Stop dreaming, we will never be like BSG (Bharat Soka Gakkai)

Before we begin, we like to state that this is not a piece to ridicule or put down SGM leaders or strategy. But a critical and frank analysis and discussion. If you are not comfortable, we suggest you stop reading. If you are good, we welcome you.

We believe that SGM can progress only if we, those who care for our sincere members, can honestly and objectively reflect, and openly discuss matters that are crucial to the growth and development of SGM.

BSG – the Soka Gakkai organisation of India is the current poster boy. The growth of membership has been phenomenal. It has a much shorter history than SGM, but its membership currently stands at over 150,000. Top SGM leaders are sharing raving reviews about BSG (B for Bharat) after eight youth reps went there recently. It certainly make us feel good. [Much like the tagline for NTV-7.] As part of the larger global family, we are right to feel proud and happy for the steady and dynamic progress in India.

Looking back over the past decades, SGM has been learning and copying various successful strategy from other countries. Firstly, Taiwan. The membership there was said to surpass even Japan in time to come. But don’t hear much about them today. Next, Thailand. The membership was also growing rapidly. Surpassing SGM. Again. Woman Division representatives traveled to Thailand and spoke glowingly about their fighting spirits, wisdom and what we can learn from them.

But nothing beats Brazil. Brazil came with a concrete strategy and hence, we crafted the Role Model of the Oneness of Mentor and Disciple Han. A big plan was rolled out, ala Brazil, and specific KPIs were introduced. Achievements and numbers were periodically shown at SRMs. Statistics on Shakubuku, Gohonzon enshrinement, publication subscription and discussion meetings attendance were the main focus. Much effort were expended on collecting these numbers.

Our WD chief stated that statistics are important. Each number is not just a number, but a life, a person’s happiness. And that ‘We cannot manage what we cannot measure’ became a battle cry, sort of.

After a few years, it died off quietly. Leaders were tired of chasing numbers. We were not growing. New members were paltry. Attrition rate, those who stop practising or become inactive, was a taboo. So, what happened? Why we failed?

Difficult to ascertain where the problem is when there was never any formal and comprehensive review being done. We just set a new target and forget about all our past failures. The organisation is rotting slowly at the top. Two years ago, the Johor incident blew up. The rot finally came to the surface and now, we are witnessing what was festering for past two decades, hidden behind the feel good factor all these years..

Perhaps, we need to look inwards, and not outwards. Granted, there is much to learn from others. But we must not make the mistake that this can replace inward inquiry into the fundamental and underlying causes and weaknesses that prevent us from experiencing the growth rates of Taiwan, Thailand, Brazil and India. After all, we chant the same daimoku and follow the same mentor of the Law, Nichiren Daishonin. We all read and inspired by Ikeda Sensei.

What are our strengths? Large events; RFP, LSE, EYT. The entire organisation was galvanised each time and again, our members felt good. Victory reports were abundant and these were hailed as breakthrough and new history created.

But it does not translate to more new members. Over twenty years, our numbers stuck at 40,000. We make new shakubuku targets each year, and the same strategy of one leader shakubuku one new member is repeated year after year after year… Many don’t take it seriously anymore. But the same old, tried and repeatedly failed strategy is brought back to life. Honestly, we don’t think kosen-rufu will advance with the quality of the present batch of leadership. Exhaustion of new ideas.

Instead of looking inwards and discussing about the problems, they chose to focus their eyes on shakubuku target, as if with new shakubuku, everything else, all other problems and weaknesses will vanish. Instantly. Little did they realise that the success of shakubuku campaign is not the solution, but the end results of things done right. They have mistook cause for effect.

What then, is our problem? We do not claim that we have all the answers. We just hope that this will stimulate more thinking and deeper soul searching into how we can turnaround the lamentable state of SGM today.

Also, these are generalisations and not necessarily the case for every leader or chapter. Of course, we may also be wrong.

