Interesting times in SGM currently. With the Johor crisis behind us, the actions of some of our leaders seem peculiar. Are they pushing members away from the organisation and from Ikeda Sensei. Let me quote a few instances.
- Leaders who raised questions about transparency and good governance in SGM and ask awkward questions about the ECC’s decision of sacking central leaders in Johor and KL were being given the cold storage treatment. They were sidelined and their existence in the organisation are blatantly ignored. Particularly evident in SGM, Region and Honbu levels leaders. We also noticed a common phenomenal in WhatsApp chat group, which is the chief means of communication and coordination. We have an extra chatgroup within a chatgroup. The leaders in this inner group are those where the top leaders deemed trust-able. Those problematic leaders are left out. The names of these cold storage leaders are being removed and replaced in the PIC duty list, often without their knowledge or notification. Cowardly acts. It makes us wonder, who is creating disunity in the organisation’s of the Buddha’s will and decree here? These are all very frustrating and sickening. Petty? Yes. But also very effective pouring cold water and in pushing people away. Those who could not stomach it simply leave or become inactive.
- Johor SGI center seminar. Only selected leaders are chosen and given the opportunity to participate in these seminars. When a chapter level leader asked why was he not informed of such event, while his District Leader knew about it, the answer he got was that he did not manage to sign up any form 18 (Shakubuku form). It is turning into some form of incentive trip similar to those we see in insurance agency. Seminar in SGI-center is used as a form of reward and punishment.
- Those who resigned as leaders in KL amounted to more than a hundred. There is no effort at all to visit and understand them as to why they made such a drastic decision. The problem blew up in Johor, why would leaders in KL wanted to resign? No one bother to ask. In fact, they were labelled as traitors and accused of participating in a plot to topple the current leadership. Whatever the case may be, it didn’t change the fact that they are still our friends and we are human beings. why such hostility? Didn’t Mr Ikeda taught us to treasure each person? Regardless of our differences, shouldn’t we be, at the very least, make effort to regain their friendship and trust on a personal level? And continue to pray for their happiness? Apparently, there is none. Some gung-ho SGM leaders are happy that these troublemakers left. And they are not making any attempt at all to bring them back. It’s cold and cruel.
- What about those who are unhappy with the way the Johor incident is handled, but didn’t resigned and continue to raise questions about governance, accountability and transparency? They were labeled as sympathizers. They were being warned, time and again, that sympathizers are supporting evil and will certainly fall into hell. Sympathizers are dangerous, do not have the mentor and disciple spirit, and working in cohort with the NBA factions to create disunity and problem within the ranks of SGM. Sympathizers are to be purged and the message from the top is that all leaders must be courageous and refute these sympathizers.
- Dismissal of central leaders in the KL Cultural Division, ten of them, recently. All done swiftly and without proper planning or thinking through, handover or ensuring continuity. These central leaders were called for a meeting, said to be a planning discussion for the coming year. During the meeting, they were informed that the committee they were in is being dissolved. The same reason was given – need new blood and opportunity to foster younger leaders. The KL Region leaders were given the unenviable tasks of chopping and they felt uneasy and unable to provide convincing reasons for this decision. Probably their conscience are disturbed. We are chopping the generals of kosen-rufu, each having dedicated the larger part of their lives, over twenty years, in fostering and developing the Cultural Division members. Blood on their hands. It does not need much imagination to guess that they were simply taking orders from above. Anyway, it happened before, several times, when the SGM YMD Chief, SGM Junior Division YWD Chief, KL Region Chief and etc. Seems like the chopping continue without ceasing.
What is the objective in all these acts? To drive the so-called troublemakers, sympathizers and spies, away from the organization, away from the path of faith and away from Ikeda Sensei. If you are one of those people in this category and reading this, please do not fall into their trap. Top leaders do not represent Sensei and whether one has the mentor and disciple spirit or not cannot be judged by others.
Sensei’s guidance never said that we need to be submissive, to be totally obedient and compliant towards our General Director or SGI leader. Sensei’s guidance never said that we cannot have our own mind and thinking.
On the contrary, Sensei stressed on the importance of respecting each individual as a unique and precious Buddha. Diversity is encouraged. It should be embraced, be protected and be celebrated. Not to be pushed away. Not to be feared. He stressed time and again to treasure, to respect and to care for each and every member in Soka Gakkai. This is what is taught in the Lotus Sutra as well.
So, why are certain SGM leaders so eager to push these dissenters away? Are they afraid? Are these various acts of pushing in accordance to the spirit of Buddhism and of the three presidents? Is this many in body one in mind? Or a one-size-fits-all strait jacket of one in body one in mind?
What can we do in the face of such unfair and ridiculous treatment?
- Never allow anger to overtake our emotions. Treat them as a test and regard them as training for our faith. Nutrients for our growth. Nichiren Daishonin even thanked Ryokan, his enemy, and claimed that he would never have be able to perceive his real identity if Ryokan did not appear. People only do cruel and stupid acts out of ignorance and fear. Little do they realise that their actions are pushing members away from Sensei and creating bad karma in their own lives.
- We must be earnest in our fundamental practice, gongyo and daimoku, and put in a hundred per cent in our work and family to gain the trust of those around us. Never allow these cowardly and lowly acts get to us, feel disheartened and make us abandon our practice. We must show actual proof in our own human revolution.
- Read earnestly, and have a deeper understanding. of the gosho, the guidance of Mr Ikeda and what is the true meaning of practicing the Daishonin’s teachings. Armed with this, we can see through the propaganda, the demonizing and lack of compassion of others. It can also fuel our growth and strengthen our faith.
- Focus our gaze on good governance. This is the root cause of the many problems that we are encountering today in SGM. Similar issues, no less severe, also occur in the Soka Gakkai associations of Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. It takes time for the top leadership in these countries, including Malaysia of course, to mature and catch up with the times, and understand and accept that we must uphold good governance to gain trust and confidence of our members. That the old ways of being secretive, regarding the organisation as some personal property, authoritarian, chest thumping ‘trust us’ rhetoric and treating members as little sheep, do not work anymore. But we need to do more than just wait. We got to study and continue to push for these reforms.
The organization hinges on the capability of the leadership. Not just the top leaders, but all the leaders in general. In other words, we deserve our top leaders. If we do not hold them accountable and demand good governance, if we do not care and remain apathetic, if we are happy to just leave things to others, then we will never have a clean and joyful organization. SGM will be encountering scandal after scandal.
We must not give up. Even if we were sacked as leaders, we will continue speaking up and holding dialogue one by one. This is the only way to transform the organisation. It starts with one. Me.
The reality of human society is that there will always be people we do not like or just do not get along with. That is why it is important not to get carried away by momentary emotions, but instead to make conscious effort to work together and to strive for unity.
– Daisaku Ikeda June 2014, SGI Newsletter 9011