I was a member of SGI-USA for 25 years and for 20 of those 25 years I was very Gakkai. All I wanted was to be close to my master President Ikeda and attain enlightenment. Of course in the Gakkai the only way to accomplish this is to follow without question the guidance of your leaders starting with your immediate leader. I did my best to follow the direction I was given. I gave my heart, our money and all my time but it was never enough. I was never quite good enough even though I put the Gakkai first and my husband and family second. How much more could I give.
I was a Chapter Women Division Chief and Headquarters, Territory, and Joint Territory Publications Cho. I was always in charge of the Territory Art Committee, & always a key person for the Jt. Terr. Art Committee. I did the Chapter banking and the HQ publications banking. I was usually in charge of the "People Movers" for all the movements: Conventions, Training Meetings, Guidance Meetings, Lectures, etc. I was in the 1972 WD Brass Band and I was a Bulgarian Dancer for Conventions. There were various other responsibilities associated with being a Chapter leader also, not to mention meetings 6 days a week and sometimes 2 or 3 meetings a day. And the G.A.C. (Gohonzon Acceptance Ceremony) campaigns were an absolute frenzy.
The reason I mention all this is to make clear my devotion faith and trust in the Gakkai all those years and to emphasis the point that I did not leave the Gakkai on a whim nor did I take it lightly. I thought I was on the fast road to enlightenment.
However, even though I thirsted for Buddhism there was never any sense that I was truly connected to the Buddha. My feeling toward Nichiren was of reverence but also unapproachability bordering on fear. It was a strange attitude that I believe is attributable to the general attitude of leaders toward members in the Gakkai. But of course I was trained well to suppress doubts. To have doubt was to have weak faith. Slowly a distance developed between me and the Gakkai and I became less and less able to accept the status quo. I was after all miserable. My husband and I were separated far 7 months because the Gakkai movement had caused such a strain on our marriage. You can imagine my despair when I realized I was not practicing real Buddhism but participating in an endless stream of organizational goals in order to support the Soka Gakkai or Value Creation Society. We believed we were achieving 'Kosen-Rufu", and guaranteed Buddhahood..
I think its important to focus on the name Soka Gakkai or Value Creation Society for a moment. It is my experience that the greatest emphasis was placed on 'material benefit" they may say otherwise but it was always the "bottom Line" that was supreme. After all we did create value, far things, for prestige, for money for results!!! The irony is that none of these things are permanent. Attachment to things does not lead to enlightenment and enlightenment is the purpose of Buddhism. So what were we doing? The vast majority of people we dragged to receive the Gakkai Gohonzon are no longer there and probably have a very bad impression of Buddhism.
It took some real self induced deprogramming and recovery to realize that there was no reason for guilt because of my withdrawal from activities. I anguished for 5 years with guilt over letting down the Gakkai and ruining my changes for Buddhahood.
Reason won out over my anguish.
1. The Lotus Sutra is the teaching that leads to Buddhahood and should not be considered "dead in Mappo". "The nation of Japan today has turned its back on the Lotus Sutra and cast aside Shakyamuni Buddha." (MW vol 6, Letter to Ichinosana Nyudo, pg 99)
2. Shakyamuni is the Eternal Buddha as revealed in the 16th chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren always Shakaymuni as the Eternal "Shakyamuni is the father, sovereign and teacher of all other Buddhas and all gods, of the whole assembly of men and heavenly beings and of all sentient beings". (MW vol 1, Letter to Nikke, pg 257)
3. Nichiren is Bodhisattva Jogyo "I Nichiren received the Buddha's Edict and was born in this land..."
4. Nichiren chanted "Namu Myoho Renge Kyo" not Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
Of course there are many more instances of gross distortions that I won't go into. This passage from the MW vol 7, pg 154, reminds me of them:
"And so, when I, neither hesitating to speak out nor fearing others, tell them frankly that they are stupid persons who have misunderstood the true meaning of the Buddhist teachings, and that they are slanderers of the Law; when I deliver a sharp rebuke to them, mindful of the Buddha's golden words "then that monk is betraying Buddhism" and trusting in the passage of scripture that reads, 'We will be envoys of the World-Honored One, facing the assembly without fear"; when I do this, censuring those who "suppose they have attained what they have not attained, being proud and boastful in heart." Then how can they fail to turn upon me with hatred and jealously?"
We started chanting "Namu Myo Renge Kyo" in February this year and received our Gohonzon on April 25".
Now all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together and making sense. I feel a much deeper understanding and joy in Buddhism. I love Shakyamuni Buddha and I am astounded by Nichirens'' compassion. I am so proud to be a member of the samgha, a word I never heard before coming to Nichiren Lotus Sutra Buddhism Ironically, the merits I strove for in the Gakkai are now coming true. When we think of our many friends in the Gakkai that are suffering and confused, we can't help but share this teaching with them. My husband and I are looking forward to going to Japan and visiting many of the places associated with Nichiren Daishonin such as Minobu, Tatsunokuchi, and Sado Island. I hope that many other American believers will also be able to go, if not now, someday.
I am so happy to finally live the words "Rely an the Law and not on persons" and truly be assured of enlightenment.