Why are SGI meetings necessary?

dharmapdx
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Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:04 pm

About two years ago I started attending SGI meetings. It's not that I disagreed with what was being taught, but rather that many people seemed to be socially awkward and it just got uncomfortable for me on a social level. Also it seemed that the meetings were always at an introductory level, and I am self-taught and had been studying about Nichiren Buddhism for about five years at that point. So I stopped attending SGI meetings.

I thought for a while about returning to Nichiren Shu or maybe looking into Rissho Koesikai, etc., but I realized that the truth is that I LIKE Soka Gakkai and its practice, just not the meetings -- which, again, are usually introductory and therefore unnecessary for me at this point.

I received an SGI Gohonzon, and I am subscribed to "Living Buddhism" and "World Tribune" -- I love them! And I have a daily SGI practice. So, I actually consider myself a member of SGI. (I make small donations occasionally, etc.) I actually love the organization and think it does a lot of good. I just don't like the meetings….

And yet I know that leaders of SGI like me to attend meetings. Why is this? Just seems to me that as this is a lay organization with a primarily private practice in one's own home, with so many self-study publications available from the organization, meetings seem unnecessary.

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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:17 pm

Having quit, my opinion has to be discounted, but the one thing I miss is the meetings. I actually quit because of most of the other stuff. LOL

I don't know what or how they teach these days, but there was a little book by Pres. Ikeda circulated in the old days - something about Heart to Heart Connections. With years of separation from it, my recollection is that the zadankai (local weekly meeting) is where we actually get to practice seeing each other as Buddha-to-be. We all gather in fellowship of the Buddhadharma, looking on each other as we really are - into each other's "hearts" (I suspect the Japanese character is 心 which has a much deeper meaning than heart).

I liked to hear about people's experiences with the practice - no matter how ridiculous at times, though most of the time I was inspired - those stories could be the basis of really getting to know someone, see their heart, see their Buddhanature, and in turn, one could share in that experience by opening oneself up, both by sharing, but more fundamentally, simply by being completely open to the other - the way I think many of us feel intuitively is the "right" way we are supposed to be with each other - to really see the other and the other to really see us. fellowship, I think is the word I found most appropriate.

In more generic terms, its the experience of the jewel of the sangha.

Zadankai is really the jewel of Soka Gakkai. Dig around for old publications that really discussed this. Don't take it for granted. Sangha is critical for Buddhist practice - its where you learn to be Buddhist, where you get to express and act Buddhist among supportive others sharing in that endeavor.
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

narhwal90
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by narhwal90 » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:14 am

I don't make SGI meetings on a weekly basis, but I try to make them at least 1 or 2 times/month, and the occasional larger community center meetings- I have subscriptions to the pubs also. I prefer the gongyo meetings, sitting down in company with others and chanting a while is a really nice change to the solitary morning/evening practice at home. I'm not so into the study meetings which as stated, generally stay on an introductory level- not that I dislike them but the discussion doesn't range far beyond the Makaguchi/Toda/Ikeda Human Revolution stories- so deeper study is a DIY affair- perhaps unless there are others in the area interested in taking up other topics. That said, I find just showing up and participating even on the basic level of study helps me be more honest & aware of my own practice- I don't think there is a substitute for the face-to-face. In effect, I think Q is right on wrt the value of participating in the fellowship.

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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by The Cicada » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:16 am

They generally discouraged study outside of SGI publications in these meetings, though I feel it's understandable for any lay organization to depreciate the opinions of scholars given the way some lettered individuals treat their precious subject matter—even if I can't abide the unorthodox doctrines SGI inherited from Shoshu and the guru emphasis SGI used to replace Shoshu's emphasis on the high priest.

The meetings themselves were generally heartwarming events, though. Sometimes, when I treat myself to sushi, I reminisce about daimoku tosos and the dream of a world at peace in the Buddhadharma that seemed so close at hand... But SGI does teach a lesson very characteristic of the historical Buddha, the victorious Hero of the World: A refusal to accept defeat.

