This article is not aim at stoking fire. Rather, we want to provide more information and perspective into the incident. It is also entirely from our point of view and what we heard. We do not want to commit any lie by commission (adding falsehood where it is non-existent), nor lie by omission (not telling the whole story). Yet, we may not have the entire story. And we may be wrong.
We feel that it is important to listen to all sides of the story before jumping into conclusion. We don’t call names. We find such behavior childish and weak in reasoning. Only the weak resort to violence like name calling.
SGM is rocked by yet another painful episode in the last few days. It is regarding the repossession of Gohonzon of a local meeting venue. First, some background.
The area used to be a very joyful and harmonious local organization dedicated to the propagation of the Daishonin’s Buddhism. And everyone is proud to call themselves SGM. Their members were a very close-knitted group, with smiles and genuine warmth emanates from their activities. That was about three years ago. What happened? Why has things turned so unruly and emotions ran so high?
Some context, we felt, is important.
- About three years ago, many leaders were raising questions regarding financial mishandling in SGM, and in Johor particularly.
- SGM was unable to respond to their grievances satisfactorily.
- January 2017, SGM terminated the leadership of four Honbu Leaders; two MDs, one WD, and one YWD from this area.
- All four had been very active and trusted leaders, much loved by the members, and had been dedicating their lives for SGM for more than a decade.
- No reason was given. (Nothing still till today.)
- The terminated leaders requested to meet with General Director Koh to ask about their termination. Request denied.
- In March, after the CNY break, some of the leaders who attended the All Leaders Meeting in Bunka Kaikan, Cheras, tried to ask questions as to why the four Honbu Leaders were terminated. They were ignored by the General Director, and drowned by the deliberate loud applause of some leaders present.
- After the ALM, over forty leaders from this honbu, out of sheer frustration and disappointment of the top leadership, resigned.
- In their resignation, they stated clearly that the main reason was unable to agree with the top leadership and also clearly stated that they will remain in SGM as members. (The exact wording were more direct.)
- These resigned leaders never intended to bring the matters and problems to members and affect their faith.
- They resigned on Wednesday, but a discussion meeting which they were in-charge of was scheduled on Saturday, the same week. They asked SGM if they could go ahead.
- SGM said cannot. The reason being that they are no longer leaders.
- These resigned leaders felt it is going affect the overall operations, given the short time and that they had prepared well before the CNY. They decided to go ahead.
- SGM then called the members individually and informed that the Saturday’s discussion meeting is not an SGM activity and that they will have another discussion meeting on another date.
- Some resigned leaders afraid that SGM will attempt to repossess the Gohonzon in their venue. They changed the lock. Perhaps this spoofed/threatened SGM top leaders.
- SGM decided to cancel this local meeting venue, which was a shop lot contributed by one of the resigned leader.
- SGM unilaterally terminated the contract by mail, stating clearly the date and time that they will come to repossess the gohonzon. The letter was also worded in legal tone. Can one party, unilaterally, terminate an agreement? We are not so sure.
- No prior discussion was made, or felt necessary, to execute such a sensitive, or explosive, matter.
- The rest, you can watch on the video clip that has gone viral.
Let us be clear about a few things.
- These are not NBA members. The resigned leaders are still members of SGM.
- They are not anti-Gakkai. They disagree with the top leadership in handling financial matters and other governance issues.
- Resignations do not mean anti-Gakkai.
- They are simple folks and speak up when they see things are not right. They want SGM to be good and strong. They do not want to tear it apart. Their disagreement is not with the people in SGM as a whole, but only towards the highest decision makers.
- We do not understand why SGM is so eager and adamant to repossess the Gohonzon at this point in time. After all, these are not anti-Gakkai, and it is totally inconceivable that they will harm the Gohonzon in any way.
- Why no civilized and level-headed discussion prior to this repossession? The ‘legally’ worded letter was intimidating and aim to assert authority.
- Such crude and ruthless manner of SGM in handling this affair, in our opinion, gave the impression that SGM wanted to teach these stubborn ex-leaders a lesson. The behaviour is spiteful.
- Not the Gakkai way, and certainly not the Buddhist compassionate way of doing things. Not even the decent human way.
We, the authors of QuietRevo, earnestly plead the top leaders of SGM, the General Director, and the ECC members, to not take any drastic action at this period of time, as the hurt is still raw and the times are sensitive. In any action that we take, always consider people first.
This is also the core philosophy of the Lotus Sutra. Though SGM may say that ‘We have every right to repossess the Gohonzon, it’s on loan anyway,’ but failing to take into the consideration the feelings and sensitiveness of these ex-leaders, who went through a lot of challenges in making this venue a reality, is simply cold and foolish.
Since the resignation of over a hundred leaders in Kuala Lumpur recently, there are many actions that SGM did that seems to be pushing away people and ensuring that they never return. Displaying the name list of resigned leaders at leaders meeting, for example, and gave the impression that these are traitors of SGM. Is it necessary? What purpose does it serves? Labelling them as anti-Gakkai, traitors, names calling and accusation of having plots and conspiracy theory abound. Please refrain from doing such acts.
Another example, there was also an incident of a SGM Vice Region MD Leader who ask the leaders not to support and attend a ‘Gakkai funeral’ that was not conducted by SGM leaders. We wonder where is the humanity in this directive? We attend wake and funeral of Christians, Muslims and hell, even Nikken Sect, if the family of the deceased is our friend. Is SGM top leaders so blinded by rage, and cannot see the common sense and the basic humanity of attending a funeral?
In fact, we should think of how we can mend and strengthen the bonds of friendship with everyone, including those who resigned. Each and every person is precious, irreplaceable and respect worthy, Mr Ikeda said. We must treasure every person, Mr Ikeda said. This is what our mentor wants most in his heart. Pushing people away goes against the very grain of Mr Ikeda’s heart. How do SGM justify the claim that the pure lineage mentor and disciple can only be found within SGM when the actions are in direct contradictions to it?
To the resigned leaders in this sad episode, we at QuietRevo, will continue to chant for your happiness and wisdom. And hoping that one day, in the not too far distant, we can all work together again as comrades-in-arms. This is what we believe Mr Ikeda, our mentor, wants to see.