Japan’s Other Tsunami

In some other Japan related news . . .

Daisaku Ikeda, President-Soka Gakkai Intl.

There’s an interesting article at the OC Weekly, a sort of expose dealing with some controversies at Soka University, the liberal arts college in Orange Country California run by the Soka Gakkai International, a lay Buddhist organization centered in Japan. I’ll post the link at the end.

The SGI is a very complicated subject, one that really calls for book-length treatment. I was involved with the SGI for many years, so I know that it is difficult to take a single aspect, in this case Soka University of America, and paint an accurate picture in an article of four or five thousand words.

This is the largest, most well organized, wealthiest Buddhist organization in the world, with branches in over 192 countries and 12 million members, numerous associative and sub organizations, an education system, which according to one SGI website (ikedabooks.com) “includes kindergartens in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Brazil, a complete school system in Japan as well as Soka University in Japan and the United States,” a concert association, an art museum, an institute of “Oriental Science”, a couple of institutes for “Global Peace and Policy Research,” and a political party

More than anything else, Soka Gakkai is Daisaku Ikeda. He built the modern day organization and it is his words, his spirit, his ideas, and his agenda that permeates every aspect of it. Fanatical is not too strong a word to use to describe the respect, love and devotion his followers feel for him. In recent years, the concept of the “oneness of master and disciple” (I forget the Japanese term) has become a central part of the faith, the doctrine.

Ikeda receiving the Leonardo International Award from the Leonardo Club (?), Russia 1994

I think Ikeda holds the world record for most academic honorary degrees. At last count, he has racked up a whopping 300. He gets a lot of prizes and awards, too. Some of these are the result of intensive lobbying efforts on the part of the SGI, and in a few cases, allegedly, extensive gift giving.

I haven’t mentioned the relentless recruitment efforts – or the money. Tons of it. One time the SGI “lost”  a million dollars. It was found at a dumpsite in Yokohama.

So, it’s a complex story to tell. To try to capsulate even the Soka University part of it in a single article is a daunting task, if you want to do it with accuracy and balance. So, I have some mixed feeling about the article. For me there seems to be some pieces missing, some parts that are rather hazy, and some of it doesn’t ring true, based on my experience. I don’t doubt that there is something to the allegations, it’s just that I have questions about the way they are said to have been played out.

The SGI is a multi-tiered organization. At the level of Soka U, which is extremely important to the SGI, things are done with finesse. Frankly, when I hear allegations about threats and intimidation, I wonder. The typical SGI strategy is to marginalize people. They are highly skilled at subtle manipulation and manufacturing consent. Masters of public relations: scour the net and you will find very little negative material. How they do that, I don’t know. It’s a bit different in Japan, where a lot of the skeletons are already out of the closet. And they are sitting on top of a Mt. Fuji of controversy. One of these days, someone is going to put all the pieces together and present it the world. It’s inevitable the way things are today.

In reading the article it is important to keep in mind that Soka University of America is just one spoke in a very large wheel, and as such, and with all things Gakkai at that level, no decision is ever made or action taken without the knowledge and approval of higher ups in Japan. Often, the leaders in Japan give the direction, and they are not always sensitive to the cultures of other countries, and in the case of the U.S., political correctness, especially in regards to administrative, legal and financial matters.

I won’t go into all the other fine points that the article does not make, and I am not really judging the author, for as I said, it is a complex subject, and too, I have no idea what editorial judgments were made. One glaring error is that the Hare Krishna is not “an alternative Buddhist sect.” Those are not the author’s words, yet I would think that including a clarification would have been the more professional thing to do – maybe that’s just nit-picking, I don’t know.

Soka Gakkai has many positive aspects, but some disturbing ones. The question is whether the bad outweighs the good, and that is why it deserves scrutiny. Make no mistake about it, no matter how positive the SGI’s image is publicly, there is a dark side.

Ikeda is quoted in the article saying “I am the King of Japan.” Sounds pretty grandiose, but there is a grain of truth in that. His influence on his society is underrated outside of Japan, and perhaps within, as well. This is why, when someone does publish a well-researched, thorough “expose”, no matter how well balanced, it’ll be like a tsunami hitting the world of the Soka Gakkai, and I think, Japan itself.

Here’s the article.

