Today, I met with Kenji Yoshigo, the Vice President and Executive Director of Soka Gakkai Office of International Affairs. Soka Gakkai is a Buddhist sect which is one of the largest and most influential in Japan. One of the key things that sets it apart from other Buddhist sects is their active involvement in society including education, International relations and politics. They are the force behind the Komeito Party.

I had heard about Soka Gakkai from a variety of people, usually with negative connotations. Some people alluded to conspiracy, others refer to them like some sort of cult. The only real first hand negative interactions that I had heard of were interactions with overly enthusiastic members trying to recruit people. I had always been curious about the Soka Gakkai, but not curious enough to overcome the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) and actually approach them.

Kana, a young woman who works for me is Soka Gakkai. I found out when I learned that she was marrying a staff member of the Komeito and I asked her whether she was Soka Gakkai. She is one of the hardest working people on our team and has a passion for justice that exceeds ones expectations. She invited me to give the toast at their wedding. At this wedding, they showed video messages from the young children she was mentoring, and I met many of the Soka Gakkai people she worked with. I was very impressed with how intelligent, aware of current issues, and friendly they were. The impression I got at the wedding changed my mental image of Soka Gakkai.

Early this year, Lou Marinoff, a well known philosopher who I had met several times in Davos visited Japan. He had been invited by Soka Gakkai. I had dinner with Lou and his Soka Gakkai host. Lou told me how impressed he was with their efforts and urged me to contact them and learn more about Soka Gokkai. I respect Lou's opinions greatly and he is quite knowledgeable and objective. His description of the variety of things Soka Gakkai was doing made me decide to try to contact Soka Gakkai to try to get a first hand impression.

After the dinner with Lou, I asked Kana if she would help me learn more about Soka Gakkai. It took a bit of scheduling, but she coordinated this meeting with Mr. Yoshigo.

I asked Yoshigo-san to explain Soka Gakkai to me. Soka Gakkai is Buddhist sect and their core principles are very much in tuned with the teachings of most Nichiren Buddhists. Soka Gakkai was originally set up as an educational institution and has worked very hard to try to make society a better place by actively participating in it, unlike many more "passive" sects. I think it is the active participation in politics that causes those in power to fear Soka Gakkai. Yoshigo-san said that they teach people to question authority, think for themselves and be very active. These are also my core principles. Although Soka Gakkai has a large organization with "management" he said that they do not control the thinking of their members and have quite a diverse group of people. They do not worship their founder, nor do they teach people to blindly follow.

Since I am quite curious about the definition of "evil", I asked Yoshigo-san what he thought was "evil". He said that in Soka Gakkai, they believed very strongly in life and believed that those who destroy life, either through murder or the destruction of humans rights were evil. In the same context, those who ruin their own lives were in a way, "evil". Killing human beings, especially in the name of religion, he believed was evil. This definition works for me.

He also said that Buddhist teachings say that 1/3 of the world will be "believers" or "followers of the path," 1/3 of the world will be people who will be supportive and part of the same community, and 1/3 of the world will be actively involved in trying to hurt or subvert "believers." According to these teachings, this was the proper "balance" and that trying to make the whole world peaceful or "converted" was not only impossible, but unnatural. So, although there are some overzealous young Soka Gakkai members who try to convert all of their friends, Yoshigo-san made no attempt to try to make me join and made it clear that Soka Gakkai is open to interaction and cooperation with everyone. In fact, the head of one of their schools is Muslim.

When I visited Koyasan, a monk told us that during the Meiji Restoration, the Japanese government visited most of the European countries in power those days and realized that they were able to use religion as part of the State and used it in war. Japan took the decentralized animist religion, Shinto, and centralized it under the Emperor. When Japan lost WWII, they lost their religion. Similarly, the student uprisings in the 60's and 70's were squashed. Images of young soldiers dying for their divine Emperor as well as the images of youths wearing helmets and fighting with the riot police are considered silly and quite unfashionable to youths in Japan today. Young people in Japan today believe that fighting for a cause, either religious or political, is stupid and un-cool. This lack of spiritualism and activism makes Soka Gakkai's role quite clear.

We talked about Japan. We agreed on nearly every point about the lack of democracy, the apathy among the people, the risk of a right-wing popular uprising, and other issues. We agreed that the notion of unquestioning dependence on authority is still prevalent in Japan and was the cause of much of the problems. We talked about how those in power abuse power and those who follow do not have the will to rise up. Having recently had more and more experience with those in power in Japan, I began to realize how dangerous the Soka Gakkai was to those in power.

It makes sense that those in power would spread FUD about Soka Gakkai and try to discredit their efforts. The more I listened, the more I saw how the negative image Japanese have of Soka Gakkai was part of the standard operating procedure of those in power. If you can't co-opt them, marginalize them in any way possible. Call them, lefties, freaks, extremists, a cult... what ever it takes. Being quite sensitive to how powerful the mass media FUD machine is these days, it was a great feeling to discover yet another mental stigma, planted in my head by "the machine" that I was able to yank out and make my mind more clear.

I have still only had one meeting with Yoshigo-san, but we spent nearly two hours and he answered every question I had directly and without hesitation. He said I could blog anything we talked about. He also agreed to be available if I had any further questions. Now I ask YOU -- Especially all of you who told me that I shouldn't even meet with them. What do you actually KNOW about Soka Gakkai and why do you think they are so weird/bad. Could it be that you are also just a subject of Japanese mass media FUD? If you have any questions for Soka Gakkai, please let me know. Obviously, this can not consume ALL of my time, but my intention is to try dispel some of the FUD and understand more clearly.

73 Comments

Wow, if it takes meeting the top executives of an organization to dispel possible FUD, then count me in on your next meeting with whomever!

But seriously, how does one acknowledge the point at which a group has "too much power"? You make it sound as if Soka Gakkai has very little, and your comment "...I began to realize how dangerous the Soka Gakkai was to those in power" begs the question "who/what that is not already 'in power' is dangerous to the Soka Gakkai?" Who will be Soka Gakkai's 'Soka Gakkai'? There is definitely a delicate balance the Japanese political system currently does not have, so what other groups out there are challenging 'the system'?
乱筆、ご容赦願います。

Hmmm...cold wind at the back of my neck - National Socialists, 1932, or the Showa Restoration posse...avoid all cults...

Joi,

I don't know much about Japanese politics, so these might be stupid questions....

I'd be interested to know their stance on sending the SDF to the Gulf to support the US. I think Komeito gave the coalition the support it needed to get this through so I would guess Soka Gakkai supports this but how does that square with "trying to make the whole world peaceful or "converted" was not only impossible."

Also, are infringements on privacy and liberty, such as Jukinet, on their radar screen? Do they speak out or have a strong stance? The Komeito web site lists as a policy "reinforcement of civilian control."

Martyn

Oh, jesus Joi, how did you get sucked into this? This is a complete waste of your time, and a serious threat to your personal influence capital. I'm surprised you are so naive about this kind of organization. Don't be a sucker (although I expect you will dig into your defensive mode now).

You're point about how the SG are persecuted and disliked by the establishment may be well taken, but that doesn't mean the SG isn't a secretive, slimey, scheming cult. The persecution tends to produce the cultlike attributes of the organization.

Next time why don't you ask for a meeting with Daisaku Ikeda, rather than his smooth-talking mouthpiece?

BTW, English-speaking readers of this blog might be able to find more SG information on the web by searching for "Nichiren Shoshu" than "Soka Gakkai." NS is the U.S. cult that split off from SG. Also, there have been several Time Magazine articles that may only show up on the time.com pay site.

The Victims of Soka Gakkai Association has a website (including the Time.com articles mentioned above):

http://www.toride.org/eindex.html

Andrew, I don't really need to get defensive about this because I don't owe them anything and am not a member. I am just pursuing my curiosity and my hate of FUD. I also have a natural distaste for organized religions.

Anyway....

Today, I talked to a relatively well informed intelligence affliated friend on his opinion of the inside story.

He says that they have changed quite a bit in the last few years. In the early days, they were on the same level as the Communists as a national security threat. They were really quite "culty" and edgy and the Japanese government really thought that they could emerge as a powerful revolutionary group. As they have matured, their activities have become more moderate and have become more and more a "normal" religion. There are even academics who study Soka Gakkai as a legitimate field of study.