諦めません! :jedi:

:namaste:

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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by Fortyeightvows » Wed Dec 20, 2017 1:49 am

Not a really a nichiren person here, but I have a similar relationship with a different sect that I belong to. The practices and rituals that used to be the focus are no longer performed with rituals only happening twice a month. All the other meetings are study groups and classes which I have almost no interest in. I love doing chanting with others, but because the group is all about study and lectures, I very rarely attend. So anyways I totally understand where your coming from.
That being said, what qq says about all this,
I liked to hear about people's experiences with the practice - no matter how ridiculous at times, though most of the time I was inspired - those stories could be the basis of really getting to know someone, see their heart, see their Buddhanature, and in turn, one could share in that experience by opening oneself up, both by sharing, but more fundamentally, simply by being completely open to the other - the way I think many of us feel intuitively is the "right" way we are supposed to be with each other - to really see the other and the other to really see us. fellowship, I think is the word I found most appropriate.
makes me want to go to a study group and try to hold this attitude

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Carlita
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by Carlita » Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:31 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Tue Dec 19, 2017 8:04 pm
About two years ago I started attending SGI meetings. It's not that I disagreed with what was being taught, but rather that many people seemed to be socially awkward and it just got uncomfortable for me on a social level. Also it seemed that the meetings were always at an introductory level, and I am self-taught and had been studying about Nichiren Buddhism for about five years at that point. So I stopped attending SGI meetings.

I thought for a while about returning to Nichiren Shu or maybe looking into Rissho Koesikai, etc., but I realized that the truth is that I LIKE Soka Gakkai and its practice, just not the meetings -- which, again, are usually introductory and therefore unnecessary for me at this point.

I received an SGI Gohonzon, and I am subscribed to "Living Buddhism" and "World Tribune" -- I love them! And I have a daily SGI practice. So, I actually consider myself a member of SGI. (I make small donations occasionally, etc.) I actually love the organization and think it does a lot of good. I just don't like the meetings….

And yet I know that leaders of SGI like me to attend meetings. Why is this? Just seems to me that as this is a lay organization with a primarily private practice in one's own home, with so many self-study publications available from the organization, meetings seem unnecessary.
I practiced with Shoshu for a year and SGI for a couple of years. The SGI district leader asked if I can be one of the smaller district leaders in my area or help out the larger ones. I don't care for the structure of SGI and emphasis on Ikeda... but maybe, in your case, ask if you can be a leader or a role in one of the districts near you. I would have gone to Nichiren Shu if it were close. I think you'd probably like that given it has both study of The Buddha's suttas as well as Daimoku. The only thing is you have to turn in your Gohonzon and take the ceremony at Shu temple.
[The Buddha says to his monks], when he opens his mouth to expound or when he reads the sutra, he should not delight in speaking of the faults of other people or scriptures. He should not display contempt for other teachers of the Law or speak of the good or bad, the strong or weak points of others. -Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra
:anjali:

dharmapdx
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Sat Dec 23, 2017 1:39 am

It's funny but I am sort of the opposite. I really actually feel passionate about SGI, and I am just fascinated by the organization as a whole. I even like the notorious and much-criticized "Ikeda worship"; I find it fascinating, and even comforting in an odd way. And I do the daily practice in my home. But the meetings just did not work for me.

I've come to realize that it may be precisely BECAUSE I'm so passionate about SGI and Buddhism that the meetings didn't work for me. The meetings seem largely geared toward beginners, and yet I showed up with the two chapters from the sutra memorized, etc. I think people expect many western white males to be entirely new to Buddhism and perhaps a little surprised by how exotic it can seem, and yet I first became aware of Buddha and Buddhism when I was a child in Japan. It isn't new or exotic to me. I hate to put it this way, but it just may be that I don't "need" the meetings. I agree that it's important to have a community with other practitioners, but I seem to express myself better (to "socialize" better) in writing than in-person -- which means I can use the Internet to connect with other members from throughout the world, which is what I have done.

