I thought nothing about doing all sorts of non-Buddhist activities as a YMD member and leader. I wanted to attain Buddhahood and I was willing to do whatever my seniors said I needed to do: Stand from 2 - 4 am guarding a metal plaque of Toda in the middle of nowhere; directing traffic in freezing rain for hours even though there were so many signs a blind man could have found the parking lot; guarding a doorway for hours where not one person entered or left; cleaning community center toilets until they shined; endless marching; trying to memorize To My Young American Friends; meetings nearly every night and on the weekends for weeks and months on end; driving a large truck with manual transmission, all over Manhattan even though I had never driven a manual transmission; wearing white T-shirts and white pants and running around union square park every Saturday for nearly a year, sometimes with those white Japanese beanie hats and taking the subway there looking like an idiot; chanting to pictures of Daisaku Ikeda; doing street shakabuku in the worst neighborhoods in the South Bronx and making home visits to tenements; missing work and school for the sake of activities; strained family relations because they wouldn't chant or couldn't see how enlightened I was from doing all these activities or them criticizing Ikeda; trying to sleep in warehouses, either on the floor, a bench, or on a thin mat and with the lights on for many days on end; practically begging people to get the Gohonzon, paying for them to get one, shaming them into getting one, breaking off relationships because they wouldn't get one; giving my last dollar to attend retreats and having to eat spaghetti and butter and canned peas and ketchup for weeks and grubbing cigarettes because I had no money left; severe lack of sleep while doing strenuous labor, marching, and running for days on end.
The problem was, I didn't study the Lotus Sutra and all the writings of Nichiren Daishonin. I followed persons rather than the Law. Nichiren taught that the only requirement for a lay practitioner is to chant Namu Myo ho renge kyo, support the priests who do shakabuku [forceful conversions] and tell other to chant Namu Myoho renge kyo according to one's strength. In other words, a simple straightforward faith and practice. SGI doesn't want you to study in depth because then, you would question almost everything about the Soka Gakkai faith and practice. That is why their study materials always are carefully structured into pre-prep lectures and the like, and they study the same things year after year. One would think that the entirety of Nichiren Daishonin's teachings is found in the Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life and the "oneness of mentor and disciple." Every week for several years we studied this writing in the light of Ikeda's teaching on the oneness of mentor and disciple. They lie that you only need to learn one concept of the Gosho to understand all there is about Buddhism. They take the phrase from the writings, "To practice and ponder one phrase" which refers to Namu Myoho renge kyo and shoehorn it to mean that any phrase Ikeda picks out from the writings is enough to understand the entirety of Buddhism. Suffice it to say I am extremely joyful to have found an authentic sangha in which to practice with other like minded individuals who try and have the same faith and practice as Nichiren Daishonin.