Politically, the are generally peaceful and aligned with the majority, although they supported the US in Iraq. They have received quite a bit of criticism for this, understandably. An interesting side note is that many of the hardcore Japanese right wing were against supporting the US and would rather be anti-US and focus on increases Japanese forces indepedent of the US.

The members of the Komeito that I've met were generally more interested in policy than most power broker type politicians in other parties, but this is a generalization. I DO think there is less corruption in Komeito than say, the LDP.

I'm going to continue to dig some more, but my sense is that they've got from national security threat/a bit culty, to a relatively conservative, main-stream, education/peace oriented global organization which has many of the same problems that all organized religions have. They are a bit better off because there is no "Satan" in Buddhism and Buddhisms is harder to screw up, although it is possible. I have a feeling that they're probably much less of a threat than they used to be, but the FUD's still there because it's hard to be un-FUD'ed.

And Matt... That really is the question isn't it. The problem with Japan is that by the time you get enough influence to do anything, you're practically co-opted. It's hard to be subversive and matter.

One piece of information: I have dated a few years ago a member of SG in Kansai. Beside being extremely invading and intolerant (you want to get married, you have to convert and pledge whatever pledge to Gozon-sama; SG people tend to patronize SG members only, etc), this sect/cult is also backed by the Yakuza. I can only speak for the Osaka/Kyoto/Nara triangle, but I have witnessed how this worked there.

My two cents.

hello, dda...

I'm Kana, who arranged the meeting with Joi and Yoshigo.

I have a question...
I would like to know why the yakuza would like to back up the SG? and why the SG want to be backed up by the Yakuza? It's a little bit hard for me to imagine their incentives.

I'm originaly from Nara. I don't know everything of course, but honestly, for my life time (not too long though), I've never seen such a triangle.

I have never asked why. Not healthy, I think. As for the triangle, just draw three lines between the cities I mentionned. Should make a triangle. That's the region my ex and her friends lived. And their very connected, very rich, very SG involved family.

Two things:

"Young people in Japan today believe that fighting for a cause, either religious or political, is stupid and un-cool"

I, as american in japan, have experienced this first hand and it never ceases to amaze me. Young japanese get so passionate over things like maintaining wa/being polite, gaikokujin behavior in japan, gaikokujins not misunderstanding japanese culture, etc. But when it comes to some very basic social rights, young japanese I've hung out with are almost agressively apathetic. What the heck is up with that?

Also, the Yakuza. I'm really fascinated by the SG coverage here, but I'm honestly totally baffled by the massive denial from many intelligent japanese when it comes to Yakuza. This is not movie stuff, this is very real, I know, I've had to interact with their agents to get things done in Japan that they should have no hand in. The space devoted to SG was nice, but it would be far more enlightening if you give a detailed opinion/analysis of the Yakuza's influence in the Japanese banking system, as well as how they influence the rise (stifling of?) of small entreprenuers in Japan that might help the country more swiftly get out of its economic morass.

They seem like your modern organized religion. The buddhist values preached are good but the fund raising tactics, extreme measures to protect the internal organization, fights with other religious groups, and desire for the accumulation of power, riches and wealth are excessive and don't reflect buddhist values. In the US they even used scientology-like tactics to claim that chanting could help you get a porsche.

The closest I've come is seeing first hand their new university campus in southern california arise. It's truly a beautiful place and had the promise of becoming a world class liberal arts college with its claims of openness and huge endowment. Instead, however, free speech, liberal arts values, and critical thinking took a back seat to protecting the religious organization so today the University serves largely as a diploma mill and fascade. In fact, a quarter of its recruited faculty have left since its founding.

See this Orange County Register piece for details.

Historically, we have seen patterns that the mafia in the US or the yakuza in Japan align themselves near centers of influence (i.e. politicians, businessmen) or centers of commerce (i.e. gambling, garbage, pachinko, prostitution, illegal drugs, etc.)

It has taken many, many decades of work by the FBI and local police in America to reduce the influence of the mafia to the point where they basically have little influence. The continual influence of the yakuza in Japan is a constant drag on this economy that cannot afford any such losses.

One challenge I wonder about is foreign companies doing business in Japan. How many of them are paying off the yakuza to do business in Japan? How many foreign investors and businesses have changed their strategies or pulled out of Japan due to influence from the yakuza? I doubt we will ever know.

Hello again, dda...

I am sorry if I misunderstood you.

About triangle, Kyoto/Nara/Osaka are the nearby prefactures, so there should be some cooperation each other.

About Yakuza, it's still unclear for me what you witnessed there.
Does that come from your guess? If so, why don't we try to clear up our misunderstanding?

Very interesting discussion.

Gen, I thought that the Jakuza is not a criminal syndicate, as most westerners reckon, but an actual extention of the law/police. By this i mean, that they control all outlaws, and it is within their power to decide which acticities will be tolerated. So, in practice, drugs are not tolerated (or so i gathered from last time i visited japan), and all would-be criminals have to comply with the what the jakuza says. In other words, had not been for the jakuza, criminal activity in japan would not be controlled and monitored at the extent it is right now. The impression I got is that although Jakuza is seen as (and is) a criminal organisation, its pragmatic role is to preserve order and undertake critical social functions, without which japan would be prey to non-jakuza affiliated criminals (including potentially criminal threats from overseas ie. drug warloards). I'm sure you know better than i do, but i wanted to get my story straight. none wants to be living under a stone, right?

In addition, I thought that Japan come quite close to ideal regional governance with all its prefectures and all, but seems i was wrong.

George,
Dude, you obviously haven't been to Japan. In Shibuya, Iranian drug dealers sell drugs openly on the streets and have a well known agreement with the Yakuza. In Shinjuku chinese pimps lure men into "massage" parlors for prostituion, again, under Yakuza protection. The Bosozoku motorcycle gangs ride the streets of tokyo and harass pedestrians, commit petty crime, and often carry out "errands" for the Yakuza under the protection of the Yakuza. Japan and its prefectures are not the exotic utopia you would make them out to be (that said, I happen to LOVE Japan). I myself have been told by several very accomplished foreigners in Japan that to set up something like a clothing store or cafe I would "definitely" have to deal with the Yakuza and pay them weekly.

I appreciate Gen offering some words on this. I too would like to see statistics on what you mentioned. I think it would also make a great book/investigative documentary. I would also like to see more analysis on the Japanese "midnight run" where Japanese families, in debt to the Yakuza, often via a legitimate bank, leave their home and possessions and assume a new identity in another part of Japan to escape the Yakuza. To those not familiar with all this, I would like to stress that this "is not" movie stuff, or a bad "Black Rain" thread, this is all very real. I think Gen's comparison to the American Mafia is apt, but it seems to me that the Yakuza not only wield influence, but actually "control" the present and future of japanese politics and business.

Wow Joi, I usually just lurk around your site but what an interesting life you've made for yourself. hope you got a smile on your face when you wake in the morning, I would!

PS - It is interesting that you visited a group like this. Tonight I'm going to an "introduction" for this group called the Landmark Forum. I have friends who have tried it and liked it, however I am skeptical of it. It seems alot of the stuff they like about it (recognizing what is holding you back, trying to achieve your full potential, being a good member of society) would come about if one just sits and thinks about their life -- i.e. if one tries to "know thyself". Some people may need help with trying to do that, I don't feel I do, but I'm willing to try out this "introduction" in order to make my friend happy & have him stop asking me to go. I feel pretty confident I can handle life without the need of aid of an organization like this, or like soka gakkai

hello, anon...
about the issue of Soka University of America, isn't it a kind of natural thing that some people leaving and some people staying at the founding time? The early venture company sometimes goes the same way.

Hello, michiel...
if you see such contents, please read them carefully with your calm eye; when it happened, where it exactly occured, who did what, who watched, and other reliable evidences...
there were the judgements by the fair courts already, and Soka Gakkai won those cases.

My family has some history with "cults" (cult being any non-mainstream religion); one of the lessons I learned is that it's quite possible to agree with some tenets of a faith, while rejecting other tenets that seem disagreeable.

My personal preference is to remain an outsider of the organizations, observing how people react towards them and trying to understand their lessons and reasoning. I've never joined any myself, though I've occasionally been interested.

Thanks, Joi, for your exploration of an entirely different culture's faith. I'd like to see more of this; can you get an interview with a high-up in the Yakuza?

Hoping nobody misunderstood...

