http://nichirenbuddhist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/cult-vs-sgi.html in the comments section of that blog and I re-posted his comments as a blog yesterday. This was the reply I sent to him in response:
Many thanks for responding to my post. I’ll try and respond to your points as
best I can. I’ve had a quick look at your blog to try and familiarize myself
with your beliefs.
I found it a little difficult to search around your
site though and while some people may look forward to all the SGI / IKEDA posts,
I have enjoyed reading the articles I’ve come across that focus specifically on
the LOTUS SUTRA and would genuinely like to know more about the BASICS of Kempon
Hokke, but as the blog seems predominantly anti-SGI, it’s hard to find the
basics of your faith and practice. As a gentle suggestion, it might be an idea
to add labels to your posts, so that people can find SGI, LOTUS or KEMPON posts
Personally, as an enquiring mind, I would much rather have
the facts of your religion and then decide for myself what to believe in rather
than just be continually told why I shouldn’t believe in something else. While
the anti-SGI stuff may attract a lot of support from like-minded people, it may
turn off some people that are actually interested in learning the differences
between the Nichiren Sects and deciding for themselves which one is teaching the
true Buddhism of the Lotus Sutra. Countless examples of why the SGI is wrong, is
not proof that Kempon Hokke is right and may turn away the very audience you are
hoping to reach.
Anyway, here is my response to the points you
1). The SGI has the Boston Research Center, the Institute for
Oriental Philosophy, and others where their affiliation to SGI is rarely if ever
The Boston Research Center is now called the Ikeda Center for
Peace, Learning, and Dialogue and the Institute for Oriental Philosophy mentions
its association with the SGI on its UK homepage and the history page of the IOP
Japan page. Maybe these have just been updated since your post on May
2). The SGI claims that their believers are the only Nichiren Lotus
Sutra believers capable of obtaining Buddhahood, going so far to claim that all
SGI members are Buddhas while those of the Nichiren Shu and Kempon Hokke are
“deluded Shakyamuni worshippers”.
First, all religions (Christian, Islam,
Judaism and even their subdivisions Catholic vs Protestant, Orthodox vs
unorthodox, etc) claim that they are the one true path to heaven, the promised
land, etc and the others are deluded, so this doesn’t automatically indicate a
Second, from a brief look at most Nichiren sects (including your
blog) there seems to be the same view that people should quit the SGI as they
won’t find enlightenment under these false teachings and instead follow the
correct Buddhism of our sect.
Finally, you have a new post on May 12 that
says SGI teachings are dangerous to kids because an online SGI quiz asks “Who is
a Buddha?” with the answer “Everyone”. Surely to support this 2nd cult point,
the answer should be “Only SGI members”.
3).Destructive cults reduce everything to a bi-polar attitude: “for us, or
Within the UK, I’ve never come across this “for us or
against us” attitude, but I’ve certainly met wise people that criticise the SGI
and the Lotus Sutra as well as foolish people that praise the
Daisaku Ikeda’s words show his compassion for people being deceived
by priests, which is again common among all religions. Going back to your
website, you have the same view that SGI members are being deceived by Daisaku
Ikeda as well as criticising Rissho Kosei-Kai and Gene Reeves.
On March 25
you say “If one accepts the transgressions of the Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shoshu,
Nichiren Shu and Shingon without discriminating between the correct and
incorrect, can they really be considered disciples of Nichiren Daishonin?”.
Surely this is a “for us or against us” statement in which you either are or
aren’t a disciple of Nichiren? Also, is this your quote? Most of the Kempon
webpage refers to Nichiren as Shonin not Daishonin or are the two
interchangeable in Kempon Hokke?
4).Destructive cults generate some kind
of external “pet devil” with which to threaten their members if they should
doubt, or fail, or ever leave the group.
Again, as far as I can tell this
is the same with all Nichiren sects with “Ikeda” being the “pet devil”. I used
to hate all the demonizing of Nikken and felt the SGI should move on and focus
on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and the Gosho (which they now seem to do in
the UK), but most Nichiren sects seem more obsessed with President Ikeda than
you say SGI members are.
5).Destructive cults lead their members to
believe they are somehow superior to all other humans on the earth.
