Nichiren Daishonin is being systematically phased out of the Soka Gakkai...
My Letter: [SGI Hong Kong Member]
May 21. 1997
"Dear SGI-USA Council Member: I am writing to you concerning a matter of great importance: The integrity and credibility of the SGI-USA. The March 22, 1993 World Tribune article (p.3) entitled "Central Executive Conference held," paragraph 4 reads:
"The CEC also confirmed that each joint territory will hold gongyo meetings to commemorate four significant dates in the life of Nichiren Daishonin: Feb. 16, the Daishonins birthday; April 28, the establishment of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism; Oct. 12, the inscription of the Dai Gohonzon; and Oct. 13, the anniversary of the Daishonin's passing. The later two days may be commemorated together in one ceremony."
These commemorative gongyos were initially scheduled and put together haphazardly, without planning, held in the middle of the week when most members could not attend, and have since been discontinued altogether. I fought for 3 years to get these commemorative gongyo's implemented and they have been arbitrarily discontinued without explanation.
WHY HAS THE SGI-USA BROKEN IT'S PROMISE TO THE MEMBERS?
President Ikeda has spoken often of the importance of leaders keeping their promises to members. Most recently, in his Feb 13, 1997 speech at the joint executive conference of the SGI of Hong Kong he said:
"Chivalry here refers to the courage and communication to uphold the trust placed in one by others, even at the cost of one's life. As Confucius says in 'The Analects," 'When there is not trust, the common people will have nothing to stand on." Trust is the foundation upon which all human societies rest.
Today there is a sad dearth of the spirit of chivalry in the very best sense of the word-in other words, a commitment to keep one's word, even at the cost of one's life, and a refusal to betray the trust of others." (WT, 4-4-97,p.9)
I would like to take the time to outline the history of how these commemorative gongyos came to be instituted.
Prior to 1990, a particular headquarters would be chosen to attend either the Otanjo-e (Feb. 16th), Risshu-e (April 28th), or Oeshiki (Oct. 13th) ceremonies at Myohoji Temple. In 1988, as a result of a profound spiritual experience, I determined to always commemorate these True Buddhist holy days in a special way. Therefore, irrespective of whether or not my headquarters was the one chosen, I would drive out and attend those special ceremonies at Myohoji Temple in order to demonstrate my profound gratitude and appreciation to Nichiren Daishonin.
Upon our organizations split from Nichiren Shoshu, there was no place for me to go to celebrate/commemorate these great True Buddhist historical events. My request of my senior leaders to hold commemorative gongyo's in lieu of the temple ceremonies were ignored. In 1988, after practicing for only 2 years, I had a profound spiritual experience which made me realize the supremacy of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and I vowed, "I shall work for Kosen-Rufu from now until I die and for all future lifetimes until it is attained."
At the beginning of 1991, I made a determination to be an effective force in the growth and development of the SGI-USA." I decided my first project would be to get the organization to institute commemorative gongyo's on Feb. 16th, April 28th and Oct. 12th so that all members could demonstrate their deep appreciation to Nichiren Daishonin. While I knew there would be obstacles from making such a determination, little did I realize the grief and agony I would encounter.
In August, 1991 I was at an open guidance session with SGI advisor Mr. Wada wherein I explained I was merely seeking an opportunity to celebrate these glorious historical events alongside my friends and fellow members. Mr. Wada said he was unaware we were not holding commemorative gongyo's on these occasions and, 'I will speak to the leaders before I leave."
When October came and I saw there had been no commemorative gongyo scheduled, I phoned the WCC and spoke with my then Joint Territory Chief who attended that guidance session and took notes. Upon reminding him of what Mr. Wada had said, that leader replied "Mr. Wada just gives us advice. He doesn't tell us what to do." Upon hanging up the phone, I was left dumbfounded and perplexed, thinking to myself, 'What is the sense in having an advisor if you are not going to follow his advice." On 1-1-92, after New Year's Gongyo, I approached and asked my Joint Territory Chief, 'Will there be a commemorative gongyo for the Daishonin's birthday?" He replied, "Yes, each territory will hold their own ceremony at the Kaikan."
