Is Soka Gakkai International a cult?

Looks like a successful businessman to me.  Good for him!  Turning Buddhism into profit is not as easy task in the West.

Looks like a successful businessman to me. Good for him! Turning Buddhism into profit is not as easy task in the West.

Is Soka Gakkai International a cult or just led by an asshole?  Lets see…from Characteristics Associated with Cult Groups

The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.‪

Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

‪ Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s).

‪The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).

‪The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members (for example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to save humanity).

‪The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.

The leader is not accountable to any authorities.

‪The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members’ participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).

‪ The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of persuasion.

‪Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

‪ The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members.

‪The group is preoccupied with making money.

‪Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.

‪Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members.

‪The most loyal members (the “true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of the group. They believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.

I recall some experiences I have had with ex-members of SGI and while the stories I heard did not identify SGI as insidious as implied by some (crazy comments about world domination and such), I do think that the organization itself (not necessarily people that are involved with SGI) does raise some red flags…

  •  A “Political Wing”.  SGI’s political wing in Japanese politics is the New Komeito Party.  While I don’t know anything about Japanese politics, I do believe that any religious organization that takes a heavy hand in politics is dangerous.  Just look at what the Evangelical Christians have succeeded in American education.
  •  Proselytizing – SGI makes a push towards converting others to their viewpoint.  I have little respect for doorknockers or those that insist that their version is  the right version
  •  Cult of Personality – It seems that Ikeda comes first and the BuddhaDharma comes second.
  •  Lay Organized – I love grass-roots Buddhism but SGI is in no way grass-roots.  It is a mega-church of Buddhism.
  • Us vs. Them – SGI is a splinter group of Nichiren Shu and defines themselves as the “true” way versus all other practicing Buddhists.

 So, to keep it short, I think SGI falls into some points of the cult checklist above but, at the same time, so do many organizations that are  harmless in nature.  From conversations w/former members, SGI was not violent in any way but the group members were rather heavy-handed w/members that questioned the group and organization (ie. inviting themselves over to a former member’s house for something that resembled an “intervention”). 

I would love to hear from some actual members about their experiences.



[Just as an aside- I have no issue with Nichiren Shu as a Buddhist practice, nor centering one’s practice around the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren’s writings or the chanting of “Myo ho renge kyo”.  What I do have issue with is Buddhism as big business, cults of personality and proselytizing.  As such, SGI is not a cult in my book or by my definition but placed into the lofty rack of “annoying religious sect” alongside the Mormons, Evangelical Christians, the Jehovah’s Whitnesses and the New Kampada Tradition.  That coupled with a hand in politics makes me uneasy.  I suppose that my take home message is “Do you really want to be affiliated with a group like this when you could simply practice on your own?”  Thanks for the comments and the emails!]


41 thoughts on “Is Soka Gakkai International a cult?

  1. Not a member. A friend came to me with their tract and said, “Not to proselytize, but I thought this might help. If you become a Buddhist, all the better.”

    I peered at her and said, “One does not become.”

    She rolled her eyes and said, “Yes, yes, I know. One is already a Buddha.”

    • I know and this is sort of what I am talking about. I don’t want anyone to become Buddhist. I would never push that viewpoint on people. I talk about Buddhism with friends but never with the thought that it would be better if they were Buddhist. I prefer to allow people to make their own decisions.

      Thanks for commenting!



  2. Well, as a new SGI member, I’m wrestling with some of this myself. I know how they are viewed in Japan, and it doesn’t seem at all favorable and your comparison to the Christian Right here in the US seems spot on.

    The people I’ve met are nice. Though I’m starting to see some of the insistance upon “one” view of the dharma, which I don’t particularly like. I can’t say I have made up my mind completely yet either way. I can say that chanting daimoku has been very beneficial in starting my practice, and I’ve found that I enjoy chanting; so no matter what happens I’ll keep chanting I think.

    As far as the whole Ikeda thing goes, it’s a little weird. To me, he’s just some guy. That’s almost certainly blasphemous or something, but just being the leader of the organization doesn’t automatically qualify him to be the dharma king.

