Authority without accountability. Soka Gakkai claims to have absolute authority with regard to Nichiren Buddhism; Nichiren Buddhism can only be correctly practiced if one is a member of SGI. Daisaku Ikeda is promoted by SGI to be the foremost authority on Nichiren Buddhism for the modern age. But SGI provides no accountability — members have no control over their leaders and have no mechanism by which to affect the policies and procedures of their organization.
No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry. There are no opportunities to publicly question or critique the teachings of SGI in organizational publications. Critiquing SGI at small discussion meetings may be tolerated to a degree, but this behavior is called “negativity” and is discouraged.
No meaningful financial disclosure and no independently audited financial statement. Media reports and property tax records confirm that Soka Gakkai is a multi-billion dollar religious corporation. SGI refuses to disclose its finances even to members and donors who request this information. SGI has publicly maligned members who have pressed for financial disclosure.
Unreasonable fear about evil conspiracies and persecutions. Ikeda and his followers have denounced as “evil” a rival group called Nichiren Shoshu, and urged SGI members to fight this so-called devilish influence. SGI has sponsored prayer vigils focused on the destruction of Nichiren Shoshu and the demise of its leader, Nikken. SGI has also assigned at least one paid staff member to follow and spy on Nichiren Shoshu priests. Why? SGI claims that Nichiren Shoshu is out to destroy SGI.
The belief that former members are always wrong in leaving SGI. Former members often relate similar stories of being pressured to embrace certain beliefs, to say only positive things about SGI and to participate in fund raising, recruitment and public relations campaigns. Former members have a similar grievances regarding SGI: too much emphasis on the “evil” of Nichiren Shoshu, too much adulation of Daisaku Ikeda and too little emphasis on the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism. SGI leaders tell members that former members are deluded, cannot be trusted and should be avoided.
Dependence upon SGI guidance and activities for problem solving, solutions, and definitions without meaningful reflective thought. When SGI members are confronted with a problem, they are urged to seek “guidance” from local SGI leaders or to read guidance from Ikeda. Members are urged to recruit more members and participate in more SGI activities in order to have a “breakthrough” and solve their problems. If the problem is resolved, leaders are quick to claim that participation in SGI activities provides mystical benefits. If the problem is not resolved the member is often advised to make a greater commitment to SGI and “connect” with Ikeda’s heart.
Anything that SGI does can be justified, no matter how questionable or harmful. SGI members are good at making excuses for the shortcomings of their organization. “We’re still in our infancy — we’ve only been in America for a little over 30 years — mistakes are to be expected,” they say. “We are only human. Of course we make mistakes.” “We are fulfilling an important mission, so even if people are hurt by our activities, it will all work out for the best in the end.” “If people are hurt by our organization it is due to their karma, not ours.” “People are afraid of SGI not because we are deceptive and manipulative, but because we represent a real challenge to the status quo. People can’t handle the truth and justice we represent.” The list of excuses for bad behavior goes on and on.
SGI members are afraid. SGI members have been indoctrinated with a litany of fears: fear of visiting temples or investigating other forms of Buddhism, fear of not chanting enough or skipping gongyo, fear of contradicting the SGI, fear of listening to or entertaining criticism of the SGI, fear of chanting to the “wrong” Gohonzon, fear of leaving the SGI. SGI members fear that these things will invite severe “mystical” punishment such as financial hardship, illness, family strife, loss of a romantic relationship, getting fired from a job or a horrible, agonizing death.