May 14th, 2007
|owl_clan||11:26 am - SGI|
Okay people, let's talk.
Maybe I was too hasty in my response to the arrival of an SGI member. Let me tell you about how I met SGI. I was once in the service of my fine country, stationed at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas- and what a toilet it was! I was going through some hard times there, and I had a fortunate meeting one day with a Buddhist minister. Of all the places I hadn't expected to meet a Buddhist, I met a minister from SGI. I attended his service many times, got to know him and his wife, and chanted their Gongyo (like mantra work) many times. He was polite, kind, and genuine, even if my studies of Buddhism since then have revealed that he wasn't the most well informed person regarding Buddhist philosophy. I needed kindness; I needed some focus and peace, and I found it through him. He was my first meeting with a Buddhist minister. I had only read about Buddhism before that, but not much.
Maybe he wasn't the most informed person on Buddhist philosophy beyond his own sect, but then, who is? Everyone has their own vision of Buddhism, their own unique understanding, and I suppose that's for the best. I never joined SGI, but I was friends with him and he taught me some things.
I called SGI a cult because I have (since those years) met other members- (not Tina Turner) who were just downright scary; I had been relieved to find a religion (Buddhism) that seemed to lack crazy evangelicals- but then, I met some. I was told by SGI members that other forms of Buddhism were wrong, decadent, and misguided, and that chanting the Gongyo and following their vision of Nichiren's writings was the only way to achieve enlightenment, and to save the world.
I then researched the upper echelons of SGI, aided by two friends of mine who lived in Japan (one was Japanese) and discovered that the leadership is fabulously wealthy, and more disturbing things- they are very political, and even maintain communes in Japan, guarded, gated apartment blocks where members live, and aren't really allowed much outside contact.
While the original SGI members I knew were good people, other members later revealed that their understanding of Buddhism was very materialistic- it seemed that people chanted their supreme Mantra, NAM YO HO REN GE KYO, to "get" things, like cell phones, cars, money, and relationships.
I know cults. I have to deal with people everyday who think I'm in a cult. I've studied cults and cult psychology in my Criminal Justice MA program. SGI members- attractive asian females- have approached me and male friends of mine, paying us huge compliments (saying we looked like movie stars) and trying to get us to come to meetings. They have used more than one "cult recruitment tactic" directly TO me and friends of mine. Trust me, while I don't think I'm ugly or anything, I ain't no movie star. And as much as the idea of a threesome with absurdly hot Japanese girls sounds like a great idea, in the spiritual life, we have to look a bit deeper sometimes.
I think that during World War Two, the earlier founders of SGI were against the War Effort- they were critical of the Japanese Government's war, and one was even jailed, and put through hell for his beliefs. I think he was right to oppose the war, but since him, the organization seems to have drifted to what I consider to be materialistic, cultish behavior, and everyone knows that they are very zealous in their missionary work- and harshly critical of other Buddhists.
Now, this has been my experience. There are websites online- good websites- which give information and testimonies both for and against SGI. For my part, I must say, I knew a very kind man and his wife that were SGI, and I came to meet some real fucking snots who were in it. I recently added a gentleman to my friends list who is a member- I hope that he will speak up here and help me to understand SGI better, by sharing his own experiences. Wikipedia has a good article on SGI, and even though it is a Wiki article, and its neutrality may be up for grabs, it has links to websites both supporting and criticizing SGI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soka_Gakkai_International
If I was too hasty, I apologize. Would anyone else here like to add their knowledge or experiences?
|Date:||May 14th, 2007 04:38 pm (UTC)|| |
A friend of mine once introduced me to another friend of hers who was a Buddhist. She was really excited - she knew two Buddhists who didn't know each other and she could bring them together!
So at one point we were in the same room and she introduced us. "Gillan, this is so-and-so. He's a Buddhist too."
"What sect are you?" he asked. I should say demanded. He was really forceful.
"Uh, my teacher is Rinzai Zen."
He walked away.
I later found out he was SGI. My friend was really bothered by the interaction. I shrugged it off, but it definitely colored my admittedly limited experience with SGI.
|Date:||May 14th, 2007 04:42 pm (UTC)|| |
And as much as the idea of a threesome with absurdly hot Japanese girls sounds like a great idea, in the spiritual life, we have to look a bit deeper sometimes.
This is my spiritual leson for the day. ;)
Like any "organized religion," SGI will be plagued by those who warp and twist the doctrine to meet their egoic needs.
My experience coming into SGI was much different. Ever since I was a kid (read like late '70s early '80s) my Aunt has been involved in SGI.