    The reason we got into it, was my wife and her family were Nicherin Shu practitioners before the split. She liked chanting before, and I thought it would be a great segway into Buddhism for the both of us, since she already had some practice at it and knew some of the sangha still.

    I’ll keep you updated as things progress. I knew some of your bullet points going in to this, but felt it was necessary to get rid of my aversions. Simply avoiding an organized religion wasn’t going to get me anywhere close to my buddha nature. So I chose to walk the middle path and just go for it without any preconceptions about what may be, knowing that I would probably be able to find at least of few nuggets of dharma there.

    • I appreciate your comment, Adam. I figured that you were a new member and didn’t want to insult your choice but still wanted to spout my own views on what I think can be detrimental to one’s practice.

      I agree that one needs to explore on their own to determine if it works. I have had some bad experiences with similar groups and usually have learned something valuable through the experience. Personally, I think most of what it positive through Nichiren Shu and recitation/chanting practice can be discovered w/o SGI but I would never tell someone that they shouldn’t.

      Although, I should mention that they take back the Gohonzon if you choose to leave the organization. Or so I heard. I am also weirded out by the “test” that one can opt to take. That being said, almost everything that I dislike about SGI (with the possible exception of the proselytizing) can also be said of many Zen groups. For more see this post on some issues with the Zen cult of personality. Of course none of these individuals had as much unrestrained power as SGI presidente “El Ikeda”.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope I didn’t come off as preachy.


      • Not insulting, and certainly not preachy. I didn’t know they would take back the Gohonzon.

        As far as the “test”, from what I gather it’s a monthly thing. SGI puts out some study material on a monthly basis, and at the end of the month the local districts/chapters/sanghas talk about the material and then everyone takes a quiz and grades themselves. Unless there is some other test.

        Like I said, these are some things that I’m struggling with currently. I’ll keep you updated.

        And now that you and the squirrel have moved to wordpress, I’m contemplating the move as well. I like the layout a bit more.

        • I heard about the test from The Buddhist Podcast. It is a podcast by a member of SGI and is generally a good podcast but they had one cast on the “TEST” and it came of as very promotional and they usually aren’t that way at all.

          • I’m a long time SGI member. I would just like to clarify about the “test.”

            As with any philosophy or religion, it is important to study. Each October, there is a study exam or test, whatever you want to call it. There is no consequence of passing or failing. It is quite literally an opportunity to for each member, on his or her own accord, to challenge herself/himself to study and pass a test of his/her understanding of buddhist history and philosophy.

            To be very clear, there is no consequence or benefit of passing or failing bestowed by “the SGI.” The only benefit comes from the individuals efforts to try.

  3. I stumbled into SGI before I met my SotoBuddhist teacher. Coming from a fundamentalist SouthernBaptist background, I was immediately struck by the similarities. Then there was the fact that I was greeted *at the door* with a request for money. Before my butt even hit a folding metal chair. Chanting and single-minded proselytizing. AA-type “Buddhism saved me from (name a sin/addiction)” testimonials. And Ikeda: *cult of celebrity* is right. Had I not known that there were other paths to take, I would have turned from Buddhism right then and there. Met my teacher a few weeks later. Never looked back.

    • I fell into a similar trap with both SGI and New Kampata Tradition (NKT). They were pretty much my first exposure to Buddhism and, in the case of NKT it got a bit rough when I was told that my attachement to my money was my problem (I was a poor college student at the time working at the dining hall).

      I am glad you had a legitimate teacher to turn to. I have the feeling that Ikeda is more concerned with his “grass-roots” empire than with actual Buddhist teachings.

      Don’t knock AA-Buddhism though. I plan on talking about the 12-Step Buddhist soon.

      Thanks for the comment!


      • Definitely not knocking AA, as I have a long and respectful history with that organization.

