Serious allegations are flying around the social media about corruption and misconduct of Soka Gakkai top executives in Japan, even demanding the resignation of SGI President Harada. There are photos of hundreds of demonstrators outside the Hall of Great Vow with large banners, as well as a youtube video of an hour long press conference by three former Soka Gakkai staff members.
As members of Soka Gakkai, what are we to do when we hear or were forwarded links of such information to our mobile phone? Should we delete it immediately like a deadly virus? Or should we spend hours reading and learning about the issues and allegations? How would SGM top executives respond?
In the past, these allegations were categorically denied as baseless by top executives, claiming they were unsubstantiated, fabricated and even part of a plot to takeover Gakkai or out to taint the good name of our mentor. All members should stay away, we were urged, and regard all attacks simply as motivated by malicious people and a manifestation of sansho shima that aim to derail our kosen-rufu effort.
Does it work? Yes. All the time. In the past.
Mainly because information was scarce and controlled by the top executives of SGM. They can decide whether to share or not to, and how much information to share. Members have no alternative means to gather more information from credible sources.
It worked. In the past, of course. This controversial information was easily relegated to the side and we go on happily with our kosen-rufu activities.
Today? No longer… Our environment has changed.
One, information travels at light speed. It can reach thousands in minutes. Top executives of SGM, the ECC, do not have a choice like before. Now, it is either you become part of the discussion or not. It is way more damaging to the organization if SGM decides to stay out and maintain their elegance silence. This is often seen as a sign of guilt, complicity and cover up. Erosion of trust, the most precious commodity in any religious organisation, continues.
In the past two years, SGM used the old approach towards Johor issue, giving little to no information from the top. And failed spectacularly, with over 400 leaders resigning out of frustration, disappointment and heartache. We are still very much reeling from the effect till today.
Two, people are more educated and aware of the possible corruption in large organization. Especially religious organization. Hollywood even made an award winning movie out of it – Spotlight. [By the way, it is great movie.] Answers that are not answers, like blaming evil forces, conspiracy theories and sansho shima, do not work anymore. People are not as gullible as before.
Unless SGM top executives learn new strategies, adapt to the new environment and rise to the challenge of this new generation, they would not gain the respect and trust of more thinking leaders in SGM. Kosen-rufu will not move ahead, but backwards because we will experience a brain drain, the departure of capable people.
That being said, it doesn’t mean that SGM need to respond to every allegation. The big ones, the burning questions, though, SGM must respond with speed.
As for leaders in general, what should we do? Put our heads in the sand? Employ selective listening? Keep harping on evil attacking us and therefore we need to unite and support GD, shouting justice will prevail? Or read them and understand the issue involved? How should I approach these sensitive matters?
These are a few things we believe that as SGM members we need to keep in mind. Of course, each person is different and we also believe that different people will respond differently. These are just suggestions and we do wish to invite our readers to contribute their ideas or any alternative viewpoints. We don’t have all the answers.
- Putting things into perspective. We are practicing the Daishonin’s Buddhism because of our sincere senior leaders who took good care and guided us. And now, with a deep sense of gratitude we are repeating the same act to care for our juniors in faith, no matter what. This is the most important part of our practice and this is also a miniature cosmos of our Gakkai. Given a large organization of over eight million members in Japan, controversies are bound to appear. But we must not give up entirely or lose our heart because of such difficulties.
- When the going gets rough, the rough go towards Sensei. Yes, this is the crux. Our ties with our mentor must be strengthened, especially during times of difficulty. Chant strong daimoku and earnestly read and study the writings of Sensei. Never allow anything to affect our faith in gohonzon and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. There is nothing wrong in the teachings, Gosho and the Gohonzon. It is only administrative matters that are messed up. It is not worth it to toss our faith away because of it.
- Don’t look or hope for Sensei as the knight in the shinning armour to appear and resolve the matter by sacking this or that person. After so many decades of teaching and fostering, it is time for disciples to stand up and make our voices heard, ensuring that evil will not even get a toehold in our organization. If we cannot do that, what hope do we have when Sensei is not around? Base on the guidance and teachings in Sensei’s gosho lectures, we must be confident and possess strong conviction that we have the wisdom, courage and perseverance to transform our organization into one that truly uphold the spirits of the three founding presidents. If Sensei intervene, it means we failed as disciples. Sensei always stress on the importance of making the people wise. This is what we must do. Foster more wise people.
- Read them. The controversial information. Why? Because if you don’t, you would not be able to answers questions from the members. Chances are they would have read it. Read them and judge for yourselves. Are the questions valid? Are the allegations supported by proofs? Who and where can I get more information?
- When our members ask, don’t immediately accuse the member as anti-Gakkai or agent from the other side that intends to create trouble. Rather, listen and ask more information. Share what we have learnt also. If there is a valid issue, then, we bring it up to our leaders and seek clarification.
In an essay, Another Way of Seeing Things, by Daisaku Ikeda, he wrote…
It is vital that we each ask ourselves some important questions. For example: Do I accept without question the images provided to me? Do I believe unconfirmed reports without first examining them? Have I unwittingly allowed myself to be prejudiced? Do I really have a grasp of the facts of the matter? Have I confirmed things for myself? Have I gone to the scene? Have I met the people involved? Have I listened to what they have to say? Am I being swayed by malicious rumours?
I believe that this kind of ‘inner dialogue’ is crucial. This is because people who are aware that they may harbor unconscious prejudices can converse with people of other cultures more easily than those who are convinced that they have no prejudices.
When we stood up looking at ourselves, when we no longer question ourselves, we become self-righteous and dogmatic. Our discourse becomes impossible.
It is also a reminder to ourselves, the authors of this website, that we are prejudice. We are aware of it. We are willing to listen to alternative views with this awareness.