She's always invited me to chant but has never once forced the practice on me. She tells me that it is important for everyone to come to spiritual practice on their own terms. I admire her for that.
I've been going to meetings on and off for a good four years now and finally on February of this year I decided to get my own Gohonzon.
I despise the focus on "the material" in this particular sect. But in this despising I'm reminded of my own studies about projection. Often times that which we despise the most about someone is something that is within ourselves which we hate.
Anyways, who am I to judge other people for "wanting" material things? If that brings them spiritual fulfilment, more power to them.
I'm trying to be the agent of change to "temper" this evangelical streak I see in the SGI by offering my ideas as to what Shakabuku (the act of sharing Buddhism with others) really means.
More often than not, when SGI members Shakabuku, they Shakabuku to "convert" people to SGI Buddhism. I disagree with this.
A lot of people think that there is only one "method" in "converting" others.
For starters, I don't view Shakabuku as a conversion. I view Shakabuku as an opportunity to share my happiness with others. I'm not going to go out and tell people, "Hey, look at me, I'm happy because I'm an SGI member and I chant Nam-myo-ho-renge-kyo" On the contrary. I will tell people that I am happy because _I_ have found a spiritual practice that works for _me_. I will then encourage the other person to find their own path and at the same time share what Truths I have found by going through my own inner work.
I believe that there is not only one way to share your happiness with others (Shakabuku). There are an infinite number of ways to share your happiness with others.
I think many SGI members fall into the trap of "My way or the Highway" because many of us come from the Western Traditions - Christianity to be exact.
At any rate, I guess this is getting long enough. What I essentially want to say is please don't judge individual members based on the actions of those other members you might have met. We are each individuals with our own thoughts and ideas. We are all on a path up to the top of the Mountain. Some of us have our blinders on, some of us don't...
Thanks for listening!
Perfect Love and Perfect Trust,
I was a member of the SGI for a couple of years but I no longer practice because of philosophical differences. I found that the people were decent but very materialistic. I remember it being common to chant for a new house or money. I was always skeptical about the upper leadership and president Ikeda who seemed to be revered as a saint. The group overtly emphasized cultural diversity and respect for the beliefs of others but the teaching of Nicherin suggest otherwise. I have read much of Nicherin's (translated) writings and was not impressed when he seemed to treat other beliefs as rubbage. The SGI has this demonstration called the 'Ghandi, King, Ikeda' exhibit. They often get the youth group to put it up at various universities. Everyone knows who Ghandi and King are but no one seems to know who Ikeda is. The organization treats him as if he is some sort of equal to these two great men. The interesting thing is that he is still alive. I always found this completely inappropiate and nothing more than propaganda, an attempt to increase popularity of a living person by associating him with the legacy of two past heroes.
A friend of mine from Tokyo claims that the group is very annoying in Japan. He says that friends of his will call him up to talk but with a pretext of converting him. It seems they are more aggressive there. Here they are a bit more subtle. Apparently they used to be more overt but got into some trouble several decades ago. An older member once admitted that he preferred the early days when they would literally drag people off the street to their meetings.
There are many beacons of light that guide me on my way to the top of the mountain. During my sojourn through the darkness, though, these beacons serve as just that - beacons. It is my responsibility to forge my way ahead and find my interpretation of the Truth.
As an undergrad in college, I happened to hear of a Buddhist student organization. The idea sounded cool, so I went to the next meeting. Everybody there were SGI people. Most of them were really nice.
At one point the discussion turned to goals and events for the club during the semester. Naively, I said I thought it would be cool if we occasionally got together to do some meditation. We could try meditative styles from different Buddhist sects.
Immediately, the club's faculty sponsor -- an old Japanese dude, also an SGI member -- turned on me and proceeded to berate me severely in a roundabout way, talking about how everyone there was interested in doing real things, but if I wanted to "just sit there by myself and feel like I'm in some kind of higher state" that was okay for me to do by myself, away from everybody.
I didn't come back to the club for a while, until a bunch of kids from other Buddhist traditions joined up and I was no longer the only non-SGI person there. After that it was cool. All the students from SGI were very cool people, and while they weren't very interested in other forms of Buddhism, were very supportive of people doing whatever type of practice seemed best to them.
"I am the Way, the Truth and the Light"
or some interpretation thereof.
its a pity really that people misinterpret this teaching and carry it over to serve the needs of the Ego.
"I am the Way, the Truth and the Light. No one comes to the Father except through me."
