SGI-USA is a multimillion-dollar religious corporation, propaganda doc
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: August 25, 2009 08:55AM
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Confusing Information to Dismiss
Do not be too concerned about questionable actions of Soka. We are an organization that chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Therefore, everything will work out for the best. Because we chant and are striving for enlightenment, everything we do will eventually benefit the world. We do not need to have a conscience -- we have sincerity, which is more important. All guilt is absolved and all righteousness is conferred by our practice of Soka Buddhism!
1. SGI-USA is a multimillion-dollar religious corporation
2. False impressions, false promises
3. Soka rewrites its own history
4. Soka propaganda masquerading as a documentary
5. Gandhi-King-Ikeda exhibit disingenuous
1) SGI-USA is a multimillion-dollar religious corporation
According to LA County tax records, SGI Plaza [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com] and adjacent properties [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com] around Sixth and Wilshire in Santa Monica are valued at over $20 million. (These are just tax valuations, not the market value.)
Just across the street, the World Culture Center [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com] and Ikeda Auditorium and the house behind the WCC [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com] are valued at more than $7 million.
SGI-USA’s Malibu Training Center, [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com] with a tax valuation of $1.4 million, was on the market in June 2003 for $21 million. It sold for $14.5 million in June 2003. SGI originally purchased the property in 1972 for a reported $109,000. [www.caic.org.au]
The LA Friendship Center -- $3,600,000 [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com]
The Santa Monica Community Center -- $4,300,000 [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com]
Soka University, Los Angeles in Calabasas -- $14,000,000 [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com]
Plus, this other little bit of SULA -- $5,700,000 [assessormap.lacountyassessor.com]
A quick search on [www.hawaiipropertytax.com] brings up results of "agricultural properties" owned by Soka Gakkai:
10 acres - parcel 220480940000 [www.hawaiipropertytax.com]
3 acres - parcel 160093950000 [www.hawaiipropertytax.com]
3 acres - parcel 160093960000 [www.hawaiipropertytax.com]
10 acres - parcel 220480950000 [www.hawaiipropertytax.com]
SGI-USA's main facility in Hawaii is the Hawaii Culture Center [www.honolulupropertytax.com] -- Market Land Value $2,318,800; Market Building Value $14,950,000
In Hawaii, Soka Gakkai also owns: Makaha Community Center;[www.honolulupropertytax.com] Maui Community Center;[www.mauipropertytax.com] Pupukea Community Center. [www.honolulupropertytax.com]
The Soka University of America campus in Aliso Viejo, Calif., opened in 2001 with an endowment of $300 million to teach a class of fewer than 200 students. GuideStar.org reports that SUA has assets in excess of $700 million.
The Denver Culture Center ($2.5 million) [www.denvergov.org] , the New York Culture Center ($5.7 million), the Florida Nature and Culture Center ($3 million) [bcegov.co.broward.fl.us] are all listed in tax records as being owned by Soka Gakkai International-USA. There are more properties in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, etc., but you get the idea.
2) False impressions, false promises
The pamphlet, “Contributing to the Future,” published by SGI-USA in 2003, states that member financial contributions make it possible to turn on the lights, keep copy machines running and pay the rent for meeting places. These examples give the impression of a small ministry struggling to make ends meet. Strangely, the pamphlet fails to mention SGI-USA’s millions of dollars worth of appreciating assets. In fact, SGI-USA declines to tell members anything substantive about the corporation’s finances.
The “Contributing to the Future” pamphlet tells SGI-USA members:
"With all of your contributions, you are making great causes for your own happiness... Some members may feel they can improve their financial situation by challenging themselves to contribute more money to the organization. It’s true that when you make offerings, you are making a cause to change your destiny -- just as it’s true that when you chant, you are changing your karma. How this change in karma will manifest, though, no one can readily predict. When we make offerings, we increase our fortune. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that we increase our bank balance.”
Who is the “we” in that last sentence? When you make a contribution to SGI-USA, you are most definitely increasing “their” bank balance. SGI-USA holds out a promise that many members have been hooked by over the years: Giving money to SGI-USA will change your life for the better. This assertion may fatten the religious corporation’s accounts, but it does not accord with the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism.
3) Soka rewrites its own history
The following was written by former Soka member Lisa Jones in March, 2004.
