What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

narhwal90
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by narhwal90 » Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:58 pm

@ Q - I was introduced via a high school friend who along with several of her extended family had been practicing for some time... but what got me coming back and doing things was the district chief I mentioned- he was all about member care for his district; he and a couple other mens division's would latch on to new men (older or younger) and there were women likewise for female newcomers. New members would be given book & beads, starter butsudan etc- rides etc. I owe a debt of gratitude to this day for the rides that district gave me (~30 miles each way kind of thing) until I got my own car. So it wasn't a sponsoring model as much as thorough new member outreach. After some years I got out of school, moved etc so his district was too far for reasonable attendance though I saw him often enough at larger NSA/SGI functions.

He followed up with all "his" members, caught up etc- but the difference for me was he did the SGI talk but one-on-one he wouldn't hesitate to be unapologetically critical of the organization. From chatting with people at his funeral, I think a strong majority of members who came thru his district stayed more or less practicing, which I credit to his commitment to the members. He maintained that habit up to the end; I and a few other old-timers visited him from time to time, he took in all all sorts of SGI-ish wayfarers regardless of the condition of their practice. There were some interesting and varied conversations at his house to be sure :)

My current district works at a similar level of commitment, I think they do pretty well but the party line is strong... OTOH perhaps it was his subversive wit that I really connected with.

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Queequeg
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by Queequeg » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:21 pm

There was a certain generation that did it like that... All dropping off now.
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

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

narhwal90
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:21 am

The ones I miss most are the 1st gen Japanese ladies- some lost the accent and learned english well some didn't. Not all of them were of the type to give direct guidance with a severe look, some did with with a simple kind gesture. Most are gone but there are a few left, not as mobile as they once were... The women's division remains the heart and soul of SGI, though the 1st leadership face one sees is often a man. In my local districts at least those Japanese ladies are largely replaced by younger women of any number of ethnicities and they are worthy successors; so the organization progresses as it must. But, I guess the old NSA remains in my bones too :thumbsup:

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Queequeg
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by Queequeg » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:29 am

It was always women who really powered it. Those tough little ladies. Glad to hear that the next generation is keeping that up.
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

I think each human being has things to find out in his own life that are inescapable. They’ll find them out the easy way or the hard way, or whatever.
-Jerry Garcia

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dharmapdx
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by dharmapdx » Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:41 pm

This is very interesting. Thank you for posting this.

narhwal90 wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:58 pm
@ Q - I was introduced via a high school friend who along with several of her extended family had been practicing for some time... but what got me coming back and doing things was the district chief I mentioned- he was all about member care for his district; he and a couple other mens division's would latch on to new men (older or younger) and there were women likewise for female newcomers. New members would be given book & beads, starter butsudan etc- rides etc. I owe a debt of gratitude to this day for the rides that district gave me (~30 miles each way kind of thing) until I got my own car. So it wasn't a sponsoring model as much as thorough new member outreach. After some years I got out of school, moved etc so his district was too far for reasonable attendance though I saw him often enough at larger NSA/SGI functions.

He followed up with all "his" members, caught up etc- but the difference for me was he did the SGI talk but one-on-one he wouldn't hesitate to be unapologetically critical of the organization. From chatting with people at his funeral, I think a strong majority of members who came thru his district stayed more or less practicing, which I credit to his commitment to the members. He maintained that habit up to the end; I and a few other old-timers visited him from time to time, he took in all all sorts of SGI-ish wayfarers regardless of the condition of their practice. There were some interesting and varied conversations at his house to be sure :)

My current district works at a similar level of commitment, I think they do pretty well but the party line is strong... OTOH perhaps it was his subversive wit that I really connected with.

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Coëmgenu
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by Coëmgenu » Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:48 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:29 am
It was always women who really powered it.
"The women" are the unacknowledged backbone of all organized religious endeavour, generally, IMO. There are some very hard working "church ladies", who demand no authority for themselves, yet inexplicably have it all the same, that I remember from the very small town I was raised in, who essentially ran that entire town.
世尊在靈山會上拈華示眾眾皆默然唯迦葉破顏微笑世尊云
The Lord dwelt at the Vulture Peak with the assembly and plucked a flower as a teaching. The myriad totality were silent, save for Kāśyapa, whose face cracked in a faint smile. The Lord spoke.
吾有正法眼藏涅槃妙心實相無相微妙法門不立文字教外別傳付囑摩訶迦葉。
I have the treasure of the true dharma eye, I have nirvāṇa as wondrous citta, I know signless dharmatā, the subtle dharma-gate, which is not standing on written word, which is external to scriptures, which is a special dispensation, which is entrusted to Mahākāśyapa.