  1. Lack of warmth and genuine concern for one another. People leave when there is no warmth. Our activities are becoming routine and the close relationship between members today are rare. Example: when some leaders resigned recently, the only question asked was – ‘Who is going to handle the discussion meeting?here. Confession of a youth leader
  2. Lack of answers to matters pertaining to governance and transparency. Till today, no proper and direct answers as to why the leaders in Sungai Buloh and Puchong were sacked. Not even a termination letters. Why the silence? This is not in line with what we learnt; Treasuring each person, Many in body, one in mind. What happened? If you disagree we sack you? If you ask question we sack you? How can we work for kosen-rufu wholeheartedly when we have so much questions and doubts? It is an important responsibility of top leaders, GD especially, to provide convincing and direct answers. Open letter to Ex Johor Region Chief
  3. Lack of long term strategic thinking. The activities of the Student, High School and Junior divisions were halted abruptly this year to focus on discussion meetings. Has anyone really think through this step? Have we strengthen our discussion meetings that enable it to attract and develop our youth? With hectic student life of homework, tuition classes and projects, how can we expect our youths, particularly students, to come out for discussion meeting?
  4. Lack of joy in our practice. If our members are joyful, deriving great benefits from their practice, then naturally, they will go out and shakubuku more people. But today, we only see top leaders shouting slogans and rallying members to the goal of 10,000 new members.
  5. Lack of fostering and training. As our organisation grows, we need more and more capable leaders at the han and district leaders. But they were left alone to learn things on themselves. Many backslide shortly after their appointment as leaders. Han and district do not understand their role and lack support in fundamental functions. Unless we seriously consolidate our leaders at han and district leaders, we will never expand. Also, we appoint our top leaders haphazardly. Here. Chief problems in SGM – Part 1

We don’t have all the answers. We would like to invite you to ponder on this. You are welcome to share your thoughts here. We believe that positive transformation starts within oneself. Human revolution, study, daimoku, and speak up against evil. Hone our minds to be sharp and critical, not accepting things blindly. The growth and future of SGM will depend on how much we develop our ability and speak out for what needs to be said. Think global, act local.

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10 thoughts on “Stop dreaming, we will never be like BSG (Bharat Soka Gakkai)

  1. After reading the above article, I think nothing is going to change. Why I say this is because of the deep mindset of the leaders, and to some extent the members that we are a religious organization, and any other way (corporate way of running the organization) is not applicable to the organization.

    I can testify to this fact, because when I try to suggest a better way of doing things I get answers in the negative like ” Aiyaa…we different la, we not corporate leh, no need use that style.” or “We have out own stay, cannot so rigid like corporate.” and the list goes on..!

    Unless, rightly said, we ponder deeply, analyse the situation, accept the failures, we cannot move forward. Without acceptance of our past faults or shortcomings, it is highly unlikely that we can make that quantum leap to the level of these countries that have done better.

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    1. Drunkard bird,
      There is one way where SGM can change. I mean, just imagining. If one day, the accountant or whoever in charge of accounts discover that all the 350 million FD is lost and blew the whistle, then, many leaders will start to sit up and speak out. They will say, ‘I have suspected something fishy long time ago already…’ But now, they just want to keep quiet and afraid to be striped of their positions.
      I am not evil, but if that really happen, it may turn out to be for the best.

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  2. Our WD chief stated that statistics are important. Each number is not just a number, but a life, a person’s happiness. And that ‘We cannot manage what we cannot measure’ became a battle cry, sort of.

    Referring to what the WD chief claimed above, I would like to ask, after so many years of working for the noble goals of kosen rufu in Malaysia, what is measurable to our goals of peace and happiness in our community and country?
    What have she got to show?
    Show us the figure and calculation please. How much have SGM has accomplished?

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    1. Dear Mr Joe,
      If we compare the development and dynamism of other Buddhist organisation in Malaysia, Tzu Chi in particular, we are falling way behind. 20 years ago, maybe, we are at the fore front. During the 90s, where we built all the state kaikans and high profile sukom, event, we allowed success to get into our heads. Times have changed. Thinking, technology and values have all changed. Unfortunately, the top brass at SGM remain stuck in their old mindset, and refused to learn from others. Driven by fear and lack of personal growth and development, the organisation suffers.

