Opinions on this BBC documentary?

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Spiritual_living
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Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Spiritual_living » Tue Oct 09, 2018 3:34 am

Has some interesting parts, but it seems rather one-sided and negative to me:

Ginkyo
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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Ginkyo » Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:34 pm

I remember this when it was first aired in the 90s, long before I became a member. The fact he makes no effort even to pronounce the name of the organisation correctly ("Sukka Gakkai" - really?) reveals as much as you need to know in the first minute.

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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by DGA » Tue Oct 09, 2018 4:47 pm

Ginkyo wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:34 pm
The fact he makes no effort even to pronounce the name of the organisation correctly ("Sukka Gakkai" - really?) reveals as much as you need to know in the first minute.
Remember, it's the BBC, and for all its strengths, disrespectfully mispronouncing the world is its calling card. You may know the Central American nation of Nicaragua, but have you heard of Nick-a-RAG-you-WAR?

No comment on the documentary from me, as I haven't viewed it.

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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Bristollad » Tue Oct 09, 2018 5:01 pm

Ginkyo wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 2:34 pm
I remember this when it was first aired in the 90s, long before I became a member. The fact he makes no effort even to pronounce the name of the organisation correctly ("Sukka Gakkai" - really?) reveals as much as you need to know in the first minute.
So apart from Julian Pettifer being typically British in mispronouncing "foreign" words, what factual inaccuracies do you think there were? For my part, framing questions about SGI in terms of whether its another strange Japanese cult like Aum Shinrikyo that could go out and murder people was disingenuous and prevented the documentary from being unbiased. I'm not surprised by the Polly Toynbee segment, given that she was a former vice-president of the British Humanist Association (now called Humanists UK) - which aims to "...work to enhance the public understanding and appreciation of secularism as the best strategy for achieving freedom, equality, and peace in a plural society."

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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Bois de Santal » Tue Oct 09, 2018 6:21 pm

I'm not surprised by the Polly Toynbee segment, given that she was a former vice-president of the British Humanist Association (now called Humanists UK) - which aims to "...work to enhance the public understanding and appreciation of secularism as the best strategy for achieving freedom, equality, and peace in a plural society."
I haven't had a chance to see the video yet but I suspect Toynbee's contribution is included because Ikeda tried to schmooze her because of the rapport he (thought he) had with her grandfather. She did a hatchet job in the guardian on Ikeda and the soka gakkai sometime during the 1980's. It can be read here in a rather mashed up form:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic ... TKcW2TFZ4I

Interestingly, reading it again after all these years it seems fairly reasonable. But at the time it was taken rather badly by the leadership in the UK.


edited - this version seems to be more readable:http://www.toride.org/edata/toynbee.html Despite the formatting issues at least it is in one section.

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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Bristollad » Tue Oct 09, 2018 8:01 pm

Bois de Santal wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 6:21 pm
I haven't had a chance to see the video yet but I suspect Toynbee's contribution is included because Ikeda tried to schmooze her because of the rapport he (thought he) had with her grandfather. She did a hatchet job in the guardian on Ikeda and the soka gakkai sometime during the 1980's. It can be read here in a rather mashed up form:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic ... TKcW2TFZ4I

Interestingly, reading it again after all these years it seems fairly reasonable. But at the time it was taken rather badly by the leadership in the UK.


edited - this version seems to be more readable:http://www.toride.org/edata/toynbee.html Despite the formatting issues at least it is in one section.
Yes, that's pretty much the same opinion she expresses in the documentary. I don't think it's an unreasonable position, just that I'm not surprised and think she would've been unimpressed by any religious organisation nevermind the over-the-top treatment she experienced from SGI.

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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:15 pm

Terrible "documentary". Unbalanced, unobjective. Fascile. I can't quite discern an agenda except a generalized disdain. Almost 0 effort except to try and catch some sensational fumes off the Aum story and Polly Toynbee's limited perspective. That's not to say Ms. Toynbee doesn't have a point, but to feature her so prominently in the story and giving her take such weight is really lazy reporting. I can't really discern any actual reporting except that it appears the reporters/producers found a professor or two, a support group for former members, and... a lot of innuendo.

1. As a general matter, the little bit that they actually covered practice framed it in a sinister, orientalist light. "THEY CHANT SOME SPELLS IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE!" Gasp. I mean, come on - the opening credit with the old battered suitcase with travel stickers on it screams British Imperialist, and the show proceeds from there, like some old unreformed Brit who takes his cues from Rudyard Kipling.

