RE: [SGI] Hi from a former SGI member
- HI Dave,
I just wanted to comment on the way you shared your SGI experience. I
was expecting the "normal" SGI bashing but was really taken aback by your
honest expression of your feelings and by the way it made me feel. So I
wanted to thank you for sharing that with us! (The Buddhist " Jehovah's
witnesses" made me spew my coffee all over laughing because I have had that
cross my mind before as well) Anyway, I have been a happy SGI member for
almost two years and to be honest if I had the same experience I really
think I would have felt the same way as you and left. As I don't like things
pushed on me and to me "encouragement" should be up lifting and with
direction to help me in my practice, not harassment or guilt trips if I
can't come to meetings. I am very fortunate that the members in my
district/chapter are the way they are and I haven't been bombarded with the
"other schools" being bashed or quilted or harassed about activities. I
have been a group leader for a few months and your letter really has made me
look at my self. I'm not a pushy kind of person but you letter highlighted
how not to be to members and I found it to be encouraging as I believe your
honesty will help others who are trying to share Nichiren Buddhism.
[mailto:SokaGakkaiInternational@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of David Salyers
Sent: Friday, June 30, 2006 8:32 PM
Subject: [SGI] Hi from a former SGI member
I am a former SGI member (and no this isn't the typical SGI bash, I
hope). I did want to say why I left SGI and turned back in my Gohonzon.
I was raised Mormon (LDS) and later was sort of a "nonsectarian"
Buddhist. I have an acquaintance who is a Ch'an monk and I had some
exposure to Jodo Shinshu (Shin) Buddhism. When I joined SGI about
three years ago, I found a sangha with very nice people who were
genuinely involved in their Buddhist practice. I thought the practice
was very good and compelling. I liked chanting the daimoku and liturgy.
But then I was "encouraged" (i.e. repeatedly called on the telephone
and hard sell) into attending Soka Spirit meetings. At these meetings,
I got to hear not only negative stuff about Nichiren Shoshu, but also
about Shin Buddhism (being exposed to that school I was not very happy
about the negative spin they were receiving) and other Buddhists. Let
me be clear here. I do think that the practice of Nichiren Buddhism
through a modern vehicle such as SGI is more accessible and
potentially beneficial to most people including non-Japanese than
other more "monastic" forms of Buddhism. Shin Buddhism is similar in
some ways to Nichiren Buddhism EXCEPT that they have not been able to
expand outside of their ethnic confine due to various issues. Their
temples are primarily Japanese-American social and cultural centers.
Basically, my point is that I do not think it is beneficial or
attractive to put down (or attack which was my perception) and
highlight the faults of other groups. It is far better to highlights
the strengths of one's own practice (and not the incessant focus on
material benefits such as employment, but how about serene peace,
mindfulness, treating others with respect).
This continued on for a little while with the focus on Soka Spirit
meetings and how Nichiren Shoshu was going to end up in Buddhist hell
or something. And then I noticed the emphasis placed on Ikeda's
writings and Nichiren's writings. Don't get me wrong here. I think
there is much wisdom to be found in both (although I question the
value placed on Ikeda's photos and poetry). BUT I think the focus of
Nichiren Buddhism is the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren's writings were often
commentaries on the Lotus Sutra, so I think primary emphasis would be
better placed on the Lotus Sutra with Nichiren writings as the
inspired commentary and Ikeda's writings as further clarification. (Of
course I also think the Fuji school distinctives as were taught from
the Nichiren Shoshu school may be somewhat erroneous and perhaps part
of the problem, but I see SGI starting to progress away from that.)
Now let me discuss the positive things I liked about SGI. SGI has done
more than any other Buddhist organization to promote cultural and
class diversity in its sangha. There is not the "Buddhist elitism"
that one can find in other convert Buddhist traditions in America. SGI
also has children and youth programs which can be excellent. These
programs are hard to find among other convert Buddhist traditions. SGI
has more active groups and members (who are genuinely nice people)
than other Buddhist groups. I do wish that members would stop the hard
sell proselytizing approach though as it is very off-putting and
reminds me of some form of Buddhist "Jehovah's Witnesses".
I finally left when I got tired of the Soka Spirit stuff, certain
members kept calling me and pestering me to come, and the negatives
started outwaying the positives. If there had been some decrease in
the negatives, then I would have stayed. In fact, I would like to be
able to join and stay in an SGI which lives up to that potential. I
think it would be great for myself and my children. Here's to hoping!
P.S. I actually did turn in my Gohonzon when I resigned from SGI as I
felt that was the ethical thing to do (I understand other people leave
and keep their Gohonzon). I didn't feel that was right.
After I left SGI, I did try practicing with Nichiren Shu (no, not
Shoshu). They were very nice but they were too culturally Japanese and
there seemed to be a mixture of some folk Shinto into the mix which I
could not really relate to. So I went back to being a nonsectarian
Buddhist. (Although true to my SGI influence, my primary chant is a
six syllable "mantra" (Be One. Be Love. Be Peace. - this has the same
rhythm as daimoku) and I use either a picture of a Dharma Wheel or an
enso (circle in Japanese calligraphy) instead of a Gohonzon.
I still actually think quite highly of SGI can become and of course of
the individual members.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- --- In SokaGakkaiInternational@yahoogroups.com, "catflap_ka"
> Hi Todd
> I can certainly send it to you via traditional mail as I don`t
> have all the differnt chapters on file (It was done in 1998 - andthe
> scanning part on an apple computer).terms
> Its only about 30 pages long as we had to keep strict limit in
> of words. Some parts I would write rather different today, butsince
> it was extremly hard to find any literature on the subject so Ithe
> concentrated on the main developments in the times of the Nara
> Buddhism (the six old schools of Nara), the pure land buddhism and
> esoteric sects.''''''''''''
Thank you for the offer Gunther, if you were more local I would say
go right ahead, or just drop it by my Kaikan. You seem to be
in the Monet section of the world, where the skies are a different
I hope you continue your practice as I would hope I might be
I look forward to reading more of your posts, as I do for almost all
our board members.
> > This idea of dissertation on the influence of religion(Christian
> > & Catholic) on architecture has been done. I would love to seewhat
> > you did in terms of oreintal experiences and effect onexpressions
> > in architecture and building art.
> > Todd Evans
> > """"""//'\
> > --