By the way, a satellite designed by Soku U students in Japan, called  Negai (“wish”), was launched on May 10, 2010 by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). The satellite is operated by Soka U and now orbits the earth, supposedly as a technological demonstration transmitting pictures to children participating in an outreach program. I don’t think this is part of any plot by the SGI to take over the world, but I’m not sure that I would rule it out.

Author of Ikeda portrait photo: SGI

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29 thoughts on “Japan’s Other Tsunami

  1. I think you have been very hurt somewhere along the line!! The organisation in the USA was fanatical but that was just an expression of the Americans themselves. But it is growing up. I seriously think you need to connect back with the SGI before you hurt youself more. Sincerely. C

    1. Thanks for your suggestion. Spoken like a true believer.

      So as not to be inflammatory, I’ll just describe this notion of the Americans running amok during the ’80s (and before) as a myth. Japan always knew what was going on over here and had no real problems with it until Mr. Ikeda decided to split from the priesthood once and for all.

      Before I hurt myself more? Really.

      1. Your argument is not backed by any proof other that you say you know. I always find this with people who criticize the SGI. They lack any evidence for their claims.

      2. I ‘practiced’ for 20 years until I woke up and realized that SGI Shoshu was complete and utter mind control; totally violates free will. Read Arnold Toynbee’s grand daughter’s letter after she visited when Ikeda wanted permission to align himself to his memoirs, so he could a Novel Peace Prize: she was appalled by how he treated his members. She did not allow him permission. Not to mention he’s raped women’s division in Japan who finally came out. I never ever chanted to connect to Sender’s heart, because deep down I knew it was black. Since stopping this brain wash cult, I’ve never been happier. I know how to utilize free will. I feel sorry for those of you whom are still enslaved.

        1. hello tresa, well said. ikeda and the sgi/nst have hijacked the buddhist teachings for their own selfish gain(money/political power). what they teach/practice is not what nichiren/shakyamuni taught. they use phony gosho and have mislead far too many sincere seekers of truth. i have a long history(50yr) with buddhism and while i am not a scholar i know the teachings very well. nichirens buddhism is true, ikedaism /nst is not.it is a cult. check out eagle peak blog. cheers.

    2. I’ve been studying this subject for three years. The process of ascertaining facts is very much hampered by the fact that on the long communication route from Japan to the world, no negative fact or argument about the SGI can travel far within the SGI and no external information about the SGI is available to members of the SGI than the SGI itself. This means that their internal PR is whatever they can get away with.

      The honorary degrees are a joke. SGI has enormous funds – about three trillion dollars I believe, and these funds are donated to universities in return for honorary degrees. Soka University graduates are always on hand to write up the right kind of articles on any given subject, but nothing Ikeda has ever written was ever published in a respectable peer-review publication on any subject at all. His guidance isn’t very interesting to anybody in any field of the humanities. At all. Not because his ideas aren’t popular. (such publications are used to hosting controvertial debate). He just doesn’t say very much at all which isn’t basically common sense to most of the planet. Indeed his donation to Buddhist thought as a philosophical tradition is to make out that ‘Ichinen Sanzen’ is Positive Mental Attitude. That and the idea that democracy, dialogue and modern science are naturally integral to Japanese Buddhism. This overlooks the obvious facts of Japanese history, which was that while democracy, dialogue and modern science have been well established traditions in the west, Japan had developed sophisticated alternatives to each of them. The Americans forced them to adopt modern science at gunpoint. MacArthur forced them to adopt a nominal democracy after WW2. They still have problems integrating debate and free speech into their society at every level. But to read the SGI literature, Mr Ikeda would like to be given a Nobel Peace Prize for inventing all of them. That much seems to me to be a fact-based criticism of the whole SGI myth.

      Among other things I notice that at the time of the split, members entering SGI culture centres were told by supervising staff that they could not enter unless they were prepared to step on a photograph of the face of the high priest. If they would not do this, they were asked to explain themselves and / or leave. This was a nationwide practice throughout Japan. So much for the spirit of ‘peace through peaceful dialogue. This isn’t normal behavour in Japan any more than it is in the west. I live in Japan. I don’t believe this could possibly have happened outside of Ikeda’s knowledge. It was far too widespread and no official apologies of any kind have ever been offered. Indeed when the President of the Kometo party complained about it, he was hounded our of both Kometo and the SGI for saying so. That is all fact.

