In September 2016 Cosmic – GD Koh wrote in the editorial –
…Thus, the SGI is an incredible organization that accords with the Buddha’s intent and decree. So vital is our organization that President Toda once said, ‘The Soka Gakkai organization is more precious than my life!’
Therefore, no matter what happens, we must never leave the SGI organization. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda solemnly stated that if one leaves the SGI, one can never practise Nichiren Buddhism correctly, and can never experience the true essence of Nichiren Daishonin’s spirit.
President Ikeda further stated that in summary, outside of SGI activities, one cannot know what the true heritage of faith is, something that he is deeply convinced of. When all is said and done, leaving the SGI means abandoning happiness. Such is the solemn conclusion.
Yes, we agree with you General Director Koh. Mr Ikeda’s guidance on this is crystal. Similarly, there are many good employees who leave good companies. And the most common reason is not because of bad company policies or that the employees do not like his jobs. The chief reason is bad managers, their superiors. If a company has good policies and the employee loves his job, there is no reason to go out. Similarly, when our members are practicing joyfully in SGM and deriving great benefits in their daily lives, there is no reason for them to leave.
SGM is indeed a great organization. No question about it. The life philosophy is supreme. The mentor, Mr Ikeda is inimitable, and our great comrades that mutually supports one another. But when we have a large group of leaders who wanted to leave us, and left, we must really look into the causes and not simply repeat our greatness and threaten that one cannot find happiness if they leave SGM. Fear never persuade. Only love and compassion.
Over 400 leaders left. Not four. Not fourteen. It is indeed high time for SGM to carry out a thorough review on our state of affairs and where did we go so wrong till more than half of our leaders in Johor chose to leave us. And please do not draw parallelism with what happened in Selangor in the past. These Johor leaders left with profound disappointment and pain. It was a hard decision. We may agree or disagree with them, but there is little doubt that the decision is painful.
Also, we should not use Mr Ikeda’s guidance like a drunk use a lamp post, for support rather than illumination. The issue of this 400 leaders leaving has little to do with whether Soka Gakkai is the organization of the Buddha’s will and decree. Does it mean that the organization of the Buddha’s will is not capable, or even possible, to commit any wrong doing? That’s superstitious and blind faith. This is the mentality that led to City Harvest.
If there are hundreds of leaders who leave SGM due to their anger at the unjust manner in which SGM top leaders handle the allegations of corruption, then we should not be using Mr Ikeda’s guidance of ‘not leaving the organization no matter what.’ Instead, we should look at the allegations and handle it with sincerity, impartiality, urgency and without fear or favour.
When the NBA was established, a Johor leader asked a SGM leader whether she should join the new organization. The SGM leader disagreed, though this person knew very little of what exactly happened or is happening on the ground. He gave her four reasons for not leaving.
- Organizations are made up of people, and you have people, you have problems. Can never escape. Disagreement, argument, corruption, abuse of power, etc. etc. There is no running away from it. Whatever new entity you formed, eventually, one fine day, you will find yourself in the exact situation of what you are facing today. So, why leave? Better to change it from within.
- In the past, splinter groups often experience of further split in the future. Today we disagree and you want to split. Tomorrow if the leaders in the new organization disagree among themselves, will they split again? High chances they will. The continuous splitting and forming new organization will only lead to one thing – the members following them become disillusioned.
- When we split, both sides will want to justify themselves as right and just. SGM will immediately claim, like what GD Koh said above, that the true lineage is exclusive to practicing in SGM and that one cannot find absolute happiness [short of saying cannot attain Buddhahood] outside of SGM. On the new organization, they will also claim that SGM has become so corrupted and evil that the only way to practice with the correct spirit of the Daishonin is to form a new organization. Like what Nikko Shonin did when he left Mount Minobu. The situation will worsen when the exchanges were done by people of evil intention or barbaric nature, from both sides, slinging mud at each other. Who will suffer? Again, our members. The devil will be happily enjoying the show at the sidelines. The devils would have triumphed and the Buddha lost.
- There will also be people with malicious intent or ambition to want to wrest control to become the General Director who take advantage of the situation and making the situation worse than it actually is. Adding salt and vinegar. Like challenging people to report police or accusing the new group of plotting the entire thing for two years. We are creating opportunities for these people. These people will further aggravate the situation and push the NBA further away.