Here are two comments from your blog:
April 1, 2012 6:44 PM
The Kempon Hokke has to continue to help, guide and
correct the SGI, the NST and all other sects that divert themselves and their
followers away from the Eternal Buddha
Buku: April 2, 2012 5:55 AM
Alan, for the sake of the teachings, our sake, and for the sake of their
If Kempon Hokke is not superior why do you feel the need “to
continue to help, guide and correct the SGI, NST and all other sects” “for the
sake of the teachings, our sake, and for the sake of their members”?
6).Destructive cults put the will of the group above the will of the individual.
This is often reinforced with simplistic games or rituals of some type designed
to make the individual subservient to the group.
I don’t have a problem
with dates that celebrate key events from Soka Gakkai history and the
mentor-disciple relationship in which we are encouraged by our mentor to develop
our faith is no different to other faiths that have a spiritual leader.
Personally, I have several mentors and while I respect President Ikeda as the
SGI’s spiritual leader, I am primarily inspired in faith by Shakyamuni and his
orally transmitted teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren
Daishonin. If I was asked directly though, who is your mentor, I would probably
give the name of an SGI member that has supported me with sensible guidance and
encouragement especially during my early years of practice.
have no special dates connected to Nichiju? Does Kempon Hokke not show respect
to the efforts of Nichiju for carrying the torch of true Buddhism or respect for
the wisdom or guidance of Reverend Tsuchiya for continuing the strict tradition?
Also, I don’t know the context in which it was said, but “the Soka
Gakkai is more important than my life.” implies to me that President Ikeda sees
the continuation of Nichiren’s Buddhism through the SGI as being more important
than members simply becoming followers of President Ikeda. Maybe things are
different in the SGI-USA but in the UK, Canada and Japan I never felt this
strong Ikeda worship. This sinister aspect of the mentor-disciple relationship
only exists if individual members want it to. If members are praising President
Ikeda and his writings more than Shakyamuni or Nichiren, to me that’s a problem
that I would speak out about, but it’s not one I’ve come across in the UK even
though I’ve read about it online.
Most of the experiences given by
members that I have heard seem to focus on them developing the wisdom and
strength to overcome their obstacles based on the practice of chanting. They
will usually give thanks to other specific members that have supported them
through their struggles.
Finally with reference to clothes and beards
that’s another thing I haven’t come across in the UK. People wear what they want
to meetings and even during Gohonzon receiving ceremonies people dress as
casually or formally as they want.
7).Destructive cults teach that the
end justifies the means.
From the shakubuku taught in the UK and by
President Ikeda, you should just talk to people as you see fit. Bring it up in
conversation naturally rather than forcing your Buddhism on everyone. The
expedient means isn’t a “do anything and everything possible to reel them in”
strategy, but an appreciation that people may talk to others or introduce them
to Buddhism in different ways. i.e. mentioning Buddhism in daily conversation
(what did you do last night? I went to a Buddhist meeting.), introducing it to a
friend or colleague who is suffering (when I’m suffering, I find that chanting
helps) or by living a good life and being a role model within your community. I
usually introduce the topic of Buddhism when co-workers ask me why I don’t
stress out at work when angry customers shout at me. If flirtatious shakubuku
existed and was effective there would be many more male members in the district.
Also, does this really work, surely you might be tempted to attend a meeting,
but converting to another fate based on a bit of flattery from a pretty girl is
ridiculous. Also, if you didn’t like the religion you wouldn’t stick around.
8).Destructive cults teach strict obedience to superiors and encourage the
development of behavior patterns that are similar to those of the
Your examples again refer to a practise that I’ve never come
across. If I do have a problem with a leader’s attitude, behaviour or advice,
I’ll talk to them about it, and when I became a leader I told the members in my
district to let me know if I became too self-righteous or
Leaders are no better or worse than the other members (including
President Ikeda). They will try to support members spiritually or through study
lectures, etc. but they shouldn’t expect special treatment or praise for this
extra responsibility. I guess the problem comes from leaders with small
personalities that feel they should be treated with reverence by their members.
If you have a problem with a leader, talk to them and let them know they’re
getting above themselves.
