Sign this paper!, recite this pledge!, do the ceremonial handshake!, flash your gang hand sign! Human beings are tribal to their core. Always have been, I suspect we always will be.
Some things are coming to a head as it were, in SGI-USA. First was the Mentor Disciple relationship. Well, it wasn’t really the thing itself, rather it is the suddenly increased, nearly frantic usage of it. Now it’s everywhere and while official publications and video productions avoid telling us that Daisaku Ikeda is OUR personal mentor, no one is stopping the culties from doing so at meetings both large and small.
This and another issue are subtle to be sure. As I’ve stated before Mentor and Disciple is a viable concept, and something that needs to be reflected on in each of our lives. Are we truly seeking out the teachings of Buddhism or are we “making up our own stuff”? M/D is at the very heart of Buddhism as Greg Martin states, but really M/D is at the heart of every religion equally. In it’s simplest form M/D has to do with our own willingness to learn from another person.
Being dictated just who that Mentor is on an organizational level is another thing altogether. Subtly different, it is in fact worlds apart. When we are told who our Mentor is and to whom we have that relationship, we have clearly taken a big step down the road to true cultdom. The Mentor and Disciple relationship is becoming a vow of obedience, and a pledge of ultimate conformity. Conformity is something that the Japanese culture revolves around at it’s deepest core, but not so with our American culture.
Regardless of what our critics say about SGI being a cult, currently we are not identified as a cult in the public eye. Unfortunately so much of what is happening right now may change that for the future. Once we are perceived in the same ranks as Scientology and the Moonies, we will be unable to change that perception – ever.
This Code of Conduct is another frightening thing for me. Code of Conduct is a long time coming in SGI and I applauded it along with the New Leaders Handbook. SGI addressed issues that have long been ignored. The code of conduct signature form bothered me at first, but I wasn’t sure just why. The Code itself basically says that leaders can’t be assholes in the name of Buddhism and SGI. Who but an asshole would disagree with that?
Yet that one sentence – that one brief little sentence, again as subtle as it is, changes everything. It makes the Code of Conduct “something else”. On page 45 at the bottom of the third and final paragraph;
“Not signing, therefore not accepting the Code of Conduct for Leaders, disqualifies one from leadership in the SGI-USA”.
Not signing, therefore not accepting… You’re either with us or against us…
Only the Sith think in absolutes…
Who wrote this? What jackass decided it was necessary or even acceptable to put in this particular sentence? Was it discussed with the SGI-USA legal staff? As I fear, much of these decisions are being made by rank amateurs and those without real world experience in such matters. Even a greater fear is that many of these new policies are being invented by those truly possessing a cult mentality. SGI is still recovering from the 90’s, if you haven’t noticed, and there aren’t lines full of those waiting to take on leadership positions.
I had a long and profitable career in the Corporate world. Being in corporate, as it were, there were many things I had to sign. Confidentiality agreements became common place in the 90’s. They not only said I couldn’t disclose company technology but also routinely stated that if I invented something really cool while I worked there, the company owned it. These weren’t much of an issue really, we all knew that if in fact we came upon some new technological breakthrough, we’d quit first, invent second. There were lots of ways around those sorts of thing.
Also routine were forms stating that we’d received such and such form, read it and understood it. These almost always had to do with legal issues such as sexual harassment, racial discrimination and drug use. These also were no real problem. I had read it, I did understand it. More importantly we signed these things for the simple reason that we wanted to keep our high-paying, well benefited jobs, and there were plenty of people out there who WOULD sign them in order to have those jobs.
No form I ever signed ever said however “by signing you agree you will not shoot meth during working hours. NOT signing it implies that you are shooting meth during working hours”. Or by not signing this form you are admitting you are a racist, sexist bastard intent on destroying the company. There was always a real choice in these matters. The consequences were apparent, none the less there was a choice. “With us or against us” is never a choice.
Wally George was a patriotic American conservative radio and television commentator. He coined the term “Combat TV”. I watched a few episodes back in the 80′s when they aired. In a 1983 show Wally demanded that pacifist Blase Bonpane prove his patriotism on national TV by standing up and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance – right there, right then. Blase refused and ended up overturning Wally’s desk before storming off the show.
This is a major and critical feature of living in the USA, we don’t have to prove our loyalty to anyone, anytime.
The truth is that I personally support and agree with the Code of Conduct and I prove it through my continued appropriate conduct toward my members. I will however elect not to sign a form that is truly no choice as I am a Buddhist and an American.
Faith in the Gohonzon of the Lotus Sutra does not equal loyalty to SGI-USA, and faith in general does not equal obedience. If we forget those simple realities we ALL will cease to be Buddhists, and in truth will become “something else.”