It is at some point in this interview with Larry King that Tina Turner says, "I didn't have time to go to meetings or to have people come to me, so I had to struggle for it and learn it on my own. I'm glad I did it that way." That's how I feel about it.

Years ago, I was a member of the Rosicrucian Order: https://www.rosicrucian.org Membership in the Order is primarily a home practice, with attending group meetings being optional and supplementary. My practice of SGI Buddhism feels pretty much that way. I drop into the local center every once in a while, but for the most part mine is a private home-study practice.

I was thinking of going to the "Lions of Justice" gathering, but then I realized that I miss the age cut-off by about two years: https://www.worldtribune.org/2017/06/50 ... e-respect/ Which brings me to another point: I think that one reason the group meetings may not work for me is my age and my gender. One complaint I've heard about SGI is that it is an age-ist organization, that it really isn't too interested in people over the age of 40. And I have noticed a particular focus on younger people. From an organizational standpoint that makes sense, because it ensures the organization's future. But for a solitary male in his early 40s, it leaves me as the odd-man-out.

I think another way of saying it is that I don't find the meetings helpful or necessary because I really don't feel that I have a place in them. I actually got dirty looks from a Hawaiian woman at one meeting when she saw that I had the sutra memorized, and I got a sense that it was a case of reverse racism -- which DOES exist. It's been covered before on this forum that there are some Buddhist organizations that are hesitant about letting non-Asians join. That's not the case with SGI, of course, but I have noticed that some Hawaiians have a bigotry against "haoles," and that seemed to be the case with a few of the Hawaiian people who ran the SGI meetings I attended. My age, gender, and color, makes me a rather unsympathetic physical presence -- and the man currently in the White House doesn't make that any easier for people of my appearance. In ther words, a white older American male showing up at a Buddhist meeting in today's age looks like "the enemy" showing up. I can avoid this kind of political baggage with a private practice of SGI Buddhism.
Queequeg wrote:
Tue Dec 19, 2017 10:17 pm
Having quit, my opinion has to be discounted, but the one thing I miss is the meetings. I actually quit because of most of the other stuff. LOL

I don't know what or how they teach these days, but there was a little book by Pres. Ikeda circulated in the old days - something about Heart to Heart Connections. With years of separation from it, my recollection is that the zadankai (local weekly meeting) is where we actually get to practice seeing each other as Buddha-to-be. We all gather in fellowship of the Buddhadharma, looking on each other as we really are - into each other's "hearts" (I suspect the Japanese character is 心 which has a much deeper meaning than heart).

I liked to hear about people's experiences with the practice - no matter how ridiculous at times, though most of the time I was inspired - those stories could be the basis of really getting to know someone, see their heart, see their Buddhanature, and in turn, one could share in that experience by opening oneself up, both by sharing, but more fundamentally, simply by being completely open to the other - the way I think many of us feel intuitively is the "right" way we are supposed to be with each other - to really see the other and the other to really see us. fellowship, I think is the word I found most appropriate.

In more generic terms, its the experience of the jewel of the sangha.

Zadankai is really the jewel of Soka Gakkai. Dig around for old publications that really discussed this. Don't take it for granted. Sangha is critical for Buddhist practice - its where you learn to be Buddhist, where you get to express and act Buddhist among supportive others sharing in that endeavor.

dharmapdx
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Sat Dec 23, 2017 2:15 am

To be clear, I am quite happy with my practice as it is, and I actually feel a great amount of love and appreciation for SGI. I love reading the "World Tribune" and "Living Buddhism." I love the articles and shiny pictures of practitioners from all over the world and all walks of life. I love my private daily practice, which I structure exactly to the format from the SGI liturgy sutra book. I'm not looking for a new practice or a new organization.