      The head of the SGI study department switched to Nichiren Shoshu and published his apology for creating so much nonsense deifying Ikeda. He said that he and his department invented 80% of what is commmunicated as Ikeda’s spiritual guidance on life. The remaining 20% was written by one other man who ghost wrote the ‘Human Revolution’. As this writer died, there will be no more such mini-novels. That is fact, and there s a list of all the names of the study department staff who manufactured Ikeda’s ‘guidance’ for him. This explains why the guidance tends to be rather common-sensical rather than shockingly insightful, avoids any controvertial opinon whatsoeveer and as a consequence, tends to be rather boring.

      The Head of the Kometo Party admitted that whatever the Japanese Constitution, like every other respectable democratic constitution stipulates about a division between church and state, the SGI and the Kometo party in Japan are effectively staffed by the same people and centrally managed by Mr Ikeda personally. There have never been internal votes for Kometo leadership. Ikeda personally appointed each Kometo president. In recent times, there was a scandal where Kometo were convicted of wire-tapping the local communist party to outmanoever them in elections. The official in charge – who was the chief prosecutor in his area was forced to resign from his job as a result of the crime. Kometo then put him into the position of Minister for Justice – the top government minister in charge of Japan’s Justice system… before the media noticed that his previous criminal conviction rendered him ineligable for the job and forced him to resign from that too. This couldn’t possibly have happened outside of Ikeda’s knowledge. This is not conspiracy theory, it’s official Japanese history and it was in the broadsheet news and mainstream TV at the time.

      But generally speaking, no-one can speak out against the SGI in Japan, because during the 90s, they bought up huge shares in newspapers, magazines and TV. May 2011 saw them spending 2Bn yen in advertising (300 US dollars?) for that month. (Zero donations to the fukushima incident.) So any journalist who speaks out against the SGI in Japan is making a career decision, where, if his criticisms make any impact, they will simply buy their way into the company and have him sacked. So much for peace through peaceful dialogue.

      1. Dominic, thanks for your rather lengthy comments. I actually debated whether or not to post them because of the length, but you make some valid points and everything you describe seems within the realm of possibility to me. Someone might benefit from reading them.

        I have only these comments:

        1. I disagree with “The Americans forced them to adopt modern science at gunpoint.” We may have forced many things on the Japanese but I don’t believe modern science was one of them.

        2. Virtually nothing has ever happened in the SGI without Ikeda’s knowledge and approval, and that fact is the key to understanding why things transpired as they did before, during, and after the split.

        3. I think it’s true that the SGI “infiltrated” a number of Japanese news organizations. The Japan Times is one that I believe there is documentation about. As a result, these days, you can search but you will be hard pressed to find any negative word about the SGI online, expect for those stand-alone individuals with a gripe or a conspiracy theory.

        Dominic, I might suggest that since you have done a lot of research on this issue, and you seem both well-informed and sane, and especially since you seem to have a lot to say, that you might think about getting your own blog.

        1. Thank you. I did wonder if I would be posted. My main motivation was one of the writer’s comments about the absence of tenable facts in the argument. I came here in the course of research and getting my own blog sounds like a wonderful idea. Regarding your points,

          1) Yes and no. Japan had formally outlawed new inventions before the Black ships arrived with Admiral Perry. When he fired cannon at them, they realised they would have to begin formal investigation of not just the technology, but the whole scientific approach. Previously, their technology was based on highly developed craft systems which didn’t systematise into hypotheses,or testing etc… Given the choice, most historians agree they would have remained craft based. SGI make much of President Toda’s conviction that ultimately Buddhism and science would come to agree with each other, but really most educated people of any faith hold the same conviction.

          2 Debating issues with members, they attribute all of SGI’s progress to Ikeda’s influence, as if members themselves were incidental. But whenever SGI clearly do anything wrong, I hear ‘a few bad apples’, ‘a human organisation’ etcetera. The list of serious crimes involving arson, involvement of the Uyoku, the Yakuza and so on are extremely serious, but it’s very hard to pin anything on Ikeda personally, as mostly he’s acted through intermediaries. This is why I emphasise situations where Mr. Ikeda clearly isn’t walking his talk, because it cuts through the constant double standard where he’s personally responsible for everything good and nothing that was bad.

