"Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Saguaro
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Saguaro » Thu Oct 15, 2015 2:31 pm

Thank you for the thoughtful response. I was hoping you would respond. Very interesting what you say that SGI Buddhism is spiritual triage. I had never thought of it that way before. But that sounds pretty accurate.
Queequeg wrote:
I have no idea how far off the rails this discussion went, and have no appetite to review. Discussion seems to have stopped, but the thread is getting views, so...

For what its worth:

I was involved with SGI-USA and its predecessor NSA, since my earliest memories. I was born into it. I was third generation Soka Gakkai. I discontinued my involvement about 8 years ago after a long period of disenchantment. I have since continued practicing Buddhism on my own. I have some connection to the Kitayama Nichiren lineage, and have attended Nichiren Shu services, but my practice is my own with only the dharma as my teacher.

I used to have a more emotional view of SGI, but since then, I have largely become indifferent to it. I'll offer my opinion and I hope it can help people.

When it comes down to it, SGI teaches spiritual triage. There's the Nichiren inspired philosophy with its mid-twentieth century humanism spin, but that stuff is sort of just in the air. The practice they teach is indeed beyond words and has its affect regardless of what explanations they have about it, regardless of its packaging and dressing.

I saw the daimoku taught to people who are truly and literally on the most remote edge of existential distress. People who were sleeping on the street, with no money for food, completely overwhelmed by their circumstances, so deep in need that an existential question like whether its worth living was too abstract. Without exception, people who stuck the practice of the daimoku as SGI taught, emerged from their existential peril and went on to flourish. The objection could be made that the ones who can stick it, had the capacity anyway. My response is, everyone who can say the daimoku has this capacity, and indeed, sticking it is a necessity for it to work.

Even though I do not practice with them anymore, I do recommend them to people who could benefit from the practice on the basic instruction and community structure offered.

My reservation is that there is generally a limit - at a certain point, when one's circumstances are adequate to support a more ambitious dharma practice, there is no path, and the lack of further path actually becomes a limitation and comes to stunt development in dharma.

That said, the members of SGI are as a general rule people of first rate good will. Good will sometimes gets expressed imperfectly, but my impression is that the abiding intention is blameless and aspires to perfection.

Regardless of what criticism can be directed to SGI, their contribution to the propagation of Buddha Dharma has been profound, especially in the US in communities outside of the white, metropolitan middle class.

Personally, I wish that I could practice with SGI, but I can't. My path leads me elsewhere.

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Queequeg » Fri Oct 16, 2015 5:23 pm

Saguaro wrote:Thank you for the thoughtful response. I was hoping you would respond. Very interesting what you say that SGI Buddhism is spiritual triage. I had never thought of it that way before. But that sounds pretty accurate.
You're welcome, Saguaro.

I will just add here, Soka Gakkai International, or SGI, is a different animal than Soka Gakkai.

In Japan, Soka Gakkai is part of the "Establishment". Its political arm is a junior coalition partner with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party commanding enough votes to turn elections. It is a comprehensive community with schools and a university. Traditional Japanese religious norms are integrated as its foundation. Whatever you see as the public appearance, at home, it looks like traditional Japanese lay devotional Buddhism centered on the home alter. They have a much more robust religious instruction system as the basics are already a given. This is in contrast to SGI which is directed to non-Japanese. Especially in the West, where Buddhism is foreign as an actual lived experience, they necessarily are starting at a much more basic level. They are limited by the capacity of the converts for whom the Buddhist world view is unfamiliar and its logic is more or less incomprehensible. They are limited to propagating an approach to Dharma that has always been the widest net for the least common denominator and most accessible path - Sraddha or Faith. SGI could not have made the inroads it has made if they had come forth first and foremost with the Three Thousand in a Single Thought. Instead, they promoted what has been promoted to the majority of lay persons from the start on the Buddha's parinirvana - encouraging confidence in the Buddha and his teachings.
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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Queequeg
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Queequeg » Fri Oct 16, 2015 8:20 pm