I suppose I just wonder why they don't explicitly say that private practice of SGI Buddhism is an option. The meetings themselves do not work for me and do not seem necessary, but I don't think I should abandon my SGI practice just because meetings that I do not feel I need do not working for me.

I suppose another thing I wonder is: what exactly are they expecting people to get from the meetings?

An aside: at my second meeting, a senior member of the organization asked me if I wanted to lead the meeting and explain to newcomers what Buddhism is about.
Carlita wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:31 pm

I practiced with Shoshu for a year and SGI for a couple of years. The SGI district leader asked if I can be one of the smaller district leaders in my area or help out the larger ones. I don't care for the structure of SGI and emphasis on Ikeda... but maybe, in your case, ask if you can be a leader or a role in one of the districts near you. I would have gone to Nichiren Shu if it were close. I think you'd probably like that given it has both study of The Buddha's suttas as well as Daimoku. The only thing is you have to turn in your Gohonzon and take the ceremony at Shu temple.

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Carlita
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by Carlita » Sat Dec 23, 2017 2:46 am

dharmapdx wrote:
Sat Dec 23, 2017 2:15 am
To be clear, I am quite happy with my practice as it is, and I actually feel a great amount of love and appreciation for SGI. I love reading the "World Tribune" and "Living Buddhism." I love the articles and shiny pictures of practitioners from all over the world and all walks of life. I love my private daily practice, which I structure exactly to the format from the SGI liturgy sutra book. I'm not looking for a new practice or a new organization.

I suppose I just wonder why they don't explicitly say that private practice of SGI Buddhism is an option. The meetings themselves do not work for me and do not seem necessary, but I don't think I should abandon my SGI practice just because meetings that I do not feel I need do not working for me.

I suppose another thing I wonder is: what exactly are they expecting people to get from the meetings?

An aside: at my second meeting, a senior member of the organization asked me if I wanted to lead the meeting and explain to newcomers what Buddhism is about.
Carlita wrote:
Fri Dec 22, 2017 10:31 pm

I practiced with Shoshu for a year and SGI for a couple of years. The SGI district leader asked if I can be one of the smaller district leaders in my area or help out the larger ones. I don't care for the structure of SGI and emphasis on Ikeda... but maybe, in your case, ask if you can be a leader or a role in one of the districts near you. I would have gone to Nichiren Shu if it were close. I think you'd probably like that given it has both study of The Buddha's suttas as well as Daimoku. The only thing is you have to turn in your Gohonzon and take the ceremony at Shu temple.
I wax thinking if you want to add imput on meetings to go beyond basics maybe ask if you can be part of the district meeting staff. SGI look down on me not going to meetings but they didnt disown me. Id stay since it helps you.

Here? More members. I went to the bigger meetings and they have shakabuku quotas. Its evangalisation based on Nichiren view of having everyone practice the right sect after dismantling other lineages. I read the gosho and most of The Lotus Sutra. Very good books.

The latter, they asked me to do the same since I have time to study the religion in addition to Ikeda's views. I turned it down because I dont care for all sources come from Ikeda. All the books in their bookstore is from Ikeda minus the Goshos. But if you have the time go for it.
[The Buddha says to his monks], when he opens his mouth to expound or when he reads the sutra, he should not delight in speaking of the faults of other people or scriptures. He should not display contempt for other teachers of the Law or speak of the good or bad, the strong or weak points of others. -Saddharma Puṇḍarīka Sūtra
:anjali:

dharmapdx
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Tue Jan 02, 2018 5:42 am

I attended a Kosen Rufu meeting today. I actually really enjoyed it. I have no plans to attend another SGI meeting until the same time next year. I realized today that different people simply have different needs. Some people really NEED the meetings. I don't. I NEED the practice. I make donations now and then, and try to make at least one meeting per year; that, plus a daily private practice, seems to be enough for me….

dude
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dude » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:57 pm