        It was more the corruption of positioning Buddha as messiah, monetary donation as indicator of good intent, and life itself as “sin.” I nearly drowned in all that as a SouthernBaptist, and I saw SGI as an uneducated translation or, worse, a deliberate market-focused manipulation of Buddhist teachings. I walked out of SGI asking myself, how gullible does one have to be? and honestly wondering if all religions (theist or non-theist) were not the same.

        Remembering this episode reminds me how very grateful I am for my teacher’s quiet guidance and the opportunity I enjoy in solitary practice.

        In Gassho, BrotherZen!

        • In complete agreement with your comments concerning ”

          Buddha as messiah, monetary donation as indicator of good intent, and life itself as sin.”

          I wonder if SGI is more palatable to converted Christians for those reasons, especially those with an evangelical background.

          I am sure you told me previously, but who was your teacher?



        • I continued my studies with a priest ordained with the San Francisco Zen Center and grew to embrace SotoZen (with a serious Taoist slant) in the lineage of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi. My teacher was also ordained as a priest in the Jōdo Shū tradition, which is how I came to know him.

  4. Lions, tigers and bears! Oh my! Well, I’ve been offered the kool-aid and I took a drink. I am investigating, because as the Buddha said in the Kalama Sutta, don’t go by what others say, find out for yourself by testing what they say.

    I shall not abandon my core beliefs, I will not stop my study of the Tipitika, and anyone who suggests to me that it’s OK if I do that, I have an impolite response.

    Of course, when you think about it, there are always groups that snipe about other groups, the Mahayana followers saying that the Theravada followers are archaic and self-centered, while the Theravada followers accuse the Mahayana schools of following teachings the Buddha never gave, bla bla bla.

    We humans are so reluctant to think for ourselves, we seem to desire someone else to do it for us. And if that’s the case, we deserve everything we get.


    • Hey Richard, I admit that I had some reservations about posting this topic. I had the postready to go for a week or two and then read your post and thought “Shit” but I went with it anyway.

      I am all about exploring paths. I myself went with a few groups to see how they fit and, whooo boy, did they not fit.

      Groups do snipe about others but for the most part we get along. Theravada monks study with Mahayana and the reverse as well. And they do that w/o the thought of converting the others. It does not seem to be the same with SGI.

      But! With that said, I do believe that people will find what they need from where they are. Although, if you are still thinking for yourself, you haven’t drank the Kool-Aid yet. Only sipped.

      I have never fit well into groups unless they are willing to accept me and what I bring into “the fold”. I hope you turn SGI on their heads…and enjoy every minute of it!



  5. @Adam

    “As far as the whole Ikeda thing goes, it’s a little weird. To me, he’s just some guy. That’s almost certainly blasphemous or something, but just being the leader of the organization doesn’t automatically qualify him to be the dharma king.”

    Hello! That’s what I say about the Dalai Lama. I respect the Dalai Lama very much, but he’s not the leader of all Buddhists. And in fact, the sect of Buddhism he does lead is a very small minority of the Vajrayan vehicle.


    • The Dalai Lama, the Pope and Ikeda walk into a bar. The Pope says “ouch”, The Dalai Lama states that there is no bar and Ikeda charges it a donation/fee.

      Meh, they are all overrated.

      • Just want to pop in here on this one. Funny joke. But honestly, in 15 years of practice, I have NEVER ONCE been pressured to donate money. And I’ve practiced in 7 different areas around the country. There are practical and logistical reasons for accepting donations and members have the opportunity to do so, but no one is demanded to do so.

        The acceptance of monetary donations to the SGI is taken very seriously at the ground level and up.

  6. Dear Jack:

    “Lets just make up stuff’ is SGI. SGI is not found in Buddhism, in the Lotus Sutra, nor in the writings of Nichiren Daishonin.
    SGI is to Buddhism as poodle is to hot dog.


    • I love that we can relate things to SAT analogy questions.

      The Buddha is to a shitstick and Joshu is to Mu!

      So what would SGI be grounded in? The ego or charisma of its presidente, perhaps?

