Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Date: February 16, 2014 02:51AM

I find myself in a bit of a quandary. As some of you know, I officially resigned from the SGI-USA last year, almost a year ago, and demanded that they remove from their records all my personal information and that pertaining to my children. Since a few months after my request, I have been blissfully non-bothered.

But SGI-USA did not send me the confirmation letter I demanded, which is my right to receive, so I need to follow up on that.

Here's my question for you all: There was a local community center in this area, a shabby little office space between a carpet store and some educational concern - Head Start or some such. We were told that, since the local numbers weren't high enough to warrant a community center in our area, our leaders had managed the feat through sincere daimoku. Umm hmmm.

Well, I noticed last year that that old office space is no longer in use, and a new rented office space in another office plaza (which I happen to routinely drive past) is now bearing a sign saying "SGI-USA Buddhist Center". Here's how the sign looks:


I get great giggles over how a *religious organization* can't even claim pride of place (top billing) any more and now needs to bring up the bottom!

Oh, and my former "good friend" and fellow SGI-USA member, who took advantage of me during her years of need while her douche of a husband was in prison, who then had *nothing* more to do with me until he got his ass sent back to prison for the rest of his life, apparently only got in contact with me again because Das Org charged her with the chore - she said, at the last time I saw her - perhaps April or May of last year - that my membership card had "REMOVE" written on it. And I haven't heard from her since. So much for "friendship". Anyhow, she insisted that Das Org "owns" the new "Buddhist Center". Yeah, right. They own one of the spaces in a rental retail center. My ass! But she's a dumb Japanese young woman who makes bad choices, so I'm not surprised she got fooled (or fooled herself). There are signs all over with numbers to call about leasing a space in that complex.

Anyhow, here is my question: I want to go pop in during a kosen-rufu gongyo to sightsee AND to see how many members are attending, to compare it to the attendance I remember from back when I was still *in*. But I don't want to see or talk to any people - I just want to look around. Typical tourist. Considering that my own WD Chapter leader, whom I ran into by chance at a Mexican restaurant some months ago, didn't even remember my name, I think I'd be able to do a confident-enough walk around that no one would confront me before anyone managed to recognize me.

Opinions, please.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/16/2014 02:55AM by StillTaitenAndProud.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: Spartacus ()
Date: February 16, 2014 06:59AM

Which one is it you would like to pop in to - the recently moved into rental plaza location or an already established CC? If you have never been in the rental plaza site, it would be difficult to assess a drop in attendance with no previous bar to gauge against, whereas you probably have a good idea what the attendance levels were at your old CC. EIther way, wait until KRG has started, since most everyone's attention is focused forward, providing a better chance to slip in unnoticed at the back of the room - then take off before the silent prayers are done, That should reduce the number of opportunities to be seen and engaged in conversations.

As to avoiding unwanted attention, as you know, any new face is going to attract a lot of attention. IF they perceive you as a "guest" (or tourist) you will be love bombed with their best face forward, and any chance recognition of your face could blow your cover as a newbie. If you present yourself as a visiting member from another area, you won't get the same level of attention and have a better chance to blend into the background to make your observations without discovery. But the same problem arises, if anyone recognizes you, your cover story could get blown without some convincing explanations. Guess you would need a credible backstory relating how you moved away, then changed your mind and decided to continue your practice.

But I have to wonder, would all the needed subterfuge really be worth the effort just to try and assess if member attendance is up or down from one observation of one location? Would your spy mission really garnish any important information of significant value? It might, but it might not.

On the other hand, the thought of sneaking in without them knowing could be kinda tantalizing (for some). Using a hidden video camera might be a good idea - you might luck out and catch something significant. Who knows? As long as you are enjoying yourself and having some fun, why not? Just don't creep yourself out while being amongst the culties. I personally would rather get my fingernails ripped out than go to even one SGcult meeting - I've already wasted too much of my time and energy attending boring SGcult mind control meetings from hell. And, it would certainly serve to re-activate my cult experience PTSD.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: meh ()
Date: February 16, 2014 09:34PM

I agree with Spartacus re: the fingernail-yanking and the ptsd. I also agree that it would be hard to judge attendance on one visit; you really would have to go a few times to get a meaningful count, and really - is it worth the energy?

