Much ado about a photograph

Ricky, 35, an engineer by profession, and Martin, 42, a car salesman, are both senior leaders in SGM. They were friends since their teenage age. Ricky was rather disturbed recently by a photo that was forwarded to him through WhatsApp. It is a picture of an ex Vice General Director with several priests, from other Buddhist sect.

Ricky: Do you believe it?

Martin: Believe what? That this guy, the Ex-Vice GD is in collusion with the priests of other Nichiren sects all along and plotted to bring down SGM from the beginning? That he was jealous and with malicious intent? Don’t think this is sufficient to judge anything. I don’t buy it.

Ricky: Neither do I. But the photo is something that we cannot disregard, nor refute, can we? I mean, this is damming evidence. Implicating that he, at the very least, has some kind of relationship with these priests. You agree?

Martin: Are the priests in the photo here bad people? You know them? Are all priests bad? Of course, watching the Shaolin Kung Fu movies from the Shaw Brothers production and the constant rhetoric of evil Nichiren Shoshu priests within SGM, it is not difficult for SGM members to harbor a negative view of priests. But remember, priest and laity are both human. There are good priest and also bad priest, good laity and bad laity.

Ricky: So, these priests in the photo are good people?

Martin: I didn’t say that. I am just saying we that don’t know. And we cannot base our conclusion on facts that are yet to be proven.

Ricky: You have been rather evasive. Only questioning me back when I ask question. Tell me, what do you think? And don’t answer me with another question. I don’t like that.

Martin: All right. As you wish, my friend. This is what I think.

First of all, this person that we are talking about here, the ex Vice GD, is no longer in any leadership position in SGM. Hence, the word EX. As an ordinary member, does it matter that he takes a photo with priest or attend their meetings? Or go to church or seen praying in a Hindu temple? I don’t understand why so many people make a big fuss out of this. Usually, news like this I simply ignore. It’s inconsequential.

Second, we are people with great minds. Or at least, I am trying. We are not mediocre or small minds people, who only concern about which K-pop star got a nose job or a boob job. Great minds, for your information, discuss ideas. Mediocre minds people and small minds people. Talking about people is for petty people. You and I are no small minds.

Third, the SGI charter, principles number 7 clearly stipulates that SGI shall, based on the Buddhist spirit of tolerance, respect other religions, engage in dialogue and work together with them toward the resolution of fundamental issues concerning humanity. Respect and work with other religions. So, a photo showing a SGM member with priests from other religion, isn’t that in accord with the SGI Charter?

The SGI Charter is the most important document of SGI and governs all SGI organisations. It clearly spelt out the principles and purposes of SGI organization. With more members engaging people from other religion, I firmly believe, is the purpose of SGI and it is a very healthy sign in our divisive and angry world today.

SGM also invited Dr Lawrence Carter, a christian leader of a prominent church in the US to our Cheras Cultural Center some year back. So, you mean it is ok to invite others, but not ok to attend people’s meetings?

Ricky: Thanks for sparing me your rhetorical question. It makes me feel dumb. And appreciate your explanation. My next question, why then are so many people making a big fuss out of this photo?

Martin: I can only guess, Ricky. It is out of fear. Perhaps, their faith is shallow, and easily shaken. Remember the issue of A&W Root Beer, Cadbury chocolate ingredients being not halal and the Muslim only laundromat in Johor? People always fear the unknown. If they do not have a strong grasp of the philosophy and their religious leaders treat them like children, controlling their personal lives, telling them what to eat, where to shop, what not to touch, etc. Hence, we have many members in SGM who are immature and lack a profound understanding in the philosophy of Nichiren Buddhism as well. That’s the main reason why a photo can cause a ruckus.

When people are firm and confident in their faith and develop a profound understanding of their faith, they will not be shaken and certainly not make a big fuss over a photo. You ever see a lion respond or react to shouts of monkeys by the side?

I am puzzled to learn that many of our members, even after decades of practicing in SGM, are still afraid of retribution or bad karma if they do not contribute money during the twice a year special contribution. They make these offerings not out of sincerity, but fear.

It is usually the case that people with shallow understanding of faith like to indulge in conspiracy theory, evil plots and evoke images of hell of incessant suffering for the wicked, rather than dealing with the issue with facts and objectivity. This reminds me of Madam Curie. ‘Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.’

Ricky: So, you are saying there is really nothing going on here.

Martin: You are unbelievable. Let me state clearly here. Listen up, I am going to say this slowly. I am not saying whether there is something or there is nothing going on. What I am saying is that this is not significant and we should not be wasting our time speculating on sensational topics like this. If you are really interested and dying to know then, by all means, call the people in the photo and ask them directly. I have better things to do. Let us leave these petty issues to people with enjoy TVB dramas and gossips.

Ricky: Ah… got it. You have clear my mind. Always like talking to you.

Martin: You’re most welcome. You contributed to my training in patience. I should thank you also. Let’s meet again and talk about ideas next round.


5 thoughts on “Much ado about a photograph

  1. Oh Ricky, come on man grow up! What a ridiculous and futile waste of time you have presented. Are you a follower of Nichiren to do as he requested ‘Chant NMRK and teach it to others to the best of your ability’ – or is your soul-purpose to use the teaching to create disharmony and dislike towards others, as you appear to be doing here?


    1. Tom B,
      Allow me to clarify. Ricky is a fictitious character, created to animate and speak in an active voice, hopefully can communicate the message clearer in this format. It is a representation of an idea, not referring to any specific person. Any coincidence to real people is purely coincidence.


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