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

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

Post by dharmapdx » Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:16 am

As I mentioned in this thread, I have a very idiosyncratic "independent" study of Soka Gakkai Buddhism: viewtopic.php?f=117&t=27353 I absolutely love the practice, and I am quite fascinated by the organization both in Japan and internationally. I suppose that's where this question comes from, the fascination I feel for the organization….

I attended the Kosen Rufu New Years meeting yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. But one thing I noticed was towards the end of the meeting they started making announcements about who the new leaders were of this and that "Division." They have the youth division, the men's division, the women's division, the West division, etc. Division. Division. Division. And I was sort of left scratching my head. I just don't know why anyone needs a "Division" in order to say "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo."

I love the practice, but at base it is extraordinarily simple. And yet Soka Gakkai seems to have its members organized like a quasi-military operation. I just don't see why this is necessary. It makes me wonder what their motivations ultimately are. My more humorous side kind of sees it as an almost adult version of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. What I mean is, I know that some people just like being a leader and like having this quasi-military type organization.

I mentioned on my previous thread that I was once a member of the Rosicrucian order. They had a similar structure, and I thought it was relatively silly and I would laugh about. They had over the top titles like "Grand Counselor" and "Grand Master." Meanwhile, we held our meetings in the breakfast room of the local Motel 6…. LOL. Grand counselor standing next to the waffle iron. LOL.

Anyway, anyone have any thoughts on this?

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

Post by narhwal90 » Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:48 pm

Don't know so much about "quasi-military" lol.. to me the value of all the groups is in the common ground; on many topics women work best with women, men with men and so forth. Similarly the youth divisions can also focus on topics of interest that the older folks may be less interested in. All those groups need some sort of minimal leadership if for not much more than scheduling activities. District, area etc leadership roles are more involved- often facilitating the meetings, finding leaders to visit, home visits etc. All that stuff needs bodies.. a kind of big deal is made of those kinds of appointments etc, I've never responded much to that kind of thing but it seems important to many.

There are other specialty groups; at my local SGI center theres a music group that meets weekly, besides practicing singing/playing the SGI tunes they also practice covering other songs in various ways; a common interest for them.

The furthest I ever went was in the old NSA as "gajokai chief" which meant I was on the hook for scheduling shifts of guys to be at the desk weekday evenings & overnight and weekends all day, to answer phones, manage the rooms, walk the parking lot. There were groups of women that also worked on related issues; facilitating meetings, cleaning, message running but they handled their own scheduling. Counted together we were scheduling 4-6 people per evening weekdays, about twice that on weekends- more if there was a big meeting going on, all in a long enough rotation so no-one was showing up more than once or twice a month. So I had the fancy title but no corner office or secretary ;)

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

Post by Queequeg » Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:45 pm

I'm not so sure about the "military" organization. Maybe there is something to that. You can probably trace the structure back to the Tokugawa period. There are neo-Confucian aspects. A lot of Japanese companies have similar organizational structures. It is a very efficient system for mobilizing a lot of people. You wonder how Soka Gakkai went from Josei Toda to 10 million households (not just individual members) in a matter of one generation, that organizational structure had a lot to do with it.

Look at any Buddhist movement and there is always going to be a point where the scale of the community is going to become an obstacle to further growth. The problem has always been one of the limits of capable teachers and how to get their teachings disseminated out at scale.

The Buddha addressed this obstacle through the organization of the Sangha under the Vinaya. The monastics formed the heart of the Buddhist Community (enshrined in the Buddhist refuge - Jewel of the Sangha). That system, in one form or another, has been the engine of Dharma propagation and evolved at a particular time of Indian history when people gladly supported "drop outs" with the "free lunch" (as Bob Thurman describes it) who had committed to spiritual liberation. Spreading into East Asia, the institution of the Sangha faced a lot of opposition from the Confucian ideal in which dropping out of society was incompatible. In any event, what happens when the Sangha is no longer vital for whatever reason? What happens when Upasaka and Upasika (lay men and lay women) become the heart of the community? Buddhist communities around the world have come to this dilemma by various roads, but the end is that the Monastic system is eroding and all indication is that it will become the exception rather than the rule.

This leaves the lay community as the heart, and the question is how do lay people carry on the flow of Dharma? These days we have the internet - probably the greatest advance in communication since printed books and means to spread dharma. Some people think this can replace everything else but that is nonsense. See the thread on this forum "You need a teacher". The question is how to take a finite resource, such as a teacher, and make them accessible to as many people as possible. Its really interesting to see how tech is causing Buddhist communities to evolve.

There are a lot of factors in the case of Soka Gakkai's success. For one, its based on a streamlined teaching from a monk who considered himself a monk without precepts (ie. under a monastic code). In his own "ministry" lay and ordained worked together in an integrated community - aside from his ordained disciples, there were several lay people who were prominent leaders of the community - Toki Jonin, Shijo Kingo, and Nanjo Tokimitsu were the most prominent. In any event, from the inception, Nichiren's teaching was practice for oneself and for others, with present emphasis on both aspects, even to the point that practice for others is a form of practice for oneself - the practice of propagation is itself bodhisattva training. Soka Gakkai came up with a way to put this into practice at the scale of global community.