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  3. How many percent have SGM leaders and members shown actual proof of victories in their lives, especially human revolution.
    Has our years of effort made a dent or impact in reducing crimes, corruption, peaceful co-existence in our community, has our own community are better off today than before. Does she or other top leaders has a figure or calculation? If not, I think she is only playing lip service anyhow and anywhere she want. Hope I am wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr Joe,
      I agree with you on the futility and a total lack of relevance of SGM’s activities. Take for example, Cleaning [Pure Mind] Group. We are using our resources, free labour, all the aged MDs and WDs, to clean our kaikan for years. And they felt very happy after doing this because they were indoctrinated by supposedly great good fortune one accumulate and how it support kosen-rufu. I am not belittling their effort or their sincerity. Just that can’t help but wonder if SGM is taking advantages of our members like this.
      We have money, sitting in piles of cash. Hundreds of millions. It is not creating any value.
      Why can’t we use that money to clean our kaikan by engaging professional help? Meanwhile, if we really want to make go into society, we can organise our Pure Mind Group to clean the orphanages, old folks home, etc. I am sure they are lot’s of houses like this that needed cleaning badly. Then, we are contributing to society, and helping those in the most dire needs.
      SGM can also allocate money into engaging professional and permanent help to these centres. I know of a Chirch in PJ that allocates hundreds of thousands from their members contribution to send teachers to rural Cambodia to teach the kids English. Now, that is making a difference.

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  4. For the top brass of sgm to change it can only thru dialogue. If one dialogue failed, we have another one..then another one till things resolve. While all these r being attempted undyingly, we should continue to progress as a person , a daishonin’s and sensei’s disciple. Im jst wondering r we still trying sincerely to establish actual face to face dialogues with these top brass or we hav accepted tat they will never change?? I strongly feel tat while we r doing wat we r doing now.. we should continue to have dialogues with more and more sgm leaders including the top brass.. regardless of how difficult and not assume its useless or impossible. Coz ultimately our aim is for the greater good.. and not our own satisfaction.

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  5. guywithasmile….I agree completely with you on having sincere dialogue with them. I think most of us want to have sincere dialogue to resolve the impasse facing the organization. Dialogue looks to be the only way. Its a long process…

    My concern is whether the other party is open enough to dialogue, open enough to speak base on sincerity to resolve the impasse. If the other party is not willing, whatever dialogue that we try to have will not lead to anything. It takes two to tango.

    Although I am not giving up on them, but I would tread carefully when engaging in dialogues with them, as you there re many wolves in sheep clothing waiting to pounce on you. Strategic dialogues-depending on person and surrounding- should be engaged then just any open dialogues.

    Well, back to another barrel of beer…

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    1. It is also important, i feel, to understand where dialogue in the past, with the Johor Rescue group failed. This group insist on having open dialogue, as in open hearing. Why? Because they learnt a bitter lesson that closed door dialogue simply didn’t worked. They had several real good closed door sessions, only to hear different stories and no commitment to changes when the ECC face the general membership. Thus, the Rescue were adamant in demanding open dialogue. They have nothing to hide. And also give the opportunity to all other members to see and hear for themselves directly who the Rescue were and whether they are sincere or simply plotting some sinister conspiracy. Top brass, of course, chicken out. Using lame reason like this is not Gakkai way of resolving issue.
      So, you see the difficulties we are up against?

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  6. Without a foundation of trust, it is very difficult to hold dialogue, let alone resolve issues. We must be aware of our prejudices and seek to understand the opposite point of view. THis means we need to be patient, listen to things that we disagree and also dislike. At times, we may even find that we were wrong. The first step, I believe, is to reestablish the trust and goodwill. If both parties also hold tight to their own views, there will be no progress. Someone got to move. Not likely to be the other party, I guess. As Bodhisattva Fukyo teaches, we need to remind ourselves of the innate Buddha nature of the other party. That they are also capable of learning and changing. And that they also want the best for the members. Over time, I believe we will be able to win them over, or find an amicable and position solution to move ahead. It is a hard, long and difficult road. Much easier to throw in the towel and simply forget about everything. But try we must. My opinion.

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