  7. Hi Jack, I have been a member of SGI U.K. since ’87, and remember my dad freaking out at the thought of me joining a “cult”. He went to see the then director Richard Causton and his fears were quashed. I think the reverence displayed for P. Ikeda in Japan is seen as a bit weird by westerners but is just typical of their culture not the organisation; I find him humerous, very supportive and enthusiastic in the cause we all have ie. ending suffering on every level. I have never been tested nor will I ever be, that’s my choice and I don’t feel judged. Being a member of SGI or calling yourself spiritual, a Christian etc. doesn’t make anyone perfect. This has proven to be the right path for me and I hope everyone finds themselves and manages to make sense of it all whatever they practice; that’s how we acheive world peace right?

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  9. I am a member of SGI and I can tell you fist hand this this article is ridiculous. SGI is NOT a cult! President Ikeda is a business man, but he doesn’t directly profit from from our practice, and he along with the previous two presidents have indirectly together saved literally THOUSANDS of lives just by introducing Nichiren Buddhism to the world! its insulting to myself and the other hundreds of thousands of members of SGI when people a that we are a cult. it’s an insult to our intellect, and honestly, if you really want to know the truth about Nichiren Buddhism, I suggest that you check us out for yourself! these people are the happiest people I know, and welcome anyone and everyone! Really, check it out for yourself before you judge!

    • Thank you for your comment. Personally, I don’t think SGI is a cult but I do believe that several “red flags” are raised for me when I look at the organization…as I listed above.

      Secondly, I have had a few fellow practitioners that had negative experiences when they were in SGI. While these experiences were not particularly toxic nor abusive, it was enough for me to distance myself from the organization in general (not a huge fan of Nichiren in general).

      Umbrella organization, mega churches are not my thing but people do seem attracted to them.

      Good luck with your practice.


  10. P.S. dear Mark Rogow, Nichiren Buddhism used to be a part of the Buddhist temple, but the monks there believed that the scriptures ( a book that we read from when we chant) shouldn’t be shared with anyone outside of the temple. our president fought long and hard to spread Nichiren Buddhism throughout the world. Summing it up, Nichiren Buddhism IS legally AND technically a legit religion.

  11. How can I find out more if Soka a true and non cult like religion?
    I have studied the fundamental Buddhism when I was in secondary whereby I took that up as my religion class. I was then first introduced to Soka in year 2007 – 2008 and was amased by doing the chanting will help to eliminate / solve the problems or obstacles we face in life.

    I am still shew toward the Buddhism which I have learnt before whereas in Nichiren Buddism I do not find they really going into the theory but just simply chanting and chanting.

  12. SGI

    I have practiced Buddhism for about 15 years and had never heard of SGI. I recently talked with a friend who introduced me to the the practice of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I was delighted at first, since there were people in my town who were practicing, and I thought it would make Buddhism more readily accessible for me, since they met at meetings in people’s homes. How fantastic!

    My thoughts have radically changed in a very short time. Essentially, SGI believes that all other Buddhist practices are heretical. My ears went up early on when I began hearing criticisms of the Dalai Lama at the so-called “discussion meetings” I was attending (these discussion meetings are often nothing more than forums for leaders to advance SGI propaganda and the “teachings” of Daisaku Ikeda, who is revered as a near-God). It seems that SGI adherents can’t stand the fact that the Dalai Lama is so beloved and well-known, while their Ikeda is virtually unheard of, despite their attempts to put him forth as an equal of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. When I attempted to respond to criticisms of H.H. the Dalai Lama at one meeting, I was “hushed” by an SGI leader.

    My investigations reveal that there is virtually no financial transparency in SGI, despite the fact that the organization rakes in billions every year. I asked for financial reports from my district leader and got nothing other than a vague statement that “information is available.” The only information I’ve seen is a pie-chart on the SGI website which says essentially nothing. The money must be going somewhere.

    Leadership in SGI is hand-picked, and among those who are paid it is impossible to find out what their salaries are. It is a top-down organization that is tightly controlled from its highest echelons.