If it's that important to you (and, believe me, I understand the curiousity), most stores in a strip-mall don't open before 10, so you'd probably get a fair estimate of how many zombies were in attendance. Remember they'll have their little parking-bots out there, though, and you might draw their attention.

What the hell, though. Spartacus' idea of attending as a visitor from another district is a good one, and would get you past the guardians at the gate.

Being a fly on the wall is a titillating thought, but just be clear on what you want to accomplish and decide if it's really worth it. Krg isn't for another two weeks, so you have plenty of time to consider it.

As far as getting the letter of acknowledgement, I followed up with them pretty quickly when I didn't receive it. I went online and, since I was able to access my account on the sgi website and was still getting the e-versions of the pubs, it was pretty obvious that they'd ignored me. I sent them the letter below, and they responded pretty quickly. I went online to find out what the PA laws were about use/retention of personal information and identity theft - I'm sure that CA has similar.

SGI-USA Membership Department
National Headquarters
606 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

To Whom It May Concern:

Please see paragraph one of my letter of June 6, 2013 (copy enclosed); I thought I made it quite clear that all of my personal information should be removed from SGI records and that my subscriptions should be cancelled within ten (10) days of the date of that letter. That date would have been June 16, 2013.

My receipt of the e-edition of the 6/21/2013 issue of World Tribune and the July edition of Living Buddhism clearly establishes that neither of those requirements was met.

I would remind you that my personal information is my property, and I have the legal right to withdraw my consent to your possession of it at any time. In turn, you are legally required to remove it from all records at my request. Under Pennsylvania law (HB 1546, Sect. 1(a), it stipulates:

“A person commits the offense of identity theft of another person if he possesses or uses, through any means, identifying information of another person without the consent of that other person to further any unlawful purpose.”

The “unlawful purpose” in this specific case would consist of harassment.

Please be advised that I require a letter from your office affirming that all of my personal information has been removed from all SGI/SGI of America databases no later than July 15, 2013. Once again, any other correspondence (including receipt of publications in any format) will be regarded as unwanted contact.

I anticipate your prompt response.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 16, 2014 10:09PM

? Go to the event as discreetly as possible and perhaps with a friend who is unfamiliar.

That way, if things get awkward, on a pre-arranged signal, your companion could indicate he or she can claim an asthma attack and a need for fresh air.

Exit assured.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Date: February 17, 2014 03:17AM

Spart, I would go for the first time to the new "Buddhist Center" to have a look-see. Since I've never been there. The old "Community Center" is no more - the former strip-mall office space sits empty now. I had been to the Community Center quite a lot, but I've never been to the new "Buddhist Center", which is why I'd want to go.

I suspect one of two things, and possibly both:

1) Attendance at any given KRG will be spare, and
2) there's a good chance I won't see anyone I recognize (save for a coupla leaders).

corboy, since I don't give a crap what any of those people think, I'm more likely to, if greeted, do the "Who are you again?" and when they identify themselves, "Oh yeah" and turn and walk away.

meh, if you don't mind, I'm going to use your same letter with just a few modifications - it's brilliant!! I have had no similar sign that I'm still "on the books", but I DID get rid of our house landline since quitting AND not that many people had my cell phone, which I'd gotten around the same time I left. And no pubs or e-contact for me. Still, I want them to send me that letter.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: meh ()
Date: February 17, 2014 04:25AM