Soka Gakkai is not the cult (difinition), and is not the yakuza.

Scof,
I too have dealt with Landmark Forum. One of my closest friends did the same thing that you are doing. Her friend had asked her to go, over and over again. She finally caved in and decided to go just so her friend would stop asking her. Going did not help that fact and only made it worse. My friend found that Landmark seemed to appeal to very many people with low self esteem. By telling them how good they are and how much potential they had, they make the members feel indebted to them for anything they accomplish. Another tactic they use to keep their members loyal is the cult-like tool of telling them that they are better off only being around other Landmark people because non-members are bad for their progress. My friend to this day is still asked by her friend. Her friend has also tried to introduce her to more people from Landmark so that they might be able to help coerce her into going to more meetings. The problem I've had with the group from my encounters with her friend and their circle is that they make the people feel dependent on them for any good the accomplish in their own lives. They are very subversive in their tactics and use "pretty and successful people" to appeal to the people with low self esteem.

You sound like you know what you are getting into, but I just thought I would offer you what I had learned from my own encounters. Hopefully this just gives you some extra Armor against their tactics.

Jon,

many thanks for the info, as i sais none wants to be living under a stone. That been said, I have been to Japan (Tokyo and Aizu-Wakamatsu in Fukushima). Needless to say, i can provide you with photos, or a URI if i must to prove i'm not a liar.

Back to our discussion, i had no idea you could get drugs in japan. I was told by my hosts (who were americans though) that drugs are not popular in japan due to cultural reasons that present a reason good enough for young japanese to refrain from them. Taking drugs, i was told, would be like showing disrespect for your family, and if your family would be cast with dishonour, you were done. Indeed, i was told that some sort of "magic mushrooms" are sold in the streets of tokyo (i didn't get to see that myself), and people buy them, but they do not consume them to get high, they place them on a shelf or something for display as if drugs is something worth displaying along with nice pictures on the wall.

It's true that i haven't seen those motorcycle gangs in action, but while in tokyo i felt completely secure, even afterhours in dodgy looking alleys, and i have to admit that i could sense this feeling of calmness and security being overwhelming all around me. but perhaps i might be wrong.

George, it's very easy to visit Japan as a tourist and miss the real Japan. The politeness and great culture can give you a great impression, but if you live there, you get to see the real Japan. You sound like a nice guy, therefore I'll try to tone down my snark factor. Still, what you said was funny to me. Your hosts...they kind of remind me of the Japan (usually gaikokujin) idealists who exoticize and revere everything about Japan while ignoring the simple realities.

It doesn't take much to know that Japanese youth do indeed take many different drugs (heroin and ecstasy is popular there now, just like in the u.s.). Heck, even in the films like "Bounce Kogals" they show young high school girls talking about taking speed and ecstasy. Drugs are 'very' prevalent in Japan. If you knew what some of those "kawaii" Japanese teenage girls do only a daily basis, you'd never look at them the same way again. (Wired magazine seems obsessed with young Japanese girls for some reason.) I don't know what your hosts do in Japan, but they aren't giving you the ugly facts. A healthy number of the teenage "cute" girls you see in Shibuya with dark tan skin and blonde hair (kogyaru or ogyaru) are often checking their keitai (cell phone) for their next prostitution customer (usually an office worker or 'salaryman' who is 30 years older than them). Heck, go shopping in Akihabara for computers and next to a stand with cell phones you'll see girlie magazines with girls on the cover made up to look like young teens. Basically, soft core child porn, sold openly on the street as 'kawaii'. The Yakuza, and thus the government, are very aware of these teen prostitution activities and have only made token efforts to stop it.

This Japanese youth "honor" your friends are telling you about is from the movies, most Japanese youth do whatever the hell they want (drugs, sex parties, etc.) and just keep their parents in the dark. Perhaps your hosts are older, and not aware of these things? As for safety, yes, it is one of the safest countries I've ever been in, but serious crime happens all the time. One of those drug dealers in shibuya made the papers recently after stabbing a Danish tourist because he thought he was filming him. Read the Japan newspapers (there are some in english if you need it) and you'll read about violent crime committed in Japan all the time. Most goes unreported. I'm just tired of this exotic view of a perfect Japan. The Yakuza sanctions a lot of crime from corporate crime to street crime, and everyone pretends its not happening or that the Yakuza only have 'passing influence'. Not true, they pretty much run the place.

George, George, George,

Like Jon, I am humoured by your naivete. When you have 15 years olds attempting to blow up sex establishments, "trustworthy" cops sneaking pictures up skirts, overseas Japanese being arrested for drug trafficking (gee, i wonder where to), and even negligent parents jailed for drug abuse, Japan starts to look considerably different from the picture you paint, eh?

"Taking drugs, i was told, would be like showing disrespect for your family, and if your family would be cast with dishonour, you were done." Whoever told you this must have visited Japan back in the '60s and '70s. Remember the irony of such "news" -- news it's not, since it already happened, in this case decades ago.

Jon and Matt,

Indeed, i must have been living under a stone! I had a completely different picture of Japan in my mind, a rather exotic and idylic as you've probably guessed.

Thing is that my hosts have been working in Japan for the last 5 years as full time uni. staff - two of them in their early-fifties and two in their early thirties, so i thought they knew what they were talking about. or perhaps not.

At least, i'm now less disinformed, and thanks to this discussion, next time i'm going to japan, i'll be looking at everything from a different lens.

--All i am aware of is my complete ignorance--
Socrates

Kana,

I'm glad you're here to present your view as a member and congratulations on your marriage.

As for Soka Univeristy of America, it's never good that 25% of your faculty leaves within 2 years. In American universities, most full time faculty will stay much longer than a company employee at a startup (I would estimate averaging 5 years).

My main concern, however, goes to the content of Ito-san's post with what I have seen. The faculty are not happy because they cannot engage in rigorous discussions, study controversial topics or foster a free speaking environment because of the philosophical disagreements with the SG. Some even sued the University over religious discrimination. But, Ito-san says that they said "unquestioning dependence on authority is still prevalent in Japan and was the cause of much of the problems." But when SG has full control over an academic environment that in the US is expected to be free and open, they expect their students and teachers to have unquestioning dependence on their authority.

Landmark Forum = EST = a notorious and dangerous cult organization.

I would strongly recommend staying away from LF and any fervent LF members. Do some research and you will find many, many people who have been significantly damaged by both EST and more recently by LF.

I think SG has over 5M members. I assume that if you have 5M members some of them will be weirdos and some will be involved with yakuza. I don't think that isolated incidents with SG members should be used to generalize about all SG members since I know many SG members who are very good people who I'm happy to know.

I do agree with anon's concern above. I think any large scale organization, especially a religion must have management difficulties. There will be rogue individuals as well as people who misinterpret the goals.

I remember when I was giving a talk together with Timothy Leary. We kept saying, "question authority and think for yourself." Then someone in the audience said, "tell me what I should do." Doh. We said, "think for yourself!" I think that core values such as, "think for yourself" are the most difficult to teach. People who come to learning institutions or religions are often people who are looking for "answers." "Think for yourself" is a very difficult "answer" to communicate. ;-)

I just wanted to point out a few links:

http://www.sokagakkai.or.jp/
Official Soka Gakkai website.

The SG in America broke away from the Nichiren Shoshu when the split occurred in Japan. The new (now over a decade old ) organization name is SGI-USA.

http://www.sgi-usa.org/
Official Soka Gakkai USA website.

If people say that the SG teaches chanting will get you a porsche, they aren't practicing true SG beliefs. Greed, over-materialism is considered a bad thing within true Nichiren buddhism.

For a modernized glimpse into the life of a Soka Gakkai member, I suggest watching the movie "What's love got to do with it?". A movie about Tina Turner and what she had overcome after joining the SGI.

There are many english speaking SGI members in Japan, who can give a detailed explanation of what SG International is like in other countries.

I'm hoping this will help out in the anti-FUD. I think it's important to not take very specific, biased experiences and generalizing it to everyone within an organization.