Looking back in history, there are precedents for Soka Gakkai's lay people oriented organization. There have been vibrant Nichiren lay communities going back to Nichiren. Kyoto for a while was a Nichiren inflected city with many townspeople being Nichiren Buddhists. Going back further in China, there were lay organizations affiliated with Tientai and Lotus Sutra devotion called White Lotus Society, that had tight organization also.

There is a lot to unpack here, and I think to understand Soka Gakkai, you need to look at Japan in general, and Buddhism in East Asia in general. I'm probably all over the place with this answer. Just trying to open up this question to the full scale of the consideration.

SG sticks with the structure because it works. That is the plain and simple answer. If you are outside of Japan and have heard NMRK, its in large part because of Soka Gakkai and this effective dharma propagation institution they built.
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

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

Post by dharmapdx » Wed Jan 03, 2018 6:32 pm

That's actually very helpful, thank you. Your response really helped me clarify what exactly my question was. I think more simply stated, my question is: how do any of these "divisions" help anyone with their practice? Again, why do you need a "division" to say "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo"?

Your response really helped me realize that these divisions are not about the practice itself. These divisions are about the socialization. It's not that I am an antisocial person and all. It's just that the only thing I really have in common with most fellow members of SGI-USA is the practice itself -- and it seemed to me that at most of the social groups I attended, no one really talked about the practice. I hate to sound judgmental, but a lot of people at the social groups rather than being focused on talking about the practice, seemed to be "social climbers." While I do love the practice itself,I'm not a social climber.


narhwal90 wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:48 pm
Don't know so much about "quasi-military" lol.. to me the value of all the groups is in the common ground; on many topics women work best with women, men with men and so forth. Similarly the youth divisions can also focus on topics of interest that the older folks may be less interested in. All those groups need some sort of minimal leadership if for not much more than scheduling activities. District, area etc leadership roles are more involved- often facilitating the meetings, finding leaders to visit, home visits etc. All that stuff needs bodies.. a kind of big deal is made of those kinds of appointments etc, I've never responded much to that kind of thing but it seems important to many.

There are other specialty groups; at my local SGI center theres a music group that meets weekly, besides practicing singing/playing the SGI tunes they also practice covering other songs in various ways; a common interest for them.

The furthest I ever went was in the old NSA as "gajokai chief" which meant I was on the hook for scheduling shifts of guys to be at the desk weekday evenings & overnight and weekends all day, to answer phones, manage the rooms, walk the parking lot. There were groups of women that also worked on related issues; facilitating meetings, cleaning, message running but they handled their own scheduling. Counted together we were scheduling 4-6 people per evening weekdays, about twice that on weekends- more if there was a big meeting going on, all in a long enough rotation so no-one was showing up more than once or twice a month. So I had the fancy title but no corner office or secretary ;)

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

Post by Queequeg » Wed Jan 03, 2018 7:25 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 6:32 pm
These divisions are about the socialization.
Not really. That's a side effect.
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

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

Post by narhwal90 » Wed Jan 03, 2018 8:03 pm

The SGI practice that works for me involves some organization face-time, because my default is to go out into the shop and work with the machines. I don't find the face-time always comfortable but getting connected with a few other members & helping out here and there makes the practice a lot more personally relevant.

I don't particularly socialize with others in SGI outside of the organization though being that its a small world I've run into a few people I know here and there. OTOH I sure do see a number of people who thrive deeply engaged in SGI, so experience is always personal.

I was thinking about this thread a bit- recalling the whole "training" theme that appeared in NSA back then and continues in SGI now, and I can't deny its relevance. As a gajokai I along with the others received detailed instruction on how to man the community center desk; eg always answer the phone by 3rd ring, get to know the leaders by face, know leaders (and members) present in the center & when they leave, take messages & deliver them- noting time and who took the call, fill out the log book, aspects of room prep and cleanup, door key management, etc. All those instructions remain fully relevant outside SGI to this day & its easy to see what happens in an office- for example- when details like that are neglected. Note, as feckless teens/early 20's boys/young men we were trained and then trusted to handle the day-to-day operation & security of the community center for the DC/Baltimore area, which we did and they still do- all over the country. I'm aged out of that game now, I can go in as a geezer toban to help out but those such as I are no longer the cutting edge. So "training" sounds a bit silly and no doubt it is sometimes- but not always.

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

Post by dharmapdx » Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:24 pm

Thank you very much for the response. OK, so the organizational structure is about spreading Nichiren Buddhism. Thank you for putting that together for me. I have been well aware for years that Soka Gakkai is the reason that so many people know about NMRK, but I had never realize that this is due to the organizational structure. I guess I hadn't really thought about it that deeply….

I suppose what I struggle with is as follows:

1. I wouldn't be aware of the practice itself if not for the organizational structure of Soka Gakkai.
2. The practice itself is basically what holds my life together.
3. And yet the organizational structure does not work for me and in fact was putting me off from the practice, which is why I had to stop attending meetings.

