Finding common grounds

The continuous attack and counter attack, each trying to justify how virtuous and just they are and how evil and unreasonable the other party is, is not moving the entire organization towards harmony. In fact, the longer it drags on, the further apart these two groups seems to be.

Rational and concerned people within the organization understand this and it is our heartfelt wish to see the earliest resolution of this. Sad to say, we cannot even see the light at the end of the tunnel. Both camps seem to be stubbornly hanging on to their version, however skewed they may be, and their own narrative of the incident.

One thing we can do is to look at some of the common grounds that both camp share. It is our hope that we take this little baby steps towards the greater goal of reconciliation and closing rank.

Our common grounds… [This is just our opinion. We hope it can help.]

  • Both sides wanted to come to an end to this saga. Mr Pang, Vice GD, shared during the November States Rep meeting that SGI advice to all leaders is to be more inclusive. It means to listen and give sincere consideration to more alternative views from others. Times have changed and we are no longer in the days of the 80s, where a leader can simply use ‘I know best, just follow me.’ There is really no point in asking our leaders where they stand. Worse still, forcing people to declare their loyalty is sheer nonsense. Don’t laugh, it happened to SGM leaders. We must start to listen and try to understand more, instead of demanding everyone to stand on your side.
  • In any conflict, there will be a faction within the camp that is trigger happy and prone to take violent actions. There are prone to speak hurtful and damaging words, choosing their stories or adding salt and vinegar to juice up the stories to gain support and incite anger. Many of these stories are untrue. We must teach our leaders to listen with wisdom, to verify the source of the information and if it is unfounded or without basis, we politely ask the other party to stop spreading. However, if we simply brush off everything that is said as rumours and use slander and sansho shima to shut others up, this will only create more frustration and anger.
  • We are practicing Buddhism. Bodhisattva Fukyo [Never Disparaging] is one of our core philosophy. Respect, value and treasure for each and every person, regardless of their ‘stand’ or views. In this saga, we must guard against and check ourselves, not to be consumed by anger or hatred towards any individual. The moment we allow our emotion and anger get the better of us, the devils would have won. The goal of the devils is to make us fight one another. Also, if we allowed ourselves to be consumed by hatred, we scorched our seeds of Buddhahood. All our effort in kosen-rufu in the past would be eliminated. Not worth it. We must never, at any point, disrespect or harbor hatred towards one another. Yes, Buddhism is strict. I am also reminding myself here.

We are all Bodhisattvas of the Earth and Buddhas, and each has a unique mission and role to play. In the end, we want to attain Buddhahood together, regardless of where you stand. I still respect you, unconditionally.

During these period, we came across actions by leaders from both sides that were neither proper nor constructive. Some words and opinion uttered, without due consideration on its consequences, simply worsen the situation. We need to be aware of this. Examples are…