Several months ago, I reported on BuddhaJones that SGI's official PR flak in Denver had claimed in a letter to a local newspaper that SGI *was not* excommunicated by Nichiren Shoshu. Of course, SGI *was* excommunicated. People gave me a lot of crap, saying that I was misrepresenting what was stated in the letter. Well, oddly, I've found another instance of a "clarification" of the excommunication claim, this time in a response to the Italian Report on Cults. But I'll get to that in a minute.
First, here's what I wrote back in September 2003...SGI President Ikeda was not excommunicated. That's right. An official SGI spokesperson recently claimed that Ikeda merely "left" Nichiren Shoshu. Funny, I thought the bitter, internecine religious war between Nichiren Shoshu and Soka Gakkai came to a head when Ikeda was forced out.
Alas, Chris Risom (not to be confused with Cris Roman) -- who holds the title "director of community affairs, SGI-USA Buddhist Association, Denver region" -- now assures the good people of Denver that the excommunication is a "discredited allegation."
In late August, a Denver newspaper ran an article that mentioned Soka University and SGI. The article, in Westword, stated:
But for all its emphasis on peaceful co-existence, Soka Gakkai has been extremely controversial, with a PBS documentary and scores of articles reporting on everything from leaders' disputes over prostitute bills to allegations of members destroying rival temples. Critics of the seventy-year-old lay organization of the Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist priesthood charge that it's a cult that focuses only on Ikeda rather than the traditional teachings of Nichiren Buddhists. Even the priests of Ikeda's own sect aren't particularly fond of the fellow, having excommunicated him in 1991. [bold added]
SGI-USA responded in a letter to the editor, published Sept. 4:
Your characterization of Soka Gakkai International (SGI) in the August 21 Off Limits was extremely one-sided and offensive to the Nichiren Buddhists living in the Denver area. You aired some very old and discredited allegations with no apparent effort to present a balanced or truthful picture.
For the record, there are no known allegations of Soka Gakkai leaders having a dispute over prostitute bills. Second, Mr. Ikeda left Nichiren Shoshu, along with 12 million members of the Soka Gakkai International -- roughly 95 percent of the Nichiren Shoshu membership. This split was inevitable, given the outgoing and engaged style of Soka Gakkai versus the more insular and doctrinaire manner of the Nichiren Shoshu leadership. [bold added]
It is unfortunate that your reporter did not take the time to learn more about the group he was defaming. He/she would have learned that the SGI-USA is the largest and most diverse Buddhist association in the U.S., and that we seek to help people -- through Buddhist practice -- to cultivate the virtues of responsibility, wisdom and compassion in their daily lives. Locally, the SGI-USA/Denver and its over 3,000 members have been civicly active and contributive to the Denver metro community for over 33 years.
Chris Risom, director of community affairs
SGI-USA Buddhist Association, Denver region
There you have it, folks. For the record, Mr. Ikeda wasn't excommunicated; he left. Please disregard the hundreds of SGI-published assertions to the contrary.
Please go to "Confirming Our Path of Faith," your Temple Issue handbook published by SGI-USA. Find the speech given by President Ikeda on Feb. 5, 1999, and cross out the line: "On Nov. 28 of the following year, 1991, Nichiren Shoshu excommunicated the Soka Gakkai. What madness!"
Also, since his "leaving" was inevitable, we can stop crying foul about "Operation C" and all of the other dirty deeds that led to the ouster-that-never-happened. Please annotate your handbook accordingly.
Madness? What madness?
(If you want to know what else I think, check out my letter to Westword, just below SGI-USA's.)
OK...fast forward to today...One of the readers of this blog referenced the Center for Studies on New Religions (at cesnur.org) in one of his comments. So I checked it out. In searching the CESNUR site, particularly an article analyzing the "Italian Report on Cults," I found this bizarre claim:
(The report incorrectly argues, p. 15, that the Italian Soka Gakkai was "apparently excommunicated by the Japanese mother organization". In fact both the Italian and the Japanese Soka Gakkai as lay organizations parted company from the monastic order they used to be affiliated with, Nichiren Shoshu).
Wuh? By SGI's own *repeated* accounts, SGI was most emphatically excommunicated by Nichiren Shoshu, *twice.* So does this mean that info from cesnur.org is unreliable? Or is it a case of SGI PR flaks working with CESNUR and trying to rewrite history?
