I got into an exchange with Major Tim a few months ago when I responded to his YouTube video called 'Is SGI a cult?' by posting my short piece on why SGI is a cult accord to Steven Hassan's criteria. This is it:
'Major Tim: I have been in the SGI for over 40 years and from what you write about it, it's seems like you've not really been to an SGI meeting lately.
'IG: Au contraire, mon ami, au contraire! I was in it for almost 38 years and left just under a year ago. When I began (in 1979) there was frequent reference to the Gohonzon and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. When I was sent the prep materials (17 pages' worth) last August in order to prepare a lecture, one of them (either Gohonzon or NMRK) was mentioned only once and the other, twice. On the other hand, there were dozens of mentions of Ikeda and SGI. This is a technique known as meta communication and, in this case, is designed to make SGI members feel more of an affiliation with Ikeda and the SGI than Nichirenism. 'Losing one's religion' is no joke and I tried very hard not to be in that position but, in the end, reality prevailed: the SGI is an empty and worthless cult which actually brings harm to people all over the globe. Once you see it for what it is, you can't unsee it.'
I also got into another exchange with someone who supported Major Tim and this is what I said in response to their very unconvincing attempt to refute me:
'IG: Thanks for replying. I'm too busy to read your reply at the moment but will do so when time permits. I have copied and pasted it and saved it as a new document.
'IG: I have now read your post. What you have done, systematically, is reinterpret everything I said in my post in order for it to conform with the accepted SGI stance on all the points. I would expect nothing less from a fully-fledged member of the Ikeda cult. Nevertheless, it is dispiriting.
'ONE: My assertion that there is a coded message in SGI guidance is not invalidated by the fact that no mention is made to faith, Gohonzon or the SGI in the piece I cited. That is a total irrelevance. What you are overlooking is the context in which this guidance was given and that is, of course, SGI. SGI wants other members to be your principal friends, for SGI to assume a primary role in your life such that it eclipses the importance of all else, and messages to this effect are reinforced by repeated use of the sort of language I allude to within the SGI milieu time and time again.
'Shortly before I left, I analysed some study preparation material to establish some facts about the role of meta communication within SGI’s publications. The results were shocking: literally dozens of mentions of Ikeda, SGI and Soka Gakkai, but only two mentions of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which is purportedly the basis of Nichiren Buddhism, and even more shockingly, only ONE mention of Gohonzon. This is not representative of the religion I pledged myself to in my Gojukai ceremony on February 2nd 1980. Having been in the organization for as long as I was, I have the advantage of having an overview of how changes (some of them not so subtle) have been introduced into SGI’s materials, gradually making it more and more a cult centred round Ikeda rather than a movement based on the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin.
'TWO: SGI wishes to colonise every area of your life including, and possibly most of all, your brain. Perhaps things have changed in the last year or so, but I used to be on the receiving end of a seemingly endless stream of SGI newsletters into my inbox (until I put a stop to it). They were pages long and very frequent, and the combination of their length and frequency was tantamount to information overload. I cited the reference to the speech from which I was quoting so you are at liberty to seek it out (it was a World Tribune from 2004). When I left SGI last year I filled my recycling bin twice over with SGI magazines and books. I have a few SGI-related documents electronically but there is almost no physical sign in my house that I ever had anything to do with the SGI and that’s how I like it.
'Anyone who isn’t an idiot could see for themselves that Ikeda is talking about ‘victories’ in people’s lives and I am not disputing the fact that that is what he is saying. My point is that this accent on ‘winning’ is non-Buddhist. Further, I did not claim that the Shakymuni quotation I used was from the Lotus Sutra but from the Dhammapada. I am within my rights to draw from wider sources, should I wish to do so. I would also point out that, whilst the Lotus Sutra is held by many to be the first historical Buddha’s highest teaching, this is not a universally held belief and debate on this matter continues to this day.
'THREE: I find what you say here very telling: ‘When I became an SGI member, I started experiencing what is called "religious OCD" or "scrupulosity OCD” – and I did become very afraid of saying/thinking/doing anything that didn't go along with exactly SGI said. HOWEVER, this was because of my OCD, NOT because of something I was told.’ I beg to differ: SGI was having exactly the effect on you that it sought. It’s good that you no longer suffer from OCD but the way you have written to me in this post suggests a desperation to stick to the SGI party line in all matters. This is precisely what SGI wants of its members.
'FOUR: No, not an incorrect interpretation: MY interpretation, to which I am entitled. I do not accept that Ikeda ‘knows how to interpret the teachings’ in a way that can be regarded as any more valid than anyone else’s. He is a self-proclaimed ‘authority’ on Nichirenism, not an internationally accepted authority on Nichirenism, however much he may have wished to be regarded as one. You’re right about one thing: the poem I quoted was indeed made up, but not by me. The person responsible would either be Ikeda or one of his many ghost writers and was discussed in an SGI meeting I attended several years before I left the organisation. Boy, do I not miss meetings like that!
'Throughout your post, you address me as if I were someone looking in on something of which I have no first-hand experience. The truth is that I was in the SGI for almost 38 years. It took me that long to see that it was a cult. Contrary to what you suggest, I am taking responsibility for my life – more than ever now that I am no longer in the grips of SGI. And yes, there is some anger in me but there’s nothing wrong with that: it’s one of the Ten Worlds, after all. When I was in SGI, we were always told that to use anger as an impetus to work for justice was ‘a good thing’ and I agree with that. My principal motivation in writing posts that are antithetical to SGI is that it breaks my heart to see how manipulated people still are by the SGI. I will keep on writing them for as long as I still feel such an impulse compelling me to do so.'
Finally, someone called number nine turned up to look at Major Tim's video and had this to say to me:
'Number nine: IG: Thanks for your posts. I recently stumbled upon SGI via a you tube video and I was searching for an opposing view, like yours. I am not surprised to find out that it is yet another cult You are indeed making the world a better place by saving others from the pain you experienced in SGI. Thanks again.
'IG: Thanks for your response, number nine. I have taken a lot of flak for calling the SGI a cult - even amongst those who themselves used to be part of it but no longer are. However, I'm not frightened to call something out for what it is and if I can prevent even one person from going down the rocky road that I was on for almost 38 years, then the effort has been worth it. I also write extensively about SGI in Italian and a post I did in the form of a testimonial ratcheted up more than 33,000 views. So glad you did your research before it was too late!'