Christ, in my opinion, was talking about himself as Consciousness.
Seems to me that many of us, in attempting to preserve the Ego take this Teaching to mean, "My Ego is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. No one comes to enlightenment except through me."
In a way, the Ego is correct. When we've tempered the Ego in the fires of Consciousness, enlightenment is there for us.
Reminds me of that joke about which came first: the chicken or the egg?
Anyways, enough of my rambling.
Good for you: I applaud you for being authentic to your truth.
I'm a Nichiren Shu member with very little experience with SGI. I attended one meeting about 10 years ago, and was not impressed. I'd heard that they were pushy, but this particular group was actually kind of standoffish.
Are they a cult? I don't know. They're formerly affiliated with Nichiren Shoshu and still retain most of that theology, from what I understand, and I (and Nichiren Shu) certainly don't agree with it. But if they aren't bugging me about it, I can be a good neighbor.
|Date:||May 15th, 2007 01:46 am (UTC)|| |
when you say SGI I think of Silicon graphic incorporated
Ditto! Computer geeks unite! hehe
Anyways: context, context, context; it's linguistic real-estate. :)
This is nice. I like this. I'm really glad you posted this.
I have not met the kind of scary members you have and I'm sure they were truly scary.
What I have experienced in the SGI is members who are truly dedicated to their happiness and the happiness of others. I've known some members to chant for material objects, and when I can I try to remind them that our lives are much bigger than material objects.
My feeling towards shakabuku are similar to night_fathers...I have never asked anyone to chant with me or come to a meeting. I found guidance from President Ikeda that said something to the effect of "Don't worry too much about people in your life not practicing...when a single sun rises everything is illuminated." I've not made shakabuku my priority but instead I make it my priority to chant for others' happiness. For me it's enough that *I* practice.
I joined this community exactly because the SGI has it's favorite themes and although I feel I have grown so much in my practice there are so many other issues and teachings to explore.
I love that quote!
"... When a single sun rises everything is illuminated."
SGI also operates the Clean Government Party here in Japan.
Kinda sketchy group, indeed, but then again most Japanese Buddhist sects operate as corporations and priests quite often earn more than professional salaries.
|Date:||May 15th, 2007 08:02 am (UTC)|| |
Cults and Government
I think one must be careful with labels because using them makes us vulnerable to the very stereotypes that the label, such as "cult", conveys. If someone is looking for a bad apple to use against a larger group, such as Buddhists, then that person will find an example that matches their prejudices. Evangelical Christians and Pat Robertson come to mind; not all Christians are like them but 'their kind' is pejoratively exemplified as 'what is wrong with Christianity' or, even more insidious, 'what all Christians secretly believe'. So I find generalizing one SGI Buddhist or calling SGI generally "cultish" as perpetuating a stigma against a kind of Buddhism which may or may not warrant a judgement against SGI or, even worse, all Buddhists. And I'm saying this as a non-SGI (and possibly a non-Buddhist).
I know cults
The only practical meaning for "cult" is political. If a religion is clandestine -- meaning some group acts against a government in the shroud of religion --, then there's good reason to suspect "cultish behavior" and seek judgment against that religion's adherents on behalf of the state's welfare. And I find this political meaning particularly poignant for a criminal justice person. The rational for this reaction as a good reason is obvious but I think we underestimate our irrational reasons for labeling people: we fear them. The seemingly insuperable power of altruism turned evil -- aka. groupthink -- scares the shit out of individuals and I find that realization a more satisfying reflection what we fear from these SGI's, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Branch Davidians.
I understand that everyone had their own viewpoints. I can also say that not every organistation is perfect, as organisations are made up of different kinds of people. However, before setting down our opinions, I believe that we should read up on articles by daisaku ikeda before setting down our viewpoints. Daisaku Ikeda has engaged in dialogues with many people such as great british historian Arnold Toynbee in the book "Choose Life" on various issues including issues on the atomic power or Mikail Gorbachev in "Moral Lessons on the 21st Century". He works for the sake of peace and the happiness of the people. The SGI believes in the positive transformation of an individual can lead to a positive transformation in our society. We call this the Human Revolution. Get books or borrow from the library on works by Daisaku Ikeda such as "The New Human Revolution" or "The Glass Children". http://www.daisakuikeda.org
is one website where you can take a look. Daisaku Ikeda has received over 200 honorary doctorates, professorships and equivalent honors to date. Have you question why was he able to receive all these? Why are prestigious universities willing to honor him with such prestigious awards? I believe there must be something that he has done that is worthy of him to receive such awards. That is his actions for the sake of peace which one of it is to engage in dialogues with people. Dialogues are essential in clearing up mistrusts or misunderstandings which are rooted in the current society.