Feel free st&p - you're more than welcome to it. Like I wrote, I went to the sgi site and was able to access my account there (an immediate indicator to me that I hadn't been removed from their system); I was able to get to the most recent e-versions of WT and LB, so I knew that they still had my subscription info. I suppose I won't find out whether they've gotten rid of my membership card until somebody calls me about May contributions; as far as the card "belonging" to sgi (that's booshit, which is my new favorite word), I'd point out that since it was my information, unless they were willing to send the ink that they scraped off in removing my info, that they are still in possession of personal of it. Screw your little Japanese friend; she hasn't proven to be one, so I wouldn't lose any sleep over letting them know that you're aware that they still have it. Chances are they wouldn't figure out how you knew anyway.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: meh ()
Date: February 17, 2014 09:55PM

I came across the following article when googling cults and ptsd - it's kind of horrifying.


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Re: Mind contol cults
Posted by: Spartacus ()
Date: February 18, 2014 01:53PM

Here are some relevant excerpts from this Independent Research Project article about cults: []

Cults have become like weeds in our world today. According to West there are about 2500 cults in the country currently. They are constantly sprouting and growing where they are not wanted. Cults operate using mind control. A cult may consist of any group of people who have a set of beliefs and rituals which are non-mainstream. They consist of exploitively manipulative groups which utilize thought reform programs to subordinate members well-being to the goals of leaders. Some members may eventually free themselves, but may exhibit symptoms of post tramatic stress disorder.

It is estimated that there are now approximately three thousand destructive cults in the United States, involving as many as three million people. Cults are groups of people who do not have mainstream belief systems. This doesn’t sound so harmful, but when does a cult begin to become dangerous? Hassan explains that “essentially a destructive cult is a pyramid shaped authoritarian regime with a person or group of people that have dictatorial control.

It also uses mind control techniques to keep people dependent and obedient. Destructive cults try to “clone” people to become small versions of the cult leader, rather than respect people’s individuality, creativity and self-will. Cults effect individuals and then insidiously permeate society. Cults are organized to utilize mind control. This is the main reason for concern. An individual recruited by a cult loses their individuality.

Mind control can cause an unnatural state in a human being and cause them to form a new identity or use defense mechanisms to protect themselves. The cult experience can turn into a traumatic event leading the member to become traumatized and develop symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSD). PTSD symptoms most commonly observed in ex-cult members are anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, sleeplessness, violent outbursts, memory loss, vivid flashbacks and somataform disorder.

What is a cult? Why do cults frighten people? There is good reason. Hassan says, “Destructive cults, are basically pyramid-shaped authoritarian regimes with a person or group of people that have a dictatorial control. A cult uses deception in recruiting new members [e.g. people are not told up front what the group is, what the group actually believes and what will be expected of them if they become members.] It also uses mind control techniques, to keep people dependent and obedient. Destructive cults try to “clone” people to become small versions of the cult leader, rather than respect a person’s individuality, creativity and self-will.

Many cults come out of religious movements. They are based on current ideals and sentiments. They have strong charismatic leadership. When a cult is based on religion it can be difficult to identify for unorthodox methods which could be perceived as mind control.

Today cults tend to be more narcissistic, quasi-therapeutic or Eastern-oriented. However, they still try to provide havens from the injustices or emotional scars of a fast-paced post-industrial society”. We started to see in the 70s and 80s, cults using fraud and dishonest techniques in their recruiting. Some used extreme psychological pressure. Methods such as chanting, sleep deprivation, and separation from family were taken from earlier religious sects.

Cult leaders are psychological manipulators who typically claim themselves as omnipotent messiahs. Isser and Ogontz emphasize that “Cults depend upon strong, charismatic leadership and their beliefs are syncretic combining a variety of current ideals and sentiments”. Their belief systems are based in flattery, threats and guilt. Members are expected to give their total allegiance. A totalist cult is a theological system, developed with personal rituals and dogma, backed up by intensive fund-raising. Powerful coercive techniques are used such as isolation from friends and family, information control, and group pressure. The obedience and hierarchical structure serve as an adhesive for the group. There is an entire immersion into this alternate lifestyle which is based on the hopes, ambitions, and fears...