I regret that I did not subsequently look on an activities calendar to check for that activity. I didn't think it was necessary. After all, this was my Joint Territory Chief telling me this activity was going to take place and who should know better than he? I invited a few of my friends and we arrived at the San Fernando Kaikan on Sunday, 2-16-92 at 9:45 A.M. Carrying my large homemade gift basket as an offering to the Gohonzon. To my amazement, the Kaikan was empty. I asked the toban, 'Where is everyone?" the toban said there was no activity scheduled for that day! I had been lied to by my Joint Territory Chief!
I phoned him at home from the Kaikan, but was told by his son he couldn't come to the phone because he was in the middle of Gongyo! When I next spoke with my Joint Territory Chief, he explained there had been a youth division activity scheduled for 1 PM at the WCC. I told him the Youth Division activity could very well have been scheduled on another day or they could just as easily have held the commemorative gongyo at 10AM to 11:30AM and then had the Youth Division activity at 1 PM.
This experience first elicited great anger and later, depression. My attempts to dialogue with my Joint Territory Chief always elicited the same rhetorical reply, "We show our appreciation to Nichiren Daishonin everyday during the silent prayers." My position was, "This is the most supreme religion in all the world. If this Buddhism is to spread, we should outwardly demonstrate our appreciation and joy for all the world to see just as Christians celebrate Christmas. We should not just keep it to ourselves during the silent prayers.
My Joint Territory Chief said he brought up this issue of these commemorative gongyo's at a Joint Territory Leaders meeting but that they did not favor it. I asked him to set up a meeting for me with General Director Fred Zaitsu. I never received a phone call.
I took this problem to the Gohonzon with even greater resolve. The SGI-USA claims to be a democratic organization. The solution I came up with was to show the SGI-USA leadership that these commemorative gongyo's were a desire of the members themselves. I took up a petition (copy enclosed) and had it submitted to the Central Executive Committee. The result was the previously quoted central executive committee mandate (copy of that WT article is enclosed). Victory at last! Little did I realize what a shallow victory this was.
In October, 1993, 1 checked our activities calendar and saw no commemorative gongyo scheduled for October 13th. Upon phoning my Territory Chief, 'l was informed that he was not notified of any such activity. I then phoned my Joint Territory Chief (now a Council Member) and had the following conversation:
Telephone Conversation: 10/5/93
Me: "I find nowhere on any of our calendars that a commemorative gongyo has been scheduled for Oct. 12th and 13th."
JTC: 'Well, that's true, but I have suggested to the territories to hold such gongyo's at their community centers."
JTC: 'Well, that's true, but I have suggested to the territories to hold such gongyo's at their community centers."
Me: 'It does not seem to me that the SGI-USA organization there at the WCC is placing much emphasis on this. It doesn't seem to me that you're supporting it in any way. I can't believe this would have fallen by the wayside if the leaders at WCC were supporting it."
JTC: "It's been supported to the extent that there was direction given to hold them but other than that I think it's up to each joint territory to carry it out."
Me: "Are you keeping track as to whether or not the other joint territories around the US are holding these commemorative gongyos?"
JTC: "I'm not personally keeping touch."
Me: "Is anybody?"
JTC: "I don't know that. I don't think so.
As a result of my inquiry, a commemorative gongyo was scheduled. However, it was held on Oct. 13th, a Wednesday evening which in the SGI-USA was designated as family night, a night in which no activity was supposed to be scheduled so that members could spend time with their families.
After, the attending leader read a portion of a Gosho and this activity was then relegated to a toso. I asked if I could read a portion of the Oct. 11, 1993 World Tribune article entitled, "A Sense of Appreciation" and was refused. Through inquiry, I later learned that these commemorative gongyo's did not take place at any other community center in the area and, I surmise that they did not occur at any other community center in the United States
Paragraph #3 of that same 3-22-93 World Tribune article reads:
'First, the CEC confirmed that the SGI-USA will commemorate May 3; on that day in 1952 and 1960 Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda were inaugurated as second and third presidents of the Soka Gakkai, respectively. Details of the commemorative meetings will be decided within each of the 19 joint territories.'