4) Soka propaganda masquerading as a documentary
The following was written by former Soka member Lisa Jones in April, 2003.
You've probably heard the rumors: Some SGI-USA members are claiming that the movie "Embattled Buddhists: Under the Rising Sun," a one-hour documentary about Soka Gakkai's history, was made and paid for by the SGI.
I called Sylvia Hueston, the SGI-USA member who served as the film's producer, and asked her point blank who financed the film. "It was paid for by Global Management Group," she said. Hueston assured me that the documentary is an independent production. A dispatch from the SGI Office of Public Information also states that the documentary was made by an independent company.
Hueston told me that she does not know much about Global Management Group or the film's executive producer, Keiko Kimura. According to Hueston, Kimura is not a member of the SGI.
But some SGI members say that "Embattled Buddhists" is not an independent production at all. They are quick to point out that the film's director and editor is Cory Taylor, a prominent SGI-USA leader. They also point to Hueston in the role of producer.
"It's like a cardinal and an archbishop making a documentary about the Catholic church," said Chris Oaks, a Los Angeles-area SGI member. "There's nothing wrong with that, but you can't claim it's independent or objective."
"Who is Global Management Group?" asks a screenwriter, would-be indie film producer and SGI member who asked not to be identified. "Anyone who has tried to make an independent film knows that production funds are hard to get. Most PBS-type programming is made possible through grants and donations. So who put up the money for this film and why? Was it financed by SGI directly or indirectly?"
We may never know the answer to that question; SGI declines to disclose the details of its financial dealings.
According to the online database provided by the California Secretary of State, Global Management Group, Inc. (corp. number C1772225) is listed as "suspended." Kimura is listed as the contact.
"If SGI paid for the movie, fine," says Oaks. "But let's not be sneaky about it. This is a documentary that supports SGI's version of events, SGI's interpretation of its past and SGI's point of view. Why not just be honest about our bias?"
Hueston says that if anyone really wants to know who contributed money toward the production, they should record the broadcast and freeze-frame the donor acknowledgements at the end of the film. "Everyone who contributed is listed," Hueston says. "These are sponsorships that Keiko Kimura solicited." Hueston adds, "Keiko is back in Japan now and -- really -- she is not a member. She got the inspiration to make this documentary after seeing how the SGI was treated in Japan."
I responded with this e-mail:
Hi Rie --
Thanks for the info about "Embattled Buddhists." I have not seen the film, but I would like to.
One SGI-USA member wrote down the list of sponsors at the end of the film. Can you provide more information about them? Are they members or otherwise connected with SGI?
Angel Capital Corporation
MacDonald & Beckman (Steven MacDonald is a San Francisco-area SGI leader)
Virender Goswami (SF attorney specializing in immigration law)
Rouse & Bahlart (Cheryl Rouse is a leader in San Francisco)
Chuck Texeira (SF attorney)
Also, another SGI-USA member noted that the credits listed the following people: Clarice Robinson (producer), Anthony Andrews (writer), Tim Jones (composer who has done work for SGI before). Are all of these people SGI members?
Please understand that the issue for some SGI-USA members is not about the film's quality or accuracy. It's about the integrity of portraying the film as an independent production, implying that the film was made independent of SGI's editorial control.
Some members find it disheartening that the only scholars, writers and documentarians who have favorable views of the SGI are the ones on the SGI's payroll or membership list. Granted, this may not be the fact in all cases, but it is a widespread perception among members in the US. Perhaps no one has a problem with this kind of thing in Japan. But in the US, it raises questions about the legitimacy and true motives of an organization; in public relations terms, it raises people's suspicion and makes the organization look like it is trying to deceive people somehow.
I truly appreciate that you took the time to clarify some facts about the film. I will post your response on the BuddhaJones website the next time we update it, which will probably be sometime in the coming week.
I agree that it is naive to imagine that SGI should merely maintain a passive and detached stance while negative perceptions and misinformation perpetuate. ;-) After this exchange, promotional materials distributed by SGI-USA about the film made no mention of it being an "independent production."
5) Gandhi-King-Ikeda exhibit disingenuous
The following commentary was written by former Soka member Lisa Jones in February 2004.
The only problem I have with the Gandhi-King-Ikeda Exhibit is that it's a big fib. To rank Daisaku Ikeda alongside Gandhi and King is disingenuous -- and that's the nicest word I have for it.