I just can't figure out how the practice works for me and yet the socialization and the social structure of the organization doesn't. Maybe I try too hard. Maybe different approaches work for different people.

I don't mean to whine or complain here. This is just what my experience was with the meetings: I attended monthly meetings in homes for a few months, and I didn't really learn anything that I didn't already know. I attended one men's group after about two months of involvement, and it was a relatively hostile experience; it seemed to me that the group leader didn't want to be at the meeting and had perhaps been coerced into leading it (it wasn't his usual group), and he and the five or so other males really didn't talk about Buddhism much but allowed the meeting to just sort of become a "pissing contest" -- with each man just bragging about his accomplishments, his income, his houses, his favorite vacation destinations, etc. I mean, more power to them. There's nothing wrong with discussing these things. I just didn't see how they were going to help me with my Buddhist practice, as it wasn't about Buddhism. It was basically about sitting there and listening to them brag about their accomplishments, and kind of mask the angry competitiveness they had toward one another.

The last meeting I attended was led by the area division leader, who is a quasi-famous musician -- and was obviously high on marijuana during the meeting. I live in a blue state where both medicinal and recreational marijuana is legal, and I voted for both to be legal. So I'm not opposed to marijuana usage -- in one's own personal private time. I just don't think it's appropriate to lead a meeting while high on marijuana.

The hostile men's meeting, and the division leader being high on marijuana, is what led me to realize that I needed to just have my own idiosyncratic "independent practice" of Soka Gakkai Buddhism. Again the practice itself is quite simple, and I subscribe to both of their publications -- which I love.

On another note, it seems that the Internet is full of complaints former members have about Soka Gakkai and why they had to leave. I notice that almost none of the complaints are with regard to THE PRACTICE ITSELF. Most of the complaints are regarding the organizational structure, and the social interaction. Which makes me wonder why more people don't just do what I do.

I think that there may just be some people who really need to feel that they "belong." There are some people who want to be leaders, and who want to be seen at meetings, and there are some people who need this kind of social interaction combined with their practice of Buddhism. I am not one of those people. Again, I love the practice and I feel that it holds my life together; and I'm fascinated by the organization itself and I think it does a lot of good. But the meetings almost made me abandon the practice entirely….

Queequeg wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 5:45 pm
I'm not so sure about the "military" organization. Maybe there is something to that. You can probably trace the structure back to the Tokugawa period. There are neo-Confucian aspects. A lot of Japanese companies have similar organizational structures. It is a very efficient system for mobilizing a lot of people. You wonder how Soka Gakkai went from Josei Toda to 10 million households (not just individual members) in a matter of one generation, that organizational structure had a lot to do with it.

Look at any Buddhist movement and there is always going to be a point where the scale of the community is going to become an obstacle to further growth. The problem has always been one of the limits of capable teachers and how to get their teachings disseminated out at scale.

The Buddha addressed this obstacle through the organization of the Sangha under the Vinaya. The monastics formed the heart of the Buddhist Community (enshrined in the Buddhist refuge - Jewel of the Sangha). That system, in one form or another, has been the engine of Dharma propagation and evolved at a particular time of Indian history when people gladly supported "drop outs" with the "free lunch" (as Bob Thurman describes it) who had committed to spiritual liberation. Spreading into East Asia, the institution of the Sangha faced a lot of opposition from the Confucian ideal in which dropping out of society was incompatible. In any event, what happens when the Sangha is no longer vital for whatever reason? What happens when Upasaka and Upasika (lay men and lay women) become the heart of the community? Buddhist communities around the world have come to this dilemma by various roads, but the end is that the Monastic system is eroding and all indication is that it will become the exception rather than the rule.

This leaves the lay community as the heart, and the question is how do lay people carry on the flow of Dharma? These days we have the internet - probably the greatest advance in communication since printed books and means to spread dharma. Some people think this can replace everything else but that is nonsense. See the thread on this forum "You need a teacher". The question is how to take a finite resource, such as a teacher, and make them accessible to as many people as possible. Its really interesting to see how tech is causing Buddhist communities to evolve.

There are a lot of factors in the case of Soka Gakkai's success. For one, its based on a streamlined teaching from a monk who considered himself a monk without precepts (ie. under a monastic code). In his own "ministry" lay and ordained worked together in an integrated community - aside from his ordained disciples, there were several lay people who were prominent leaders of the community - Toki Jonin, Shijo Kingo, and Nanjo Tokimitsu were the most prominent. In any event, from the inception, Nichiren's teaching was practice for oneself and for others, with present emphasis on both aspects, even to the point that practice for others is a form of practice for oneself - the practice of propagation is itself bodhisattva training. Soka Gakkai came up with a way to put this into practice at the scale of global community.

Looking back in history, there are precedents for Soka Gakkai's lay people oriented organization. There have been vibrant Nichiren lay communities going back to Nichiren. Kyoto for a while was a Nichiren inflected city with many townspeople being Nichiren Buddhists. Going back further in China, there were lay organizations affiliated with Tientai and Lotus Sutra devotion called White Lotus Society, that had tight organization also.