    Back to SGI’s view of other Buddhist practices as heretical. Overwhelmingly, the generally accepted guidelines for what Buddhists deem a genuine practice are those that accept the Four Dharma Seals. They are: 1. All compounded things are impermanent; 2. All stained emotions are painful; 3. All phenomena are empty; 4. Nirvana is peace. Yet the SGI (and other Nichiren Buddhist sects) believe that their practice is the only correct one and all others are wrong. After extensive reading, I have found no reason to believe why a monk from the 13th century should be believed when he says he got it right and everyone else is wrong. I also see no scriptural evidence to support the claim that Nichiren is “the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law.”

    More to come.

  13. Wow! I am astonished, not to mention highly offended. First of all I have been an SGI member for eight years. Not once have I been asked to pay “dues.” Nor am I coerced into doing anything against my will. The decisions I make for my life arise from within myself. Thank you. I do not abide by any so called guidelines. I was raised christian and find this practice to be much more liberal in comparison. In college I was invited by a fellow student to attend a church service. The entire sermon focused on how people of differnt religious, sexual orientations, and such were not saved by God and about being sentenced to eternal damnation. How can one call this right??? The SGI accepts people of all backgrounds and does not use any means of force to draw you in. This is not true in my experience anyway. I was introduced through my boyfriend at the time, family. I simply asked out of sheer curiosity what the alter signified in their home. She explained, which spiked my interest to learn more. She never told me this is what you HAVE to do. You are not told to separate yourself from friends and family who do not practice. My whole family DOES NOT practice and I love them just as they are. Many of my friends come from different religious backgrounds. Sometimes the topic does come up in conversation. For instance if I am asked what religion I am. If the other party seems interested I will tell them more, if not I simply Never bring it up. I do NOT hold the view point that this is the only way to believe. It may sound cliche, but I believe as long as you treat others as you would want to be treated you’re doing just fine. Lastly, this practice is misinterpreted in many ways. It is not a religion. It is a philosophy. Second, merely chanting will not give you whatever you want. It is by chanting that you draw wisdom from within yourself to go about and take appropriate action. There is no “magic” or “supernatural” powers involved. As for me it is just meditation. It works for me so I do it.

    • Jessica-You are so right,im new member eight months now,and i havent had any thing,happen to me such as we hear here. The situations iv been faceing latley have been veary harsh,i have 20 +year freinds who knew i was in need of help,but any time i spoke to them i would always hear,””oh”” followed by how great there life was going. Who was in constant contact with me from the beging? my MDL,,i would do anythig to return the debt of gratitude i ow these people,i am sadend when i hear these mean spirited attacks aganst sgi—–thank you

  14. Since I was a teenager, now for 20 years already I am a member of SGI. I never, I repeat, NEVER felt pressured into anything. I choose how to live my life, what friends I have, if I give money. All this time I feel so proud of this group of people from different countries, races, gender etc that interact with each other in the absolute conviction that peace (living in harmony) is possible. And all this based on the deep conviction that being yourself is the best thing you can be.

  15. have been a member of sgi since november 82 ..i am surprised about all the comments about cult…money heaviehandling ectr…i practised in germany’, canade, usa ,australia and nz i have never been asked for money or forced into anything…my experience with members of the sgi is one of great respect,wellcome,care and human kindness ,which for a lot of members is seen as a benefit out of the practice of studie and chanting.i med president daisaku ikeda in germany….he was a very kind and humble teacher with great humor ,and wisdom and energie,he encouraged all the present members to work and achieve theire greatest potentioal in their life, and be part through personal development in an active peaceful society and peacemovment..since 82 i have been a member,i am active and politicaly well informed…i belief it s time that more people use an active spiritul path to influence all the negativity around us…i do think chanting is a phantastic way to get there,,,but we all have diffrent journeys and we have to find the path ourselfs…in my opinion i am happy to share my one with others

  16. I think youve got something good here. But what if you give a couple links to a page that backs up what youre saying? Or maybe you could give us something to look at, I could revisit & read more sometime soon;1$4