          3 Absolutely. Conspiracy theories aside, I was impressed with the earnestness and sincerity of leaders and members of SGI in Europe. Here in Japan though, what’s quite obvious is that most members of the Japanese public regard SGI as a corporate cult, somewhere between the Jehovah Witnesses and Scientology, although disturbingly, they have significant political influence through their own political party. When Uyoku fired gunshots at Taisekiji during the split, that went on NHK TV news, but generally, there’s a ‘three wise monkeys’ policy right across the board. Within SGI, they still portray themselves as being persecuted by the Japanese media. This was true in the 60s, but the very opposite is true now. Throughout the Japanese media, they can usually censor and edit news about themselves as they please.

          If you want, I could continue here, to answer people’s questions and criticisms, openly on the forum, or if you wish, I could leave my email to do so privately. I’ll follow your own advice on this and I respect your decision to publish this response, because as you say, it’s a lot of volume.

          1. Thanks, Dominic. I think what you have provided will suffice for now. This is a rather old post and there are just a handful of people who subscribe to all comments and it’s unlikely they have more than a passing interest in this subject. Please feel free to comment on future posts.

      2. dominic, thanks for sharing. speaking out is a very good cause for your future. thanks david. i am a longtime nichiren lotus sutra buddhist who left the gakkai long ago. real buddhism is great, the ski/nst are not. thanks again.

    1. I am really worried about these comments. I am just rejoining SgI in Italy, after leaving it before. I wanted to re acquire the Gohonzon that I returned. Perhaps they will not give it to me. But the fact remains most of what I am seeing here is true projection. Surely the Gohonzon is a mirror to what one is a rather Quantum Experience. All this darkness probably already resides in the hearts of accusations. I am not saying SGI is perfect, but it has now become an official religion in Italy, and there are a lot of people doing a lot of good things for humanity over here. Why all the nastiness? It is innocent, you only see in your life what you want to. ANyway, look at other religions and compare. Too many priests, and a whole lot of corruption and violence. Awww come on

  2. I think you have a point. I think SGI USA had it’s ups and downs, especially from the 80s. After the priest excommunicated the sgi members, there needed to be a change. You say that ikeda left the sgi but in truth, all the buddhist leaders at the time asked him to step down, it wasn’t his choice but they wanted him to resign as if he did. I don’t doubt the history you have with the sgi but have you seen it now. It’s changed since 1990s. Like you said, its a complicated history but the article in the oc weekly was not real journalism and I don’t respect that. It was biased and undermined a lot of professors who weren’t sgi. I believe the lawsuit was appealed because there too many lies.

    Also he isn’t the influence he has isn’t with japan, in fact there are a lot of Japanese tabloids who’d write anything to destroy his reputation and many powerful figures have thrown lawsuits and scandals at him that were proven false. Also sgi USA has it’s own history of corrupt leaders that thought they knew what the country wanted and wanted to cut themselves from japan gakkai. The organization is built by the members, mr. Ikeda really doesn’t decide on the bueacracies since he’s only an honorary president. Currently there’s another president.

    I understand where you’re coming from and I think this a good start for an interesting dialogue

    1. Akemi, thank you for your very thoughtful comment. It’s always nice when people can discuss their disagreements agreeably.

      I have a different point of view from what you have expressed. Much of my view is based on my own personal experience as a result of being in somewhat close proximity to both the top leadership in the US and some of the pivotal events during the 80s and 90s. I find it very difficult to believe that the top American leaders were corrupt. Rather I found them to be sincere, dedicated followers of Mr. Ikeda who were just doing what they thought he wanted them to do. The sacrifices many of them made is awe-inspiring, and the way they were treated after 1990, heartbreaking.

      Sorry to say this but I think the idea that the American leaders (who were predominately Japanese) wanted to cut themselves off from Japan is just untrue. In the first place, it couldn’t be done. Financially, it was impossible, and the membership would not have accepted it.

      No, I haven’t seen the SGI now. But I do have some contacts and my impression is that yes, things have changed but a lot of it is artificial. The Soka Gakkai has always been and apparently still is a top-down organization.

      I don’t recall saying anything about Mr. Ikeda leaving the SGI. I think you may be referring the period in the late 1970’s commonly known as “Phase Two” when in Japan the friction between the Soka Gakkai and the priesthood reached a crisis level and Ikeda resigned under pressure.

      However, that too was artificial, because he just turned around and became president of the Soka Gakkai International. I think it is naïve to believe that he occupies a merely an “honorary” position.

      You are right that Mr. Ikeda is the subject of much tabloid journalism in Japan.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, even though I may disagree, I appreciate very much that you left them here.