I belive that every religion has their own practice. Religion exists for the sake of the people, and not the other way round. The practice of the SGI is for the sake of the happiness of the people. Daisaku Ikeda once said," What is the purpose of life? It is to become happy." Some people you meet may not have good impressions of the SGI, I believe its because they have not start really reading into the works of Daisaku Ikeda etc. The SGI has also been actively involved into community works such as Singapore Soka Association. They have been actively involved in culture activities such as The National Day Parade every year, the Chingay Parade, or at one time setting up a donation place where the public is able to provide donations for the Tsunami disaster in Indonesia during that period where the disaster occur. There are many other events, if you are interested, you can take a look at http://www.ssabuddhist.org/
. The SGI believes in peace, culture and education. Participating in cultural activities is one of our ways to contribute to the society.
"There is a path that birds must follow,
as they fly though the sky.
There is a path that fish must follow,
as they swim thorough the sea.
There is a path that the stars follow,
as they travel the heavens.
And there is a path of principle
that humans beings should follow.
This is none other than the path of peace."
~excerpt from SGI President Ikeda poem "Peace - The Foundation for Lasting Human Happiness."
If you all want to know more, feel free to visit any SGI centres in your country or http://www.sgi.org
Hope that through this you guys will have a better understanding of the SGI =)
my wife is NSA, traditional Nichernism
.. i have been around the organization for 40 years.. including the Ikeda Soap Opera.
SGI/NSA doesn't really even Qualify as a Buddhist Organization, they aren't Buddhists. but SGI is a Multi Billion Dollar Corporation owned by Ikeda.
Nichernism has no Dharma. it is based on part of a Sutra, mostly chapter <26,27 of the Lotus Sutra. "Shakyamuni Buddhism" is based primarilly on the Four Noble Truths. Nichren Buddhism is based essentially on a single Ritual Magical incantation, apparently taken out of context from what is said to be one of the highest teachings of Shakyamuni.. if one doesn't even practice the fundamentals, or is willfully Wholly unaware of them.. how can they wear or claim that Badge. their ritual incantation does work... but not for the reasons they profess. Buddhism doesnt believe there are any gods or magic spells that can provide them with salvation. it is all spelled out in the Four Noble Truths. everything else is comentary of that.
my wife, a really a kind, giving, wonderful person. she grew up a Catholic.. and never knew anything about Jesus or wanted to, literally nothing. but considered herself a Christian, it follows she became a Buddhist that knows literally nothing about the Buddha and is conditioned not to want to know anything.
i am not faulting her, but it is curious and she isn't alone, she has company in the millions.
there is a difference in a Personality Cult and a Psychotic Narcissistic Personality Cult, such as Manson, Hitler, Jim Jones, Stalin, Muhammad. but it is a lesser form of the same Personality disorder which i find disturbing.. control, info/power/thoughts.
i met 2 guys who had escaped a Fundamentalist Christian cult.. they were apparently trying to fill the void.. they had all kinds of Hindu and Buddhist, etc stuff on a makeshift altar. i commented the Buddha statue was nice.. they still had that glassy eyed Evangelical arm waving glee.. one exclamed.. YES.!! I HAVE FOUND THE BUDDHA.!! PRAISE THE TAO.!!
well... we all gotta start somewhere. but it helps if one studdies and aquires an overview before jumping into really deep water.
|Date:||August 27th, 2009 11:35 pm (UTC)|| |
You need to study more before commenting on NSA
Ha ha, good points on SGI. But a really bad example of NSA, Nichiren Shoshu, on almost every point. All I will say is ONE thing. You say that NSA does not incorporate the four noble truths? Thanks for playing, but that is patently incorrect. They just don't make it the primary focus. WHY? Because Shakamuni himself, who created the four noble truths, said to not follow them at this time, in the latter day of the law. This is clearly stated in the Lotus Sutra. But, it is a very difficult Sutra to understand. I am glad your wife practiced, but without proper study of what she was practicing, she could never explain this to you. Many members are like this, they just chant and think that is all they need to do. For some, this works. SGI does more study, which is great, but they take their partial understanding and twist it for material gain.
I will say that NSA is the most difficult form of Buddhism one will ever encounter. But, no effort, no result.
|Date:||August 27th, 2009 11:17 pm (UTC)|| |
All I can say about this entire debate is that everything I have read about SGI, and everything I have personally experienced with MANY members of this organization is that they ruin Buddhism for the rest of the people seeking to understand it. It is really, really sad.