> About Yakuza, it's still unclear for me what you witnessed there.
> Does that come from your guess? If so, why don't we try to clear up our misunderstanding?
I have no misunderstanding. I will stay here away from guesses, and state plain facts:

* For a little more than a year, I was involved with a Japanese girl, an active member of SG, in Kansai. I was the only person she knew who wasn't member of SG, and she did try everything to change that. No respect for my own religion and culture.
* Every single family unit she introduced me to were "connected" (it is not hard to recognize a member of the Yakuza, especially at oyabun level), SG members, and living in an area comprised between Osaka, Kyoto and Nara, roughly.
* I have seen other people -- not around my ex -- who were normal citizen AND member of the SG.
* 90% of the people I met through her were also of Korean ancestry -- which also explains the connection with the criminal world...

These are facts. Not guesses. It doesn't imply that SG=Yakuza, although one has to wonder why criminals would also be very religious (well, the link to Komeito through SG is definitely something to ponder).

This was my experience, something I actually I don't wish to my worst ennemy. No more, and defo no less.

Joi,
"Those in power" who you elliptically refered to in your writeup can't possibly find Sokka Gakkai so threatening, given that SG's political party, Komeito, has remained a loyal member of the ruling coalition with the LDP.

So I guess "those in power" must find the DPJ and the Social Democrats much more threatening than Sokka Gakkai & the Komeito...

BTW, on a completely different note: Koyasan is a fascinating and beautiful place.

I am quite skeptical of the Soka Gakkai as an organization but I find it refreshing that somebody (Joi) went and spoke to them ("them" sounds like such an evil conspiracy but it isn't intended.... at least on a conscious level) without the goggles of prejudice, be it for or against.
I also think it is wonderful Kana is facing the growing mob, but the reference to the definition of a cult...
"A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or false, with its followers often living in an unconventional manner under the guidance of an authoritarian, charismatic leader."
The standards set out here are pretty subjective, but I have a feeling SG probably meets them in the eyes of many people perhaps because of FUD, but that’s an inevitable problem with a subjective concept such as cults or even religion in general.

By the same token, #joiito could be considered a cult.
1. Extremist ideas about the power of blogging
2. Unconventional lifestyle in the form of P-time and too much IRC
3. An "authoritarian, charismatic leader" (not too sure about authoritarian, but if I don't post again, its probably safe to assume that somebody has ordered the goons from #joiito have laid me to rest at the bottom of Osaka Port.)

I don't believe that Sokai Gakkai support free speech.

About 30years ago, Soka Gakkai caused incidents so-called "Genron Shuppan Dan-atsu Jiken", that it tried to supress publication of books which criticizes SG with bribery and violent threats, Hirotatsu Fujiwara, a political columnist and professor on political science at Meiji University at that time, who is my father's cousin, was aggresively attacked by SG when he tried to publish the book "Soka Gakkai wo Kiru". Then he raised his voice, so things were brought into the open.

Press alos reported that SG illegally wiretapped phones belong to officials of Japan Communist Party in those days.

I think SG did not show the enough evidence that they had changed in this aspect.

hello, anon and others...
thanks for sharing your honest thoughts.
About Soka University of America(SUA), I hope the condition would be settle down and be satisfied soon. We'll see the results after years, by the SUA graduated students.

and dda...
I appreciate for sharing your experiences. And I'm glad to know that you didn't mean SG=Yakuza.
But there's one thing I want to ask you, dda. About your comments refers to the Korean ancestry, you can't naturally expect they connect to the climinal world just because where they come from. Everybody is different, as you are, so please do not roll them up into a ball.

Rebecca ; Good point. Komeito are pretty close to "those in power" now. I think it was in 2000 that they joined forces with the LDP. I guess the question is whether this is a convenient short term relationship or whether Komeito has really "joined the team" so to speak. The only data point I have on this is when I was protesting the National ID. I remember the policy staff at the Komeito were more willing to listen, generally smarter and seemed more sincere about trying to understand the issues surrounding the national ID than any of the other policy folks in the other parties.

I think the intention of Komeito is to exert as much power as possible and the only way to do that now is to work inside/with the LDP. I think from the LDP's perspective, they needed to gather the smaller tribes together to fight against the emerging threat of the Minshuto. In any event, it's clear that Komeito has enough "power" to play with the big boys.

Hang in there Kana.... ;-)

I guess one of the biggest questions in my mind right now is whether Daisaku Ikeda is an unquestioned authority/leader or whether members are actually encouraged to think for themselves. In the discussion with Yoshigo-san and from reading the materials, it appears that people are encouraged to think and generally question authority. On the other hand, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that people do not question the authority of Daisaku Ikeda. The other question is whether this people are actively discouraged from speaking up and questioning Daisaku Ikeda or whether this is merely a result of great respect for his thinking...

> you can't naturally expect they [Koreans] connect to the climinal world just because where they come from.

Actually, a bit of history about that. Koreans came to Korea through a "recruitment" program during Japan's rule on the Peninsula before and up to WW 2, akeen to what Germans did to occupied Europe. When the war ended, the few jobs that were left in post-war, destroyed Japan were not given to Korean "workers". Many Koreans either decided to, or had no other option but to stay in Japan. These destitute people became easy prey for the underworld, and got recruited by the truckload, especially, but not only in, the Osaka region. While they were mostly kept at the lowest ranks, some "made it", like Machii Hisayuki, aka Chong Kwon-Yong, an early 2nd-generation Japan-born Korean who ruled over Ginza through his Tosei-kai. Osaka had even its own Korean gang, the Meiyu-kai, which was "absorbed" by the Yamaguchi-gumi.
There are certainly honest Koreans in Osaka, but there IS a knee-jerk prejudice in Osaka against Koreans who work in a "family business", for a reason...

SG is a cult just as much as the Mormons and Scientologists are.

Same biz, different stock. I had a student drag me to a SG temple meeting or whatever in the mid-90's, in Japan. I could sense that SG was a put-their-hooks-into-you-and-shake-you-down sect.

There's a lot of positive feel-good religosity and ethics in the organization, but if you look closely you see the ratty foundations and "cult-of-personality" overtones.

Their main strength, from what I gather, is that they are one of the few actively prostelytizing "buddhist" sects still around, with an actual "congregational" structure of a traditional christian church.

The comparison with the Mormons and the Scientologists is apt. The Scientologists are still in the fairly early cult stage where they are ultra paranoid and don't mind committing criminal acts to protect themselves. The Mormons are moving towards the cusp of being a mainstream religion. I'd say SG is somewhere in between. The Unification Church would be between SG and Scientology.

SG is similar to all these cults and semi-cults in that it is hard to quit. Your entire social network tends to be other members, who will ostracize you if you leave. With the Moonies, they also try to put you to work for one of their companies or organizations, so your paycheck comes from them too; sometimes even your housing and spouse. If you leave the "church" you are literally out on the street with nothing.

I wonder how many SGs are married to non-SGs? This would be a meaningful data point in determining if they are a cult or not. Most non-cult religions tolerate intermarriage, and people are not reluctant to marry members of another (non-cult) religion.

On the subject of the connection between Komeito and SG, maybe there's no connection now, but they have neglected to inform the rank and file. An SG acquaintance of my wife (and her SG husband) always manage to show up at our door with election propaganda before every election.

And what's with the fortress-like "churches" and assembly halls, with an excess of security guards and lines of men in dark suits lined up outside? This is a normal church?

>I wonder how many SGs are married to non-SGs?

When you marry, you do that in an SG temple and the spouse has to accept Gozon-sama in their life, house, etc..., making him/her a de facto member.

As an SG member myself I can see that many people seem to have a negative thought about the organization. I also understand that some members can seem a bit a overbearing. But we must remember that even in other religions there are people of the same stature. No organization or religion is totally perfect.

To Joi, from everything that I see and experience is that everyone is expected to think and choose for himself or herself. I have never been pushed or prodded into something I didn't want. I have always
been free to choose. I have had questions in Pres. Ikeda teachings and such. But that doesn't mean that I have to fallow them. After all they are teachings. If you wish to fallow them you can. But I prefer to see it as guidance and I ultimately will choose the path that I want to tread.

Also dda, you do not need to be an SG member to marry a person in SG nor does getting married make them a member by de facto. I know many people in SG whom are married to non-members.

What SG wants is to make the world a better place for everyone. If that means involvement in politics and the community then that would be a good way to change things for the better.

Again I do realize the sometimes overbearing nature of some members but, I wouldn't call it cultish at all but rather someone is excited about something they are involved in and want to do the best they can to help everyone.

I hope that people do not make a bad or incorrect judgment based on only one or two experiences and take into the whole view of the organization. I realize that SG is not for everyone. But, then again what is.