  3. Thanks for an insightful article. I am inclined to believe that SGI could be using the yakuza in the US. Please see the behavior of top leaders in the US organization and you will see the pressure tactics they apply if you do not oblige. Very sad but as Nichiren says the law of cause and effect is strict and permeates the entire universe. So, I believe aligned to this law, SGI will face its consequences and time will tell the story.

    1. Your welcome and thanks for leaving your comment.

      I don’t know about yakuza . . . but one thing I’ve noticed that has changed, and thanks for reminding me of it, is that the SGI-USA seems to use a lot more overt pressure tactics than in the past. Back in the day, differences of opinion and perhaps a general unwillingness to “get with the program” was tolerated to a certain extent. But now, apparently there is far less tolerance and they seem to be very quick to ostracize those who are not 100% behind their agenda.

    2. There were rumours of Yakuza involvement for some time, but, as Yakuza are highly secretive, it was very hard to confirm. However in 2010, one Yakuza boss retired and wrote his autobiography, where he lists extensive business done with the SGI in order for them to acquire land around the Taiseki-ji temple. The title of the book translates as something like, ‘I’m afraid I can’t keep our secrets any more’. This relationship stopped around the time of the split with Nichiren Shoshu. The man in question, as I remember it, a Mr Gotou (?) felt betrayed by Mr Ikeda abandoning a direct personal relationship of mutual trust they had held together since the early 1970s.

  4. David,

    Thank you for sharing your opinions about SGI. In the spirit of dialogue, which you present as one of the purposes of your blog, I hope you’ll allow me to share my views.

    You’ve mentioned that SGI is a complex subject and to that I agree. Looking back to the 1980s when I had first joined and comparing the organization to the present, over 2 decades later, I can attest as a continuing member that it continues to evolve with the times.

    It’s funny you mention that SGI tends to marginalize people. I joined because it embraces people of all communities who might otherwise be “marginalized “ by greater society. The folks I first started to practice this Buddhism with were African American and Gay or Lesbian Americans along with Japanese wartime brides and their Hapa children. As someone of Japanese descent, my relatives in Japan preferred that I not risk having my reputation “stained” by joining the SGI, but my mother who is not an SGI member fully supported my decision b/c she saw that I was able to be happier and deal with the various complex issues in my life.

    You say, “One of these days, someone is going to put all the pieces together and present it to the world.” In fact, reading through the decades of scholarship on SGI and from my own decades-long experience of this Buddhist movement, I find that “revelations” of, say, the 1960s to 1980s about SGI from the post-war Japan/Cold War time period are not necessarily true today. I’m not waiting for “the book” to answer my questions because this organization is an evolving target which reflects the mood of the times in terms of norms. I’ll continue to read and collect these scholarly books as they continue to come out and learn about valid/legitimate criticisms. As far as “bad outweighs the good” with this organization, time and history will tell.

    By the way, speaking of the tsunami and its wake of devastation affecting millions of people in Japan, of particular note in the article below is this statement:

    “The largest-scale New Religion disaster-response is being coordinated by Soka Gakkai, which claims 8.27 million households in Japan, including many thousands of adherents in the disaster-stricken region. The day after the earthquake, Soka Gakkai shut down regular operations at its massive headquarters in Shinanomachi, central Tokyo, and set its thousands of employees and ordinary member volunteers to work on relief efforts.”

    Article url: http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/politics/4399/tokyo_governor_says_tsunami_is_divine_punishment—religious_groups_ignore_him

    I’m hoping that this dialogue you’ve initiated will reveal more such efforts and contributions from Buddhist communities. If anything, despite differences of dogma and practice, Buddhists of all backgrounds need to draw on the common tradition of compassion for ALL humanity in this time of global crisis.

    Peace,

    L’il Usagi (“Little Rabbit”)

    1. Thanks, L’il Usagi, for sharing your thoughts. They are welcome.

      By “marginalized” I was referring to how the SGI handles group members who are, for lack of better word at the moment, dissidents. Perhaps I should have explained what I meant in more detail, but these posts are long enough already, which is why in some cases I might seem to gloss over a finer point. In any case, what I meant to suggest was rather than confront or threaten certain individuals it has problems with (as put forth in the OC Weekly article), based on my experience, the SGI uses subtler methods.