I finally found where it all started, in its pure form before corrupt individuals used their egos to destroy it, and realized that Nichiren Shoshu has it right. There is no corruption, no money grabbing, just chanting for peace and evolution. How could one group destroy something so beautiful is beyond me.
And, you can't really understand the Nichiren Shoshu sect until you go to the head temple in Japan, Taisekaji. It is simply not possible. You can get part of it, for sure, just like SGI members think they do, but it is only the icing on the cake to the real thing.
I'm so happy you posted this
I am a freshman in college and recently thought of joining SGI. When I first heard of the Buddhists of Peace club, I was ecstatic. A place where I can learn about another culture at the same time advocating peace and compassion. However, I have attended two meetings and already it seems that this group tries to appeal to people through materialistic ways which is so unlike Guatama's teachings. At first, the members (to me) seemed so nice, down to earth and truly wishing to share compassion with others)however as the time went by I saw something amiss. They seemed so happy about me coming to the point where they seemed very pushy about me paying the donation for the Gohozon (sp?) and joining the organization. Now reading this thread, it has made me decide against it (as much as I personally enjoy chanting and the peace it brings to me).
I want to decline their eager invitation without offending them. How should I do it? Does anyone have any suggestions?
|Date:||August 28th, 2009 04:22 pm (UTC)|| |
Re: I'm so happy you posted this
What they do is rude and you are correct, very non-Buddhist. Chanting works, you are right, but not with SGI. They have been involved in so many scandals and once you join, it is even more difficult to get out. RUN if you have to. And if you like chanting, join the original organization that SGI stole from, NST (Nichiren Shoshu). Remember, SGI went so against the original intent that the priests were forced to ex-communicate them! You can only imagine what they had to do for compassionate Buddhist priest to actually get to that point. NST, instead, is just a small, humble group of people that stick to the principles. They don't chant for money or cars, and they stick to the core message.
It will not be easy to get rid of SGI --their whole brainwashing is about growing members, even lying and using manipulation techniques to gather members. So, you have to be firm. It is not easy unless you make it super clear. And, good luck. I am sorry they have caused so much confusion for those who seek a true Buddhist path.
I may be somewhat biased because i was born into this Buddhist practice, but based on what I have seen so far, the SGI seems like a good organization. There are some people who are corrupt and practicing incorrectly, but it seems like that is true of most religions and groups in general. For example, some Christian ministers don't believe in gay and interracial marriages while most are now tolerant.
It seems unlike a cult in that I haven't heard of anyone being forced to pay money except a minimal fee of twenty bucks for the Gohonzon (most likely because they are shipped from Japan?). There isn't even a plate passed around like in most churches. Only thing is one month out of the year they encourage people to donate (tax-deductible) if they would like, out of the gratitude of their hearts for the rental of buildings and such.
Another common misinterpretation is that they worship Daisaku Ikeda. From my perspective, it seems almost like he is a mentor or a teacher. He gives some guidance and letters of encouragement, but most definitely not like a higher power.
Also, I think the main difference between the SGI and the Nichiren Shoshu sect they split from is that the NIchiren Shoshu religion had priests that were seen to be needed as an intermediary for the people to reach their enlightenment. In the SGI, there are no priests or ministers. There are some leaders who give guidance, but in meetings, everyone takes turns leading discussions and contributing, no sermons.
I have met some people who are a little over the top with the SGI, but nothing too crazy, though I can't speak for the practice in Japan. No one has ever told me I had to do anything. I find most people will only introduce others to the SGI because they have seen that person struggling and wish to show them the practice that has helped them in their own lives. Does that make sense? I know I'm not so great at words usually... :]
The Nichiren Shoshu is not even slightly close to SGI. SGI is a cult and the reason I say that is that I have many friends in SGI and I am so tired of this organization harassing me and my friends to join. All they do care is about money, they say they follow Nichiren Daishonin, but go completely against his original intention, and do not follow main Buddhist practices by not lying to people. They will say anything and do anything to get you to join. At Nichrien Shoshu, where there are priests who have to undergo severe training for many, many years, are very clear about the principles. You are not even allowed to give money unless you are a member because they don't want the purpose of giving to have the wrong intention--it should be from the heart. They cut off all their members and money supply -- SGI -- for a reason. And, you have to seriously think about what SGI did to get them to completely cut them off. Yes, SGI does not have priests, and look how far off they have come. Oh, and we need priests to attain enlightenment? RIGHT! They are very clear on this and always say, "I can not help you, I can not save you." We are responsible for our own lives and karma. Bottom line. However, if you are learning a martial arts, why not learn from the best? From the source? That is the difference. And, you have no corruption at the temple like you do in SGI. Lastly, I have ONE question to all the SGI members. If we are so wrong, why can't you leave us alone? You accost people at our own temple, you come uninvited to our homes, and you won't leave us alone. We do not crash your meetings, we don't go to your homes to harass you. What is wrong with you?????????? Stop already! Focus on yourself and your own enlightenment. Isn't that what you are suppose to do? Just please leave us alone. By the way, I have already had many people come to me and do this practice only because they were disgusted by what they saw at SGI, but liked the chanting. Here, you have all the good and none of the bad. The only thing that is sad is that people see SGI and assume we are all the same.