The only gongyo scheduled to commemorate May 3rd was held by Joint Territory #3 on May 4th at the WCC. I am a member of Joint Territory #1 .
Again, I ask,'WHY HAS THE SGI-USA BROKEN IT'S PROMISE TO THE MEMBERS. WHY IS THE SGI-USA NOT ADHERING TO IT'S OWN MANDATE?"
The SGI-USA has designated May as Special Zaimu month; a time when we are asked to show our appreciation to the organization in the form of a monetary contribution. How can members donate to an organization which has betrayed their trust?
On numerous occasions in the past, I have watched our organization make elaborate plans as much as 6 months in advance to hold a special grand ceremony to commemorate and celebrate May 3rd, Soka Gakkai day, to honor the presidents of the SGI while neglecting to commemorate Feb. 16th and April 28th. The May 10, 1993 World Tribune states that Soka Gakkai Day is celebrated worldwide. Doesn't Nichiren Daishonin deserve a similar consideration? The irony here lies in the fact that "WERE IT NOT FOR NICHIREN DAISHONIN'S HAVING ESTABLISHED TRUE BUDDHISM THERE WOULD BE NO SGI."
While it can be said that the SGI is the root of the world wide Kosen- rufu movement, Nichiren Daishonin was the seed. By celebrating May 3rd and not celebrating April 28th, Oct. 12th and Feb. 16th you have not "put the cart before the horse" but, rather, you have removed the horse altogether! Isn't Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism the driving force of the SGI and it's kosen-rufu movement?
To me, the act of celebrating May 3rd and not celebrating April 28th, Oct. 12th and Feb. 16th makes the statement that "The SGI-USA does not consider the birth of Nichiren Daishonin, his establishment of True Buddhism nor his inscription of the Dai Gohonzon significant events in True Buddhist history." By only holding a celebration on May 3rd, this organization is making the statement that "nothing is more important nor more significant than the SGI, not even Nichiren Daishonin."
The Daishonin asks us to propagate True Buddhism in accordance with the cultural traditions of each respective country. The article entitled "Suiting Precepts to the Locality" (Zuiho Bini) (Seikyo Times, May, 1987, p.37) reads:
"The gist of this precept is that if it does not involve any seriously offensive act, then one may depart in some minor particulars from the Buddhist teachings in order not to violate the customs and manners of one's own country." (Gosho Zenshu p.1202).
"If one insists on adhering to minor details of external forms that are not suited to the time and place, or ignores or tramples on customs dear to the society he lives in simply because they are not an integral part of Buddhism, then he not only goes against the fundamental spirit of Buddhism, but may very well impede it's spread." I submit that it is an American cultural tradition to celebrate our respective religious holy days. All Christian families get dressed up and attend services at their respective place of worship on Christmas and Easter. All Jews get dressed up and attend services at Synagogues on Yom Kippur and Rash Hashashana. What do we True Buddhist have if you take away April 28, Oct. 12 and Feb. 16th? Our constitution guarantees freedom of religion and no American citizen can be chastised for worshiping on their respective religious holidays. At one job, I informed my boss that I was a True Buddhist and that Feb. 16, April 28 and Oct. 12th were my religious holydays. I took those days off from work and would chant at home the entire day. Of course, I agreed to work on Christmas but was informed the office was closed that day.
I know of a senior leader practicing for 22 years who still takes off from work on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Perhaps his actions wouldn't contradict his Buddhist religious beliefs if the SGI-USA were to sanction the 3 aforementioned dates as being our True Buddhist holidays and commemorate them as well.
