“The raison d’etre of the world of faith is to help people become happy. In essence, ours is a gathering of supreme freedom and joy. No one has the right to reprimand and cause suffering for others, nor is anyone obliged to let him- or herself be reproved and made to feel bad…There are many differences , for instance, between the cultures, climates, and social systems of Japan and the United States. Therefore, it is only natural that there might be differences in how kosen-rufu is advanced in the two countries.”
Daisaku Ikeda, My Dear Friends In America, page 8.
The first fourteen pages of this book, and page 190, could be the best leadership manual I’ve seen to date. In fact one could build an entire practice on those pages. I want to share what has been sitting on my altar for two years from Daisaku Ikeda:
“We are now in the process of creating an unshakable foundation meant to last for 10,000 years. For that reason, we must not be impatient, nor is there any need to try to look impressive. It is important that, person by person, we increase the size and scope of our movement by developing friendships based on humanism. Making true, genuine friends and creating a core of capable individuals is crucial. No great development can be accomplished without painstaking effort.”
I am, of course, lampooning the organization which brought this amazing Buddhism into my life. That being said, and thanks to Byrd who coined the phrase, I bring you…
This is the harrowing story of Aeon Klutz. A young girl, played by Oscar winner Charlize Theron, practicing Buddhism under an unscrupulous and abusive leader, played by Oscar nominee Gary Busey, who is not so much acting but just being himself. Aeon escapes but must wander in the North Country until she meets her mentor played by Oscar winner Sally Field: “Norma Rae…that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long, long time.” Norma instructs Aeon in the ways of her previous mentors, Makiguchi, Toda, Ikeda, and the master of them all Nichiren. All portrayed brilliantly by Oscar winner Linda Hunt: “I find the challenge of playing four different men challengingly different. Instead of one Filipino man, these are four men, Japanese, you see? You see ‘Filipino’ begins with an ‘F’ and not a ‘Ph’ as in ‘The Philippines’. You see?” Aeon and Norma, together with their band of disciples, Sofia Gakkai, Inagaddadavidadevadatta, Don the Medicine King, Byakuren the Flight Attendant, and Evil “Friend” Knievel (in his last appearance jumping the drunken elephants), these Magnificent Seven help each other and the Village People they vowed to protect, regain what they thought was lost forever: conformity! And when they kick ass it’s by the book! After the smoke clears, and the dust settles, and the earth turns, and the sun comes up, and the cock crows, and the cows come home, and Tupac’s last album is released, and Elvis has left the building, sameness is restored in a miraculous transformation; everyone becomes Linda Hunt (as portrayed by Oscar winner Linda Hunt.)
What the critics are saying:
“Rapturous! Leaves everything else behind.”
Kirk Cameron
“Free Thinkers? Not for me. From now on, I’m charging for it!”
Susan Jacoby
“I found it’s ‘in your face’ approach refreshing.”
Richard Dawkins
“I read the book. I couldn’t put it down. Of course, I couldn’t pick it up either.”
Steven Hawking
“Finally something I can believe in!”
Sam Harris
“Let it be a warning for gays, lesbians, those bad people with aids, those bad people from Louisiana, feminists…oh wait, I already said lesbians… Hugo Chavez and anyone else trying to destroy the fabric of God’s America. And by God’s America, I mean My America.”
Pat Robertson

Regarding the SGI-USA Leadership Manual and the SGI-USA Code of Conduct for Leaders Signature Form
First let me also say that the Leadership Manual is much needed and overdue. The criteria for being a leader in the past may at times have been not so much about life experience, but rather availability. I learned for myself, usually by trial and error, some of the issues that have been addressed for the sake of the harmony of the SGI membership. The three that seem to garner the most attention are money, business dealings, and interpersonal relationships. I learned all too soon in life that if you really don’t want to see an individual ever again, loan them money. You’ll never see that person again unless it wasn’t enough money. Or if you’re in an interpersonal relationship that isn’t complicated enough, sleep with them. That will do it nicely. And it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance. Having an all too convenient gathering of individuals can be too tempting for some not to sell their snake oil. But we gather to attain our absolute happiness through Buddhism, not Amway. Kudos to those who diligently struggled to put this manual together in what must have seemed at times as futile as Sisyphus pushing his stone for eternity. Regardless of the flaws it may contain, I am ready to roll up my sleeves, or pant legs depending on how you regard it, and tackle this manual and implement it’s suggestions to the best of my ability.
Unlike the United States and it’s constitution in which the elected president takes their oath to preserve, protect and defend it to the best of their ability, this is an organization based on faith, which exists to propagate faith, and it seems ineffectual if not futile to try and create a duality between leadership or organizational matters and the faith it fosters.