This captures SGI in New York anyway:
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/ ... nlightened
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

Saguaro
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Saguaro » Sat Oct 17, 2015 10:15 am

Thank you, but I was never concerned with whether "the Japanese" care if I practice Buddhism or not, so your post becomes irrelevant to me after your opening sentence. (I recall reading that Queegueq is half-Japanese, from Japan even, so I would turn to him before you if I want insight into Japanese culture. And in fact one of the funniest exchanges I've ever seen on this forum was when Queegueq called Illaraza out on the fact that Illaraza doesn't speak Japanese and therefore shouldn't have pretense of teaching others Japanese grammar.)
Rita_Repulsa wrote:Saguaro,

Honestly? Most of the Japanese would frankly prefer that you didn't even practice. The Japanese are a people who have long "Westernized" themselves, and they are feeling the burn on religious faith from decadence induced atomization and apathy in their own communities, so most of them see Buddhism as their "thing" rather than as what it claims it is. Thus, if you just want community you're better off picking a church. If you want the real deal, keep in mind that the most sincere and orthodox person on this online board is Illaraza. He's been ceding enlightenment to others via Ctrl-C Ctrl-V for years, has his own blog (http://www.markrogow.blogspot.com/) that he regularly posts on, and has actually put together a community with a temple and a priest. He also lives in the religious Bible Belt, against the grain in a place where fervor is strong and the norm. He's the real deal - or at least, as real as the Nichiren community gets in the United States. And I say this keeping the fact in mind that Nichiren was kind of man who said that beheading some of the elites of his day would save everyone a whole lot of trouble. If you want RealTalk, go there - and hope that keeping it real doesn't go wrong.

Otherwise, I would just pick a normal religion and pray that Allah and/or great Putin (who is a wise and just leader) will be merciful to us if we ever get called out and have to go to a real war.

Пожалуйста

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Rita_Repulsa » Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:19 pm

Even if you consider yourself a "Nichiren Buddhist" of the Soka Gakkai, their doctrines contradict Nichiren and their founder enough to warrant being considered non-Buddhist in some Asian countries. Soka Gakkai teaches a "prosperity gospel." Nichiren Buddhism teaches that Buddhahood is something that is only attained through a dire struggle against one's own inner darkness as well as all doctrines or forces that oppose supreme enlightenment - and this message is fundamentally evangelical. Actual Nichiren Buddhism is serious business. Even if SGI seems like a "relaxed choice" for religious fellowship, Nichiren based Soka Gakkai Buddhism is a controversial movement embroiled in issues involving their separation from the Shoshu priesthood, Japanese politics, and internal conflicts caused by inconsistencies in their doctrines - particularly SGI's relationship to the "dai-gohonzon." If you think that the 1984-esque message of "SGI is now at war with Nichiren Shoshu - SGI has always been at war with Nichiren Shoshu," is a sign that SGI is less "neurotic" than other religions, I advise you to continue the counseling you mentioned elsewhere. SGI's tactic of doubling down on the adoration of their mentor in response to dissention and internal conflict is not healthy or excusable after the amount of time that has passed since their split from Nichiren Shoshu. People who find it easy to simply "disremember" facts and then accept claims that directly conflict with those facts may not be "neurotic," but they can't be said to be participating in an environment that is conducive to mental health. And this is what SGI requires of its members.

If you want a religion-based social group, just go to a service of whichever religion is more populous and most moderate where you live. Actual Nichiren Buddhism promises enlightenment only after a die-hard struggle, and there are no easily accessible groups I know of that practice this.
Echo interaction cause and effect the interconnected quality of the absolute truth the foundation of Buddhism laying in this belief in happiness the four immeasurable and cessation of suffering. - tomschwarz

Buddhism is not a Care Bears fantasy (as many westerns think). - Harimoo

baww20
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by baww20 » Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:22 am

Hello. I have heard some of these things before about the Soka-Gakkai, however in my 29 years of practicing Nichiren Buddhism, I have consistently chanted NMRK, studied the Gosho and attended meetings when I am able to. Since no one is without flaws, I do not believe in superficial praise of any religious leader. Finding truth or the ultimate reality as it is referenced at times is a personal unique journey that people will take different paths to arrive. Or do we ever arrive? As human beings we are always under construction.

