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Switch to Forum Live View Seeking more insight on SGI Buddhism
9 years ago  ::  Jul 01, 2008 - 3:55PM #1
solful1
Posts: 156
I started practicing with SGI in January of 2006 and now I'm not so sure it's for me but  would like some clarification before I totally drop out. Or really I figure I would just keep doing it the way I do it because on some internal level I like it.

When I sought this out I was only familiar with Zen Buddhism on a very basic level; so when I heard of SGI Buddhism I thought it couldn't be too much different. From the little bit I knew of Buddhism it was vastly different but I still thought maybe it would be all right for me.

So I'm not so sure what my real "problem" is with it. I attend meetings, I chant, and I've done my own reading on this subject here  and there. I've shared my experiences and have tried to introduce newbies to the organization but I'm not zealous about this stuff. I'm probably most consistent in attending meetings. I've gone for months with chanting 2x per day, but usually I average a few times a week, and a lot of times I don't do it at home in front of the Gohonzon, I often recite Daimoku (Gongyo) on the bus during my commute to work or when I'm out in the hiking trails or lately at the beach, or whenever I feel inspired. I keep a little booklet on me, so there were times when I was early for my evening class and I found a quiet spot to do Gongyo. The "study" I do is not specific to SGI publications. I read a...I think it's a Zen publication called Tricycle. I read other books and articles about spirituality in general. I read anything that inspires me to seek higher spiritual ground. I'm a very private person, so I'm not really the type to go around and talk about what I practice, but if I come across someone who seems interested I definitely share. Over the years I have invited friends to chant and participate in the SGI activities but for most of the people I've shared with it's not their "thing". This is the way I go about it and I enjoy this level of activity.

The "problem" I have is that I'm not sure what the point of my practice is. At the meetings seems like everyone almost always talks about how chanting and participating with SGI has "changed" their life. I constantly hear testimonies about how people have been jobless for months, then they chant for 2 weeks and get a job making the most $$ they've made in their lives. During the meetings there is almost always the mention of how whatever setbacks or obstacles one is facing, all you need to do is go before the Gohonzon, etc. So when I questioned my "mentor" on why my problems weren't going away the answer I got was cause I wasn't participating enough. I wasn't studying hard enough and I wasn't spreading the word enough. I had to put more effort into the other parts of it. I did. I will admit that maybe my faith was always a little lax but I did put wholehearted effort and even chanted for faith. And again I've heard in meetings that one doesn't even need "faith" just chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and your life will change. My life hasn't changed like that. Hasn't gotten worse but it hasn't improved drastically either. And along the way I have learned new spiritual insights from other sources that I've put into practice. I think what's really helped me is gradually changing my perspective on how I want to live my life.

I started chanting (practicing) to get over a heartbreak. Again, along the way I had been studying other things, so eventually I got over that heartache. I met someone else that I grew very fond of and thought he was into me as well. I somewhat relucatantly chanted for that relationship to work out; also chanting for his own individual happiness and my own happiness. After months of not hearing from him I chanted for a relationship with someone else if that was what the Mystic Law had in store for me. I continued to chant for his own happiness if his source was from someone else as well. He found a new girlfriend but I still have nothing in that department. I gave up on the relationship idea. Now I realize how I need more finances to get by. I work full time and attend school part time. I thought I'd get a degree to get a better paying job. I've been working towards an undergraduate degree for 12 years (I'm also a single mother). I don't care about the time I've put in so much but I do need more $$ now, not another 6 years from now (which will probably be how much longer it will take me to get the degree I want). In addition to these tangible things I want, I put a lot of heart into chanting for: compassion, strength, and wisdom. I figure if I have an abundance on these things I'll be able to manage whatever obstacles or pain I have to go through. I chant for the welll being and success for my family members, friends, co-workers and my enemies. I chant for people I know who are suffering "extra" crisis. I even chant for appreciation of the blessings I currently have and had. That kind of chanting is what inspires me but the tangible stuff would be nice.