When I first started my campaign to get these commemorative gongyo's instituted, I had a vision of a day in the future when the entire world population, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist would know the significance of April 28th just as 90% of the wold's population today knows the significance of Dec. 25th. But, if we, as professed True Buddhists do not celebrate and rejoice on these days, how can we ever expect the rest of the world to know their meaning? If we believe these to be important dates, shouldn't we demonstrate that belief and exhibit our joy? What should we tell our children when they ask, "But Mommy, if Nichiren was such a great man, why don't we celebrate his birthday just like my Catholic friends celebrate Jesus' birthday?"
Because of my determination to always celebrate these dates with a special ceremony, during the years of 1991 through 1993, 1 attended the ceremonies held at the Nichiren Shu Temple in Los Angeles. For those of you who might condemn me for violating article 6 of Nikko's 26 admonitions ("Lay believers should be strictly prohibited from visiting heretical temples and shrines"), let me say that I feel quite justified in light of my numerous futile attempts to get this organization to instill these commemorative gongyo's. Furthermore, I would ask, which would be considered a more gregious act: for a member to visit the temple of another Nichiren sect for the sole purpose of paying homage to the True Buddha on his birthday or, for a Nichiren sect not to hold a commemorative gongyo for that purpose?
Every Nichiren sect throughout the world holds special gongyo's on Feb. 1 6, April 28 and October 12th. Not to do so would be akin to Christians not celebrating Christmas. It is unconscionable!
The SGI-USA claims to practice the teachings and are disciples of Nichiren and attribute to him the title of the True Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law while neglecting to pay him homage on his birthday.
On April 13, 1997, 1 went to the San Fernando Community Center to observe the Thai New Years celebration. I appreciated that our organization was kind enough to allow a group of our members to utilize the community center for a non-Buddhist activity. When I glanced upon the stage my heart sank to my stomach and I later fell into a deep depression. Seated on stage were many senior leaders, central executive committee members who work at the WCC. I ran home and tried chanting daimoku to somehow understand why it was that the individuals that lead our organization were willing to go out of their way to get all dressed up to attend a non-Buddhist event at the community center while refusing to schedule, hold and attend a gongyo commemorating the establishment of True Buddhism, the most important day in True Buddhist history.
While I am imploring the SGI-USA Council to reinstate these commemorative gongyo's, I do not want you to do so for may sake but because the petition submitted to the CEC indicates it to be the desire of the members and President Ikeda says,
"Put happiness of members'first." (WT,3-4-97,p.1) and "Members First is the Eternal Spirit of the Soka Gakkai." (WT, 9-9-91, p-1). So, why does the leadership of our SGI-USA organization not adhere to President Ikeda's guidance?
The Oct. 11, 1993 World Tribune article entitled "A Sense of Appreciation" reads:
To be aware of what we owe to others is to begin to develop a profound sense of appreciation. The next step is to act on that appreciation-in other words, to repay our debts of gratitude. Such action becomes a never ending source of benefit to us and those around us."
Deepening our appreciation for everything for which we are indebted to is the Buddhist way of living: And such an appreciation is the source of creating even greater fortune within our lives." And, "It is not enough to recognize our debt of gratitude. We must act on that recognition." And, "Buddhism expounds four debts of gratitude," one of which is the debt owed to the Three Treasures. Nichiren Daishonin is one of those three treasures to whom we owe a debt of gratitude.
What is most important about these events is the spirit with which they are held. The spirit of all in attendance should be similar to that as I've observed at New Years day commemorative gongyo's-one of joy, one of appreciation and gratitude. And as leaders of our organization, you have both the ability and power to instill those feelings within the hearts of members. Is there any one of you that does not feel that, as respects the sake of all humanity, April 28th is the greatest day in all history? I cannot find sufficient words to express the profound magnitude of that event. Just think about how your life was before being introduced to True Buddhism and compare it to the quality of you life now. Isn't there a great deal more joy in you life? Do you not have a great sense of fulfillment? And who was it who first chanted this Nam Myoho Renge Kyo which has brought so much happiness into your life? That is the person to whom we should all owe a debt of gratitude! (as well as President Ikeda and George Williams who brought this great teaching to America)
In his address at the SGI-USA Culture and Science Executive Conference held in Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 1993, President Ikeda said: "Actions are far more important than status or social standing. Ranks or titles or distinctions in position, say, as those between priesthood and laity, are of little importance. What truly matters is: what have you actually done, what can you actually do and what are you actually trying to accomplish? Our value as human beings is determined by our actions."
