Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing is so gentle as real strength.
Ralph W. Sockman
Max, 64, a respected SGM senior leader, has been working tirelessly and earnestly for the happiness of the members for the past decades. Ray, 42, a young professional, and looked up to Max very much.
Max: I understand what you are going through now. I’ve been there. Twenty years ago, I was also hotheaded and always demanding answers from the top leadership. I was vocal and loud. And many disliked me. They questioned my intention and labelled me with so many unflattering names, like traitors, enemies of the Buddha and devils. Like you, I was also sidelined and ignored. But then, one day, a senior leader came and told me these words. It struck deep into my heart. He said,
‘Look, Max, you have spent so much time and energy chasing evils, righting wrongs, upholding justice and reasoning and arguing with so many people, but in the end, how are these going to change your life for the better? How are these going to change your karma?
Listen to me, leave these matters aside. The Law of cause and effect is strict. Evil people who took advantage of this organization to profit themselves will surely suffer for their actions. No one can escape.
I took his advice and today, I can say that I didn’t regret my decision then. Focus on your own practice, Ray. Your own human revolution. I am not saying you are wrong or that there is nothing wrong with the organization. I am just saying that you should focus on your own practice, work for kosen-rufu sincerely and stop wasting time on asking questions that are not likely to get any answers.
Ray: I have heard this before. I have also given it some thoughts. I don’t entirely agree. I do very much agree with the point that we must do our own human revolution and focus on transforming our own karma. I also fully agree that we must do all we can for the sake of our members and friends. This is our core practice and it will never change.
But then, if we do not continue to raise question and demand better governance in SGM, all our effort will be futile. It’s like pouring water into a bucket full of holes. Twenty years ago, because those who can see and realise that things were wrong kept their silence, we are repeating the same mistakes, and suffering the same cruelty from authoritarian leaders. So, if we keep quiet today, I don’t have to tell you what is going to happen in another twenty, or even ten years down the road. How far have we grown in the past twenty years? And last year, we suffered a major blow of over 400 leaders resigned from their leadership.
We have a problem, a malignant tumor if you like, and it is growing inside the organization. Covering it up, not talking about it and ignoring it will not make this go away. It will just move into the background and the abuse and mismanagement continue. This will continue and eventually, it will blow up and history repeat itself once again.
Why? Because we have not sown the seeds of victory, and hence, we shall not be harvesting any victory. SGM will continue to repeat this cycle. The kosen-rufu movement will stagnate. Our leaders are obedient and so far, mostly remained quiet. Some not even dare to look at the facts. Instead, most are more than happy to move on and forget all about it.
Max: If forgetting this entire saga can enable the organization to grow and our members to be happy, why not? After all, we do not practice faith this Buddhism so that we can argue with others. Our Buddhism teaches us to transform ourselves, to change ourselves, human revolution, and not change others. But when we change from the inside, the outside will naturally change also.
Ray: Now you are treating me like a small kid. I am sorry Max, I am not a kid. And we need to stop talking like this. In a dialogue with Theologian Harvey Cox, Mr Ikeda has this to say.
Religion in the 21st century must provide people with the wisdom to be independent, to think and decide wisely for themselves how to live their lives. Religion must move away from the tendency to keep people in a childlike state, without the ability to think for themselves.
Asking me not to ask question is equivalent to ask me not to think and keeping me in a childlike state, isn’t?
Coming back to organization matters, we need better governance. Better check and balance. Better transparency. But are we doing that? After all the drama and terminations, the process towards instituting good governance has all but halted. I tried to get news from inside SGM but got none. No one is driving it and no one want to ask about it. So, we are back to square one.
Max: I don’t know about that. I see that you are pretty upset these days and afraid that this matter is going to corrupt your faith. That is my main concern. I don’t want you to be unhappy.
Ray: I thank you for your concern. I have no doubt that you want only the best for me. I appreciate that very much. I am not against you, or SGM or any particular leader for that matter. In fact, I want to make SGM a stronger and a better organization than before. And inoculate it against the various forms of mismanagement and abuse, and protect it against the type of damaging scandal like what happen to SGI-Hong Kong (court case which SGI HK lost) and the City Harvest Church in Singapore (Several top executives, including the founder, were sent to jail for misappropriating funds). Unless we shield up and practice the most stringent form of governance, transparency and with adequate check and balance in our top management, we cannot prevent scandals like this from happening.
And please don’t tell me we are Buddhist, we are Soka Gakkai and therefore, we are special and our top leaders will never commit such hideous act. Remember, we are all human. Each and every one can be susceptible to temptations and power. We all have the three poisons of greed, anger and stupidity in our lives.
Max: I still think we should forget this and move on. There are just too many heartache, anger and pain. All unnecessary and affecting morale. Focus on shakubuku and everything will be all right.
Ray: That is your stand and I respect that. I have a different stand. We should not forget. Of course, I heed your advice of not forgetting my own practice, my human revolution and also practicing for others. At the same time, I will continue to hold dialogue and allow more people the opportunity to understand the importance of governance matters in SGM.
Again, I thank you for your concern. I am very glad that our friendship is not affected by this issue, but instead, it strengthen. Please continue to watch over me and if I fall onto the wrong path, do pull me back. I am counting on you.
The ability to forget the past enables people to free themselves gradually from the pain they once suffered; but it also makes them repeat the mistakes of their predecessors.