Have I missed something on this philosophy or is it really not for me? Not sure myself but would like insight from someone who knows a lot about it.

thanks.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 01, 2008 - 8:25PM #2
austex
Posts: 88
I practice in another tradition of Nichiren Buddhism and don't have much first-hand experience with SGI, but is chanting to "get stuff" really the extent of what you've been taught?

Have you done any studying of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Shonin's writings?  If not, I think it would help clarify some things for you.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 02, 2008 - 2:28PM #3
solful1
Posts: 156
Maybe I have it wrong, but at most of the meetings it does seem to me that leaders encourage people to chant to the Gohonzon to "get stuff". There is also a lot of talk about President Ikeda. Seems to me like they read Ikeda's interpretation of the Lotus Sutra. From the little I did read from Nichiren's writings, I didn't see much connection with what I've heard in SGI meetings, that's why I've been doing my own reading and practicing in my own way.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 02, 2008 - 3:37PM #4
Engyo
Posts: 138
Hi Solful -

My recommendation matches Austex's; try studying Nichiren's writings and the Lotus Sutra, which Nichiren considered his basis.

I personally ended up choosing another Nichiren school when my path and SGI's diverged.  I won't tell anyone else to do that just because it was the right choice for me, but I will point you towards learning what Nichiren himself taught, and what he considered to be the Buddha's highest teaching, which is the Lotus Sutra.

That is where you will find the underlying doctrines which support Nichiren practice; what makes it work, why it is done, and its purpose and ultimate aims.  Again personally, I like to get my information from the horses mouth so to speak, rather than relying solely on what a third party has to say about it.  The more information you have, the better choices you can make for yourself.

I hope this is helpful.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 03, 2008 - 12:08AM #5
Truth27
Posts: 523
Dear Solful,

I say do what makes you comfortable.  There is no rule that you have to get ALL of your spiritual insight from SGI.  Sokka Gakkai simply means 'Society for the Creation of Value/Good' by 'creation' is meant (as I see it) perspective.  If you can perpetually change your perspective on the situations in your life such that you can see (and/or manifest) the good/value in them and/or your Buddha nature helps you to do so, you have it all.  That IMO should be pursued by any means necessary.  As for Ikeda, I see your point there.  He is definitely seen as the mentor's mentor.  Thus he is basically idolized by a lot of members.  However, not all members see him in this light.  Just remember that as lay Buddhists, SGI members have no official hierarchy or authority.  People choose to listen to who they want to listen to.  If videos of a complete stranger on stage greeting people from around the world in a different language (ie Daisaku Ikeda videos) aren't your cup of tea, then just consult mentors that you actually know and respect. 

As for your financial situation, things are VERY difficult today for single mothers everywhere.  My heart goes out to you in this respect.  Some aspects of our karma, such as the perpetual disrespect that society shows children and their caretakers (women) are VERY entrenched, and thus difficult to reverse.  In that sense, we have to balance comming to terms with our time, place, and context of birth, and our urge to change, combat and challenge the injustices associated with them.  In other words, we have to pick our battles.  However, I'd say that money is a vital battle when you are trying to keep food on the table for your kids.  One thing that Ikeda's (or whoever writes his books) interpretation of Nichiren Buddhism has shown me is that, to really effect change, you HAVE to sustain enough strength, vitality, and life force to really probe and examine your karma (ie your past and its relation to your present both individually and at a societal level).  Untangling this reality with the help of chanting (and soulsearching, journaling etc) can help in reaching clarity.  Once you attain that clarity, you will have a much better idea of what to do to achieve value in your situation, and, with continued chanting, the courage and stamina to follow it through.  It is in THIS way that chanting can work wonders.  Its not magic.  Rather its a cathartic practice that helps to focus the mind, release tension, and sustain courage and vigor (ie distract you from negative thoughts etc).  The rest is really up to you.

Peace.