      However, you do mention an important point and that is the SGI has the broadest outreach of any Buddhist entity that I know of and embraces many different kinds of people, from various lifestyles, nationalities, races and political persuasions. In that respect, other Buddhist groups could learn a thing or two. The SGI reaches people who ordinary might not have any interest in Buddhism.

      In reference to “the decades of scholarship on SGI”, as far as I am aware there has only been three or four books published that take a look at the Soka Gakkai objectively and unfortunately they are out of date in many respects. That said, I am of the opinion that while on the surface it seems that the SGI has changed, beneath the surface things are pretty much the way they have always been, such as the focus on recruitment, the idolization of Daisaku Ikeda, top-down leadership, the manufacturing of consent, the shrewd and subtle manipulation of people and intrusion into their private lives.

      If I was still a member (and technically I never quit, I just stopped going), it would not be possible for me to have a blog where I expressed my own opinion about Buddhist dharma. They expect you to follow the “party line” and if you dont, first they try to “correct” you, and if that fails they marginalize and ostracize you. That’s what got me in trouble. I dared to think for myself and suggest that there were alternative ways of approaching certain issues, especially personnel problems, which typically the SGI tries to sweep under the rug.

      I already posted the link you cite earlier on today’s blog post. If you read the article carefully, you’ll notice that the author is a bit skeptical about the SGI’s motives behind their relief efforts. I think there is probably some truth in that but for the most part, I believe the SGI’s motives are sincere.

      Thanks again for your comments.

  5. I have been an American member of the Soka Gakkai International USA for over 35 years, and yes, I have seen both good and bad. As with any organization run by imperfect people, you end up with imperfect policies and history. What is interesting about ANY criticism however about the Soka Gakkai is that it fails to discuss the actual philosophy or religion itself that the organization is based upon which in this case is the Buddhism of the 13th century Buddhist priest Nichiren. The heart of any organization is the philosophy that it is based upon and thus far… from my own experience… I have not found any flaws with the actual religion itself. Based on this foundation, I am committed to supporting the Soka Gakkai as the only organization who has actually spread this important philosophy throughout the world. But let me be clear that being a supporter does not mean being a blind follower. While I do consider Daisaku Ikeda as a mentor or teacher, I am totally cognizant that there are issues within the organization that I don’t feel comfortable with and that I have always fought to change… even at the risk of being chastised for it myself. But once again my belief is firm; an organization that is based upon a correct philosophy eventually through struggle and pain… ebb and flow, find its way to correctness versus an organization based upon a philosophy or religion that no longer has the answers that can help people in this time in our existence as human beings, will never right itself. Compared to other organized religions, the Soka Gakkai is now only 80 years old. But in reality, the actual growth of Soka only began in earnest in Japan after World War II while in the United states, it was only started in 1960. The growth itself can probably be viewed as unmatched in the history of any religion. The question is, is it because the Soka Gakkai is the most cunning PR machine in the history of mankind, or is the practice/philosophy so compelling and practical for mankind at this time (showing actual proof to the persons that try it) that through the grassroots of person to person it has grown so quickly?

    1. Hi Michael, I respect where you are coming from and thank you for leaving this thoughtful comment. It is interesting that you mentioned how the SG has been able to spread their philosophy around the world, because I was just writing something similar for an upcoming post!

      I agree that the SG’s outreach is admirable, however I different take on some of your other points. I’ll try to share my thoughts with you as briefly as possible. Having been a member for 35 years, you have certainly seen the organization go through a number of changes, from “Phase Two” of the late 70’s, to the crazy ’80s, then what I call the “dark ’90s” to the present time. I would submit that the Gakkai as it is today is based more on the philosophy of Daisaku Ikeda than it is on that of Nichiren. Still, it is a form of Nichiren Buddhism, and while I would be hesitant to call the practice that Nichiren advocated flawed, I have no hesitation in characterizing his doctrine as extremely flawed, because it is based largely on mythology and a misreading of both Buddhist history and philosophy.

      I would say that there are a number of reasons for the Gakkai’s phenomenal growth. One, is that, as you mention, the practice is practical, and it’s also simple in the sense that it can fit rather easily into a modern lifestyle. The Gakkai’s PR prowess cannot be discounted as a major factor, and too, its organizational structure and its focus on people. Other forms of Buddhism could learn a thing or two from the Gakkai’s example. Unfortunately, the cult aspects of the organization makes it ultimately unacceptable.

