I just came in from my cold windy coastal back yard. Around to the back of my home I planted the giant Japanese Vivax bamboo. The plot where the bamboo is planted is not huge, but nonetheless significant for sitting by, and listening to the wind blow through. Wind blown bamboo, along with my collection of wind chimes, makes for a nice backdrop for study.
I’m studying Living Buddhism, Mar-Apr 2008, section (12), page 64 which is the study for April. It’s amazing to me how dualistic SGI can be at times. As others have noticed our study lectures are really quite high level, especially in contrast to past era’s Gakkai study efforts.
“Earthly desires are enlightenment, and the sufferings of birth and death are Nirvana” is the overriding theme of this section. I’ve been fortunate to have a WD member come into my district that has stepped up to become our study liaison. She presents very mainstream views on the material at district meetings, which leaves me free to present what I want to present. Without her I find myself grudgingly having to represent the party line more than I am comfortable with.
My Gakkai Buddhism is a Buddhism of partial omission. I simply omit cultism when I run head-long into it. In my area there is virtually none of this function, at least in view of my personal sensitivity.
I believe that the Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai is valid, and real. It’s easy to discard something that appears brand new (in the Buddhist-anthropological time line anyway). This is an important point about our Buddhism.
Mahayana, in terms of scholarship and research, did not come into being until long after the death of Shakyamuni Buddha.
This is a hard thing to grasp as Nichiren fully bases his entire life’s work on the Lotus Sutra as the Buddha’s final and ultimate teaching.
The reality remains that Buddhism can certainly not be viewed as being limited only to “the Buddha”. The teachings of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni continued to evolve and develop long after his passing. In fact it continues to develop today. This is perfectly acceptable to myself in light of the vast socio-political changes through centuries of human devolvement. We simply live in a vastly more complex and complicated world today than that of Nichiren, and certainly then that of prehistoric India.
The Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai remains, in my opinion, the newest and most applicable evolution of those teachings for today’s world, at least the omitted Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai.
What I define as the omitted Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai is primarily our tradition of practice. What I omit is the parts I simply don’t understand, which is the emerging dark cultism of M/D and exclusivism.
Enough has been written about the M/D thing, so let me elaborate on my idea of exclusivism. What I mean is our “we are number one!” mentality. Page 65 of the Living Buddhism states “The Soka Gakkai alone has inherited the ultimate law of life and death from Nichiren, correctly upholding and practicing his teaching and spreading it widely throughout the world in accord with his instructions”.
I have my own personal feelings and beliefs regarding this hard-lined stance. First, I know a lot more about other Nichiren sects than the SGI wishes I or any other member did, which makes it difficult to subscribe to such an exclusive belief.
This paragraph is italicized for the simple reason that it contains two key principles;
1) “belief”
2) “exclusive”
Number one addresses how I feel about much of the cultism that is emerging from SGI. It’s one thing to sincerely believe SGI is the one and only Nichiren sect fulfilling Nichiren’s will. As a personal conviction, epiphany or inspiration, this belief creates powerful images and feelings. As a published doctrine, it’s ugly.
Ugly – “Displeasing to the eye; unsightly. Repulsive or offensive; objectionable: an ugly remark”.
This kind of exclusive group doctrine has not played out well for the Jews. I’m at a loss as to why we continue to push this agenda, in public, for all to see. It’s the kind of thinking that is acceptable among the Japanese perhaps, but not throughout the free world.
I object. I will continue to object. My objection has nothing to do with my personal opinion of whether or not this claim is true, rather with the reality that we, as a Buddhist lay organization, shouldn’t be talking like that. For one thing, there is no metric available to prove it, and therefore it remains a belief, not a fact.
Our cult brothers the Scientologists at least have a metric to gauge one’s progress toward “clear”. They have their E-METER used in their practice of auditing, or “clutching the cans” as I have heard it called. We have no “B-METER” or Bodhisattva-of-the-Earth meter or any other method of proving our claims as fact.
I want the SGI to stop talking like we are the Jewish Buddhists. Please.
Number two is that ugly word exclusive;
Exclusive – Excluding or tending to exclude: exclusive barriers. Not allowing something else; incompatible: mutually exclusive conditions.
This is what we are becoming – exclusive. In western thinking exclusive usually denotes something valuable, such as an “exclusive club”. What good is a club that lets just anyone in? As Woody Allen once said, “I would never want to be a member of a club that would have me as a member”. Exclusive can be a powerful marketing tool, but for the Buddhism of ultimate human freedom, it blows.
We’re Buddhists, not the Freemasons. We should be inclusive, at least in some ways, or to some degree. Instead SGI, in my opinion, is becoming exclusive.
I don’t know why these things are happening. Perhaps we are losing members to the temple groups of Nichiren Shoshu. Problem is, the more we behave like we are, the more we will lose. “Anyone can join” you say? True, but if you aren’t with us, you’re against us.
MY Buddhism omits these ugly things, and so I won’t discuss them at the next study meeting – this Saturday.
My Buddhism is what I believe to be the real Buddhism of the Soka Gakkai. It’s the Buddhism of daily practice. It’s the Buddhism of “Earthly desires are enlightenment, and the sufferings of birth and death are Nirvana”. The SGI’s Buddhism is the Buddhism for those who never desired to be Buddhists, rather just wanted to chant to be happy. THAT’S what I mean by inclusive Buddhism. Anyone can chant. Simply stated, this is the Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra appropriate for our current age, an age of global universalism, the Buddhism for one world.
Rev. Greg
P.S. I’m still not signing.