "HAI-ing," no more "Washoi, washoi, washoi!" We weren't having the huge conventions anymore. We had been using a lot of Japanese words for various activities and leaders' titles...and we really cut back on that. Some of the members loved the changes, some members hated them, but it didn't matter what we liked or didn't like. I mean, who were we? Nobody was going to ask us what we wanted. President Ikeda wanted the changes and that's how it was going to be.

It was a bizarre time. So few activities, all of a sudden! What in the world were we to do with ourselves? For years, leaders had been urging us to do Soka Gakkai activities nearly every day of the week. Got to work harder, faster, more, more, more to change your life and bring about world peace! And NOW, they were saying, "No, don't do that! Slow down!" Huh? One of the senior male leaders said, "President Ikeda is worried that the members are getting too tired." (Hah! Worried that we were getting tired of HIM and wanting to quit SGI!) A senior woman leader said, "You are out at meetings all the time, your neighbors and friends are thinking that that's strange.) So yes, it was calculated, a PR move. The Japanese-style SGI-USA had certainly attracted some devoted members, but had also turned off prospective members.

Really, in the end, the changes were only superficial. Gradually, the activities and demands were increased again. We still had no say in organizational policy and no idea where the money we contributed went. We were still called disloyal if we questioned any of this. Yes, we had "World Peace Prayer" instead of "Kosen-Rufu Gongyo," the first Sunday of the month. We referred someone as a "Chapter Leader," instead of a "Sancho," or "Hancho," or whatever the Japanese word was. Big deal. New sweater, same wolf.

Shortly after that, in the early 90's, the Soka Gakkai had a bitter feud with the Nichiren Shoshu priesthood, and broke off from them entirely. Again this was a complete 180 degree shift...before 1991, or so, we'd always been told to respect and support the priests. Now, they were totally corrupt, and we were to have nothing to do with them. AND, apparently, the senior leadership of SGI had known how bad the priests were for years. So why didn't they tell us that? Well, they didn't think we were ready. Of course, it was all part of a plan that the inner circle must have had for years; why did we not see that?

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Re: Former SGI members, Nichiren Daishonin
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: February 14, 2009 01:27PM

yep, it was hidden SGI, as I do recall them talking about Tina Turner belonging to the same group.
But back then, there was not one word about anything other than Nichiren Daishonin, and being "anti-war", and they were blowing some smoke about mystical Tibetan connections, as I recall.
But everyone has mystical Tibetan connections these days, even Michael the Leader of Royal Way.
;-)
When in doubt, claim untraceable mystical Tibetan connections.

That's how I learned about cultish groups, from a mystical Tibetan teacher in the mountains of Tibet in the 1960's. But he made me promise to never reveal his name.
See, its easy.

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Re: Former SGI members, Nichiren Daishonin
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 15, 2009 02:47AM

Quote
The Anticult
I hope you find this as amusing as I do.

Years ago, I too was into "Buddhism" in the sense of chanting, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the whole nine yards. I don't recall exactly how I was approached, but I do recall her saying that Nichiren Daishonin was the only form of Buddhism not involved in wars, or something like that. So anyway, I tried it for a while, but frankly felt like an idiot chanting those syllables and got tired of her asking me to weekly chanting meetings and paying dues, so I just started avoiding her office!

Hmm, actually, I just remembered THAT is what turned me off, going to a chanting meeting in someone's home, and having some skinny dude with a beard, with a photo of a Mercedes on the wall he was chanting to/for. That just struck me as profoundly idiotic to the extreme. (he had a collage of photos up on a little altar he was chanting to).

Now doing a little looking into it, it seems that may have been an earlier version of SGI, as they claim the Nichiren Daishonin lineage as well.
But at the time, they never mentioned SGI, just Nichiren Daishonin, over and over.

Anticult -- YOU chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo!? Wow! Small world! Funny, I too had my own 'close encounter' years before I began practicing. Recently, I was reading an old journal that I'd kept in 1983. On this day in 1983, I was visiting a park in northern Virginia. Two Japanese women approached me about going to a Buddhist meeting. I said no thanks, moved on -- and totally forgot the encounter, until I reread this old journal! In 1983, I had no idea that there were so many different Buddhist sects. I don't KNOW that these two ladies were from Nichiren Shoshu (the old NSA) -- but that's the most likely. I've never heard of other Buddhist sects in America recruiting that aggressively.

So, Anticult, you and I had early encounters with NSA, Nichiren Shoshu of America. (I'm assuming that you're American, and perhaps I shouldn't. If you're Canadian, it probably was NSC, Nichiren Shoshu of Canada.) We called ourselves NSA, Nichiren Shoshu of America, until the split in 1991, and since then call ourselves SGI-USA. (Soka Gakkai USA). Different name, but the same old, tired bull!