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Rita_Repulsa » Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:09 pm

It's good to see you here, Baww20. So many SGI members are too afraid to even post online for fear of making a "bad cause," getting wrapped up in doctrinal debate, or of being confronted with uncomfortable information about how SGI is perceived outside of the organization. Let me ask you: What is your "take" on SGI's emphasis on the "mentor and disciple" relationship?
Echo interaction cause and effect the interconnected quality of the absolute truth the foundation of Buddhism laying in this belief in happiness the four immeasurable and cessation of suffering. - tomschwarz

Buddhism is not a Care Bears fantasy (as many westerns think). - Harimoo

Saguaro
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Saguaro » Fri Feb 05, 2016 3:54 am

A little update here just to let y'all know.....

The flirtation has ended. I tried to be casually involved and use the meetings as something of a supplement to my own private practice, but that proved to be not possible. I could no longer overlook the Ikeda-worship (hard to overlook something that makes one sick), and I don't like the concept of "Shakubuku" at all -- whether in SGI or anywhere else. I was really turned off when I heard some people refer to a new person in the group as "a Shakubuku." I don't like the concept of collecting members just for the sake of it, just to puff up membership. I know that Nichiren himself taught about Shakubuku, but 700 years later in the context of modern-day United States within a corporate entity makes shakubuku seem less about providing a spiritual practice for people, and more about profits.

I still see some positive things about SGI. I still have a fondness for the organization in a way. But I had to go.... :anjali:

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by narhwal90 » Fri Feb 05, 2016 1:53 pm

I started with NSA back in the 80's, went out on my own for a while and now back. I've seen and see a lot of the Ikeda "worship" too, and plenty of the prosperity cult stuff... but a lot of other more profound examples of the practice too. Where I practiced the idea of the "prosperity" thing was to provide an early motivation to practice, and through that the individual would become more aware of a more appropriate focus. Frankly I always was and remain of two minds wrt SGI. On one hand the Ikeda-centrism & a fairly narrow doctrinal basis, on the other the members I started practicing with are still there- still in meetings, living their lives and their practice gives them hope and practice- and I like those people. NSA, then SGI were the ones that introduced me to buddhism, helped me practice, give me opportunities for service and have taught me many things buddhist and otherwise- so I feel a debt of gratitude there.

Yet its also clear that many other branches of buddishm, just like the Christian religions I've had contact with have their own forms of sectarianism and rigidity.. so I think its unfair to make simple judgements about something as complicated as a religion of humanity.

I did street-corner shakabuku back in the day- I think the organization was trying to DILN (Do It Like Nicherin), there were the tiresome campaigns. 30yrs later, around here new members getting gohonzon are highly prized- there is still that new member focus but the mania has faded and frankly I think the organization is the better for it. Shakabuku seems more an individual operation now. Similarly the "prized" aspect seems more viewed as an opportunity to help someone new- I have not seen any of the "member-counting as currency" that was so prevalent in the old days. Before the SGI/Shoshu split, President Ikeda visited the US back in the early 90's & didn't like how the NSA was conducting things and directed a lot of changes, which included a reduction in the shakabuku & member-counting fixations among many other changes. Personally I think the guy is just trying to help and being a human with an organization of humans around him, all in deep contact with the world, craziness and distortions are inevitable.

I found that its easy to see negativity when I look for it, and good when I look for that. A wider acquaintance in the organization has helped too- speaking at larger meetings in particular rather than hiding in the crowd has brought me into contact with quite a few people in SGI who take a wider view of the practice than I was expecting. I am not an SGI leader and have no interest in that, I was encouraged several times early on to get into that groove but never did.. I think they've maybe given up on me in that respect ;)

So I'm sorry you didn't find a group that worked for you, but I think they're out there in SGI at the very least. I find I need thr society of others in my practice, which got weak & perfunctory when I was out on my own.