There is a lot to unpack here, and I think to understand Soka Gakkai, you need to look at Japan in general, and Buddhism in East Asia in general. I'm probably all over the place with this answer. Just trying to open up this question to the full scale of the consideration.

SG sticks with the structure because it works. That is the plain and simple answer. If you are outside of Japan and have heard NMRK, its in large part because of Soka Gakkai and this effective dharma propagation institution they built.

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

Post by Queequeg » Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:02 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:24 pm
Thank you very much for the response. OK, so the organizational structure is about spreading Nichiren Buddhism. Thank you for putting that together for me. I have been well aware for years that Soka Gakkai is the reason that so many people know about NMRK, but I had never realize that this is due to the organizational structure.
To be clear, I didn't write that the organizational structure is the reason you've heard NMRK. It is a factor in SG/SGI's effect.

Let's unpack what you have written.
I suppose what I struggle with is as follows:

1. I wouldn't be aware of the practice itself if not for the organizational structure Soka Gakkai.
2. The practice itself is basically what holds my life together.
3. And yet the organizational structure does not work for me and in fact was putting me off from the practice, which is why I had to stop attending meetings.
Number 1 - is not really disputable, with the caveat that the structure is a factor not the whole story. Read Human Revolution. That is the story of how Soka Gakkai went from Toda's jail cell to the world.

Number 2 - that is wonderful. Fundamentally, the reason the practice is effective is because Buddhist Dharma is True.

Number 3 - the Soka Gakkai model works because new adherents are readily and easily integrated into the community. That is the key to its scalability. Its not without its problems. Often, due to logistical issues, people who simply are not prepared to hold leadership positions in the community were/are given too much responsibility. This goes from the lowest levels to the top of SGI-USA. Often, people who just showed up regularly were given leadership responsibilities because they were dependable, genial, etc. The kinds of characteristics that make one successful in the secular world. It often had little to do with their actual understanding of Buddhism. Sometimes people grew into their responsibilities. Sometimes they didn't. There were/are great local communities. It really depends on the people. I also know that there were communities that were dysfunctional train wrecks. "There are not two lands, pure and impure - the difference is solely in the mind".

If SGI communal life doesn't work for you but you're otherwise happy with it, lurk. There are plenty of lurkers. Maybe you're not aware of them because they're lurking at you, and you at them, but you don't speak so you pass like ships in the night.
I just can't figure out how the practice works for me and yet the socialization and the social structure of the organization doesn't. Maybe I try too hard. Maybe different approaches work for different people.
Because items 2 and 3 are independent of each other. When done right, 3 supports 2 and and facilitates 1.
I don't mean to whine or complain here.
Go ahead. That's what the internet is for.

Look, I will tell you this: If I lived in Japan, I might not have quit SG. I probably still would have because I simply don't agree with the doctrines, but as the community goes, its not like it is here, and I chalk a lot of that simply to the scale of disturbed minds in the United States. Psychologically, as a whole, Americans are f'ed in the head. Its going to take a lot of Dharma coursing around to ameliorate these disturbances... which brings us back to the critical importance of item 1, which is the real reason Soka Gakkai exists and the reason Nichiren started teaching. The reason the Buddha turned the Wheel - there are some with little dust in the eye.
This is just what my experience was with the meetings: I attended monthly meetings in homes for a few months, and I didn't really learn anything that I didn't already know. I attended one men's group after about two months of involvement, and it was a relatively hostile experience; it seemed to me that the group leader didn't want to be at the meeting and had perhaps been coerced into leading it (it wasn't his usual group), and he and the five or so other males really didn't talk about Buddhism much but allowed the meeting to just sort of become a "pissing contest" -- with each man just bragging about his accomplishments, his income, his houses, his favorite vacation destinations, etc. I mean, more power to them. There's nothing wrong with discussing these things. I just didn't see how they were going to help me with my Buddhist practice, as it wasn't about Buddhism. It was basically about sitting there and listening to them brag about their accomplishments, and kind of mask the angry competitiveness they had toward one another.
I have no comment about what you saw. I have no reason to doubt it. Instead, I just want to point out your disposition. Don't take this the wrong way, but your main concern seems to be what you could get out of the experience. That's fine - we all need support. However, as I wrote above - practice for oneself AND FOR OTHERS. The meetings are really about PRACTICE FOR OTHERS. The ideal at the discussion meeting is that everyone is there for others, not for themselves. The question one would then ask themselves is, "What can I contribute to make this a valuable and meaningful experience for others. What can I do to encourage others in their practice? Support others in their practice?" I've been out of the SGI world for a while, but that is the guidance you'd get if you presented these complaints to a responsible senior.
I think that there may just be some people who really need to feel that they "belong." Really are some people want to be leaders, and you want to be seen at meetings, and there are some people who need this kind of social interaction combined with their practice of Buddhism. I am not one of those people. Again, I love the practice and I feel that it holds my life together; and I'm fascinated by the organization itself and I think it has a lot of good. But meetings almost made me abandon the practice entirely….
Some. No doubt. And there are others who are taking the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's instructions to heart and doing everything they can to adorn this Buddhaland.
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

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

Post by dharmapdx » Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:31 pm

Thank you for trusting that I'm being honest about what I experienced. Just so that I make it clear that my experience was not all bad: I did enjoy chanting with others; that's the one aspect of the group meetings that I miss, and that's why I attended the New Year's meetings two days ago (and I enjoyed the Kosen Rufu meeting two days ago). And the division leader that I referred to, the musician who was obviously high on marijuana at my last meeting, had actually always been very encouraging and kind to me. At my second meeting he actually asked me if I wanted to lead the meeting, because by that point he realized how passionate I was about the practice and that I am self taught, having taught myself the liturgy (chapters 2 and 16). So it wasn't all a bad experience with regard to the meetings.