I am not a great person for debate but I will tell you from the experience I have had with SGI that it is not a cult, it is not related in anyway to illegal activity or have any mob(yakuza) affiliations.

I am also saying that you should base your views on the current organization instead of bringing up mistakes made in the past. I don't think it would have grown as large as it has if there weren’t something good about it. Do you?

Of course there's "something good" about SG. That's how cults work, eg. Christianity.

The "mistakes in the past" seem to me to be the defining differences between SG and garden-variety nichiren traditions.

Not being a buddhist student, the main thing I have to say is that beware of falling into religious dogma that hasn't been around for a millenium or two, for religions are the greatest scam opportunity; cf. Jehova's Witnesses, Mormonism, the Nation of Islam, Scientology, Aum Shinrikyo, and those funky pana-wave guys.

What I get from your post is that you feel/think that ALL religions are in some form or another a cult? I mean a closely knit group of friends could be considered a cult by definition.

If that’s your opinion I would like to know why you would choose to think so? Do you have nothing yourself to believe in? I can actually say that at an earlier point in my life I thought I had nothing to believe in myself. Now I'm not going to start preaching and I will not go into why you should think different because you seem vary set in your opinion.

Is there that much prejudice in the world against the unknown that people would shun something just because it doesn't conform to what everyone thinks it should be? I think we should try to at least all be open minded here.

Btw? Who are those funky pena-wave guys?

IMV, cults are religious organizations that recruit through deceptive means (eg. hidden dogma, hidden origins of the cult, secrecy in financial operations), attempt to control their member's lives, not just for the financial (and/or other) gain of the leadership, but also in the attempt to basically subsume the new member into the organization, making parting with the organization (philosophically and/or physically) emotionally difficult.

Most people on this planet harbor dearly-held religious beliefs, and it is not for me to criticize any belief or dogma unless it is provably wrongheaded.

All I know about SG is that their history and operations raise a lot of "CULT!" trip flags.

I am reminded of the saying:

"Honor those seeking the truth. Beware those who say they have found it."

I agree this is prejudiced.

About Panawave:

http://mdn.mainichi.co.jp/photospecials/0305/panawave/01.html

Reading Joi's comment about the current position of Daisaku Ikeda in the church--er, "lay organization"--implies that he is still around. I haven't really been following things that closely, but I assume that means he beat the rape charges of five or six years ago? As I remember, he actually went to trial, but managed to drag things out so long it looked like it would never reach a conclusion.

Nick... as I remember, that rape case was judged as the vexation (abuse of the cause of action) by the court because of the mendacious statements.

And joi, I agree with t.y. I've never been told to do or to be which I don't want to. You deside who you can trust and respect, right? Same goes here. :)

t.y: The incident about 30 years ago is surely old, but how the organization treat it is important.

That incident was very famous because it made Komei Party declare the "separation of politics and religion". However, neither the incident nor the decalaration is listed on the history chart in the S.G.I web site or Komei Party web site.

Iユve been scrolling through this thread with a mixture of FUD and fascination. As a foreign journalist based in Tokyo thatユs covered a range of Japanese issues since 1988, I have inevitably come across the subject of the Soka Gakkai. Among some of my conclusions:
1) Is it powerful? Without question. Any organization with a membership of some eight million households in a democratic society wields considerable influence by default. What has been most problematical for the Soka Gakkai has been New Komeito, the political party that it founded in the 1960s. The party has been a public relations disaster (see below), earning the suspicion and enmity of other parties and religious groups. While its founding rationale was to protect the freedom of religion in Japanムa point well taken, given that the first two Soka Gakkai presidents were incarcerated by the wartime regime for opposing state Shintoムdoes that rationale remain viable today, a half-century later?
2) Is it a cult? Not by most sociology of religion benchmarks. Even the excessive adulation of Daisaku Ikeda can be ascribed more to the East Asian cultural milieu than actual personality worship. Also, among the dozens of world-class thinkers and movers that have met the man--a list that includes Toynbee, Mandela and Gorbachev--all have reportedly come away impressed. I tend to trust the judgement of people whose integrity cannot be called into question.
3) Is it メsecretive, slimey and schemingモ? Another major failure of the Soka Gakkai over the years: PR. Only recently has it begun to address the incredible degree of FUD out there surrounding the group. If Iユd have to point out one of the least credible generators of FUD, it would be the Victims of Soka Gakkai Association. While it has leveled a number of allegations, including purported acts of Soka Gakkai violence that still appear on the association website, the lay Buddhist group has challenged every one in court and won.
4) What about the negative articles in the mainstream media? An interesting point, but flawed. Take the 1995 TIME piece, which has assumed something of a cult following among Soka Gakkai critics. Itユs simply recycled the claims made in numerous Japanese tabloids, which the courts have ruled, time after time, to be little more than unfounded rumor mongering. The upshot: the research that went into that story, and many others of the same ilk, was shoddy at best, journalistically unethical at worst.
5) My take on the topic? For all the positive things the Soka Gakkai has been doing--it promotes nonviolence and refugee relief, for example--much of the FUD directed at it has been self-inflicted, in large part due to its longstanding opacity and tendency to internalize issues. The need for greater transparency is clear and immediate. Only then can the Soka Gakkai be objectively assessed for it truly is.

Funny you mention Toynbee:

Article from the "Victims of S-G" that you back-handedly dismiss.

At the risk of slinging more FUD, your post above reads as if written by a true SG apologist.

"Foreign journalist based in Tokyo." Hmmm ....

"The courts have ruled ... unfounded rumor mongering." Since the courts, in Japan as elsewhere, are not in the business of (nor particularly qualified for) policing the media or religious organizations, I'd like to see some detail on this.

Have there have been specific libel actions won by SG? As for criminal cases, remember that in Japan as in the U.S., the burden of proof on the prosecution is very high, proof beyond a reasonable doubt, so acquital means "not guilty," which is not the same as "innocent."

Japanese court records are online and searchable in Japanese at the sites listed here.

I found New Komeito’s views about Politics and Religion in Japan on the web.
I just want to add a link to the URL.

http://www.komei.or.jp/eng/about/view.htm

I'm surprised that you have such a lenthly article about SGI yet very little about their leader, Daisaku Ikeda. I found this website about him, any comments?

Ken

http://www.daisaku-ikeda.com

I'm surprised that you have such a lenthly article about SGI yet very little about their leader, Daisaku Ikeda. I found this website about him, any comments?

Ken

http://www.daisaku-ikeda.com

Well done for overcoming your FUD and go there to find out what is the real story.

I know I'm a bit late here but just discoverde this BLOG today.

Most people will form up their opinion based on what they hear and read, wrongly believing they now have an opinion of their own. However, many special interests make it a hard path to find real truth for oneself.

The story of SG is the same all over the planet as far as new (or old) religions go. Whoever stick their neck out get flamed in the press and elsewhere.

One could be led to believe that the more unpopular a thing is, the more truth there must be in it.

Perhaps because religion deals with real values - like who you are, where you come from, ethics, knowledge of self and eternity. The one who knows himself is a free man. And who want too many of those around..?

As far as many peoples dislike of "organized religions" I really don't get that viewpoint. For a religion to stand tall and grow it would have to be organized. The better organized, the better the goals of that religion be attained.

Much respect for your integrety.

As someone who has been a member of SGI-USA for 33 years, I applaud your openness to look at the Soka Gakkai without blinders or prejudiced notions.

This organization has a vital worldwide role to save all people in this current defiled age. We will increasingly be recognized as the one's who will lead society out of its current philosophical cul-du-sac.

Many scholars and world leaders are aware of the SGI’s positive role in the world. Myself, I am dedicated to the happiness of all individuals no matter what their religious or political beliefs. All I ask is that they respect the humanity of others. (Admittedly, sometimes that is a lot to ask.) My concern for their welfare is not based upon whether or not they practice my chosen religion. I will stand up and if necessary offer my life, to defend their rights and opinions. This is for the happiness of the common people.

In the past, too many people have been fooled and used by those in power who are cynical and manipulative at heart.

This era has been tied to the age of war which culminated in the current fin-de-sciecle weariness we see all around us. Power is not an answer and the war in the Middle East is not a response which deals with the root cause of our problems.

Please look inside and begin your own internal dialogue. Think about what you say but also be willing to speak out in a courageous way!