Saguaro
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Saguaro » Fri Feb 05, 2016 10:45 pm

One of the group leaders in my area is a talented and well-respected musician. It appears to me that he is also apparently a drug user. I attended one meeting that he led where he seemed to be under the influence of something, likely marijuana. I pass no moral judgment. But I didn't like the manic/blissful state he was in while leading the group -- all the while knowing that the bliss he was experiencing and demonstrating was not the result of Buddhist practice but of some mysterious substance. I wasn't the only one in the group who noticed his state. A long time-member actually had to reel him in.

What made me decide I had to discontinue even my casual involvement with this group, was when he called me a few nights ago in the same "blissful" (i.e., drug induced) state and said very strange things to me such as, "we all chant to the scroll with Chinese writing on it that none of us understand; none of us know what it says." What I think he meant was that it doesn't matter if you are from a different culture; you don't have to be Asian to be a Buddhist. But as a lay linguist and historian, I didn't like that statement of his. I actually know what the gohonzon says. It's not that hard to find out…. Just friggin Google it, dude. One would think that a group leader would know what it says, and would know better than to call prospective members while under the influence.

I did meet some wonderful, kind people during my brief, casual involvement. But I think the truth may be that, due to the fact that I had a very strict religious upbringing in a different religion, I know what a structured religious practice feels like. So, I don't think I need this organization, SGI.

narhwal90
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Feb 06, 2016 4:32 am

A drugged out group leader is not cool- I wouldn't go back to a group like that either, and that phone call of his was entirely inappropriate. Its a real shame but not representative of SGI as a whole- some leader in the organization blew it by leaving members in the hands of somebody like that. The group leaders I've met & practiced with have been deeply committed to their practice and to the members in their group, and are very careful about their meetings. The group I attend which is typical of those around here at least alternates between daimoku-only, gosho study, and planning meetings- the latter used to schedule and arrange the periodic larger meetings held in nearby community centers. When a guest or new member is present the format is shifted to a more introductory form where other members share their experience, with Q&A if the guest/member is so inclined. There are also other types of meetings arranged by different leaders; men or women only, "youth division" meetings for both genders- to supply a different focus with different study topics.

Saguaro
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Saguaro » Sat Feb 06, 2016 11:33 am

It's pretty ironic. He called me because I text-ed him, telling him that I wouldn't be returning to the men's group. The reason I wouldn't return to the men's group is because it was just disastrous. It seemed to me that most people at the group didn't even want to be there; the atmosphere was quite hostile, and the whole thing degenerated into a competitive pissing contest. "I live in a very high-value property area of town…. I own two businesses…. Well, I grew up in Malibu…." Just awful. The irony being that I had intended to continue to go to the general meeting for both men and women, just not the men's group. But as a result of his (intoxicated) phone call -- intended to bring me back to the men's group -- I decided I had to disassociate myself entirely. There has got to be nothing more annoying than being stuck on the phone with someone who is under the influence of drugs and will not let you off the line, all the while suggesting that maybe the real issue is that I haven't been involved that long…. You know, if I had been involved for all the years he had been involved, I wouldn't of found the competitive pissing contest as annoying as I did.

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Feb 06, 2016 1:42 pm

Ugh- what an awful meeting, some bad stuff going on there for sure- a real shame. I know what you mean about talking to someone under the influence, I'm in recovery from family members with alcohol issues; relating to them involves a lot of learned pathologies on my part. If I'm ever in that situation again I'm hanging up- theres no win continuing such a conversation. Anyhow, I'd imagine the general meeting would be very different. Being asked to participate in several different larger meetings really helped me a lot in terms of learning to speak in front of a group without being nearly paralyzed from fear & dread. Personally, I like doing shifts at the community center (opening up for evening meetings, cleaning, general facilitation, greeting members, closing), on slow nights theres lots of opportunity for fellowship & more involved conversation with others on the shift or those working the bookstore (usual in larger community centers). Its exposed to me a much wider cross-section of the organization, everyone from the area's senior leaders to a member bringing a guest or just those curious and attending an introductory meeting pass by. Its nice to see folks from the old days too...