The University of Denver, which is now hosting the exhibit, says: "India’s Mahatma Gandhi, the American Martin Luther King Jr. and Japan’s Daisaku Ikeda each made a significant impact through peaceful protest for the cause of human rights."
Peaceful protest for the cause of human rights? In the case of Gandhi and King, that's absolutely correct. In the case of Ikeda, that's hilarious.
Gandhi and King were harassed and jailed by the government, yet still managed to change the law in their respective nations. Meanwhile, Ikeda built an outrageously wealthy religious corporation, paid enormous sums for Renoirs and other works of art, and started a political party that is now in the ruling coalition in Japan.
Where is Ikeda's record of nonviolent protest for the sake of human rights? Where is his bus boycott? Or his salt march? Ikeda did spend some time in jail -- for electioneering, I think it was, but he was cleared of all wrongdoing.
I assume that if you're reading this, you already know quite a lot about SGI, Daisaku Ikeda and Nichiren Buddhism. The Gandhi-King-Ikeda Exhibit is apparently for those who know nothing about these things and therefore cannot critically evaluate the claims that are being made about Ikeda. In my view, the exhibit is an obvious attempt to mislead idealistic college students into thinking that SGI and Ikeda are synonymous with nonviolence and peace activism.
From the other side of its mouth, the SGI claims to be the only organization in the world that promotes and teaches a correct understanding of Nichiren Buddhism. FYI, Buddhism and Gandhism are perhaps similar, but significantly different.
This exhibit reminds me of how SGI (when it was called NSA) was busted by the Boston Globe for cloaking itself in American patriotism to gain access to classrooms and children. In both cases -- with the Liberty Bell ruse and now with the G-K-I exhibit -- SGI is misrepresenting itself in the name of "making friends."
Dr. Lawrence Carter of Morehouse College -- who claims that he came up with the idea for this exhibit on his own, without financial consideration from SGI -- has said that he wanted to show that three people from different religions and cultures could successfully apply the principles of nonviolence. In that case, the Dalai Lama would have been a better choice. The Dalai Lama is the real deal when it comes to nonviolence.
It's one thing to say you're committed to nonviolence (as Ikeda perhaps claims), and another thing to say it while the Chinese army is shelling your house and murdering your country, as in the case of the Dalai Lama. Oh -- and let's not forget that Ikeda and SGI created an exhibit to honor one of the men responsible for the Tibetan genocide, "The Great Leader Zhou Enlai."
Please check out the video that accompanies the Gandhi-King-Ikeda exhibit. At about 18 minutes and 35 seconds into it, Dr. Carter says that Daisaku Ikeda is Gandhi, King and Jesus all rolled into one! No lie.
The video claims that Ikeda has distinguished himself by dedicating his life to championing the work of Gandhi and King. Huh? In the SGI, we are told all the time that Ikeda is great because he propagates the teachings of Nichiren, and that he is the foremost practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism in the world. Funny, that's never mentioned in the video -- especially funny considering that the video was written, produced and directed by a group of hardcore SGI members.
In other words, in my opinion, the video brazenly misrepresents Ikeda's work, and glosses over the fact that for more than 40 years (longer than Castro has been dictator of Cuba?) Ikeda has been the charismatic leader of a controversial and often fanatical religious sect. (And let's not forget that Ikeda gave Castro an award on behalf of Soka University, and recently reiterated his praise for Castro's peace efforts! Scroll down to Feb. 8, 2004 at this link to read Ikeda's remarks.)
On top of it all, the video itself is an example of revisionist history. For months, the video was on SGI's web site, but was taken down, edited, and re-posted. What was edited? Remember our good friend Dr. Alfred Balitzer, who once sang the praises of Daisaku Ikeda louder than anyone outside of SGI? He used to be in the G-K-I video, singing the praises of Ikeda as usual, but he was recently cut from the show. Balitzer, as you may remember, was the dean of faculty at Ikeda's Soka University. He was involved with the school being sued for religious discrimination by former professor Linda Southwell.
Dr. Lawrence Carter may be Ikeda's biggest fan and promoter right now -- as Dr. Alfred Balitzer once was. But I've seen how quickly things can change.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/25/2009 08:58AM by The Anticult.