Thank you for pointing out that the practice and the division structure are two different issues.

With regard to my disposition, I honestly know that I have a wonderful disposition about this. If you read back through my post you will see that I continually praise Soka Gakkai and even say that I "love" the organization and I am fascinated by its operation and structure.

I didn't get as specific as I could have gotten in my previous post. The last group meeting I attended was a regional group meeting of about seven or eight males in one member's home. The man who led the meeting made it relatively clear that he wasn't happy to be there, and in fact when it came my turn to talk he basically began to try to break me down and make me feel beneath him -- nothing to do with Buddhism though; he wanted me to feel less than him because he is rich and successful and "owns two businesses."

I hesitate to mention this because it is going to seem so self-indulgent and it is not likely to elicit any sympathy from anyone. So I will try to preface it as follow: One of the things that is attractive to me about Buddhism, is that at base it is an introverted activity. The practice of chanting is itself an introverted activity as it consists of something that introverts excel at: concentration. It was while a child in Japan that I myself became aware of the eastern preference for quietness and introversion, in contrast to the western preference for extraversion and gregarious behavior. (As a little boy in Japan, I was actually quite popular for possessing traits that would be frowned upon in the United States. Most Americans would say that I am just too quiet and introverted in person.)

There is another activity that I partake in which requires concentration: weightlifting. I theorize that many male weight lifters in the United States are actually introverts. Weightlifting is one of the few activities in this society where masculinity and introversion do not contradict one another. Western society prefers that males be loud and extroverted. A male who is quiet and introverted in this society is often seen as less masculine. But weightlifting builds up muscles which makes a male look more masculine, and it is ultimately a solitary and introverted activity.

(From my experience, most big muscleman you find in a weight room are actually big teddy bears.)

So Buddhism and weightlifting are a part of my life and are compatible with me because at some level they facilitate my introversion.

But a result of my weightlifting is that I am a big guy. See the picture below. This picture was taken about four years ago, so I am even bigger now. On a daily basis, in every activity I take part in, guys give me a hard time because of my appearance. In today's increasingly anti-male society in the United States (increasingly anything that appears as ostentatiously male in this society is seen as toxic, unenlightened, and corrupt), women give me a hard time all the time due to my appearance. The assumption being that any guy who looks like me must be really dumb and hostile. This experience is shared by most guys who are my size; despite the fact that some of the most gentle people you'll ever meet are male bodybuilders (I refer to them as gentle giants), us bigger guys are constantly treated terribly by everyone due to our appearance.

I think that this is why the men at the men's meeting I attended were so hostile to me. And at the New Year's meeting I attended a few days ago, I noticed many dirty looks and rolled eyes from other guys -- guys that I do not know and I have never done anything to. And I couldn't help but think that it was because they were so skinny. One of the group leaders was a muscular Asian American male who obviously also spends a lot of time in the weight room, and he was kind to me. I suppose the way to think if it is this: it is known that women tend to be mean to good looking women; A similar dynamic exists between muscular and skinny men.

There is nothing I can do to change this prejudice I face regarding my appearance, other than to alter my appearance by discontinuing to lift weights. But I love lifting weights. Why should I stop doing it just because others are mean to me based on my appearance? In all honesty, I don't pass any judgment against any skinny male. To each their own.

I suppose that my involvement in the weight room could be seen as a "lifestyle." And it is a lifestyle that comes with certain parameters. It is a lifestyle that means that every room I enter into, I suddenly become the focus of due to my size. In every social interaction I engage in with other people I have to bend over backwards to assure them that I am a kind person -- because due to my size they make the initial erroneous assumption that I must be a complete creep. This can get exhausting for me. And I am surprised that it would be necessary at a Buddhist meeting. I thought that what ultimately mattered was what is on the inside. And that ultimately is why I lift weights: because of how it makes me feel on the inside. Same with Buddhism. Again, I'm an introvert, which means my life tends to be inwardly focused.