Actually, SGI doctrine (and it used to emphasized more, is that is very very difficult to practice correctly on one's own, if not impossible. Especially if you're new, the interaction with others and having seniors to ask questions of is essential.
Yes, most (if not all, I imagine, depending on the district are introduction oriented, mainly because we're still a small group and eager to introduce others to the amazing benefits of the Gohonzon. However, I would expect there are (here in Seattle there are) advanced study meetings, world peace prayers (monthly) and others.
As Queequeg said, the organization is the SGI manifestation of the treasure of sangha, or community. It's important to keep in mind that, as President Ikeda said, "The organization exists for the sake of the members, not the other way around." The mystic and downright fascinating thing about the SGI is that when you go to meetings regularly, you find yourself running into the perfect resources and people to help you advance your practice. It's downright weird.
I'd encourage talking to the district leader and see what other activities are going on in your area. :namaste:

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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:59 am

I hate to sound egotistical. In fact, I don't think it's egotistical for me to write this. I think it's merely factual. In many ways, I am the exception to the rule. This is me chanting Gongyo, which I taught myself: I used SGI booklets, and online resources to teach myself -- and the fact that I speak Spanish helped, because Japanese and Spanish pronunciation is very similar.

I hate to come across as an egotistical person by plastering pictures of my life experience on this forum, but I find that my life has been so unusual that the best way to explain it is to share pictures. I was baptized as a Catholic, with a strict Mexican-American father ( technically my stepfather), so I already know what "assiduous practice" is all about. In Catholic school we often had to kneel for a long time while reciting the rosary.

Additional, I am not a beginner per se, because I was introduced to the figure of Buddha as a child in Japan when I was seven. It puts me on a very different standing from most of other white Americans who were introduced to SGI practice in adulthood. Buddhism and Japanese culture is simply not "exotic" to me. I had my introduction to it when I was seven, more than 30 years ago. When I entered the Nichiren Shu Temple in Portland, which was decorating in a very old world Japanese way, I felt as though part of me was "back home."

I started hanging out at Rosicrucian park in San Jose when I was about 10, and I joined the Rosicrucian order (http://www.amorc.org) when I was 18 years old. The order is all about metaphysics. I left the Rosicrucian order at age 21 for "a course in miracles" (http://www.acim.org/), which contains the spiritual thought system that many have compared to Buddhism. I was introduced to course in miracles when I was 21 while working at a new thought church -- which had a statue of Buddha.

The SGI meetings themselves simply do not work for me. The meetings were putting me off of the practice. The only alternative is to abandon the practice of entirely. Seems that it is a private practice of SGI Buddhism for me, or no practice at all. Somehow I think private practice of SGI is better than nothing at all. If I attended the meetings I would just end up abandoning the practice, because the meetings were so offputting for me.

I hate to sound cynical. I've already mentioned many times that I love the SGI practice and I'm fascinated by the organization. But I also recall something Queequeg wrote a while ago: at some level there is a real Politik going on with SGI, of which many members are unaware. He wrote that back in Japan Soka Gakkai is actually a powerful political force. I can't help but think that this is probably one reason they want people to attend their meetings rather than practice individually on their own: for political purposes. I don't want to sound terribly negative but this is just the truth: while I love the practice and that is what keeps my life together, I simply sensed a great deal of anger and competitiveness in the air at the meetings. Obviously that is not helpful to my practice. As Queequeg mentioned, quality of meetings varies from region to region. Maybe I simply live in a region that doesn't have strong leadership at the moment (I think I mentioned above about attending a meeting where the group leader was obviously in an altered state of consciousness as a result of drug use, and the last meeting I attended was a men's meeting which mostly consisted of competitive men sitting in a circle and bragging angrily and competitively about their economic success -- it seemed like none of the men actually wanted to be there, which was actually a sense I got from many members at SGI meetings).