And yes, one of the first experiences I heard after I joined was this woman chanting that she'd get a loan to buy a car. It's a common experience -- which probably says a lot about what our TRUE object of worship is! Perhaps we should've just chanted, "I love my car, I love my car...."
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Here is some basic background on Nichiren Buddhism, if anyone is interested:

Nichiren Daishonin, a Japanese Buddhist priest, founded Nichiren Shoshu, the school of Nichiren back in the 1200's. Peaceful? Hardly. Nichiren was a firebrand, who felt that other Buddhist sects -- Shingon, Zen, Pure Land -- were responsible for the famines, plagues, and threats of Mongol invasions that Japan was experiencing. He felt that the whole country needed to practice his Buddhism to experience peace and security. To this end, he criticized and debated with government officials and the priests of other Buddhist sects. He was considered crazy and subversive. He was almost executed, and was exiled twice, and he would not stop. Some of his followers were beheaded. These early followers lived in danger, and often poverty, and survived by sharing what little they had. You wonder what these people would have thought about the luxury and reverence that Ikeda enjoys, or about modern members chanting for cars!

Nichiren's disciple, Nikko, continued to lead the sect after Nichiren's death. It was a small and relatively insignificant sect until after World War II. Other followers of Nichiren also branched off, and taught their own interpretation of Nichiren's teachings. There could be many tiny, almost-unknown Nichiren sects out there who chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo too.

Nichiren Shoshu might also be some tiny, little-known sect today -- if not for a principal named Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. He converted to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism in 1930's Japan. Then he began trying to infuse Buddhist ideals into the militaristic Japanese educational system. He established the Soka Gakkai for this reason. The Soka Gakkai was originally the lay organization of Nichiren Shoshu. Most of its early members were educators. Humane, Buddhist education? This was not Berkeley of the 1960's; it was wartime Japan! Like Nichiren Daishonin, Makiguchi was swimming against the current. And like Nichiren, Makiguchi was punished for his nonconformity.

The Japanese military government wanted all the Japanese to practice Shinto, worship of the emperor and sun goddess. Shinto said that the Japanese people were descendants of the Goddess -- and as such, had the right to run roughshod over everyone else and rule the world. Buddhism and Christianity taught the value and dignity of all human life -- NOT a message that the military government approved of! They wanted their soldiers to KILL other Asians, not consider them brothers in Christ, or precious children of the Buddha. Japanese Buddhists and Christians suffered terrible persecution during World War II. Makiguchi and his friend, a teacher named Josei Toda, were sent to prison. Makiguchi died there; Toda survived and became the second Soka Gakkai president after the war.

President Toda greatly expanded the Soka Gakkai after the war -- and trained a younger man named Daisaku Ikeda to be his successor. In the fifties and sixties, the Soka Gakkai began its expansion overseas -- Japanese immigrants and war brides were instructed to begin Buddhist groups in their new countries. The Nichiren Shoshu priesthood and the Soka Gakkai leaders, who were laymen, were working together -- but with increasing power struggles -- until the split in 1991.

Essentially, the priesthood claims that members need the priests' intercession to attain enlightenment. The Soka Gakkai says, rightly, that this is wrong, and not supported by the teachings of the Buddha, or the writings of Nichiren himself. And then they'll turn around and tell you that you need to accept President Ikeda as your mentor to attain enlightenment! And they see no contradiction whatsoever in this! As a friend of mine says, it was a power struggle between men in suits and men in robes, pure and simple, and the suits won. Most of the Gakkai members chose Ikeda, rather than Nikken, the high priest in the nineties. They won, and yet, eighteen years later, they're still whining on and on about how evil the priests are. SGI still cannot seem to move on -- and shut up. By contrast, you go to Nichiren Shoshu websites, and there's no mention of SGI at all.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: KittyLuv ()
Date: February 17, 2009 04:12AM

"You wonder what these people would have thought about the luxury and reverence that Ikeda enjoys, or about modern members chanting for cars!"

Yes, one would wonder what they would think. Thank you for this history. From such humble beginnings ... My neighbor called me up and is urging me to come to her house this Saturday for an SGI fest at her home. As she put it, it's a good opportunity to "make good cause." I'm not sure I could go there and even chant with a straight face anymore, and then listen to readings from the current Tribune or a poem from Sensei. Toda and Makigushi suffered for what they believed in a terrible time for many. What do think their opinion would be of this organization today? I could be wrong, but it doesn't sound like wealth and power were their ultimate goals.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 17, 2009 06:25AM

Quote
KittyLuv
" Toda and Makigushi suffered for what they believed in a terrible time for many. What do think their opinion would be of this organization today? I could be wrong, but it doesn't sound like wealth and power were their ultimate goals.

Good question, and I can only guess at the answer. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the founder of SGI and its first president, seems to have been an idealist, whose main goal was to reform the Japanese educational system. Power? Maybe more the power of ideas than political power.