  17. Yeah, I’ve been an sgi member for 4 years and never paid anyone a bean, nor have I been asked. No test – maybe they have them in America? Or japan? There’s an exam you can take each year in basics of Buddhism but I only know one person who’s done it, but it’s not an entrance exam! I wonder if it depends where you practice, here in the uk (south of England) it’s just this amazing mulitcultual humanist thing, great if you’re LGBT, all valued, all have Buddha nature. At our discussion meetings we talk about a variety of Buddhist concepts & traditions and talk through & support each other with stuff in our lives – there’s no priest or leader or any real structure bar chanting at the start. We do put the lotus sutra as the ultimate teaching but other traditions favour other sutras. I’ve not heard of people door knocking or being aggressive or any of that but I’ve been waiting for it having read all the same things on the Internet. The leaders I’ve met seem generally bumbling & well meaning & volunteers – maybe it gets more sinister higher up? I know people donate money sometimes and it’s a registered charity so charities commission would have full accounts. Maybe the local volunteer leaders just don’t know? It really seems to depend on the people, Jason, who does that podcast, freaks me out on occassion & I don’t know that I agree with a lot of what he puts out on there, random exhortations not to watch telly etc that are his personal gripes! But he spent years & years in the army & now orders people around in disaster management so I guess is bound to come across a bit vehement. But I take no notice. It’s my organisation as much as anyone elses and we’re all just trying to create something that helps & supports us, enabling us to help & support others (NOT by converting them but by bringing out our Buddha nature to be the best mother, friend, worker etc and bring out their best & help them see that they are brilliant just as they are)

  18. Ps: agree ikeda thing weird. Definitely not a pope or dalai lama type figure or somehow anointed or quasi deity. No deities in sgi, not even shakamuni Buddha – amazing, enlightened, but same as us. So, ikeda. Most people in sgi uk seem impressed by him for creating all the sgi organisations outside japan which is a massive achievement (even if you think it’s spreading an evil cult or a mc-church moneyspinner or whatever) so of course here in the uk we’d not have encountered sgi without the work he did, so people are grateful to him for that I guess, because they feel they’ve benefitted profoundly from meeting this Buddhism. People like the stuff he writes about nicherin and the practice. But then there’s also a hardcore who like to call him ‘sensei’ and compare him to ghandi/MLK (tho was interested to see that the MLK stuff seems to be in conjunction with his estate so, bizarrely, maybe there is something to that one?!). He says stuff that’s good, but he’s just s bloke, I don’t know how much of it is people without much else on their lives wanting something to lose themselves in. It’s not what Buddhism is supposed to be about and it’s not what sgi uk at least has become. Well not in my experience. I don’t know any other organisation where everyone is accepted for what they are and no one tries to change you, you just learn stuff from each other, including how to get on with, respect & see the Buddha nature in really annoying or challenging people. How not to be afraid to speak. How to say what’s right not what people want to hear. Challenge with respect an compassion. My sgi isn’t a cult. I’d not go if it were. Incidentally I’ve not been to any meetings for 9 months and no-ones staged an intervention. A couple of the girls I’ve made friends with have texted to see if I’m ok in a normal friendly way & one came with another non- Buddhist friend of hers to help me when I got out of hospital recently. The bulk of my life remains family, work, friends, all outside sgi. I guess you can choose how much or little to get involved like any group. Like the PTA – I’m on the committee there. Now the PTA’s a good one you want to talk about organisations harassing people for commitment and money…!

    So I suppose to say to the people wondering if they would be ok with the sgi, just see what it’s like and if you don’t like it don’t go to it!