P.S. - I recommend reading 'Ikeda's' book entitled 'Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death'.  It provides a very empowering and lucid message with regard to how and why we are here.  It also discusses how we can utilize our practice to move closer to the empowerment and enlightenment to overcome any obstacle as the victor (ie with our dignity, vitality, and life-force in tact).
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 04, 2008 - 6:59PM #6
Mazurka
Posts: 10
The entire paragraph following your words "The Problem" says this. If you go to SGI for spiritual enlightenment you are there for the wrong reasons. SGI is about "leveraging" some more possessions out of the universe in exchange for your regular attendance, regular worship of some deities through chanting and recruiting activities and advancing your own star through the universe at the cost of others. You are trading your worship for advancement, attainment and belongings - ie cash. You are not feeling very good about your contact with SGI because you are actually sincere in your search for your spiritual nature. Anytime you are behested to work harder, that your disappointment in assigned rites and rituals is some failing on your part and that your fortunes will change the moment you "do it right" you are a long way from letting go, looking deeper, living simpler, respecting others, kindness, compassion, objectivity, love and, ultimately, Buddha-hood. Proceed with caution.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 08, 2008 - 12:06PM #7
Buddhamom08
Posts: 15
I can understand some of your points.  As a new Buddhist, and member of SGI, I had concerns with some member idolism of Pres. Ikeda.  I do think he is a knowledgeable man and has accomplished a great deal through SGI.  However, we are responsible for studying the Lotus Sutra and other writings to make a determination / interpretation for ourselves, and not base all of our learning or understanding on a third party.

Some of the Lotus Sutra is a challenge to comprehend, but I've been chanting to obtain clarity and full understanding so that I can apply it with complete faith to my life.

I also agree that you have to look at your own karma to understand your current life condition and how to change it.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 08, 2008 - 12:12PM #8
Buddhamom08
Posts: 15
Solful, you know, that was a concern for me too.  I was talking to my husband (he doen't practice, but has faith in the practice) and I had told him about the meetings.  I experienced the same.  The focus is all about chanting for "stuff" and how SGI changed the person's life.  I feel/felt that its more than just getting stuff. Its about changing your whole mindset and way of thinking, tapping into your Buddha nature to make better choices and bring about positive karma.  Its about being an example to others and hopefully encouraging them to make choices to improve their life's condition.  Its about being one with everything and bringing everything in alignment with you.  I see chanting Nam Myho Renge Kyo as so much more than just chanting to get something, like a geni in a bottle.  I want to be happy, and for other's happiness, regardless of the life condition we may be in.

I don't know; maybe the members use this as a form of expedient means to draw people to the truth, at least, I have tried to view it in this way.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 09, 2008 - 8:50AM #9
Lotus-4311
Posts: 10
Dear Solful, 

I received my gohozon 2 years ago.  I understand your concerns there are older members that seem to chant for material stuff and receive success in getting it.  But chanting is more than just receiving material goods.  A Buddhamom08 said it about making the right choices of our lifes.  It about taking responsiblity for our life in this life time.  As far as President Ikeda is concern, I feel, do not have clear understanding what the word mentor means.  I beleive it means teacher, councelor, guru.  The older members seems to replace with idol worship but this my opnion and observation.  We have remember that President Ikdea is just a man and no more.  I read his lectures and guidance from the World Tribune and Living Buddahism and apply this to my life. 

Remember, there are members no matter how long they have been with SGI who do not have any more understanding of Buddahism and teaching Nicrenhen than you do, no matter how great their experience may sound.  The prove is in their daily lives.  Remeber, to do Gonyo twice a day morning and evenings even if you have to do it will taking public transporation.  It important that you do it.  When you found yourself going to dark place, chant.  Chant with a fighting spirit and determintation that you can over come any obstacle.  Do not give up, it is always a challenge when try to make positive changes in our lives.
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9 years ago  ::  Jul 15, 2008 - 1:26PM #10
tonyscoca
Posts: 5
This is an agreeable point.  We need to realize the achievements of Daisaku Ikeda the person so we can apply Buddhism practically and live a noble life for world peace.  Every person is capable of unlimited compassion and courage and that is a tenent of Nichiren Buddhism.  All actitives and meetings are reflected in your interactions with everyday people.  So, no efforts go unwasted.    Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo
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