9).Destructive cults offer acceptance by the
group for good performance, and conversely, withhold it for poor
Promotion or demotion within any organisation can be a sore
subject, especially when you think people don’t deserve the recognition. How
should you decide who is the next district leader, HQ leader, etc. Typically,
people with the longest practice and strongest faith will advance and those with
shortest practice and the weakest faith will remain as members. Is that a cult?
I don’t think so. How does your sect decide who will replace your
It only becomes a cult if leaders with God-like status only
advance those that worship and revere their status. I guess the problem is that
sometimes, the pool of potential leaders is small and there is really no one
suitable for the position. In such a case a leader may develop their own sense
of self importance, especially if they are not respected within their working
community or neighbourhood. I think the only reason to demote or “fire” a leader
should be if they bring disrepute to the organisation or lord it over the
members. There have been leaders I have respected and leaders I haven’t.
To me leaders should be living the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin and
the Lotus Sutra. We should be working to improve ourselves and society not
sitting back and letting the members get on with the work. We are all prone to
all ten of the Ten Worlds and there will be times when leaders suffer or slip in
their judgement, but they should prove the validity of the teachings by
overcoming their suffering through their faith, practise and study, and the
support of other members.
10).In destructive cults, fear is a major motivator. Guilt is a close second,
and shame is third. Only the cult leader is perfect, so everyone below is
fearful that those above will find out their shortcomings. Cult members feel
constantly guilty for having those real or imagined shortcomings, and are
ashamed that they haven’t worked harder to get rid of them.
Maybe I’m in
the minority but I’ve never experienced (or been made to feel) fear, guilt or
“Never talk about your problems to the members until they are
Most of our discussion meetings usually have an element where
someone talks impromptu about a problem or challenge in their lives and updates
on how they are progressing.
When I’ve attended summer courses or other
big events there are usually 2 or 3 outstanding experiences. They are
motivational, but nothing compares to the progress I see in members in my
district. When I’ve seen them in meetings in floods of tears talking about an
insurmountable problem and watch the progress they make over the weeks and
months ahead, you can see the transformation taking place. You then see a new
more confident, happier person. This is the proof of this Buddhism, not hiding
your problems and then talking about it afterwards. If members want to hide
their problems, that’s up to them and I certainly wouldn’t force people to
“confess all in front of the group”.
Similarly, when members have left
the Soka Gakkai, we have tried to encourage them to continue with their faith,
but have never wished any of them ill will or gloated if they subsequently
experienced suffering in their lives.
11).Destructive cult members swing
from emotional highs, to emotional lows regularly. Lows are not long tolerated,
and result in more indoctrination, or even ejection from the group if they last
Here are some examples of SGI speech used to control their members:
“You have weak faith.”. ‘You had better go for guidance if you want to resolve
that problem”. Rumors to stay away from depressed individuals. Not inviting less
than enthusiastic members to certain meetings or not telling them about
“important” meetings. Lectures about “emotionalism”, [unless the emotion is
rapture about the SGI and the mentor]. Every last former SGI cult member will
attest to this.
From my experience of the SGI, lows provide you with an
opportunity to grow and advance in faith, which ultimately proves the
effectiveness of the practice, so I don’t know why you would be encouraged to
stay home or avoid such people. I’m always inspired by the depth of faith of
members that can come to a meeting while in the depths of their suffering. It
shows that they feel safe within the district and acknowledges the
non-judgemental compassionate attitude that we as members share.
find people that are less than enthusiastic about Buddhism ask the best
questions at meetings. This could be a guest at a meeting, someone at the start
of their faith that wants clarification or even a member of 10+ years that is
having a crisis of faith. These questions can reveal the limitations in their
understanding which we can try to explain to them. This can also highlight the
limitations of other members within the district that chant sincerely and seem
to know what they are talking about, but whose explanations are not in accord
with Nichiren Buddhism.
Discussion meetings are a place to discuss, not
just to sit and listen to indoctrination and I’ve never heard of anyone in the
UK being turned away from a meeting. Although, another Buddhist sect I used to
attend (can’t remember the sect but it involved silent meditation – discussion
group – silent meditation) asked me not to attend because my questions were
confusing the other members!!