I want people to recognize the SGI for the bright jewel that it truly is. I want my fellow SGI members to join me as we seek to develop a world consciousness which is, in fact, the realization of a humanistic world.

You did not mention that Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, the first president of the Soka Gakkai, died in prison during the Second World War. Japanese Kempetai or "thought police" put him there because he refused to recognize the Shinto talisman and the Buddhist god Amida as primary deities. Toda, the second president was released before the end of the war and began speaking out against militarism and atomic weapons almost immediately!

We are only seeking a world where people are respectful of each other and recognize the existence of "the Buddha nature" common to all humanity. The chanting of nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the sound which awakens the caged bird within our lives.

Teachings of Nichiren are increasingly relevant as all people strive to find individual happiness in a world that is so torn by strife.

I am saddened by so many who would condemn what they don't even seek to understand. Perhaps they should step back from the shrill cries of the manipulators and concentrate their minds on the present moment or grasp a compassionate thought and acknowledge that other people may be sincere in their compassion.

Our hope is that collectively, we can still some of the anger and self-righteousness and prejudice within our hearts, as we develop a kernel of wisdom in ourselves, increasing this Buddha's self awareness every day. Otherwise, all signs point toward a bleak future for humankind.

Despite such negative thoughts, no religious faith can really allow anything less than optimism about the future, no mater how dark objective reality appears. The courage of the lion king will be needed if the world is to turn its collective destiny toward a happier tomorrow. Nichiren said that “nam myoho renge kyo is like the roar of a lion.”

dear sir,

i have been aware of soka gakkai now for approximately three months via a work colleague...i have alwyas been aware too of my spiritual shortcomings and of my need to find a spiritual pathway in my life. to this effect i attended some sessions at londons meditation centre in holloway road which has nothing to do with soka gakkai and follows a orthodox approach. what i found appealing from soka gakkai is the fact that there is no clergy, no initiation rites but what i did find rather bizarre was the fact that some members, like my work mate, seem to chant for their own personal goals. i am now in japan two stops away from the soka gakkai hd and i am in two minds about paying a visit and finding out...many japanese friends tell me this is a dangerous sect and parisers article soka gakkai expose, on the net, isnt very flattening either...

i shall write a report of my findings

regards

I helped get my wife deprogrammed and out of this organization a few years ago. No one in the organization would say where all the donated money was going (they have approx. $138 billion). They strongly believe in turning their backs, plugging their ears and closing their eyes standing by as evil people torture and murder.
Jeff


Dear Sir,

I have participated in some SK meetings here in London for the past two weeks. I have also chanted daily since. It all appears to be very positive and the people involved seem kind in nature and have many interesting things to say about life. They exude energy and seem to be very happy and positive. I still have doubts and the only thing that seems strange is their interest in recruiting new members. No money is requested and they are very open and subtle when they make contact and also respect privacy. I have come to understand the reason behind their chanting for their own personal goals: if one is happy he or she has the ability to make other happy. This is an oversimplification of what really goes on but explains what seemed at first a dilemma, at least for me.
It is a matter of faith and faith is difficult to come by these days. It seems too easy to be true. But I must keep trying, at least until Xmas.

I practice Nicherin Daishonin Buddhism, and I am a member of the SGI for 5 years now . I chant because I find peace within myself when I chant Gongyo. It is an internal engergization that can not be described further, only felt. I beleive in balance and peace, and that I can achive this for myself and my family by chanting Daimoku (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo). I also beleive that to do for others is one of my greatest gifts to bestow, and brings the biggest benefits to my life when I do so. I dont chant for material wealth, for myself or those I know, I do however chant for them to achieve happiness.
(happiness can take whatever form is needed for that person to achieve it) on that note, if it comes to me in a material benefit, or spiritual benefit, or a career benefit I have faith that is which I required in my life for balance, peace and therefore happiness.

Hi Joi,

I am a 29 year old Japanese woman and Soka gakkai member
since I was born.

Thank you for writing "what you really thought" about Soka
Gakkai.

I am so confident that this religion is great and it can
make every human beings happy by practicing.

It's free to have prejudice or bad impressions. But I
just want people to see the truth. Look at the other side
of the things sometimes.

Trust me everyone, Nishire's teaching is the most free and
opened philosophy of life.

I was really happy to find Joi's blog. Thanks.
Thanks Kana, too.


Good job Joi. You are fortunate to have an open mind which is in contrast to many of your friends on this blog. It blows my mind how arrogant many of these geeks can be. A little humility will serve them well. I thought being "smart" meant thinking critically and not just believing in rumors and heresays. You are different because you took the time to investigate the facts and found out for yourself how the gakkai is. Trust you instincts and not these shallow thinking techies westerners who think all "spiritual" organizations are cults full of murders, rapes, and financial scandals, give me a break! If you took the time to learn more about the Gakkai, you'll see that they'll never fit into a cult description. Thanks.

Dont listen to those people who tell you that sgi is cult.

why?

because those very people are arrogent, opinionated, have some kind of issue problem along with anger issues, very critical, along with scores of other things.

If they tell you that sgi is the same as scientology, then its very evident that they dont have a clue about what their talking about. They dont even know their alive.

I really dont know what those peoples problems are but one thing i do know is that for some reason or another they find these cult awareness groups and they see sgi on it and they start attacking sgi because sgi is on those websites and all of a sudden they want to act like their experts about religions and cults.

The problem is that most of those cult awareness groups are owned by cults.

Plus the information on those websites is very innacurate and nothing to validate what they say.

Also these people who go to those sites dont even know who owns the sites and what the sites sources are.

So thats pretty pathetic.

also

as far as the word cult is concerned, Its used pretty much the same way as the word pervert is used.

almost all people who use either the word, cult or pervert really dont know what either truly means and how to correctly use it, so instead they descide to use it for their own personal views.

so, this means that these so called know it alls about religion and cults are actually using the word "cult" by their own personal definition.

Dont beleive me.

Question them.

Hi All,

Very interesting Blogs, I have been practising Nichiren Daishonin's buddhism for the last nineteen years in Ireland. During that time I've gone through many negative and positive experiences in my life.

I have always had an inquisitive mind and will always question every belief system I come across. I am an SGI member...it took nineteen years, but i finally realised that of all the faith/religion/belief systems I had come across Nichiren's was by far the most engaging, and I received Gohonzon this year.

I have never been asked for money, and I have never been asked to do something against my wishes. What I have learnt is that no ideology or theology is perfect, but as beliefs go Nichiren Daishoin's Buddhism has added to my life, and given me more optimism than I though possible.

I am always careful of my belief...hence i'm checking these blogs, to see after all these years have I made a great mistake...and i can say no.....i am a better person than i was all those years ago

Joi,
Thank you for telling your story as you saw it. It is very easy to be sucked in by propaganda, especially that which is in the main stream media. I appreciate your honesty and non-bias approach, it is refreshing. Also thank you to Kana for all her work as well.

Respectfully
Mark
SGI-USA YMD LEADER

As a member of the first entering class of Soka University of America, I am proud to declare that my rigorous studies there have given me an intellectual edge provided by very few institutions. Although there are a few articles you may find in the media that criticize the university, any indepth examination would reveal a far greater number of works that praise the achievements of the institution. The speed of it's accredition process from WASC, a process that often takes 10 years, but SUA has accomplished in 4, the high percentage of graduates who have been accepted to graduate schools, despite the disadvantage of graduating from a nonaccredited institution (at the time of graduation--it was accredited the following month), as well as the warm relations it has built with the surrounding city is evidence of it's greatness. Anyone who has the audacity to criticize this university should take a visit to the campus and have a dialogue with the students. Everyone I know who has visited the campus or met its students has left with a sense of awe and hope for the future.

To the person quoting statistics concerning the number of faculty that have left SUA, read the book "Lying with Statistics." It is an 80 page long book, with big print, and pictures read by high school students that will give you the basic skills for thoughtfully considering those fancy (yet meaningless) numbers we people like to throw around. Yes, I have studied statistics.

There were only about 10 faculty the first year of SUA. What is 25% of 10? Not much, when you consider the fact that the school was being built from nothing. Anyone that has ever worked with academics should know that they a little temperamental, sometimes arrogant, and unreasonable. It is natural that a few would be unsatisfied with their work environment. It was a complete experiment. There was no way any of the faculty, staff or students could know what they were walking into. You must also remember that some people were hired on 1 year/temporary contracts and/or are established academics with many opportunities available to them.