The Moonies, founded by Reverend Sun Myung Moon, are connected to the Yakuza in Japan, which is an organized crime network. Hassan notes “The most important feature of it is the church’s position that Moon is the new messiah and that his mission is to establish a new “kingdom” on earth”. The Moonies believe that Christians are involved in Satanic forces with materialistic communism. This is of particular interest because Reverend Moon lives in extreme wealth while his followers live in deprived and abject poverty to support his cause. This again does not dictate the life of a spiritual man. Hassan further points out “The processes the moonies use to brainwash are identical to the processes used by the Communist Chinese in the 1950s”. Again, we see unorthodox methods used to initiate mind control of one’s followers.

A common characteristic of cults is the use of mind control. It is introduced and used on members gradually. There are four qualities that are specific to cult mind control that Hassan has identified. The first characteristic is that cults have strict rules of living. They may dictate how a member must dress, and what they may read or music they may listen to. They may not be allowed to have former relationships. The second is thought control. The member is taught to avoid having thoughts of personal reflection by using such techniques as mantras. Third is emotional control. The individual is made to feel guilty and full of shame for having any negative thoughts against the cult. A typical enforcement is to say that they are siding with the devil and not God by having these thoughts. The fourth aspect is information control. Incoming information through the media is frequently controlled. Incoming information may be only special material printed by the cult specifically for the members.

West and Martin purport that young and elderly people are prone to methods of affection and deception, such as love bombing. Love bombing is when the new recruit is surrounded by members who proclaim their feelings of love toward them and each other. For the person who is lonely or feels misunderstood, this is an attractive technique. These methods start out on a positive note but eventually become negative through mind control manipulation.

It is necessary to dissect and understand the stress that cults stimulate during their brainwashing techniques. It is this stress that leads to PTSD. West and Martin contend that under certain types of duress a person can be made to comply with those in power. It is under these types of stresses that a person can be made to act in a way that in uncharacteristic of their original identity. Thus they may be made to adopt behavior and beliefs that are not their own. “Brainwashing has come to mean intensive indoctrination in an attempt to induce someone to give up basic beliefs and attitudes and accept contrasting regimented ideas. The term is sometimes employed in a narrower sense, connoting forcible and prolonged procedures, including mental torture, and sometimes in a broader sense, as to persuade by propaganda”. Brainwashing was originally founded for political indoctrination. It can be described as a vigorous effort to further communicate the misinterpretation of any information.

Today the word “brainwashing” has been replaced by “mind control.” West comments that this is now used to account for a cult’s domination and manipulation of their members. He says, “It is hard for people to understand how the followers of Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard, Sun Myung Moon, and Rajneesh, for example, are induced to do what they do, without involving the idea of mind control”. It might better be described by looking at it another way. Hassan adds, “Mind control is focused on the abuses of the mind. Some mind control techniques may be positive such as: prayer, meditation, hypnosis, visualization, ritual, altered breathing. These techniques can be used for positive benefit provided the locus of control remains with the individual”. He further points out that mind control is a system of influence that has the effect of changing a person’s identity. The new identity, in most cases, is one that the person would strongly object to if it were described to them before hand. “In a mind control environment, freedom of choice is the first thing one loses”. The cult leader’s philosophy determines the new identity of the member. This constitutes the member’s new reality.

O’Neill and Demoshave likened the first step in the thought reform process to the creation of an identity crisis:
“The manipulators then undertake to establish desired cognitive habits in the subject by the use of verbal reconditioning. Subjects are urged to communicate verbally and frequently, but in a process that is strictly controlled. As a result an identity crisis is forced. A pseudo-identity may then emerge and endure as long as the demand characteristics of the situation require it. Such a pseudo-identity may persist even after the situation changes, symptomatic of a dissociative disorder.”

