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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Susan Star on SGI psuedo-Buddhism

i myself enjoyed many SGI activities, as well as NSS activies. so i'll never begrudge either organization their good feelings and enjoyment! it's valid, and very personal. i think the real issue is not whether the SGI enjoys their rallies, or whether they have x-number of members, or whether they've won awards, etc. etc. IMO, the real issue is, "are SGI members Nichiren Buddhists?" 

the SGI is a large organization, well organized, full of enthusiastic members and willing volunteers. they've taken an active interest in "world peace," the environment, and "making all people happy." the same can be said of countless organizations around the world, both secular and religious. 

but what is a "Buddhist?" one who follows the teachings of the Buddha. Nichiren was a Buddhist, and the "foremost practicioner of the Lotus Sutra" (his own words), hence his followers are "Nichiren Buddhists." he left many instructions to his followers, and people of all personality styles are able to follow his teachings...from the very harsh (Rissho Ankoku Ron) to the very gentle (one example: Lady to Kyo'o). Nichiren's writings define a clear set of "parameters" as to how to follow his Buddhism. now, if you step outside thoseparameters, the question becomes, "are you a Nichiren Buddhist?" 

IMO, by still steadfastly following *most* of Taisekiji's doctrines/traditions, the SGI cannot truly be called a Nichiren Buddhist "sangha" (community of believers). SGI members believe in a set of doctrines that is derived directly from Nichiren Shoshu (Taisekiji), and even though they have changed quite a few of their views away from Taisekiji since the split, unfortunately most of their views are now even farther away from Nichiren's actual Buddhism. the Three Treasures is one example, the "Nichiren = True Buddha" issue is another, the True Object of Worship is yet another. 

it's a simple matter of "qualification." what are the qualifications for being a Nichiren Buddhist? and do you, or your organization, meet these qualifications? if not, you cannot truly claim the title of Nichiren Buddhist. you may be very happy, and very enthusiastic, and have great faith in the doctrines of SGI. you may have tons of actual proof, and practice the SGI practice very faithfully. that makes you a good *SGI member*, but that's it. that does not make you a Buddhist in any way! 

when people ask me what kind of Buddhist i am, i used to say just "Nichiren." if people are familiar with Nichiren's Buddhism, 9 times out of 10 they say "oh gawd you're not one of those Soka Gakkai people, are you?!" the SGI's "bad reputation" as a cult of personality precedes them, and is well known to everyone familiar with Nichiren's Buddhism. those in the SGI usually aren't aware of this "reputation," or if they are, they're in denial. 

so...the SGI is a large, well-organized, and "value-creating" organization. that does *not* make them Buddhists of any sort, including Nichiren Buddhist. so while they may do many "good deeds," win many awards, and make many people happy, they plain fact is that they are only loosely based on the Buddhist Dharma. i don't hold a grudge against SGI (or NSS), or any individual member. but i, as a Kempon Hokke member and an individual, am a Nichiren Buddhist; it makes me uncomfortable when SGI and NSS claim the same title, because nothing could be farther from the truth. in other words, those people/organizations who are NOT Nichiren Buddhists, make a bad name for those of us who are. 

IMO, SGI members are members of the "Value Creation Society," and nothing more.