I took the study exam in April. As I mentioned, I didn’t study. I did print out the study guide and look at the table of contents, but never got around to reading any of it. The exam was laughably simple. The same points as always. If you have been in SGI for a few years, you should be able to pass the test. The only questions that I had to figure out were the 3 or 4 in the last section – the why we hate the priesthood section. I had to channel Daisaku Ikeda to answer them. But, again, I’ve heard it all for over 20 years. The fun part of the exam was the leaders who kept hinting that we would cheat. I actually couldn’t help but laugh. One kept moving people around so there were different languages at each table. We were cautioned not to talk or help each other. The woman next to me is over 80 years old. She didn’t understand how the test works. I showed her where to fill in her answers. I filled in the little bubbles under her name on the form for her. She was confused by the front and back printing and got lost, so I helped her get to the correct page to continue the test.  I found the entire process very amusing.

The last section of the test is always the same “Why We Hate the Priesthood.” The actual name is different, but this is the point of it. For an organization that talks of world peace so often, how can we still hate the priesthood? When will it be time to let this go? How can we be happy while continuing to hate the priesthood? No one gets any new information from the priesthood, they just rehash the same old points from 20 years ago. And those points are now infamous and not exactly correct. I wonder what new members think of this having no first hand knowledge?

I appreciate the comments left for my last entry. I enjoy the diversity of opinions we get on Fraughtwithperil. I have been doing better lately. I seem to be emerging from a fog. I received a new translation of the Lotus Sutra for Christmas. The plan is to start reading it.

Last fall after the death of our dog, we adopted a stray/rescued puppy. She was about 7 months old then and is a year old now. When she joined the family, I realized she needed activity so I began to walk with her every day. The weather here in central California has been colder and wetter than normal, but last month I noticed it was spring. One day the birds were back. As we walked on the street behind our house, there was chirping, tweeting, cooing and flapping all around. Large flocks of birds would swoop from rooftop to tree, from side to side. The sun was out, the temperature warm. The last few weeks have been overcast, cold and wet, so we have not been out as much. This morning I noticed a pair of doves on a roof ridge. The male was cooing and bowing behind the female. He  would coo, bow and jump toward her. This went on a few times, but when he got too close, she few away into a tree across the street. Yesterday, I sat on my bed and watched a robin hop around under the lemon tree. After a few minutes, I realized I don’t do this much. I was mesmerized by the bird. Not thinking of anything, just peacefully watching. How Buddhist of me!

It continues to be a confusing time for me. I am studying more. Joined a study group on The Opening of the Eyes. It is intense study and I enjoy it, but every time I leave I feel like I don’t know anything about Buddhism. Have you ever felt that way? As you learn more about a subject, you realize how little you know? And no, this is not an SGI study. I was relieved to find out that I passed the entry exam from SGI. Now in a week or so I’m taking the next one. I haven’t even looked at the study guide or attended the study meetings. Maybe I’m cocky or maybe I’m over confident, but this can’t be that difficult. Now that I think of it, I should at least find out what’s going to be on it.

Then I have to deal with the “leaders” who spout crazy stuff as if it were doctrine. After the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, I attended a district meeting. A leader went on and on about how none of the community centers were damaged and they opened them up to the members – and even to the public. “Even to the public”? We talk endlessly about “Kosen Rufu”, which we Americans translate as World Peace, then we are so proud of ourselves when we open our centers to non-members. And the best comment was that after this disaster we are closer to Kosen Rufu than ever. When I take my daughter to school, I pass a church that has a “Welcome” sandwich board in from of an open door – every day. That church is open to anyone who feels the draw to come in. I have never seen that from SGI. We tend to keep people out. We are secretive. How can we be taken seriously when we hide away? And now… we are going back to membership cards. Can you believe that? I will again be a card carrying Buddhist.

My disillusionment with SGI has come from a complete lack of care in my area. No one seems to care. Lots of talk of member care, no action. We have a new men’s division chapter leader in my chapter. I really like the guy. He will wake up these sleepy members. He may even wake me up! We are going to his house today. This will be the first time the leaders of the chapter have gotten together in months. I started a monthly leaders meeting, but it didn’t last. I can’t say for sure, but I have long suspected that the ladies of this chapter are sexist. So having a male chapter leader should help.

Over and over I ponder the question many of you ask of me, why do I stay in SGI. It has gotten worse as we get more Ikeda-centric. Members will quote Nichiren or the Lotus Sutra and preface it with “Pres. Ikeda said…”  But where do I go? I am not forever self sufficient. We all need help some times and no one in my circle of SGI seems to have any idea that I am adrift. It is so strange to say this to the world, but not to anyone personally. I can never say to anyone in SGI that I’m struggling. I’ll get quotes from Pres. Ikeda which will push me father away. SGI has gotten so far away from Buddhism while preaching that we are the only ones following Nichren – we are the correct ones. What a load of…

What is the point of this – probably just to vent (as usual) but I see a little light ahead. I am looking forward to today’s gathering because I think it will be the start of some more positive times.

I have a question for you – I need some new traveling beads. I want them to be fun – colorful, no pom-poms, anything to make them unusual. Any ideas?

The Middle Way

4 comments

A few months ago, I watched a documentary called “Buddha.” It was about the life of Shakyamuni. I got in a bit late, but we know that he was born a prince. He lived a very opulent life. As a young man, he abdicated his princeness and started a search for the answer to why humans suffer in this world. He spend several (6 I think) years practicing under yogis. He found that this practice could work for some, but not all people. Then he and some followers tried to find enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods. They lived on 1 grain of rice per day. After a few years of this, he almost starved to death and realized this practice was not the answer, either. Now he had lived a very opulent life, had pushed his body and mind and almost starved to death. All three were lives lived in excess. He then sat in meditation until he understood the answer to his question. He discovered The Middle Way. The road to happiness is a life of moderation, not excess. A life of excess leads to the 3 poison, greed, anger and foolishness.

A few days later, I read an article in a magazine titled, “The Zero-Waste Home.” It is about a family that attempts to generate no garbage. A noble idea. As I read about the family, each idea was thought provoking. The family uses no cotton balls, tissue or paper towels and mix their own cleaning solutions. They refill their wine bottles at a local winery. They bring their own containers to the grocery store. The kids get a couple of plastic bins for their toys. All books come from the library. Then as I continue to read it starts to get excessive. They can only buy clothes from the second hand store and each family member has a limited amount of shirts and pants. They order compostable toothbrushes There is no art in the house. Every surface in the house is sterile, white and void of any personality.

As I read, the story of Buddha runs through my mind. This lifestyle is not the middle way. We have all seen it before. What starts out as an idea, turns into a hobby and then an obsession or even religion. Why can’t they have art? The mother says photos get stale when displayed for too long. So why not rotate the photos? And the photos of the family show two sons wearing huge shirts. If you have to buy used clothes, can’t they at least fit? Well, they only shop for clothes twice a year. They can only buy from the bulk bins and produce has to come from the farmers market because they don’t use produce stickers. This lifestyle has completely consumed the parents.

This experience has lead me to think about my own life choices. Now I challenge you to shine a light on your choices. Are you obsessed?