But thank you for the concern. 🙏🏻
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dharmapdx
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:45 am

Forgot to mention this part…. At one of the last SGI meetings I attended, I attempted to, you know, "participate" in the discussion portion of the meeting, so as to convey the message that I, you know, found the community beneficial to my practice….

I ended up mentioning that for some reason I had recently had trouble reciting Gongyo. For the last few days it has been difficult for me to sit in front of the Gohonzon and chant. One of the group leaders looked at me and sternly said to me, "that might be Mara obstructing your practice…."

The sense I got was that this man was ultimately simply trying to demonstrate to the group that he knew some "exotic" name of an exotic deity of Buddhism. In other words, using me and my practice as leverage to demonstrate his superiority and seniority in the SGI organizational hierarchy.

As someone who was baptized Catholic at about a week of age, and who went through Catholic grade school, I have prior experience of being told that "Satan" will get me if I don't behave correctly. In other words, this was offputting to say the least.

I know that there is a difference between Mara of Buddhism, and Satan in Christianity. But at base they are devilish figures that are often used in a hierarchical organization to intimidate people lower-down to behave as the higher-ups in the organization want. I left Catholicism because of this.

It wasn't "Mara" that was putting me off of chanting, but the SGI meetings themselves.

Between the Hawaiian girl giving me dirty looks when she saw that I had Gongyo memorized, enduring the reverse racism of another Hawaiian woman saying that some Hawaiian don't like "stupid Haoles," being told that Mara (the devil) was causing me to not chant, another group leader being stoned, and the competitive, angry and downright nasty and hostile energy between the men at the men's group … I'm gone! LOL.

Again, I love THE PRACTICE ITSELF, but if I'm going to be blunt the meetings themselves were terrifying, alienating, and just plain weird, for me because of what I mentioned above. As Queequeg mentioned, quality varies from district to district…. Maybe I'm just in a weird, dysfunctional district.

Here is a very kind way to put it: I basically love everything about Soka Gakkai EXCEPT THE MEETINGS! LOL 🙏🏻❤️✌️

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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by narhwal90 » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:51 pm

I'd try a different district. Around here i don't recall anyone being told anything about what might or might not be an issue to their face in a meeting, certainly since the NSA split at least. Such conversations, should you wish to have them, are usually held one-to-one with some member you trust- often a leader but it doesn't need to be.

I've also never run into opinions about memorization of gongyo; for a while over the last couple years I was hypersensitive about not being able to recite from memory since I'd been in NSA/SGI for well over 20 years and in the day could recite from memory the full NSA gongyo which includes a lot more of the Juryo chapter- very tongue twisting for me. No-one cared in the slightest that I had to re-memorize gongyo.

If you showed up to our district study meeting and mentioned having memorized the Lotus Sutra, we'd probably say "Thats nice" and continue with the scheduled study topic. If you wanted to talk more generally about the sutra (which would be a fantastic topic IMHO), a separate meeting on that topic would probably be scheduled for those interested... perhaps also advertised more widely in the area. That would be a great and intended use of an SGI community center room.

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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by justsomeguy » Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:33 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:45 am
Between the Hawaiian girl giving me dirty looks when she saw that I had Gongyo memorized...
Was this her having some personal issue with you having memorized gongyo, or is this a "thing" in some circles to look down on those that do? Just curious!

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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:03 pm

The thought had certainly occurred to me to try a different district. But I live in Oregon, which (except for the Portland Metro area) is a sparsely populated rural state -- which would mean that trying a different district would require perhaps two hours if not more of driving in one direction. And given how "regionalist" people tend to be in this state anyway (people in one county tend to look down on people from the next county over, and are suspicious of people who try to go where they're not from), I just have a feeling that people would think it would be weird that I would drive outside of my district to begin with.

About the dirty look I got from the Hawaiian girl after Gongyo, I certainly didn't ask her why she looked at me that way. I've gotten that look before, and when people look at you with that kind of angry, hateful look, you tend to not want to ask questions…. It was her problem and not mine, and so you'd have to ask her what her problem was. But I can extrapolate based on a few things I know….