नस्वातोनापिपरतोनद्वाभ्यांनाप्यहेतुतः
उत्पन्नाजातुविद्यन्तेभावाःक्वचनकेचन

narhwal90
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by narhwal90 » Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:49 pm

I volunteer at a nearby Catholic church pantry, likewise run by a core group of women including the church secretary/office manager who have been doing it for well a decade. I and 4-ish other men show up for the heavy lifting and distribution days but those ladies set the policy & standards. I have the impression they give the Father the opportunity to agree to their operational proposals. Its a privilege to work with them, we supply 300-450 or so people every month- lots of kids and seniors. Sometimes the Father, his #2 or a monk swing by to add some atmosphere.. pretty cool. But that church would be nowhere without the women. Its pretty cool to observe the diverse culture in the church- the emminently respectable ladies working alongside some of the other characters- one of the volunteers is a long retired US Marine, respectful and engaged but utterly profane with no language filter, beyond the occasionally scandalized looks they get along fine.

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dharmapdx
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by dharmapdx » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:21 pm

Coëmgenu wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 7:48 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:29 am
It was always women who really powered it.
"The women" are the unacknowledged backbone of all organized religious endeavour, generally, IMO. There are some very hard working "church ladies", who demand no authority for themselves, yet inexplicably have it all the same, that I remember from the very small town I was raised in, who essentially ran that entire town.
Thank you for writing this. The exact same thing occurred to me after the New Year's meeting I attended at the local SGI center. As a heterosexual male, I love women, okay? But as a heterosexual male, I also love Howard Stern. LOL. And I recall Howard Stern saying on his show one time: "religion is for women." Obviously, that is an exaggeration. But it does tend to be women who run the religious institutions themselves. This was very much the case with the Nichiren Shu temple in Portland. And it seemed to be the case with SGI and the meetings I attended, as well as the SGI center on New Years.


And where does this leave me? LOL. Again, the below picture of me was taken four years ago, so I'm even more muscular now. I have a hyper-masculine appearance and demeanor -- which church ladies find off-putting in general. In today's world, it seems to be that extreme masculinity is seen as counter to spirituality. Simply put, the church ladies don't like me. This was the case at the Nichiren Shu temple, and it was a sense I got with the church ladies in SGI. Simply put, the perception exists that truly spiritually inclined males do not look hyper-masculine. Any male who wants to be viewed favorably by church ladies would most likely be a male who was a little bit on the effeminate side.

In contrast to this, one of the things that attracts me most to Nichiren Buddhism is the fact that it was once practiced by the samurai. One of the things that attracts me to Japanese culture, is my childhood memories of living in a country that was unapologetically androcentric. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Androcentrism

I often chant before boxing practice.

I am pretty much the opposite of what a church lady wants to find in her church.
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dharmapdx
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:03 am

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this thread. I hope that the conversation will continue. I find it all very interesting. A few thoughts occur to me:

The hypersensitivity on my part which contributed to me teaching myself the sutra (chapters 2 and 16), is the same hypersensitivity that makes the SGI meetings counterproductive for me.

As I write, the practice itself is what holds my life together. This means that I would naturally be very protective of my practice, and I cannot risk anything that would hinder my practice. I can't risk my life falling apart. I did meet some people at the meetings who were kind to me, but for the most part attending the meetings actually was putting me off of the practice.

There is the racial issue as well. Due to my complicated family history, I actually have African American ancestry and some have told me that I could classify myself as a "biracial." I even recently told a Black coworker that I myself am biracial. The only father I ever knew (technically my stepfather) was full-blooded Mexican.

But I am at best 1/32 Black, and for the most part when people look at me all they see is "a white man." Society in essence sees me as a white man who has grown up in communities of color -- and what this means is that I have always been "the white guy" who has been subjected to something that some people want to deny exists: reverse racism. My childhood memories in Japan are among the happiest memories of my life. But I also remember Japanese people unapologetically pointing at me on the street and calling me "guy-jin."

Suffice it to say that I am hypersensitive to reverse racism because I have lived my life experiencing it. For example, my Mexican (step)father's mother did not agree with her son marrying a white woman (my mother). I came of age in the only Black neighborhood in Oregon, at a point before I knew that I had Black ancestry. (My Black ancestry comes from a branch of the family that actually "passed" as white.)

So my hypersensitivity to a lifetime of experiencing so-called reverse racism (or, you could just call it what it is: "racism"), meant that it really hurt me to attend meetings where I got dirty looks from a Hawaiian girl when she saw that I had the Sutra memorized. It really hurt when I heard her aunt talk about the fact that some Hawaiians don't like "stupid Haoles." It really hurt when I occasionally got looks from Japanese and Japanese American people that made it clear to me that they felt that I was kind of, sort of, "invading" their territory simply by being there.