This is not likely to gain much sympathy from anyone but this is my lived experience these days: overly masculine males in today's society are seen as something to ridicule or avoid. As I have posted before on this forum, my appearance in some regards is based off of the fact that the only father I knew was a Mexican American man who was himself an amateur bodybuilder. I come from hyper masculine men and as a result I myself appear hyper masculine. And that opens me up to an odd sort of bigotry on a daily basis,
including at SGI meetings.
Queequeg wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:02 pm


I have no comment about what you saw. I have no reason to doubt it. Instead, I just want to point out your disposition. Don't take this the wrong way, but your main concern seems to be what you could get out of the experience. That's fine - we all need support. However, as I wrote above - practice for oneself AND FOR OTHERS. The meetings are really about PRACTICE FOR OTHERS. The ideal at the discussion meeting is that everyone is there for others, not for themselves. The question one would then ask themselves is, "What can I contribute to make this a valuable and meaningful experience for others. What can I do to encourage others in their practice? Support others in their practice?" I've been out of the SGI world for a while, but that is the guidance you'd get if you presented these complaints to a responsible senior.
I think that there may just be some people who really need to feel that they "belong." Really are some people want to be leaders, and you want to be seen at meetings, and there are some people who need this kind of social interaction combined with their practice of Buddhism. I am not one of those people. Again, I love the practice and I feel that it holds my life together; and I'm fascinated by the organization itself and I think it has a lot of good. But meetings almost made me abandon the practice entirely….
Some. No doubt. And there are others who are taking the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren's instructions to heart and doing everything they can to adorn this Buddhaland.
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dharmapdx
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Re: What is the goal of SGI: Why so many "Divisions," etc.?

Post by dharmapdx » Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:48 pm

I probably could've stated it more suscinctly this way: due to my appearance there is an assumption that I must suffer from "testosterone poisoning," which obviously has many negative connotations. But as the Wikipedia article on this topic points out, some say that the very term "testosterone poisoning" is actually hate speech: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testoster ... #Criticism

My point being: counterintuitive as it may sound, males in this society who may seem to be brimming with testosterone (as I appear to be) actually do face a type of hate. I have felt that hate at SGI meetings.

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

Post by Queequeg » Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:52 pm

I'm not trying to get on your case or tell you to do anything. You seem like an earnest fellow.
Get ripped. Get enlightened. I can get down with that.
Gassho.
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

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

Post by DGA » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:12 am

dharmapdx wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:48 pm

My point being: counterintuitive as it may sound, males in this society who may seem to be brimming with testosterone (as I appear to be) actually do face a type of hate. I have felt that hate at SGI meetings.
That's samsara. Everyone gets a measure of that. Some more than others.

FWIW... My appearance (viking ancestry) freaks some people out too. I got some looks in Japan..

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

Post by DGA » Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:18 am

dharmapdx wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:16 am
As I mentioned in this thread, I have a very idiosyncratic "independent" study of Soka Gakkai Buddhism: viewtopic.php?f=117&t=27353 I absolutely love the practice, and I am quite fascinated by the organization both in Japan and internationally. I suppose that's where this question comes from, the fascination I feel for the organization….

I attended the Kosen Rufu New Years meeting yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. But one thing I noticed was towards the end of the meeting they started making announcements about who the new leaders were of this and that "Division." They have the youth division, the men's division, the women's division, the West division, etc. Division. Division. Division. And I was sort of left scratching my head. I just don't know why anyone needs a "Division" in order to say "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo."
The language of "division" might seem a bit peculiar as translated into English, but really, this isn't nefarious or weird at all. As the harpooneer pointed out, lots of Japanese organizations (religious and corporate) are organized this way. Tendai-shu's structured in a non-unsimilar way. Why? Because it's a good way to get stuff done.

It would be worthwhile to compare SGI's organizational structure to that of other international Buddhist organizations that are not Japanese in origin. The language might be different, but the breakdown into "working groups" or "teams" or "gakyil" or whatever holds up across the board.

You need organizations to maintain a community of practice. Organizations are... organized. This is a good thing. The challenge is to align the organization's structure to the needs of the people and ultimately all sentient beings.

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

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:31 am

DGA wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:12 am
dharmapdx wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:48 pm

My point being: counterintuitive as it may sound, males in this society who may seem to be brimming with testosterone (as I appear to be) actually do face a type of hate. I have felt that hate at SGI meetings.
That's samsara. Everyone gets a measure of that. Some more than others.

FWIW... My appearance (viking ancestry) freaks some people out too. I got some looks in Japan..
Thank you for writing that. I wish everyone would realize that even muscular white males are subject to samsara. About your appearance, I clicked on your profile and saw your picture -- and we actually look alike. I'm half Italian, and my other half is almost everything else (including small amounts of African American and Native American), but I'm a natural redhead and so most people would say that I look more Irish than anything. Long story short: I like to think that I have Viking ancestry by way of my Irish/Celtic ancestry. My time in Japan as a child was one of the happiest experiences of my life, but I do recall complete strangers pointing at me on the street and calling me "guy-jin." In such a homogenous society, there is a little inhibition about pointing out foreigners.

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

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:48 am

Queequeg wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:52 pm
I'm not trying to get on your case or tell you to do anything. You seem like an earnest fellow.
Get ripped. Get enlightened. I can get down with that.
Gassho.

Thank you. Means a lot. By the way, Henry Miller is one of my favorite writers. LOL. I have a biography of him that says that he fashioned for himself a reputation of "toughness" which is without parallel in 20th century literature.