For starters, I know that indigenous Hawaiians in general do not like it when white people speak Hawaiian Pidgin, which is a combination of many different Asian languages, as well as English and I believe Portuguese. Sound familiar? Gongyo, in a way, is a form of Buddhist pidgin -- as it is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese characters. In other words, Gongyo is kind of a combination of Chinese and Japanese. And yet here I am reciting it relatively easily and with a relatively authentic accent:

I have read that some Hawaiians get offended when white people speak pidgin because they consider it insulting, as though the only reason a white person would speak pidgin would be to make fun of it, because all white people must look down on non-whites, right? Other words, I think that some Hawaiians think that a white person trying to speak Hawaiian Pidgin is like a white person putting on "black face." The combination of the fact that I have Gongyo memorized, and the accent I adopt when I recite it, most likely in this Hawaiian girl's mind was interpreted as a white guy committing "cultural appropriation," trying to be Hawaiian or Asian, which she likely found offensive in the way that an African-American might find it offensive to see a white person put on black face and sing songs about their mammy.

But this is where you should never judge a book by its cover. And I suppose I had assumed that someone at a Buddhist meeting would KNOW that you should never judge a book by its cover….

Due to my Creole grandmother out of the New Orleans, Louisiana, I actually have a degree of African American ancestry, and some Blacks have told me that I could actually identify as a biracial if I chose to. Additionally, I can also identify as Latino due to a small degree of Spanish ancestry and my childhood in the Chicano movement where the only father I knew was my Mexican American stepfather. (I didn't learn until I was about eight years old that he wasn't my birth father, and I was instructed to never talk about the issue. Like most Mexican men, he didn't want to hear about any of my mother's suitors who had come before him.) Again, I am the little boy in this advertisement: https://oregondigital.org/catalog/orego ... :df709p90w Below is a picture of me with my Mexican father on the day of my first holy Communion.

The reason I adopt an accent when reciting Gongyo, isn't because I am trying to impersonate Hawaiian Pidgin. The reason I adopt an accent while reciting Gongyo, is the same reason I was able to teach myself Gongyo: I SPEAK SPANISH! Japanese pronunciation and Spanish pronunciation is very similar. I learned some words in Spanish before I learn to them in English, and to this day I mispronounce certain words in English.

And this brings me to another reason that the meetings were difficult for me: politically incorrect as it is to write this, it is a reality I have had to live with since I was a child* and became aware that I was a different color from most people around me: in certain circles there is an anger against males of my appearance, some may call it "prejudice," some may call it "reverse racism," call it what you will, but it exists.

I could simply sense a hostility towards me -- from all sides -- at some of the some meetings as soon as I entered the room. A tall white muscular male who has Gongyo memorized and recites it with a relatively authentic accent. That feels like a threat to some people. The difficult position this puts me in is that when one goes to religious meeting one instantly tells oneself to take down one's defenses, and that's what I do when I go to religious meetings. But when you are someone who has a great degree of anger directed toward you, taking down your defenses means opening yourself up to being attacked -- which means opening up yourself to being hurt badly. And the angry, hateful looks I got from the Hawaiian girl, and the comment from her aunt about how some Hawaiians don't like "stupid Haoles," really hurt. These incidences probably wouldn't have hurt so bad if I hadn't already taken down my defenses and made myself in a vulnerable position because I was at a religious meeting.

(*When I was five years old, my family was invited to a barbecue at the house of a Mexican family. For some reason from out of nowhere three little boys started to try to beat me up, I was later told that it was because they didn't want a white boy at their Mexican barbecue. I actually ended up making them all cry. They said I fought like a girl because a bit and scratched. My Mexican father said, "When there's that many against you, you do whatever you have to.")