Imagine that I suddenly had taken up an interest in Protestantism and tried to join the local Presbyterian Church. This racial issue would not be a problem for me. Because society identifies me solely based on how I look -- "white" -- and because SGI Buddhism is Asian, I simply look out of place at the meetings. And when people find out about my powerful childhood experience in Japan, usually it angers them! It couldn't be that I'm just a human being sharing my experience and that my time in Japan was actually very powerful for me, so powerful that it has religious connotations which form the backbone of my life. Nah…. I'm probably just the typical white man with imperialist tendencies who wants to take over someone else's culture and commit the sin of "cultural appropriation." (NOTE: I was actually sent to Japan by myself when I was seven years old, against my will. With tears streaming down my face, as a seven-year-old little boy I begged my mother not to make me fly to Japan by myself to meet with a half-sister I didn't even know.)

Anyway, my point in all of this is as follows:

* This thread has really made me realize that it's this simple: though I love the practice and will continue with it, the meetings themselves just do not work for me because I don't need them.

It's that simple and I need to let it go.

That much being written, I think everyone's response here to be very interesting and I hope this conversation will continue.

(I'm not sure if I shared this before, below is a poster I appeared in when I was a child in Japan. I'm the little boy handing the candy to the little girl. I remember at the time wondering why the Japanese wanted little white children in their advertisements. The priest at the Nichiren Shu temple translated the writing above our heads: "What will happen next?")
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dharmapdx
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 08, 2018 12:48 am

(I was sent to Japan by myself when I was seven years old to visit my half-sister who was modeling there. This is my half-sister. Notice the Japanese writing. She is a registered member of a Native American tribe, but while in Japan she actually told people that she was half Japanese because it helped her get work. My point being: I come from a wildly diverse background and I'm very sympathetic to all viewpoints and cultures. But I've come to accept that society in general seems to think that whatever one LOOKS LIKE is the sum-total of what one is. Because I look white, I am treated that it is disingenuous at best for me to claim to be multicultural, biracial, etc., I am really just a white guy who, you know, just cannot understand…. And I am therefore subjected to reverse racism due to my white appearance. This was the case at some SGI meetings, and I just cannot cope with it. About my sister: she recently married a Muslim man and converted to Islam herself, which means she is one of the few Muslim Native Americans on earth. These picture of her are nearly 40 years old, which is why I have no reservations about posting it because she doesn't look this way anymore and so I'm not violating her privacy. No one would be able to identify her today based on these pictures. This advertisement that I appeared in for Mexican activist Cesar Chavez, was taken shortly before I flew to Japan by myself: https://oregondigital.org/catalog/orego ... :df709p90w Naturally, i'm the little white boy in the advertisement.)
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dharmapdx
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 08, 2018 1:16 am

One of my favorite childhood photos. I'm the little white boy as my Mexican (step)father reaches out to grab me. I'm not ego tripping by posting all these photo. In today's day and age it is relatively controversial to claim to be the victim of reverse racism, as I have claimed was the case at the SGI meetings and at Nichiren Shu. I share these pictures to demonstrate my unique background, which has made me hyper sensitive to my daily experience of reverse racism. I remember one curious week from my childhood when a group of Mexican boys started to try to beat me up because they didn't want a white boy at the Mexican barbecue that my family had been invited to; a few days later the neighbor boy started to throw rocks at me and said he didn't want to play with me because we were Mexican. This is what I grew up with which is why I am hyper sensitive to the issue.

I was able to teach myself the Sutra because I speak Spanish, due to my upbringing in Mexican culture. Japanese pronunciation is very similar in many respects to Spanish language pronunciation. I actually learned some words in Spanish before I learned them in English and to this day I often mispronounce certain words in English, particularly words with the "ch" sound. It is common for me to refer to the "share" I like to sit on in my dining room…,

And yet all most people see when they see me is the color of my skin, and my upbringing and multi cultural identity is then stripped of me, which was the case at the SGI meetings I attended.

As for my hyper masculine appearance which I said is anathema to the SGI church ladies, look at my Mexican (step)father's arms. My masculine appearance is not derived from an alleged imperialist intention of a white man, but is a mimicry of the masculinity of the only father I knew: a Mexican man. And yet all most people see in me when they look at me is a white man. I get the sense that almost everyone thinks that the fact that I'm white should basically override and invalidate my life experience. I got that sense at the SGI meetings, which is why I have to conduct my practice of SGI Buddhism independently of their meetings. It's why I can't attend their meetings, even though I love the practice. 🙏🏻
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dharmapdx
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:56 am

Here's the full uncropped version of what I look like. I am the nicest guy on the planet and a former ballet dancer. LOL. But I don't think most people would assume that to look at me these days. This is something I have to take into account everywhere I go. No matter how spiritual people are, appearances do matter in our world. And I don't think I look like the kind of guy that you would see hanging out at a Buddhist temple, or an SGI meeting. I think that my appearance kind of rubs some people the wrong way. I've considered maybe I should grow my hair back and lose the muscle, but this is the way I want to look. And again, isn't it what's on the inside that matters? LOL
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