Historically, brainwashing was used to convert the Chinese to communism. It has come to mean intensive indoctrination. “The leader’s psychological control over the group members can be so powerful that the group essentially becomes a projection of the leader’s psyche. The dependency cult leaders induce may have serious consequences after leaving the cult as well as while in it”. This phenomenon was even observed by Freud. Goldberg reports that “Freud described how groups have the power to induce a member to regress, conform and replace the member’s ego ideal with an identification with the leader”.

Today’s cult leaders are artful manipulators in persuasion and indoctrination. As Isser and Oguntz note, “Leaders live in luxury while their members are given the most menial and demanding work, forced to live at poverty level.

There is a wide variation among the different types of cults. West and Martin report, “In about 25% of cases, cults are found to have perpetrated sexual and physical coercion and other abuse, including the inculcation of fear, terror, or dread”. However, as long as an individual may freely choose to join a cult, understand the group's doctrine, and may leave without harassment, this is not considered a mind-controlling cult.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Posted by: meh ()
Date: February 18, 2014 10:18PM

Thanks for lifting those excerpts out, Spartacus.

I'm not sure that anyone who hasn't been involved in a cult really gets how deep the damage goes. My son, who has been wonderfully supportive, doesn't understand why, nine months later, I can't just let it go; I can't really explain it to him. How do you help someone understand just how insidiously a cult can get into your head without sounding like you've watched the "Alien" movies a few too many times?

And even nine months later, the ability to come to this forum and exchange ideas, Ikeda-poop jokes and be made aware of how we all deal with this makes it easier.

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Re: Soka Gakkai International -- SGI
Date: February 19, 2014 05:03AM

"Today’s cult leaders are artful manipulators in persuasion and indoctrination. As Isser and Oguntz note, “Leaders live in luxury while their members are given the most menial and demanding work, forced to live at poverty level. "

No charity is provided through the SGI-USA - there's no "poor box" or any sort of fund for emergency assistance. In fact, helping each other financially is strongly discouraged - everyone is supposed to resolve his own problems via chanting. That's the only acceptable route - the poor simply need to chant more. More than 24 hrs/day, if that's what it takes!

When members are poor, they are instructed to chant to improve their financial situation, or their "financial karma." Some have believed that the height of their butsudan would drive their financial status - I remember one single mother with a drug problem whose butsudan was mounted flush with her ceiling! No, she didn't magically get rich.

Another single mom was chanting balls-to-the-wall, 4 hours a day, to change her financial karma. When I told her, as gently as I could, that even top leaders and long-term Japanese members (who are held up as the experts, see) said that it typically took 10 years to change one's financial karma (which makes sense - time to get a degree and build up work experience, nothing magic there), she flew into a rage: "I don't have ten years! I need my financial karma to change RIGHT NOW!!" And then she told me what a horrible person and terrible mother I was, and that was the last I talked to her.

See, she'd arrived at her mid-30s with no college degree and no work experience that she could use to get anything other than an entry-level unskilled job, she had two sons, and her child support payment wasn't enough to make ends meet for the 3 of them. Yet even so, she thought she was entitled to buy a hot chocolate at Starbuck's and sit there and write every morning after she rode her bike with the kids to their school. She fancied herself a JK Rowling in the making, you see, and thought that chanting would likewise provide her with her own ticket to insane wealth and fame.

But I DID feel bad, later, for having contributed to her delusion of a magic bullet - I had told her, as directed by cult SGI-USA, that we could "make the impossible possible through chanting." We can't. No one can. And nobody, Buddhist, pseudo-Buddhist, or otherwise, has regrown an amputated limb yet.

Members are typically told that cleaning the community centers for no pay is a sure-fire way to "clean your karma." Especially scrubbing toilets! These are typically members in pretty desperate circumstances. If they were cleaning SOMEONE ELSE's toilets - for pay! - they'd find themselves much better off, much faster, than simply being Sensei's buttboy and wishing for magical fantasies to be true.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/19/2014 05:08AM by StillTaitenAndProud.

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