12).Destructive cults tend to re-write their members’ past, manipulate their
present, and distort their future. Disrupting time orientation is an honored
technique of all such cults.
The Human Revolution is an account of the
growth of the Soka Gakkai from the end of World War 2 to Daisaku Ikeda becoming
president and the New Human Revolution continues from this point onwards. While
it may take some licence with changing people’s names, some events occur out of
sequence (flashbacks?) and some periods are skipped (it's not a daily diary), I
don’t think it’s a deliberate manipulation to distort the truth, but rather a
narrative structure decision.
What things are omitted? Usually cult
leaders will try to rewrite their history by hiding criminal backgrounds, or any
negative information they don’t want to come out. The Human Revolution and New
Human Revolution don’t always paint the presidents as perfect and mention most
of the controversies, such as vote tampering, confronting priests at the head
temple on the 700th anniversary, etc. It’s not exactly a whitewash of a history
of abuses. Obviously the best incidents will be highlighted and the lowlights
played down as often happens when any historical period is covered by an
Basically the Human Revolution series includes guidance
from meetings, advice on how to be a good leader and much more. The purpose of
the Human Revolution is to at least get an understanding of those early days and
the growth of the organisation and one of the key elements of the series is the
advice about how to be a good leader based on Nichiren Buddhism. Leaders that
are weak in faith or take advantage of others are rebuked. Leaders with airs of
supremacy or pride are rebuked. The overall theme of the series is on becoming
an outstanding person within the workplace, within your community and within
13).And, finally, there is never a legitimate reason for
leaving a destructive cult. The only reason members leave a perfect system, is
because they are imperfect in some respect and will be punished for
it. “He was angry.” “He was jealous.” "He couldn’t get along with his
“He had weak faith.”
Within the UK, the reason people leave
is not described in any of the above terms. Leaving the Soka Gakkai as seen as a
decision someone has made because they didn’t feel Buddhism was right for them
at this moment. Some members may be disappointed that a friend no longer wants
to practice but ultimately everyone has the choice whether to follow Nichiren
Buddhism or not for whatever reason they may have.
You can still be
friends with ex-members, there’s no excommunication or forbidding us to mix with
such a person. They are not dead to us. I’ve only know two people leave in my
time in the UK in the three districts I’ve practised in, and in both cases it
was seen as a decision that was made because now wasn’t the right time for them
to continue their faith. They may have felt they didn’t see proof in their
lives, which is fair enough. They have been introduced to Buddhism though and
are welcome to return at any time (either in this life or the next).
“No matter which destructive cult you choose, the above 13
items will almost universally apply". The author of these 13 points [whose name
escapes me] then goes on to conclude: Study the methods of … …. they use the
same techniques, even though each of them claims unique and absolute ownership
of the “truth
It really feels like we are talking about two different
versions of the Soka Gakkai and I can assure you within the UK, Canada and Japan
I have never witnessed any of this behaviour. If I did, I would speak up about
it or leave the organisation. I certainly wouldn’t be able to have a blog
recommending it to others.
If the SGI-USA is practising in such a way,
then the members really need to take their leaders to task and teach them the
real spirit and intention of Nichiren Buddhism. I guess some of these people
just give up and leave the organisation, becoming a source of online negativity,
but they should really chant for the courage to confront the leaders and clarify
the SGI’s position in accordance with the teachings in the Lotus Sutra and the
If I did my best to bring the SGI into line with its original
intention to propagate the true Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin and failed,
ultimately, I would either become an independent Nichiren Buddhist or look for
another sect that seemed to be more in touch with the true spirit of Buddhism.
As I mentioned earlier, the only negativity I have come across was the
obsession with continually criticising Nikken about 7 years ago rather than
moving forward, and this is the same thing that annoys me about a lot of the
If others are happy to follow the alleged non Nichiren
teachings of the SGI-USA that you mention, then that is for them to deal with.
If I left the SGI, I wouldn’t feel a need to criticise the SGI as this only
provides fuel to the “if you are following the true teaching, enemies will
emerge” fire. It’s much better to put your point across by focussing on the
correctness of your faith rather than continually criticising a group (and
feeling sorry for their deluded members) that doesn’t seem to care what you say
or will spin it into a positive for them.