How can it only be about money when they never ask for money? Most churches pass around the plate and keep an obvious donation box at the front. The SGI doesn't do anything of that sort.
While it may be the choice of a few to go visit the temple and Nichiren Shoshu members, it has never been the view of the SGI to convert or change them. There are always some extremists or outspoken individuals in any form of religion.
Oh and what you said about the source. How is Nichiren Shoshu the source? It was based on Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, Nichiren Shoshu was a priest who same along much later on the timeline, just to clarify.
As they say, "follow the money." You don't need a plate or basket to know the money behind SGI. In fact, Nichiren Shoshu can barely afford to fund itself compared to SGI, so there is distinct difference. As to clarify the source, I was responding to a comment earlier about how Nichiren Shoshu members need a priest. My comment is that if I were to be trained on any practice-Buddhist, martial arts, or rock climbing--I would want the best teacher that exists. Not some self-proclaimed guy, Ikeda, to teach me about Buddhism. I prefer having a priest who has learned Nichiren Daishonin's practice from one priest to another, in a very careful manner for 750 years to make sure nothing was diluted, changed, or the intention missed. To me, that is going to the source. And, isn't the source the Dai Gohonzon? I have not met ONE person who really gets this practice until they see the Dai Gohonzon in Japan. Without this, there is no Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism. In fact, all the SGI members who come over to us all say the same thing, "So this is what I have been missing." It IS what Nichiren Daishonin left for us, and just someone printing a Gohonzon doesn't do it, as SGI does, and they even charge for that piece of paper? It is same if we all printed money and said it was true and had meaning. It is not the same. Not even close.
Ok, first, and I dont care how this sounds... but I'm not interested in any replies, "advice", quotes or "guidance" from SGI members that may follow this post.
SGI have become a very real problem in my life.
I am not a member of any other sect.
I have no experience of any other form of Buddhism but this one, that of Nichiren, and that only via SGI (UK).
After being part of SGI for three years, I only managed to distance myself from them by moving away, geographically, from the SGI circles I knew. Where it not for this happening, I might not have seen what it was doing to me.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to see this.
I will not pass comment on whether they are a cult or not, because society is full of cults, the cult of the car, christianity, sports fan groups, all could be said to have some elements of cult-like activity at some stage or other, so the label is not important.
To anyone who cant decide in the face of so many conflicting viewpoints are valid or not, I will offer my opinion, but it is an opinion based on direct experience from within the SGI organisation. Be very wary of this group.
In my experience, there is no evil agenda practised in private that makes SGI a subversive sect. The danger lies with the very subtle and gradual brainwashing that takes place, I do not know if this is due to decisions made by the high leadership, or if because it has become a self perpetuating ideal. Whatever the ideal is, it is not open minded, it does not tolerate members thinking for themselves and not towing the Ikeda party line, and it alienates those that do. I see the org. as a very cynical sect now, oh so ready to re-mold itself to whatever culture it is in purely in order to increase its membership. I have wasted three years with SGI. These are my feelings and my experiences. It is dangerous to manipulate people who have chosen to trust and base their spiritual goals on such an organisation. It gets under your skin. I am so very glad I have left, all that remains is a near-Catholic guilt for having left - after being told by a Japanese member I will definately "go to hell" if I return my Gohonzon. To those that might say "oh but there are idiots in every organisation", I would just reply that this Japanese sentiment is merely repackaged to suit the English members, but the pressure remains the same. I agree with France, who have had great distrust of SGI, they are a subtle, subversive and insidious group whose methods are becomming more cunning. Stay clear, is my closing advice.
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 the 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 the 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 ones 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.