His successor, Josei Toda, survived his stint in Sugamo Prison, where conditions were horrendous -- hunger, beatings from guards, the death of his friend Makiguchi. He was released into post-war, occupied Japan, where the Japanese had little food, and their businesses, schools and homes had been destroyed by Allied bombing. The people were demoralized by their defeat and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He sounds, from what I've read, to have been a real fanatic. He told his followers at one rally that Nichiren Buddhism would be practiced in 750,000 homes in Japan by his death -- if not, he said, just throw his body in the bay, his life had been pointless (His followers met this goal, and he did have regular funeral). He pushed his followers to very aggressively recruit new members, and they did. He also chose Daisaku Ikeda as his successor, mentoring and training Ikeda. Toda gave Ikeda the mission of spreading this Buddhism overseas. It was Toda who began telling his followers that the practice of chanting was like "A wish-fulfilling machine," something that Nichiren did not say. Nichiren had more the samurai attitude -- life is tough, quit whining and deal.

Toda's motive? Perhaps he was true believer who never doubted that Nichiren Buddhism could save the world -- and whatever you had to do, or tell people to get them to practice, the end justified the means. Or perhaps it was always about building a power base.

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Re: Former SGI members, chanting is not the problem
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: February 18, 2009 04:51AM

one thing I want to drop in here, is that I said I felt foolish chanting in this manner.
But I don't want that to sound like I am saying chanting is foolish. I just felt foolish doing it, as it was thrust on me without any explanation, and they discouraged any explanation. Also, ot was not part of the culture I knew, and so there was no connection there.
It might be akin to someone who goes to one of these fake "Shaman" weekends, and comes back with a new name and wearing a wolf skin. As many native americans have said, you don't become a Shaman in a weekend, and you can't buy it, as there are people out there exploiting the native american traditions for profit.

So for many folks classical chanting of some sort might have value to them as a mindfulness meditation or something along those lines.

The problem can come when some cult or group EXPLOITS chanting as a mechanism, which is what SGI does, by in effect, selling it to westerners who don't have any context for it.
So the real problem is not chanting, or having some friends who chant, the problem is the exploitation and manipulation of people by a huge international cultish group.

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Re: Former SGI members, chanting is not the problem
Posted by: KittyLuv ()
Date: February 19, 2009 12:10AM

You're right, chanting is not the problem, and chanting with friends sounds wonderful, if you could find true friends in SGI. The members I met at these meetings seemed very fanatical. I didn't feel safe or comfortable and the thought of having any of them coming into my home and chanting with me was downright creepy. They were very false people. I couldn't imagine any of them calling me up to ask me how was my day going or saying, hey, let's go to a movie, or hang out at the local Starbuck's, get a plain cup of coffee and shoot the breeze and get to know each other.
Chanting buddy yes, real friend no.

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Re: Former SGI members, chanting is not the problem
Posted by: tsukimoto ()
Date: February 19, 2009 01:08AM

Quote
KittyLuv
You're right, chanting is not the problem, and chanting with friends sounds wonderful, if you could find true friends in SGI. The members I met at these meetings seemed very fanatical. I didn't feel safe or comfortable and the thought of having any of them coming into my home and chanting with me was downright creepy. They were very false people. I couldn't imagine any of them calling me up to ask me how was my day going or saying, hey, let's go to a movie, or hang out at the local Starbuck's, get a plain cup of coffee and shoot the breeze and get to know each other.
Chanting buddy yes, real friend no.

Exactly. Since I have left the Soka Gakkai, I have not called or e-mailed one member -- and they've only contacted me about donating money and do I want to come to this or that activity. Now, I've known many of these people for more than ten or fifteen years. You would think that they might miss me at least a little bit. Enough to call me up and say "Hi, what's up with you?" or "Want to meet me for coffee?" They don't. If I am not going to help them save the world, they have no interest in me.

Then again, I have a phone, I could have called someone too, and asked, "So what's going on with you," or "Wanna go grab a beer?" I didn't. Why not? Part of it was fear that they would try to pull me back into SGI when I was trying to break free of it. Also -- I think I knew, and just didn't want to admit, how shallow those so-called "friendships" really were. It's pathetic when you think about it. For years, I told myself that these people were my friends...and there really was so little genuine friendship there. As you say, Kitty, a lot of falseness...was I really that false myself? Once I no longer shared their cause, the "friendships" collapsed like a house of cards.

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Re: Former SGI members
Posted by: Sparky ()
Date: February 19, 2009 03:43AM

Kittyluv and tsukimoto;

My wife's BEST FRIEND in SGI-USA was to be our "Saki Girl" at our wedding ceremony. (serves 3 cups of saki to both of us at the alter...the first cup is small (to represent the past), the second is medium (to represent the present) and the third is large, representing, of course, the future). She bailed out at the last minute and my wife asked another friend to fill in, which she did. After our honeymoon, my wife called her to see what happened, only to find out her "Best friend" was anything but. I think it was because either she was marrying me (I was never a member in SGI) or because we were moving to another state. Either way, we have maintained ZERO friendships with people in SGI (and not for want of trying). When you are "out" they just aren't interested in you anymore.

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