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by robban » Sat Feb 13, 2016 11:59 am

It's interesting to read all of your insights.
Naturally the SGI isn't perfect. Hardly no organisation is but they make a positive difference for alot of people.
There is alot of suffering in this world and people need organisations like SGI.
Many people on this forum and other forums seem to forget what suffering does to people. The three poisons are strong. People don't know how to make positive changes in their life. I think SGI give these people hope.

As for the the guy that was addict and leader. Naturally he shouldn't be in that position. But to think that all leaders in SGI are like that is just ignorant. In all religious organisations you have to find leaders/priests,monks,nuns that are suited for you. Even Shakyamuni have told us that.

Once again, SGI isn't perfect but i feel that it's heading for the right direction.

Last, i feel that there is alot of prejudice on this forum.
Coming from outside of USA i'd like to add one that is widely spread and that is:
Americans are stupid:)
English is not my first language

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Ayu » Sat Feb 13, 2016 12:26 pm

robban wrote: ... Last, i feel that there is alot of prejudice on this forum.
Coming from outside of USA i'd like to add one that is widely spread and that is:
Americans are stupid:)
:thinking: Not very useful hint. Tell me one country whose citizens are mainly not considered to be stupid. I don't recall any. It is always this thinking of "WE and THEM", and the "We" is bound to be more intelligent than all the others. :tongue:
That is samsara as usual, and it doesn't stopp at a Buddhist internet forum. So please be kind and don't take it personally.
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Hate is too great a burden to bear.
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illarraza
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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by illarraza » Sat Feb 13, 2016 9:08 pm

There are those who would argue that the beautiful SGI saplings, all without a single exception, as they mature, grow into the crooked trees of the Taisekeji teachings and Ikedaism.

Illarraza

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by dharmapdx » Sat Feb 13, 2016 10:31 pm

robban wrote:
Last, i feel that there is alot of prejudice on this forum.
Coming from outside of USA i'd like to add one that is widely spread and that is:
Americans are stupid:)
I'm not sure if this poster means that they believe Americans are stupid. Or if they are just sharing that this is a stereotype and prejudice that exists against Americans.

Is this the opinion of the poster?
Or was the poster simply making an observation about prejudiced ideas that exist in the world?

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by illarraza » Mon Feb 15, 2016 1:48 am

No dharmapdx. We are stupid for not seeing the greatness of SGI and Sensei Ikeda.

illarraza proud to be stupid:

"In general, there are three kinds of messengers. The first kind is extremely clever. The second is not particularly clever but is not foolish, either. The third is extremely foolish but nevertheless reliable.

Of these three types, the first will commit no error [in transmitting the message]. The second, being somewhat clever but not quite as clever as the first type, will add his own words to his lord’s message. Thus he is the worst possible type of messenger. The third type, being extremely foolish, will not presume to insert his own words and, being honest, will relay his lord’s message without deviating from it. Thus he is a better messenger than the second type, and occasionally may be even better than the first."

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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by Queequeg » Mon Feb 15, 2016 4:40 pm

robban wrote: Americans are stupid:)
Sort of relevant.

"Chant for anything!"

"our society is steeped in a culture of facile reasoning."
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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Re: "Flirting" with SGI: any suggestions/guidance?

Post by robban » Mon Feb 15, 2016 10:11 pm

So you know, me the poster was just being sarcastic about the stupid thing (maybe i should write this the next time:)
The point was that it's ignorant to make the assumption that only because there is one imbecile means that all are imbeciles.
English is not my first language

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