What I have learned from this experience is that, although the CEC may approve a proposal, if that activity is not supported by the SGI-USA senior leadership, it will not be promoted, planned or implemented by them and, therefore, it is doomed to failure. And, as all of my numerous suggestions over the last 7 years have been thwarted or ignored, I herein relinquish my vow to "be an effective force in the growth and development of the SGI-USA." However, my vow to 'Work for Kosen-Rufu from now until I die and for all future lifetimes until it is attained" shall always remain in force.
While my faith in the Mystic Law, the Gohonzon and Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism remains steadfast, I regret that my faith in the SGI-USA organization has been waning.
I will most likely never hold a position of leadership in this organization. I relinquished my leadership position of Group Chief after Vice President Kitano broke a promise in which he agreed to answer all of my questions if I would meet with him at the WCC. He left town without even phoning to say he couldn't meet with me. I thought, if this is the way that leaders in this SGI-USA organization treat the members, by breaking their promises, I do not want to be one of those leaders."
However, I shall remain on the sidelines watching, ready to speak out whenever a leader's actions contradict their words or when this organization does a disservice or injustice to the members, ever diligent in President lkeda's guidance (ST, March 1990, P.99):
"I hope that you learn the correct way to practice Buddhism; so that in the event a leader goes against reason, you will be able to clearly point out the error and identify the correct standard to follow."
This issue has made me painfully aware of my own personal immutable Karma which has caused me to embark upon my deepest Human Revolution in my short 11 year membership. I intend to become victorious and win over the fundamental darkness within me.
President Ikeda said:
"It is important for leaders to be fair and impartial and to hear out opinions that differ from their own. Having the broad-mindedness to consider others' views will win you the respect of your juniors. If you have humility to treasure members who offer good suggestions, you will be able to raise capable people. By giving sincere consideration to diverse opinions, you can develop a broad, flexible outlook and make stable progress."
I truly look forward to the day when we will all take this guidance to heart and practice it in our daily lives.
All identities herein have been kept anonymous as it is not my intent to slander, offend or embarrass anyone. You may dispense copies of this letter to other members of the Central Executive Committee.
I am amenable to dialogue. I still have three other issues of concern relative to the direction in which our organization is headed. I am amenable to dialogue. I can best be reached by phone, Monday through Thursday from 7AM to 11:30 AM. I am available to come to the WCC for face to face dialogue on Fridays from 9am to 1 pm and all day Saturday and Sunday.
I would be most appreciative if just one of you would phone me to answer the one question which has me perplexed; "Why does an organization which professes to be disciples of Nichiren Daishonin refuse to demonstrate it's gratitude and appreciation to him?" I have tried to write this letter with President lkeda's spirit, based on his guidance:
I wish to make it clear that in order to secure eternal freedom and happiness, you must absolutely not be cowardly especially in faith. One who has the courage to speak the truth lives a truly splendid and fulfilling life. In any sphere of society, if one loses this courage and becomes obsequious, one will be unable to resist exploitation by corrupt authorities." (ST, March, 1990, p.88)"
Fact, there are many many birthday and milestone celebrations for Ikeda in the SGI but the patriarch Nichiren's birthday and the important events in his life are nearly universally forgotten. We celebrate Nichiren Daishonin's birthday [February 16th 1222] and day of passing [October, 13, 1282] by treating ourselves and others to the boundless benefits of the Law. Our gift to Sensei Nichiren is keeping his teachings pure and maintaining absolute equality among ourselves, his disciples.