Incidentally, I mentioned above that my study of "a course in miracles" prepared me for Buddhism. This is a video of me reading a portion of "a course in miracles" in Spanish: The last time I saw my Mexican father, I read to him from this book. In this video you can see behind my right shoulder the poster I appeared in when I was a child in Japan. Behind my left shoulder you can see my Butsudan.

narhwal90 wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:51 pm
I'd try a different district. Around here i don't recall anyone being told anything about what might or might not be an issue to their face in a meeting, certainly since the NSA split at least. Such conversations, should you wish to have them, are usually held one-to-one with some member you trust- often a leader but it doesn't need to be.

I've also never run into opinions about memorization of gongyo; for a while over the last couple years I was hypersensitive about not being able to recite from memory since I'd been in NSA/SGI for well over 20 years and in the day could recite from memory the full NSA gongyo which includes a lot more of the Juryo chapter- very tongue twisting for me. No-one cared in the slightest that I had to re-memorize gongyo.

If you showed up to our district study meeting and mentioned having memorized the Lotus Sutra, we'd probably say "Thats nice" and continue with the scheduled study topic. If you wanted to talk more generally about the sutra (which would be a fantastic topic IMHO), a separate meeting on that topic would probably be scheduled for those interested... perhaps also advertised more widely in the area. That would be a great and intended use of an SGI community center room.
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dharmapdx
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 15, 2018 7:04 pm

justsomeguy wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 3:33 pm
dharmapdx wrote:
Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:45 am
Between the Hawaiian girl giving me dirty looks when she saw that I had Gongyo memorized...
Was this her having some personal issue with you having memorized gongyo, or is this a "thing" in some circles to look down on those that do? Just curious!
See above.

dharmapdx
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:14 pm

(With regard to my Louisiana Creole ancestry, which brings with it a degree of African American ancestry, these two pictures are of my great grandmother and her sister, my great aunt. My great grandmother, Ada, is the top picture; I believe she was the most fair skinned of her family, but I had classmates at my high school who were as fair-skinned as my great grandmother and yet still identified as "black." The lower picture is the sister of my great grandmother; I believe that our African American ancestry is most evident in the facial structure of my great grandmother's sister. Notice that the sister of my great grandmother basically has an Afro. I actually inherited this texture of hair, which is actually why I shave my head. This branch of the family had to hide its black ancestry. It's referred to as "passing.")
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dharmapdx
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:38 pm

I was sent to Japan when I was seven years old to visit my half-sister, who is a registered member of the Aleut ("Alaska Native") tribe in Alaska. Because my sister is part Native American, she has an Asian look, and while in Japan she told people she was half-Japanese because it helped her get modeling assignments. She explained to me that in Japan there was a prejudice against giving work to people who were not Japanese. It is my sister who in my childhood told me that Hawaii has an issue with the race relations. Her Japanese boyfriend, the man who treated me like I was his son while I was in Japan and who owned the modeling agency my sister worked for, had a summerhouse in Hawaii that he liked to visit. My sister -- a registered member of a Native American tribe -- told me that even she experienced reverse racism in Hawaii due to her fair complexion. So this is an issue I have actually been aware of since early childhood…. (lest anyone think I'm simply pointing the finger at Hawaii, I am fully aware that racism exists in all areas of the world, and I have been part of the fight against racism since I was a child:
https://oregondigital.org/catalog/orego ... :df709p90w )
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dude
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Re: Why are SGI meetings necessary?

Post by dude » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:50 pm

I don't find anything wrong with your comments about feeling put off by your experience at your local district meeting. One of my members once moved about 30 miles away and had a similar experience; she just couldn't relate to the members in her district and didn't find them to be all that supportive. She didn't quit completely, but I think she backed up some, like missing gongyo sometimes.
A couple of suggestions, just ideas that I hope may help some : 1, ask the Gohonzon directly when you chant, and 2, look for answers in the study material you have there.

Yours in solidarity,
dude

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