As well intended as it may be, I have serious reservations about the mandatory signature form. I don’t need to tell you what it is as you wrote it. But it helps me to walk down a path and talk. I realize that formalizing a code was much needed due to the irresponsible and detrimental behavior of some. In conjunction with the signature form, it will certainly put parameters around any behavior. The signature form is a vow or an oath, written in the form of a closed ended contract, and has been required to be signed by all who wish to remain or qualify for positions of responsibility in the SGI-USA. It states that, “I agree…” that’s the contract part; “to dedicate myself…” that’s the vow part. On the bottom is a reiteration of the introduction which states, “Not signing, therefore not accepting the Code of Conduct for Leaders, disqualifies one from leadership in the SGI-USA,” that’s the closed ended part. This implies that one doesn’t accept the code of conduct if one doesn’t sign the form. The question that immediately poses itself is in what way does not signing imply this? Simply stated; says who? The only justification for assuming that individuals not signing the form equals not accepting the code is the sentence that states so. I understand that you want some formal acknowledgement of the code. But the signature form and code of conduct combined together constitutes so much more that it becomes detrimental to this purpose. I’ll stick my neck out for you to chop my head off and make my own assumption to say that the individuals who already have the qualities this document is trying to insure will be the ones most reticent to signing.
The signature form is not an avenue for leadership to transcend differences and unite to a common goal. Rather it’s a mandate that dictates that they relinquish them. It’s demands them to obey. It allows for no recourse other than compliance. It requires them to think as directed, as stated in the code. I understand that the code is not an attempt to find reasons to remove people from leadership, but a statement of commitment to very fundamental standards for exercising that responsibility. “Independent thinking or action” that contradicts those essentials would, by definition, disqualify one from leadership. But with the signature form there is no latitude for those seeking more effective ways of supporting kosen-rufu. It turns the abidements into commandments, all ten of them.
A year or so ago Mr. Greg Martin presented a video which at the end had a clip from the movie Spartacus. In it the captured men all rose and declared that they were Spartacus. It was a good metaphor on many levels. There is a metaphor in a more recent movie, No Country For Old Men, which directly correlates to the signature form. A killer flips a coin and tells his victim, a woman, to call it heads or tales. If she gets it right she lives. If wrong, she dies. The victim says that isn’t a choice. It was the illusion of choice. She refused to choose even if she died because she refused to give that power over to her killer. She was murdered and was a victim in that sense. But she wasn’t a victim of a meaningless choice that she was coerced to make. The leadership in the SGI-USA is being given an illusion of choice in this signature form. The illusion that this choice they are being forced to make is putting their fate in their own hands. This isn’t a choice either. The ironical situation I find myself in is that I am arguing over a position of responsibility that I was cajoled into volunteering for. The metaphor for this would have to be Tom Sawyer; what’s it going to cost me before you let me paint your fence?
It occurred to me that as an educator Mr. Makiguchi fought most of his adult life against the bureaucratic hobbling of the individual that funnels them into a position of calculated obedience. I am but one person trying to make a difference. Likewise, I find it difficult to drink water from this well.
The Code of Conduct, on the other hand, is open ended. It contains many good and commonsensical ideas. These ideas should be considered guidelines of wisdom. With the signature form, however, they have turned into The Ten Commandments. Some activities that I must sign and agreed to dedicate myself to have qualities attached to them like being proud and resolute. The Code of Conduct also contains ambiguities. For example:
“Abide by the guidance and activity guidelines of the SGI and participate in and promote the kosen-rufu activities of the SGI, including, but not limited to, propagation, publications and contributions.” Because of the ambiguous way this is worded, I may already be in violation of this contract as written, breaking the vow, because there is no room for independent thinking or action. Also “not limited to,” implies there are things not listed that I could be in violation or of not fulfilling.
The last four commandments have asterisks and an additional six pages of explanation that also contain the nebulous phrasing “Abide by …but not limited to,” The listed behavior for disrupting “the harmonious unity of the SGI,” the one that “disturbs the faith and practice of its members” reads like a drunken collage frat party. The “not limited to,” could be this question, which arises from what I must abide by: define faith and how I can be the judge of someone’s so as to enable me to not disturb it.
“Assigned organizational responsibility…organizational matters…organizational units…organizational leaders.” How Orwellian!
[I got a response from someone I had shown my original draft. They said of course that language is this way because this is about about organizational issues and not faith. I queried back with 'In an organization based on faith, who's leadership is to foster that same faith, how is it possible to separate that faith from the organizational issues?"]
Letter to the Leadership Manual Committee
I notice that the leadership manual doesn’t state specifically that the leaders must refer to Mr. Ikeda as the mentor of the SGI-USA membership as in “our mentor”. At a recent Soka Spirit/Study Meeting, “Name Deleted” demonstrated exactly how we are suppose to think and act, just as it is written in the Code Of Conduct for Leaders. “Name Deleted” announced resolutely, with pride, and unequivocally that Daisaku Ikeda is everyone’s mentor for this time period. I assume this means everyone in the SGI. But since I’m not a sage who can judge time like Nichiren and “Name Deleted”, it very well could mean everyone everywhere. This certainly saves a lot of people from having to make that discovery for themselves with a lot of time consuming thinking. This should to be in writing! There should be no question as to who our mentor is! The leadership, if they wish to continue to be so, must be made to sign off on this and that they are to refer to him as such! The new members coming in should also sign an acknowledgement/agreement of this before they are allowed to receive a Gohonzon. Otherwise people who don’t think like us could get one.
Please take this into consideration.
Thank you for your time, of which I am no judge.
Steven Colbert
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