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

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:42 am

Thank you for writing this. I'm really starting to understand what my confusion is here. I think I am mistaking "lay movement" with "do it yourself." I think I'm mixing the two up. What I mean is, I think I had erroneously believed that Soka Gakkai is primarily a publisher of study materials and books on liturgy, which the member can then purchase and use for their own private practice. Again, this is more or less how the Rosicrucian Order does it: http://www.rosicrucian.org/ The Rosicrucian Order publishes material that it sends to its members through the mail, and I believe online these days, and the members conduct primarily a homestudy practice, with group meetings being optional and supplementary. There are some people who have been members of the Rosicrucian Order for decades but who have never attended a single meeting or stepped foot in any of their lodges, nor met a fellow member. To be honest, I get the feeling that this is how the Rosicrucian Order prefers it: for most of its members to be long-distance, homestudy practitioners.

I am starting to realize that Soka Gakkai is a "lay movement," but not a do-it-yourself (DIY) movement. At least not primarily so. I think that in the back of my mind I had considered that Soka Gakkai must ultimately be a DIY movement, and so why would anyone complicate their experience with it by attending meetings that many people seem dissatisfied with? Again, a quick Google search will reveal pages and pages of former members complaining about the meetings, but virtually no one complains about the daily practice itself. For analogy, I found the Rosicrucian meetings to be stuffy and pretentious, and so I simply stopped attending them -- and no one cared. I suppose I wonder why more Soka Gakkai members don't follow suit. (I didn't leave the Rosicrucian Order because I disagreed with any of its teachings. I left the order because the pacing of the teachings was too slow for me. I look back fondly and sometimes actually consider returning.)

I think my other problem is that I subconsciously compare Soka Gakkai to the only other Buddhist organization I had previously had experience with: http://www.maitripa.org/ The way this organization (Maitripa) is run is quite straightforward. I mean, it has teachers and students. It's a school. But it seems to me that Soka Gakkai is more convoluted and perhaps a bit self-contradictory. Soka Gakkai seems to pride itself in its break with Nichiren Shoshu, saying that they prefer to be a lay movement that is more egalitarian. And yet it seems that it organizes its lay movement in a very hierarchical way.

Anyway, I'm probably over-analyzing this. But like I mentioned, I find the organization fascinating. I even find the controversies and the comments of disgruntled former members to be fascinating.

DGA wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:18 am
dharmapdx wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 3:16 am
As I mentioned in this thread, I have a very idiosyncratic "independent" study of Soka Gakkai Buddhism: viewtopic.php?f=117&t=27353 I absolutely love the practice, and I am quite fascinated by the organization both in Japan and internationally. I suppose that's where this question comes from, the fascination I feel for the organization….

I attended the Kosen Rufu New Years meeting yesterday, and I really enjoyed it. But one thing I noticed was towards the end of the meeting they started making announcements about who the new leaders were of this and that "Division." They have the youth division, the men's division, the women's division, the West division, etc. Division. Division. Division. And I was sort of left scratching my head. I just don't know why anyone needs a "Division" in order to say "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo."
The language of "division" might seem a bit peculiar as translated into English, but really, this isn't nefarious or weird at all. As the harpooneer pointed out, lots of Japanese organizations (religious and corporate) are organized this way. Tendai-shu's structured in a non-unsimilar way. Why? Because it's a good way to get stuff done.

It would be worthwhile to compare SGI's organizational structure to that of other international Buddhist organizations that are not Japanese in origin. The language might be different, but the breakdown into "working groups" or "teams" or "gakyil" or whatever holds up across the board.

You need organizations to maintain a community of practice. Organizations are... organized. This is a good thing. The challenge is to align the organization's structure to the needs of the people and ultimately all sentient beings.

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

Post by narhwal90 » Thu Jan 04, 2018 1:24 pm

I find the meetings relatively superficial, too much cheering and repetition for my taste, and also indispensable. I say indispensable not because I can't do gongyo without them but the person-to-person connections with other people, though few compared to others in SGI, keep me honest and less involved in my own head. I spent 10 years more or less away from the organization, there are predictions for those who go off on their own- practice may become self-centered etc which was the case for me.

My old district chief was very inivolved in NSA then SGI up till he passed away a few years ago and maintained a steadfast and nearly adversarial relationship with the SGI-USA and Japan level organization- but that worked for him, he inspired a lot of people and the SGI-USA brass sent a representative to his service; it might be fair to say he was the "loyal opposition" within the organization itself. He chanted daimoku up till he was no longer physically able, because it worked- aggravating as the organization was.

There are grudges held on both sides of the Shoshu issue, I've no doubt some (many?) nurse them, so that is an ongoing distortion. There was a series in the Living Buddhism in 2016, maybe early 2017 going over the events leading to the split- I didn't see anything in the series I recognized as new info, though at this point its a well-curated story told from the SGI perspective. Other individual and contemporaneous perspectives can be found online with a bit of searching.

Its true the organization is very heirarchical- you can be as ambitious as you want and get all sorts of jobs. Or none at all. You can see the value of that heirarchy when you go to (perhaps any) medium to larger city, find a SGI center and go to a meeting. The building is open, somebody is there to greet you, theres the altar, some semblance of a list of meetings, etc. If you're going to be there for a while somebody is going to know leaders you can get in touch with to find local meetings etc. All that takes people to organize.