  19. Hi, I live in the UK, I used to practice the, SGI UK for about 20 years, I left the organization in the end, I got fed up of the arrogance, and ego trips of some of the leaders, and long term members, some of the stuff that went on you just would not believe. They really think that their path is the only way, they pretend to understand and respect other faiths, don’t you believe it, it’s just a front. My wife still practices SGI, she is married to the organization, there is no love in our relationship, I love her, but her whole being is devoted to the Gakia, she has not much care for our relationship anymore, if our marriage finished tomorrow

  20. sorry posted comment by accident,had not finished.
    if our marriage finished tomorrow, the only thing that she would care about is what people might think,
    I have a difficult health problem, I really need my wife’s support, not a chance, SGI comes first I’m afraid. This organization brain washes it’s members, or might I say, the members allow this to happen. I am glad I got out when I did, the worse thing for me now is I feel so alone in my relationship, all I hear is about the benefit of chanting…….what benefit.

  21. A difficult one this..
    Is SGI a cult? Not according to the late Dr Bryan Wilson who published an in-depth study of SGI-UK several years ago (A Time to Chant – Oxford University Press). Do people treat it as a cult? Personally, I think that some people do. You have to understand that SGI is a lay organization. Much of the practice is based around Discussion Meetings held at members’ homes. Now some of those members and leaders can indeed be somewhat arrogant, taking the line ‘I am right, you are wrong.’
    Facing this is seen by many other members however, a being part of our Human Revolution. In practical terms, facing up to certain traits in our own lives that we do not particularly like (and have been revealed to us by chanting) helps as grow as people. This positive change can influence others in a positive way, spreading a more creative and constructive attitude, ultimately throughout the world.
    In my own experience, can be very uncomfortable and painful. but quite wonderful in the end – rather like having a a bad tooth extracted!
    Frankly, I have never found the senior leaders in SGI-UK to be arrogant in the least, rather the opposite, that at least is my own experience.
    OK, let’s move on; asking for money. Well, no, not really. This may happen in other countries, but in the UK is is quite gentle and amounts etc are very much up to the individual – as is whether to make a contribution or not.
    Contribution through Buddhist activities. Yes, member are indeed encouraged to take part in the running of the various centers, holding meetings at their homes, working with the community, but again, this is up to the individual. I am a very active member, but this is very much my own choice. Indeed some of those activities have actually been built by myself and others, building the organization from the bottom up, so to speak. But there are also two important reasons as to why members take part in activities.
    Firstly, it is practical. As an organization grows, it needs more and more work to keep it growing. And at the same time (and this is also my personal feeling) I am helping to run SGI-UK, rather than being run BY SGI-UK. Does this make sense?
    On one point of information BTW, SGI broke away from Nichiren Shosho, not Nichiren Shu, which is another Nichiren sect altogether.
    We now come to the ‘Ikeda Cult’ and this a for me very fundamental to my practice as a Buddhist. We are indeed encouraged to accept President Ikeda as our Mentor in Life; but more important is understanding exactly what the mentor/disciple relationship actually means.
    In terms of Buddhism, it does NOT mean worshiping the mentor – this is simply not Buddhism. Rather, it is a relationship of exact equality, in which the mentor teaches the disciple, so that the latter can grow to be even greater than the mentor. It is, indeed, very easy and comforting to treat Ikeda as some kind of demi-god, hanging on to every word and gesture. But if we take this attitude, we stop our own growth. Ikeda (or as we call him Sensei) in his lectures, constantly encourages members to stand up by themselves. Indeed, more recently, he has emphasized the need for the members themselves to take on the mantle of responsibility themselves.
    And so we come to the question, ‘Is SGI controlled top-down, rather than bottom up?’ And this has made me think too.
    Recently, with two other people, I have been asked to take on the responsibility of recording President Ikeda’s Lectures, as well as our SGI-UK Bulletin. The former, because it requires very profound study has certainly helped me to understand his heart much more. In the latter case, we are trying to do more of our ‘own’ thing. And I think this is a small part of the radical philosophy behind SGI. We do indeed have to take on responsibility ourselves, as members.
    Yes, leaders are appointed rather than voted for. But my own personal experience is that the leaders are there to support the members. Thus, yes the structure is a pyramid, but the pyramid is inverted.
    Thanks for the opportunity to share my views.

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