Furthermore, many articles that criticize the SGI and SUA are written by so called "journalists" that make a living out of attacking the SGI. These individuals have close ties to groups that feel threatened by the SGI. They also go around creating websites and leaving false posts about being "former deprogrammed members." They all have the same rhetoric and come from the same source--those groups aforementioned. How do I know this? Do a google check. They also use false names, create ridiculous websites that make ungrounded claims, quotes or activities out of contenxt (their favorite) or site uncredible websites that are sometimes created by the same people. The funny thing is, if you look at an academic library, you can find more accurate literature on the SG than from the information found in websites, which are just as credible as the articles on "Wolfman Found" or "Batboy Born to Virgin Mother."

As for Daisaku Ikeda, this founder of the Soka schools and current president of Soka Gakkai has received over 170 honorary doctorates and awards from academic institutions around the world. To my recollection, this is a world record. He's is recognized for his achievements everywhere in the world. As the central figure of the SG, he has been a lightening rod for bad press. Anyone that knows anything about Japanese news and tabloids knows that they are unreliable and prone to unethical methods.

To the argument as to way SG doesn't just file for libel against those making false claims, please take a look into Japanese law. You'll find out that it provides little protection against libel. Filing such suits often turn fruitless in the end. Yes, this is despite Japan being a so called "democratic" nation.

Anyway, I'd like to conclude here:
Through studing at Soka University I have made friends with people from countries all over the world (and other religions). I have also developed the intellectual foundation to initiate my own quest to contribute to peace. If an organization such as the SGI is a "cult," then so be it. I'm honored to support a cult that contributes to peace, humanism, EDUCATION, culture, environmentalism, and passivism. It's better than living a passive or cynical existence.

I guess one of the biggest questions in my mind right now is whether Daisaku Ikeda is an unquestioned authority/leader or whether members are actually encouraged to think for themselves. In the discussion with Yoshigo-san and from reading the materials, it appears that people are encouraged to think and generally question authority. On the other hand, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence that people do not question the authority of Daisaku Ikeda. The other question is whether this people are actively discouraged from speaking up and questioning Daisaku Ikeda or whether this is merely a result of great respect for his thinking...

As someone who has at one point or another seen the Landmark Forum, Scientology and SGI from inside (during my younger years) - there is no doubt in my mind that all three are cults. Semantic arguments about definitions aside, the blind belief of members (family and friends) of these 3 cults and their rationalizations of all things wrong with them were enough to convince me to keep my hand on my wallet, smile and leave at the first chance I got.

It is truly tragic that organizations which prey on peoples insecurities are not only joined and supported but also defended by otherwise intelligent and rational (hopefully) people. The common tactic these organizations use is peer pressure - once your whole "network" is part of it - you cannot escape them (easily). These cults are better than Ebay and Facebook at generating and exploiting Network Externalities.

My sincere recommendation to anyone seeking Operating Thetan status or Nirvana - look for the nearest exit.

Some thoughts on the SGI: The leaders of this organization are having a nervous breakdown of faith. They are walking back and forth picking mushrooms off the floor that aren't there. They are forming meaningless thoughts and thus organizing bizarre and inconsequential actions reflected in their meetings that are more and more centered around Ikeda and the mentor disciple relationship rather than around Buddhism, the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Nichiren Daishonin.

Brainwashing too can cause an acute and even chronic psychotic condition leading to disordered and disorganized thoughts. According to the DSM 5 guidelines of the American Psychiatric Association under "post traumatic stress disorders'', subheading, ''brainwashing and mental health'' it is stated that brainwashing may lead to acute psychotic reactions mimicking both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. P.E.T. and MRI brain scans have revealed subtle adverse molecular changes in the brains of brainwashed individuals. Brainwashing has thus been proven to alter brain structure and function. However, I am not advocating the SGI leaders and members have a brain scan because reality, as it is, obviates the needs for such expensive testing.

A former SGI member wrote:

"All cults, totalitarian organizations (such as Soka Gakkai International) and dictatorial governments employ the same means for keeping their members, followers and citizens obedient and docile. The main key is dis-information in combination with the brainwashing into belief in the absolute righteousness of their respective causes.

With the increasing popularity of the Internet, SGI found itself with a
potential problem. No matter how much brainwashing is done at the SGI
meetings (zadankai), the members with the access to Internet may be
exposed to all kinds of alternate ideas and opinions as far as Buddhist
doctrine is concerned and, what's worse, they may be exposed to the
truth about SGI and its leader Daisaku Ikeda. These things, while
carefully suppressed within the SGI cult, may find their way in through
the back door of the Internet and possibly corrupt the unity and
dedication of the followers which the cult leaders are trying so hard to
achieve.

I was involved in starting the "Intenet Commitee" in Philadelphia. SGI
purchased a separate telephone line and a Netcom account. Several
"dedicated" members with the Internet access were recruited to monitor
a.r.b.n, collect "weekly statistics" (exactly like what Soren is doing)
and the offending posts. All data was sent on a weekly basis to Ian
McIlraith (I think he is SGI USA Youth Division chief) in LA. The whole
operation was done in secrecy and no one was supposed to be aware of it
besides the members of the "Internet Commitee", Joint Territory leaders
and some leaders of Anti-Danto group (eventually the AD and Internet
groups were combined). In the beginning all the posts were e-mailed to
Mr. McIlraith for approval (I still have his letter praising these
"efforts")

It is curious to consider the degrees of the "offense". While any issue
regarding the Buddhist doctrine was TOTALLY ignored and considered
irrelevant, the most offensive articles were considered those that
criticized Daisaku Ikeda, and then the SGI cult itself. The TRUTH was
not even an issue at all. The most important thing was to defend Ikeda
and SGI, no matter what. That's when I started posting here as "Bo
Fugen". Craig Bratcher was considered the "worst offender"
(Congratulations, Craig;) and, as some might remember, Craig and I
were involved in one bitter "flame war" after another. Some of my posts
against Nichiren Shoshu were so bad that they were flamed even by Soren
(that must have been the ultimate in bad taste:(!) At that time I
replied to Soren, explaining my position and got his personal "blessing"
(apparently he is trying to blackmail me with that now).

Another curious point is: It has been decided by the "brains" behind
this activity to not attack Kempon Hokke but to try and become friendly
with them so together we could fight against the "common enemy" -
Nichiren Shoshu. During that time I have had numerous discussions with
the Soka Gakkai leaders as to what is the correct Buddhist doctrine,
according to SGI and the answers were quite clear " We are not Nichiren
Shoshu, we have nothing to do with Nichiren Shoshu, forget about the
Nichiren Shoshu, etc. We can not discard these doctrines overnight as
there are too many members that believe in them and if we tell them
otherwise, they'll leave. Give it 10 years (!)" The person who told me
that, in fact, said that Kempon Hokke is much closer to the truth - the
same person that went to Myomanji with the purpose to discredit the
Kempon Hokke sect (the reason is the same - prevent members from leaving
SGI and since KHI is active on the Internet - that is where they need to
be attacked.)

I am not interested in defending cults, organizations and sects - all I
want to do is practice Buddhism and attain enlightenment. THERE IS NO
BUDDHISM IN SGI - it is a disgusting and oppressive cult, truly
represented here by Soren and Kathy. They have a purpose of being on
this newsgroup - that purpose has NOTHING to do with Religion, Buddhism
or Nichiren. Their purpose is to discredit anything that threatens their
cult by spreading lies, half-truths, more lies and more half-truths."


Some proof the SGI has brainwashed people:

Seemingly intelligent and accomplished people, professionals etc. seeking personal guidance from uneducated and ignorant rabble like Mr. Kasahara, on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

Believing that lying is ok as long as the goals of SGI are met. SGI practice thus leads to moral bankruptcy which is readily apparent to everyone except the sgi member himself.

Anecdotal evidence that members are unable to see reality as it is:

There is an old saying in the SGI, "AIDS isn't a problem it's an opportunity"! However, from the perspective of authentic Buddhism, first you tackle the problem and then rejoice. This is the natural order of things. We do not practice Hinduism, bliss, bliss, joy, joy. We practice the exhalted teachings of Buddha and Nichiren. First you pull out the arrow then you heal. "Joy of joys, I have an arrow in my chest" is not Buddhism. Look for some authentic statues or pictures of Buddha and Nichiren. They were dead serious. They weren't Lamas giggling at a bad joke.