2. Aum has nothing to do with Soka Gakkai except that they're both religious organization formed under the same laws. Its a cheap way to pique the interest of the average channel flipper, but offers absolutely no insight. Cheap. Yellow journalism.

3. I don't doubt the stories of the disgruntled former members. Those people were interviewed in the 90s so their experience was probably in NSA and the hangover. Yeah. That kind of stuff happened. It wasn't everything, but it was enough, and widespread enough that it was a problem. It had to be addressed, and it was. The PR guy from SGI-USA HQ they interviewed said as much. I can vouch - that was the tone of SGI-USA leadership in the 90s-00s until I quit. Can't speak to the last 10 years.

4. The material gain approach - again, the PR guy explained the real approach as I heard it over the years - getting a Porche, if you get one, is incidental. The real point is to attain awakening. This is where the report failed - the background of the Prosperity Dharma itself is an interesting story. In short, its an approach that emphasizes the benefits of Buddhist practice while de-emphasizing the consequences of demeritorious behavior. Cause and effect and how it determines one's place in samsara.

I'll just say this because maybe someone can benefit from it. The Prosperity Dharma is true and real. It is why Buddhism has appealed to mercantile classes from the beginning. "Absolute Awakening! But in the meantime, be a successful householder!" Two of the most prominent lay persons who figure in Mahayana Buddhism are merchants - Anathapindika and Vimalakirti. If you live a disciplined life, work diligently, live honestly and generously... you're going to tend to be successful and well liked. If you take that approach and single mindedly devote it to acquiring an expensive sports car, give a few years, and there is a good chance you can achieve it. That might be at the expense of living in a cheap apartment, living on ramen noodles... but if that's what you want to blow your money on ... The basic Buddhist practice SG teaches is conducive to this... it takes discipline to perform practice every morning and every night. That discipline translates to the rest of your life. Put your mind and every ounce of effort to something and you will cover ground. If the point is a vapid monomaniacal desire to acquire a fancy car, you'll reap the vapid fruits. Put that effort to developing wisdom, on the other hand... If Buddhist practice didn't have a payoff, the Buddha's teaching would be pointless. But in outlining the 4 noble truths and the 8fold path, he promised there is a point.

5. Some of the things that were profiled and cast in a sinister light are basic Buddhism. Chanting, for instance. It looks strange maybe to a Western audience. There was an editorial decision to cast it as foreign and weird. Also, that bit about advancing the sangha and advancing the self... Yeah, I can see, if you're wrapped up into a materilistic tail chasing dharma, that could be very destructive. On the other hand, from the beginning, unity of the sangha has been emphasized - its one of the refuges that defines being Buddhist. There is a degree of group consciousness that kicks in when one takes refuge. When enlightenment is properly framed as the point of sangha, then the sangha functions as it ought to. If someone goes overboard with it, or there loved one goes overboard with it... I can see that causing harm. That's whay SGI had to mellow.

When they did interview members, if they did express positive opinions about the group, it was cast with skepticism. (Not so for critics, though, it was actually pretty short on even the critics, and instead, pretty long on editorial.)

If anyone has actually interacted with Japanese, they might be surprised at who they encounter. Japanese soccer fans cleaning up after themselves at the World Cup is not that surprising if you actually know Japan and Japanese people. Shinjuku station is one of the busiest train stations in the world. If you went to look for a piece of trash on the ground, you might be looking for a good while before you find it. And there are NO public garbage cans anywhere. I'm not exaggerating. Soka Gakkai is full of people who start with THAT as their base line. My brother studied at Soka University and one of the things that impressed him was his friend who came from a working class background... they'd be walking down the street, just talking, and the guy would be picking up trash as they went along. That level of conscientiousness goes into every level of interaction. Soka Gakkai are Japanese... but more so. Its f'in tiring hanging out with Japanese Soka Gakkai members because its too much.

6. The resistance toward reform of the religious corporations law. This is a big issue - much bigger than that report could actually get into.

Without going into details, there has been a tension between the government and Buddhist institutions since Buddhism was introduced. The government has been trying to control the sangha since at least the 7th century, and the Sangha has been resisting and in turn exerting political influence since then. Most recently, under the Tokugawa government, the sangha was completely subjugated and turned into an organ of the state. With the Meiji Restoration in the mid-late 19th c. Buddhism was persecuted as un-Japanese and State Shinto was imposed. The religious freedom laws introduced by MacArthur are more or less the same separation of Church as State protections we have in the US. There will always be a tension between state and large religious institutions. That said, fiscal transparency would be a reasonable reform to introduce, although its totally reasonable for an organization to resist that.

