The poor woman’s lamp

Let’s talk about money. Money matters in SGM, in particular.

Why do members contribute money to SGM?

Money is necessary to support the kosen-rufu movement in Malaysia. We need money to carry out these activities. Of course, we also need other resources like the members’ time and energy.

What are the money used for?

Three main categories. Firstly, it is used for the purpose of acquiring/building cultural centres [Bunka Kaikan in Cheras, WKSGM, Penang Kaikan], renovation [extending toilets in Selangor BK] and upgrading/maintenance/repair of facilities [accommodation rooms in Cheras Bunka Kaikan, air-con].

Secondly, it is used to pay for staff salaries, utilities like water and electricity and other expenses. These are mainly operating expenses.

Thirdly, it is used for the promotion of peace, culture and education. The art collection, supporting cultural activities and TSS, Tadika Seri Soka.

 Where does the money come from?

Members’ contribution. Sincere contribution from their heart. We have many occasion to collect contribution. Four main sources;

  • New Year Gongyo meeting
  • Chinese New Year Gongyo meeting
  • two special contributions per year
  • kofu fund

The members wanted to support the kosen-rufu movement in Malaysia. Besides contributing their time and energy in activities, they also contribute money.

But not everyone is sincere.

What do you mean not everyone is sincere?

They are not exactly insincere, perhaps, more precisely, have a wrong understanding of the true spirit of contribution. The spirit of The Poor Woman’s Lamp.

There is an increasing number of members who are contributing with the thinking that they will get back double or even triple the amount of what they give. After all, most of the experience they heard on contribution is about members getting back more than they contribute.

Or that their prayers will be answered sooner. Treating it as a form of bargain or transaction. Not exactly sincere. Not really their faults though, cause they were repeatedly told that they will get good fortune in return.

Some members contribute on behalf of their family members, put the names of their children or relative, thinking that it will somehow credit good fortune into their lives. These are all mistaken and wrong views.

The philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism does not work this way, from our understanding of Mr Ikeda’s lecture, guidance and our gosho studies. We can only gain benefit, change our karma and attain true happiness if we carry out our human revolution. Without taking effort, our money contribution alone does not work. If we take sincere action, even without money contribution, we can obtain true benefits of this Buddhism.

How do you know that many people are not sincere?

The numbers of people who contributed during special gokuyo, versus the numbers of discussion meeting attendance, subscription to organ publication, form 18, soka friends in discussion meeting. Every single indicator shows stagnation or decline, with the exception of money contribution. It’s always high. And it does not tally. So, where are these people? Either they only come for this event or that they are inactive but family members put in their names without their knowledge.

Then, why do the members think like this?

Three reasons we can think of. The first is culture. Chinese, in general, believes in things like feng shui and getting protection by contributing money to temples. This is a form of reliant faith, that is opposite of what the Daishonin taught.

Second is human nature. People, in general, dislike taking responsibility of their own problem and thus want to find short cut to solve their problems. If giving money can solve, by all means, give.

Third, is SGM’s own promotion and education. Buddhist stories like the poor woman’s lamp and the offering of a mud pie stressed on sincerity. Yet, in experience after experience, we hear of people who got into great financial difficulty but after making a huge contribution, they got back three times of their contribution.

It is, of course, not true to say that we gain no benefit by contributing money to SGM. But it is the mentality and the understanding of what constitute good fortune that are the problems. There has been no attempt by SGM to correct this wrong understanding.

Do we have enough money?

That depends on who you are asking. From one aspect, we have in excess of hundreds of millions in cash. And from the General Director, what we have is nothing more than ‘a feather in nine cows’ [Not sure if cows have feathers, but that’s a direct translation]. Kosen-rufu, he reminded us, is a grand and huge undertaking. It will continue to move forward for hundreds of years into the future. Thus, the total we have right now is really insignificant, he explained.

I have to say, in a way, I agree with GD’s reasoning. It is a grand and huge undertaking, this kosen-rufu, is it not?

I agree too. Kosen-rufu is indeed a grand and huge undertaking. But to continue amassing money without any clear goal or manner to spend is not logical. Money is meant to be spent. Without spending it, we are not creating value. When members contribute, they also want the money to be spent for the right thing. To promote kosen-rufu. For education, culture and peace activities. Thus, it is not right to say kosen-rufu is grand undertaking on one side, while at the same time, have no idea whatsoever as to how the money should be spent.

Also, we have yet to put in good internal controls and governance on financial matters. We are in the process of doing it. In the past, we have a sundry shop format of book keeping and our accounts were totally defenseless against any form of allegations of corruption. SGM must put in the controls to regain the trust and confidence of the members.

Why do you say we should stop New Year and Chinese New Year contribution?

There is no receipt issued for these two sessions. Thus, there is no accountability. There have been accusations of the misuse of the money collected during these two events. These allegations are very damaging to SGM’s reputation as SGM has no way to counter or proof that there has been proper and strict accountability and governance. When confronted, top leaders either ignore, brush it off as impossible, or tell us to trust them and trust SGM.

It is true that some members look forward to contribute on these gongyo meetings. Some believe that the good fortune gained for contributing on this special days are more than usual. This is also one of the reason given for why SGM insist on continuing this practice.

This is not a strong argument. The mindset of the members is incorrect and we need to explain to them that contribution in terms of our human revolution, our chanting, our time and energy in sharing Buddhism, are more important than money contribution. It really does not matter whether it is new year or not.

The protection of SGM’s reputation against allegations of fraud and our ability to defend by issuing receipt are much more important.

So, should I contribute this round?

Up to you. There are members who feel that monetary contribution is a great opportunity to accumulate good fortune. How SGM spend or the money being misused, is not their problem. So, they happily contribute. No issue.

Some felt that they need to see proper internal controls being instituted and the accounts being audited by independent party. Until then, they will not contribute. After that, maybe. Not only they wanted to be reassured that their contribution is being spent for the right purpose, but they also want to protect the trust of their members, who contributed money, on them.

There are still another group that feel that it is better and far more important to contribute their time and energy for kosen-rufu in Malaysia. Our numbers are stagnant for the past 20 years at 40,000. Yet, the total amount of money increase over the same period. Having more money will not make any difference. What matters more is time and energy in taking care and encouraging of members, fostering our leaders and also sharing Buddhism with our friends. Doing so will accumulate more good fortune than monetary contribution, as this is what SGM need today. The contribution of our time and energy is the highest form of contribution and our most precious treasure, that is our lives.

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