      I respect your efforts to try and change the organization in a positive way. I’m sure it has been a rocky road, especially in the face of the inevitable chastising. There was a time when I also fought to change things within the Gakkai, but this is one David who eventually saw the utter futility of trying to battle such a massive Goliath.

  6. I’d just like to say I appreciate all the very interesting points of view that have been expressed. I was an SGI member in the early 2000’s, and only stuck with it for about 2 years… yes an experience short lived for reasons I will share at a later time. I found within those years the practice in itself to be amazing… the members of SGI here in FL were so beautiful and kind. I’ve recently considered reconnecting, but perhaps exploring the Nichiren Shu path. I’ve been doing a lot of research on the differences between the 3 largest branches. And at the end of the day, it’s about what YOU take away from the practice and YOUR faith. Now, I’ve found some really good information as to WHY the High Priest excommunicated Sokka Gai Kai, especially, which was one topic of concern to me that had been somewhat elusive during my time. Although I am content with my findings regarding the topic, I would love to pick your brain some more and find out what you’re not touching on or getting into in your blog post……. Again, I am at a stage in which I just want to hear facts.

    As for the OC Weekly write up….. c’mon. I worked for the Village Voice publications for quite some time, and to this day would never pick up an issue for reference.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Alli. I agree, it is about what you take away from the practice. Practice in the SGI can be deep and profound, if someone wants it. At least that was the case in my day. The people can be wonderful and very sincere. In fact, the whole thing could be wonderful were it not for some of the issues I mentioned in this and other posts, particularly the way they manipulate people and how in the end people are really just numbers to them.

      You say you are in a stage where you just want to hear facts, and I say good luck with that. Objective facts are hard to come by with this subject. At the risk of sounding rather self-serving, I would submit that I am pretty objective about it and try to present a balanced point of view. I have concerns about the SGI, but I don’t have a particular axe to grind.
      There is probably a lot that I didn’t touch on, after all, this is a pretty vast subject and the background is involved. I would be happy to share anything I know or can comment on. However, I’m not sure what it is you want to know. But if you have any questions, I’ll try to answer them.

      I don’t have any specific info on why the High Priest excommunicated the Soka Gakkai. My feeling is that is really boiled down to a tit for tat kind of thing. Relations between the SGI and Nichiren Shoshu were always tense, although just how tense was not always apparent to the general membership, and the tension dates back to events in WWII. Although there was bad behavior on both sides, from my perspective, it seems as though Ikeda went out of his way to egg the priesthood on, and in fact, I suspect that he skillfully manipulated them and in effect orchestrated the excommunication himself. He’s is one shrewd guy.

      Anyway, thanks again for you comment and if you have any specific questions, I will do my best to answer them.

  7. Hey,

    I know this is all pretty much old post and I am quite curious to know – Dominic, are you the same Dominic Berry of the SGI?

  8. david – nice work. dominic – well said. sgi as far as buddhism goes is a joke. they teach nonsense and ikeda buys whatever he wants. he has either died or is in a nasty coma. cause and effect is strict. i left sgi/nst many years ago because i knew that they were not teaching buddhism. studied the teachings and know them very well. my benefit. thanks.

  9. My father was agnostic and detested the Gakkai. He suffered greatly from cancer, leading to death, which I attribute to his hatred for Buddhism.

    I have been in the sgi for most of my life, and consider myself a survivor. I initially chanted, gung ho, then crashed after my head/temple pilgrimage. I rapidly fell into hell. I tried to practice again, but the poison had left me in spiritual paralysis. It took five years to regain sobriety from my concurrent abuse of alcohol/drugs. My practice was somehow impotent now. It had lost it’s remedial energy. The emotional bliss I had felt while chanting, was utterly lifeless. Endless, painful austerity’ was my new death. Hell is ‘non-change’ under certain circumstances.

    I consider criticism of Nichiren to be a cardinal slander. It was required, weirdly, to arouse my Buddha life. This is the dreaded, poison-drum relationship. Some Boddhisatvas may be resistant, or stubborn, or unwise, and so on.
    They undergo this hurtful purge to root out something which is difficult to apprehend, perhaps. It is mercy, in my view.
    Buddhism is difficult to follow, but regardless of organization blunders one should follow Siddhartha/nichiren/ and other good people who are individual Buddhas……Do not disparage them, but try to correct their misguided views…..that is the way of mercy/the Buddha.
    jules

    re

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