One day, I was walking in the street after having done several hours of Daimoku and I was, as we used to say in the SGI, lit up. I met an old SGI "friend"
of mine, a high level leader who was glaring at me as all my old SGI friends who know my opinions are want to do. I said hi. He said, "Mark, you appear so unhappy since you left the SGI." My heart really went out to this person and even though I don't usually invite "insane" people to my house to learn about the Kempon Hokke, I invited him so that he may have the opportunity to encounter the beautiful Kempon Hokke practice and Gohonzon,. He declined and told me I will fall into hell.

Further proof is the fact that SGI members lie and oftentimes don't even know they are lying:

Everytime an SGI member argues about SGI or Ikeda or Buddhism and even when they cite the Lotus Sutra or Gosho, he is lying about the true nature of the SGI and Buddha Shakyamuni. One who lives a lie is a perpetual liar and can expound no truths: SGI--->Ikeda; Ikeda--->Ikeda; Gosho--->Ikeda; Nam Myoho renge kyo--->Ikeda; Buddha--->Ikeda; Lotus Sutra--->Ikeda; This is implicit or implied.

It all begins with lies and guidance on the the very basis of the Nichiren faith, the Three Treasures of the Lotus Sutra and the mixing of the Lotus Sutra with unclean practices(bushido). Even teaching the SGI's mistaken views out of ignorance makes men into napalm spewing demons let alone those who know and lie intentionally (those at the top). The leaders and sycophynts in SGI thus abuse the members using both subtle and not so subtle group dynamics and brainwashing techniques.

The SGI is not the Buddha Shakyamuni's Sangha led by Jogyo. It is Ikeda's Sangha led by Ikeda. He has not only appropriated the rightful position of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni but also that of Bodhisattva Jogyo. Ikeda, to SGI, is the Treasure of the Buddha and the Treasure of the Sangha (or Priest) all wrapped up into one. Even the treasure of the Law is distorted with the leaders and members chanting Nam Myoho renge kyo with their mouths but Nam Ikeda Sensei with their hearts. The new members, I have been talking to, want to practice Buddhism, not Ikedaism, not Human Revolution, Value Creationism nor feel good new age mysticism. They want to learn about the Lotus Sutra and the Gosho. They yearn to connect to the Lotus Sutra and Gosho, not to President Ikeda and the Human Revolution. The subtle pressures put on the members to connect to Ikeda are nothing short of intense while the Lotus Sutra is mystified and demeaned as being too difficult to understand by lesser men than Ikeda and Toda. Then we have people with real problems, health issues, social issues who are guided by the liars and sycophants and the unenlightened worldlings in SGI who have never even read the Lotus Sutra. Those who claim to have attained what they have not, those who haven't even read the Lotus Sutra, yet claim to be reading it with their bodies. I go all over online and speak to new members. The people I speak to, the people before the guilt, propaganda, and brainwashing have set in, have myriad doubts about the SGI and then they begin to have doubts in Nichiren's teachings and I tell them to at least try and keep a modicum of faith in the Lotus Sutra: "The SGI does not chant the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra or they wouldn't behave as they do." At best, the SGI Daimoku can be called mechanical. At worst, it will destroy the teachings of the Buddha and Nichiren. The SGI is an enemy of the Buddha and the Lotus Sutra.

Mark

I AM A PROUD AMERICAN SGI MEMBER

I've been an SGI member for 9 months now, and I absolutely love this organization. I feel more optimistic about the future of this world thanks to SGI. My life has unquestionably changed in a positive way, and everyone around me has noticed. People have going out of their way to tell me this.

I have also passionately studied religion, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and semiotics (although not an expert). And none of these studies has empowered me with such such practical tools as those provided by this particular Buddhism.

(I wish I wasn't in such a rush to write this). I have also traveled from the Middle East, South America, Northern Africa, and lived in Europe as well as in the US. I have yet found a culture that is more Value Creating than the Sokka Gakkai USA.

My Catholic education was way more dogmatic than the teachings of Nichiren Buddhism, and way more alienating, questionable. There is no guilt in this Buddhism as well, and our Earthly desires are considered to be indicative of our path to our enlightenment. So if there is no brain washing about who we should be and what we should aspire to, etc. (except that we should strongly desire world happiness)

I have now been to a SGI convention in Florida, and I was moved by the testimonies of people who were able to radically change all the problems/sufferings in their lives into sources of growth. Some of these testimonies would have brought tears to even the most stuck up people. They were PROOF that these Buddhist tools WORK.

A friend of mine decided to join the Catholic Church about in the same time I started this practice. To this day she still suffers depression, and has witnessed my life condition radically rise, despite the incurable illness I have (which close to been vanished today).

Finally. As far as other types of Buddhism goes, they are nice, but they too often project Buddhism as a passive philosophy. I have been interested in Buddhism since I was 12, and it never really made complete sense until I discovered the teachings of Nichiren, then it made total sense. I agree with SGI, other forms of Buddhism are meant for people living 2000 ago, Not today!!! You've got to understand this.
C'mon people, you gona be a Zen or Tibetan Buddhist living in our modern times? Those types of Buddhism will never change the world, but they're great if you want to go live in a cave, or in the mountain!

About "rejecting other religions": this Buddhism teaches us that the essence of the universe, Myoho, or the Mystic Law (A.K.A god in other religions) is not outside of us, it is us, we are made of it. We do not worship something outside of ourselves, but the true nature of our being (one and inseparable from the whole). As opposed to other religions who project this deity having a personality and owning us as his subjects. These are, in my opinion, dangerous teachings. SGI didn't tell me to think this way. SGI places emphasis on human beings, and personal responsibility for the world in our life time. No god will save us, we are accountable for everything.

Also, I found a lot of the negative comments in this post rather questionable. For example, there is no priesthood in SGI, it is organized by members, who have day jobs, families and children. There are no "temples", but community centers, void of propaganda. There are no marriage rituals here in the U.S (I've asked). And yes, I would rather marry a SGI member, because this philosophy is so strong, I wouldn't worry so much about getting a divorce.

And Disaku Ikeda is the man. You can criticize him all you want, he is a role model. We need role models! Stop freaking out because people have such admiration for him. And just about all accusations have been 'officially' proved wrong. There is a site for this, I don't have it off hand.

I've paid almost no money to this organization.

O yea, and last thing, chanting ROCKS!!! it feels good! Even after a day filled with conflict, I can tune into the vibrations of my voice, I find harmony with myself as well as with my environment (voice of other people chanting) my mind becomes quiet and insight comes naturally. I gain confidence as my mind stops being agitated, and focuses on the present moment and on the potential of my being. It charges me.

SGI-USA promotes peace and happiness better than any other organization I ever seen. Try it, instead of trying to knock it down.

PEACE

P.S: Sorry for any grammatical mistakes, I was in a bit of a rush.

P.P.S: So much more positive things I wish to say, I wish I could.

Dear Laurent:

Read the Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nichiren Daishonin without the SGI footnotes.

Mark

They're a cult, I was a member for years. (I suppose they look at me as a part of the third who try to hurt believers, even though I still practice Nichiren Buddhism). It's actually quite sad, some of the things SGI has done in the name of Sensei.

I'm a current member who has been excited about the prospect of an American form of buddhism - especially for people turned off to the Judeo-Christian religious model - and SGI-USA seemed like a good vehicle to support buddhist practice, individually and collectively.

Unfortunately, my experience has fit the category of psychic trauma. My district leader is an authoritarian who repeats what he is told and expects everyone under him to fall in line. Questioning senior leaders is impossible, as they are all a pack of ignorant bald-faced liars. The General Director appears to be independently wealthy (he is listed as a 'benefactor' for Soka University), and comes from a long tradition where daimyo rulers took heads. Shoguns, Emperors, etc. This totalitarian mindset prevails at the top and no one will challenge their senior leaders. Watching people sing songs about "Forever Sensei" and then seeing videos of Ikeda berating subordinates in front of thousands of adoring sycophants made me sick to my stomach.

There are many, many great and wonderful members who have been very encouraging, but there is something fundamentally rotten going on at the top. It stinks, badly. Very sadly, I must agree that terms like 'brainwashing,' 'cult,' and 'intentional infliction of emotional distress' are not too harsh to describe the SGI-USA.

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