The hurt was too deep and the said Johor leader was too tired and too disappointed with SGM top leaders. He failed to convince her to stay. He said, ‘Go if you must. Promise one thing. Please. Continue to be my friend and keep in touch. Don’t fall into the trap of throwing mud at each other and slandering one another. We are still friends. You may not agree with top SGM leadership decisions, but there are good people inside SGM and certainly lots of good and sincere people in NBA.’
Later, similar guidance were found in Mr Ikeda’s New Human Revolution novel. Roughly translated, “When a member backslide and left the organization, we must have the great encompassing heart and tolerance. This is an important point. We must never severe the human relationship between us. Rather, we should have the magnanimous heart to say, ‘We are still friends no matter what, and please do come and see me if you encounter any difficulty.’” The SGM leader is happy that he did not listen to a certain vice General Director speech that urge SGM leaders to severe all ties with NBA since our path is different [tou but tong…]
Having said this, what then we should keep in mind when we encounter our friends in NBA or when we explain the matter of NBA to our members in SGM? What is our goal? What should we say or react when we hear SGM being attacked?
These are the few points we have in mind.
- Our main goal is to bring back all our leaders and members from NBA, our very brothers and sisters, and to practice harmoniously together as comrades. This may be wishful thinking at this point in time, but from the perspective of Buddhism, we are brothers and sisters of the Mystic Law since the remotest past and our appearance and encounter in this lifetime, in Malaysia, is no coincidence. We must use this as a springboard for us to manifest our Buddhahood and bring them back together in our path of Buddhahood. This is the fundamental spirit. If we don’t have this, we will make all sorts of errors and wrong move to further worsen the situation.
- Everything starts with our prayers. With the goal of bringing back the NBA leaders and members, we cannot do this without our sincere prayers. We have been learning this point again and again in our discussion meetings and study meetings. No need for me to say more on it.
- When attacked or criticized, we must always keep in mind that it is not clever words or reasoning that wins hearts. And without winning hearts, there is no point to argue. In any heated argument, we are just slandering one another Buddhahood, creating bad causes in our own lives. The important thing is to win through our actual proof, our human revolution and our character as human being. This is not easy and it takes time. If we adopt a superior and holier than thou attitude in condemning the other side as betraying our mentor and workings of evil, we will not bring any of them closer, let alone back. To continue harping on and painting a picture of evil among our own members also betray the flaws in our own character. For goodness sake, we are practicing Buddhism. Why do we engage in hate so much? We will be laughing stock to outsiders if they hear that we are quarreling among ourselves all the time.
- Focus on internal changes. Expedite the governance and internal control tightening process. Action speaks louder than words. Form the internal audit committee as soon as possible and ensure that the members are independent and not seen as yes-man. Ensure that they have the competency and integrity, independence and capable of doing their job. Get to work immediately. Report and inform all SGM members of what the internal audit team has done and what they will do. This will give the confidence to our members and also the NBA leaders that SGM is sincere and working hard towards change and improvement on the weaknesses.
- Continue to engage and never give up on the NBA members. Don’t argue with them, but make constant attempt to foster or rebuild the ties of friendship. Without these ties as the foundation, there will be no trust and no chance of coming back. This will be a long battle.
- Don’t be defensive about SGM wrongs and weaknesses. Also don’t attack the other party and label them as evil or plotting the split two years ago. In today’s age, such propaganda does not work anymore. We have members in Kuala Lumpur, angered by SGM claims that the Johor incident was an evil plot all along and said that SGM is not telling the whole picture. Just selecting the few and using broad stroke to paint the Rescue and NBA as evil. As SGM leaders, we cannot give this member convincing answer as the claim of evil plot was not, and cannot be, supported by strong arguments.
- There is no worry of NBA coming to our chapters and taking our members. If our ties and relationship with our members are strong, there is no way any stranger can simply come and take them to NBA. If top leaders of SGM continue to deny any wrong doings and refuse to provide satisfactory answers to the question raised, this will anger the members and pushing them away. We must remember that we need to get our own house in order, before we focus on others. We need to keep in check our chickens, and not worry about the eagle.
The big question – Will the NBA leaders return to SGM? It depends. Buddhism believes in cause and effect. If we sow seeds of harmony and compassion today, and continue to tend and care for the plants, we will reap the fruits one day. This is the law of causality. If we sow seeds of hatred today, we will reap hatred.