Soka Gakkai is a political force. Komeito has been part of the ruling parliamentary coalition, mostly with LDP, on and off since the 90s. Its power is tremendous. And yet, their track record is pretty benign, in the scheme of things; disappointing and worse from a Nichiren doctrine perspective. Komeito is center-right. They advocate for things like incentives and support for young families... the kind of middle of the road, socially minded policies you'd expect from mainstream religious people...

And this is where the report misses. They paint it as a religion for displaced people... What religion that actually has a benevolent purpose is not for people who have lost their footing in life? In that Brit accent, the only religion that might be acceptable is High Church, but only if you don't take it too seriously.

Religion, when its doing what its supposed to, offers hope. That's the 3rd Noble Truth. Its supposed to help us deal with the shit life throws our way. But there is a faction of people out there who hold that against religion if it actually does this and attracts people.

7. Ikeda is a complicated man. He didn't just spring from the ether and become this weird world leader. There is a whole history to the growth of Soka Gakkai and his part in it. For Japanese Soka Gakkai, he's one of them. He's not some ethereal figure. In Japan, one regularly encountered him at gatherings. He taught on all kinds of stuff regularly, most importantly, Dharma. Leaving aside the controversy around Fuji schools, there was substance to him. And people in Japan... for instance that young girl who said he is like a father figure... she's probably 3rd or 4th generation Soka Gakkai. Her family, or people she knows, personally have had history with Ikeda. Its not a far fetched thing for her to have those kinds of feelings for him. That is a whole story worth exploring that would be fascinating - the good and the bad. I tend to agree that he went megalomaniac. There's a lot to that story. Some of it is awareness that as a public figure, there is a public face. Some of it is that there were very serious political moves around him and within the organization, hilighted by the schism with Nichiren Shoshu. I don't think his life condition was strong enough to take all the stuff that was going on around him. He succumbed to gampon no mumyo. He might have been the most powerful man in Japan, but the currents swirling around him were much much stronger.

One thing Ikeda said, and I agree with, Dharma is the greatest. But it needs to be advertised. It doesn't benefit the person toiling away, banging their head against samsara, when its just cultivated in a cave in a remote mountain. There are people with little dust in the eyes, and all they need is to hear the teaching. They will understand it. In the age of media, Ikeda understood the importance of advertising.

8. Soka Gakkai is a massive presence in Japan. Its probably not an exaggeration that Ikeda was one of the most powerful people in Japan at that time. To try and sum up the story of 10 million people in 45 minutes is a joke, especially when there is clearly no attempt to actually investigate. This documentary just took a few sources and ran with it.

There is a lot of stuff to investigate about Soka Gakkai and some of it is tabloid headlines juicy. There's also a lot of positive things they do. This report, just to demontrate how unbalanced it was, tried to frame the growth of Soka University as a bad thing. As though setting up bio labs is a bad thing.

A real, balanced investigation would be really interesting. It would need to be multiple parts, and a lot of time spent to really investigate, not just lift the sensational and easy stuff.

I was closely involved for years, but I left because on balance I could not get with it anymore. That doesn't mean they are anything like Aum. That comparison is outrageous.

Sorry. That was a mind dump and I can't be bothered to go back and edit.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Spiritual_living
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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Spiritual_living » Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:24 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Oct 09, 2018 11:15 pm

Sorry. That was a mind dump and I can't be bothered to go back and edit.
No need to apologize. Probably the strangest thing about this documentary is when the woman is asked her if she felt Ikeda was a spiritual man. She responds, “He seemed to be the least spiritual person I have ever met.” How exactly do you qualify that? How do you … “seem spiritual”?

It’s just a bizarre, archaic documentary. It is borderline racist.

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Bois de Santal
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Re: Opinions on this BBC documentary?

Post by Bois de Santal » Mon Oct 15, 2018 8:34 am

Spiritual_living wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 11:24 pm
Probably the strangest thing about this documentary is when the woman is asked her if she felt Ikeda was a spiritual man. She responds, “He seemed to be the least spiritual person I have ever met.” How exactly do you qualify that? How do you … “seem spiritual”?
If any one needs help on how to seem spiritual, JP Sears is your man. :smile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEyns906E9I

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