  • Challenging others to report to MACC or police if they have the evidence. This is stupid. Irresponsible and reckless. The intention of leaders who spoke such things, I believe, is to call the bluff of the other party. Like a game of poker. Unfortunately, we are not playing poker. We are putting the entire kosen-rufu of Malaysia at stake. The consequences of someone reporting to the MACC would probably lead to all SGM’s assets being frozen, all activities stopped and we cannot even enter our own centres, for unspecific period of time. This is especially sad when it comes from top leaders, like certain Vice General Director, who like to put on airs and speaks condescendingly, bullying the other party into submission. It takes just one loose canon, one person, angry and mad enough, and report this to MACC. Just one. Please, don’t challenge others. Don’t try to be a hero. This is not helping the organization.
  • Do not act or speak arrogantly towards the general leadership and members. In November last year, Mr. Pang shared that, ‘Those who disagree with the General Director should leave the organization’. In front of all Honbu and Region leaders, over 200 attended. Guess what? This piece of guidance is being used repeatedly by various leaders to shut up those who ask uncomfortable questions. We cannot believe our ears when he uttered such words. It goes against all of Sensei’s guidance that we have read so far regarding the proper attitudes and behaviour of a leader. We had been on a daily diet of such concept of humble leadership, servant leadership and never be arrogant, conceited and look down on members for decades. A leader in a religious organization, is to serve the members. We just wonder, is this a desperate attempt to stop people from asking questions?
  • We need to stop protecting the ex-Region chief of Johor. Why is he still in the General Council, the highest decision making body in SGM? Leaders in SGM are in positions of trust. With over 400 leaders resigning from their leadership in Johor, this person has certainly lost that trust. Lost confidence. Why is SGM still protecting and allowing this person in the General Council, at the expense of the entire credibility of SGM? It just doesn’t compute. In any large organization, when allegations of corruption were brought forward, the first thing the person involved do is to resign, or at the very least, be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. When asked why he is still in the General Council, GD Koh replied that his tenure has two more years. We don’t think this reason holds much water. Is it because we are a religious organization, and therefore, we should not apply the strict rules of a corporate company that has billions of dollars and thousands of shareholders? Or that we simply use the law of cause and effects to justify our inaction and ask everyone to wait for the severe karmic retribution in the last few years of a corrupted person’s life? We feel it is the contrary. We are risking the trust of our members. Hence, our standards need to be even stricter. How can we trust SGM if a General Council member is involved in a scandal that led to over 400 resignations? Why is he still in the General Council?
  • We also should stop claiming that SGM has audited the Johor accounts, and that no evidence of fraud was found. The audit is only a preliminary review of the internal processes and controls. It was not carried out with the intent of finding evidence of fraud. So, why then SGM keep harping on not finding evidence and so eager to clear the ex-Region Chief of wrongdoing? The audit cannot, and should not, be used to clear anyone of wrongdoing. To use it to clear any wrongdoing is, strictly speaking, a lie. How do we trust the integrity of the ECC and the General Council if we are being lied to openly and repeatedly? What we are saying here are simple facts. Irrefutable. The audit report was presented to the entire Johor leaders on 17 January 2016. Nothing is fabricated. Our members today are not easily fooled. Many are qualified accountants, forensic auditors and hold top managerial positions in large corporations. You cannot fool them. Unless a forensic audit, one which tracks down every single transaction in the accounts, is done, we simply cannot draw any conclusion that no evidence is found. We didn’t go look for it. It is grossly foolish and only adds to the perception that SGM is trying to protect certain individuals if we continue to lie to our members throughout the country.

One thought on “Finding common grounds

  1. Comment by YC [translated by admin]
    I am one of those Johor leaders who resigned. I agree with the points above. I agree the actions by both sides and also cannot be convinced by the current top leaders of SGM and Johor’s organisation.
    There had been two dialogues after the resignation in the space of three months. The second dialogue left us with utter disappointment. After the first dialogue, they made us felt that they will take our requests and grievances seriously and take appropriate actions. This dialogue was led by Mr Pang, as the representative from SGM. They were not totally honest with us, hiding part of the truth from us. In our second dialogue, we were completely disappointed. They would not be entertaining any of our ideas and requests, only patronize us with superficial words and unacceptable answers to our questions. Any one who does not wish to follow and wholly accept the decisions of SGM is labeled as being ‘influenced by the devil.’ This made us felt certain that our resignations were right.
    More importantly, I got to know a couple who newly embraced faith in north Malaysia while I was attending a funeral. They felt that it is very joyful to learn about Buddhism. But towards the explanations given by leaders on the Johor incident, they could not fully agree. They even feel irritated and annoyed. One of them is an accountant. Towards engaging an external auditor to resolve the all the issues of internal corruption is not right. Auditors can only check whether we have purchased something overprices, but not able to identify corruption. Even a new member cannot accept and be convinced of the solution provided by SGM. How can we then convince and persuade more intellectual members among SGM? If we do not thoroughly correct and reform our organisation, the more we shakubuku will only lead to more people aware of the weaknesses and leakages within the SGM management. Instead of giving happiness, we severe the ties of these people with SGM. This is the future that I am worry about.


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