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

Post by Queequeg » Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:37 pm

It occurred to me that you joined on your own initiative rather than the usual way of having a 'sponsor'. Correct me if that's mistaken. That might be a difference. A sponsor would have made sure to introduce you to people, vouched for you, so to speak, and shown you around.

It might be worthwhile to explain your situation and ask if you can be paired with a mentor who can get you acclimated.

Almost everyone has a story of a senior who was instrumental in jump starting practice. You do have to be open to the relationship and motivated to reciprocate the efforts. There are these super mentors around who are really good at 'taking care' of new members. See if you can find one. Narwahl, does that give with your experience?

Lol I quit a decade ago and the training is still in my blood. I'm in exile. Or rather an expat from the nation of SG.
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

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

Post by Minobu » Thu Jan 04, 2018 5:57 pm

Tha Gakki is a priceless tool in the advancement of The Goals of The Jiyu-No-Bosatsu .
It is a place where The Jiyu-No-Bosatsu , who for some reason , some are mired in negative Karma, can be helped to unravel their true nature.

Maybe this Karma is taken on , or maybe just a reflection of the collective karma .

I dunno these things...but i do know they have helped and saved millions of The Jiyu-No-Bosatsu to accomplish what they promised.

Yeah they are more than enough edges where one can stub their wittle toesies ...but in the end , no other organization of The Jiyu-No-Bosatsu can claim their accomplishments.

the methodology works ...especially for those mired in Karmic Nightmare.

Praise them...wish them well...support them....and don,t hinder their efforts . like i have in the past....well ore of a knock than a hinder...

i could never go back...too much water under the bridge...but if i could start over again...i would...

maybe....

i dunno.....

i am going to give Shu a try eventually... :juggling:

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

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Jan 04, 2018 6:31 pm

That's a very interesting point. Thank you for pointing that out. I did join of my own initiative and without a sponsor. But then as strange as I know this sounds (and it sounds so strange that I hesitate to even mention it), I kind of did have a sponsor: rock star Courtney Love. Here is a clip of her chanting: And see below an email I received from her in 2000 where she writes to me: "I chanted nammyohorengekyo … I still do sometimes…." She hasn't been a sponsor to me per se, not in the traditional sense. But she has been supportive of my practice, and I of hers…. So, certainly not a sponsor in the traditional sense. But it wouldn't have occurred to me to practice this if not for her support.

The support of Courtney Love, combined with my powerful childhood experience in Japan, is at least in part where my drive comes from. The picture below is from my time in Japan as a child; I am the child asleep in the background, and the man on the right-hand side of the picture was something of a father figure to me when I was in Japan. His name was Takashi Ikeda, and I have often considered that perhaps on a subconscious level it is important to me that the leader of SGI -- Daisaku Ikeda -- has the same last name as him. (Incidentally, to this day I still sleep on the floor like we did in Japan.)

Which brings me to something that I just have to accept: I might just be too "weird" for the organizational structure of Soka Gakkai. LOL. It's quite possible that people just don't know what to make of me. I mean, a buff guy with a powerful childhood experience in Japan who was sponsored by Courtney Love who shows up from out of nowhere with the sutra already memorized? That's … weird. Further, how do you qualify someone as a beginner when they already have the liturgy memorized and were introduced to the figure of Buddha when they were 7-years-old in Japan? I mean, like I mentioned: at my second meeting, the group leader asked me if I wanted to lead…. That's probably pretty unheard-of.

And I should mention this: I did have a sponsor of sorts, a man who met with me and introduced me to the group at the main headquarters in my state. He has always been kind and considerate to me, and supportive and even impressed that I showed up from out of nowhere with the sutra memorized. He is the one who passed me on to the regional meetings in my more specific area … meeting that ended up not working out for me.

So, I suppose I am a member of Soka Gakkai International. I do the daily practice exactly as the liturgy book suggests. I am subscribed to both publications. I make small donations now and then. I make others aware of the practice with my social media presence with thousands of followers. I try to make it to the New Year's meeting every year, which means at least one meeting per year. I participate in the only way I can: in a weird way. I'm a weird guy. What can I say? I grew up in the arts community in Portland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keep_Portland_Weird
Queequeg wrote:
Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:37 pm
It occurred to me that you joined on your own initiative rather than the usual way of having a 'sponsor'. Correct me if that's mistaken. That might be a difference. A sponsor would have made sure to introduce you to people, vouched for you, so to speak, and shown you around.

It might be worthwhile to explain your situation and ask if you can be paired with a mentor who can get you acclimated.

Almost everyone has a story of a senior who was instrumental in jump starting practice. You do have to be open to the relationship and motivated to reciprocate the efforts. There are these super mentors around who are really good at 'taking care' of new members. See if you can find one. Narwahl, does that give with your experience?

Lol I quit a decade ago and the training is still in my blood. I'm in exile. Or rather an expat from the nation of SG.
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