No One Sets out with the Intention of Joining a Cult…

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By 2017-04-02T18:47:00+00:00on January 12th, 2016
Recruitment or Seduction, Buddhist|190 Comments

Some years ago, a friend told me about a Buddhist organization she belonged to, called Soka Gakkai International (SGI). I’d been informally studying Buddhism for a couple of years at that point and had attended a couple of sessions at local temples. Nothing resonated with me. When I went to a local SGI meeting for the first time, I couldn’t make it past the lobby; there was something creepy and disembodied about the chanting I could hear coming from the main room. I almost ran out of the building.

Well, fast-forward a few years; my marriage had crumbled, and I was living in a city far away from friends, family and a conventional support system. I was under-employed and working for a woman who, to say the least, was a miserable human being. I had reached a point of depression and despair when my friend suggested that I start chanting to change my life. Nothing I had tried thus far had improved things and that, along with her promise that if my life didn’t start to turn around very quickly she would stop practicing after more than 30 years with SGI were persuasive. I respected this person, and if someone as skeptical as she was had found something that she believed was effective, it couldnt hurt to try it.

Miraculously, it worked. I chanted for a better job (with a nicer manager) and enough money to cover buying a new set of tires. I chanted for hours, and with all my heart. Within two weeks, I had a job offer working for someone I liked and received enough of a financial windfall that it temporarily bailed me out of the financial problems I was having. I found a local group (SGI is broken out into local Districts, Chapters, Areas and Regions), started attending meetings and, it seemed, life did a complete turnaround. These people were loving and supportive, good friends . . . we chanted together, socialized, went to monthly meetings in the community center. Every small victory was cause for celebration and further encouragement; my setbacks were met with urgings to chant more, study more . . . have more faith that things would work and most importantly make a heart-to-heart with the president of SGI, Daisaku Ikeda. He knew my struggles, and was chanting for me! I wasn’t really clear on how 78-year old man in Japan who didn’t speak a word of English knew what was going on with me, but apparently he did, so hooray!

This was all extremely seductive. There’s nothing like having the feeling that your voice is being respectfully heard to encourage you to feel more loyalty and affection. The idea of finally having control over my life cemented me to the organization; all I had to do was to chant whatever problems I was having would resolve. I was invited to receive my Gohonzon (the magic scroll that would instantly improve my life-condition); I was broke again, but finally saved enough to make my $35.

The Gohonzon itself is a scroll, perhaps. Heavy, good-quality paper, with a black rod at the top and bottom, with a loop to hang it in your own butsudan. There a tasteful decorative border, and in the middle are eleven vertical rows of Japanese calligraphy. They describe various concepts related to Buddhism in general and SGI in particular, with Nam Myoho Renge Kyo down the center and Nichirens signature at the bottom. A butsudan is essentially a box designed to contain and protect the Gohonzon, and it varies from being very simple (mine was a wooden box that had a hook for hanging the scroll) to insanely elaborate about the only thing that is standard to them is that they have two doors that abut down the center front and swing aside when you open it. They vary in size from just large enough to allow the scroll to hang unencumbered to ones that will cover an entire wall; we always jokingly called the larger ones walk-ins.Gohonzons came in four sizes the one already described, a very small one in a plastic case suspended from a chain (Gotta keep practicing, even on the road! Don’t worry that the chain rips out all those tiny little hairs on the inside of your wrist; no one said there wouldn’t be a bit of pain!); there was a larger version available to members who’d been in for 15 years or more, and then the giant ones that were in the Buddhist centers.

The friend who had shaku-buku (recruited) me warned me that sansho-shima (evil forces) might conspire to prevent me from receiving my Gohonzon, so I was happy to arrive safely at the Buddhist Center for the conferral. I’d been to the center a few times before; SGI has a monthly Gongyo at their centers; Gongyo consists of chanting ‘nam myoho renge kyo’ (which translates into Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra), then chanting several chapters of the sutra itself, all of that generally at tongue-twisting lightning speed in 13th century Japanese. There are several silent prayers, and then 15-20 minutes more of vigorously chanting NMRK. We also performed Gongyo twice a day at home, in front of our personal Gohozon. At the monthly meetings, this was always followed by announcements and rousing personal experiences from a couple of members interspersed by oohs, aaahs, and applause from the other members. If we were truly lucky, the Arts and Culture Department would put on a performance. The final official event was being shown a dvd from HQ, with President Ikeda giving a speech, receiving an award of some sort (he has a ton of academic awards from minor colleges and universities around the world – easy enough to come by if you grease a few palms), and a performance by the Ikeda Brass Band or someone like that. At the time, it was all very inspiring and moving; here was the great man himself, in the great center in Japan, more gilt, gigantic apples and oranges piled on the altar than you could shake a stick at, and hundreds of solemn (mostly Japanese members with gaijin guests in seats of honor) in the rapt audience. The men all dressed in white shirts and ties to emulate President Ikeda, and the women all wearing pastel suits to honor Mrs. Ikeda. It struck me as kind of creepy, but I put that down to my feeble understanding of Japanese culture.

The center where I received my Gohonzon wasnt nearly as grand, but it was still pretty impressive. It was a fairly modern building, constructed in the 1980s by member volunteers. The lobby was fairly small: a desk for those brave souls watching over the safety of the members as they practiced, and, like all SGI centers, a small bookstore. SGI has its own printing house (Middle Way Press) that produces the hundreds of books that Ikeda has allegedly written. After passing through the lobby, you entered the main room; in this building, it was constructed in the round; the exterior wall had tall, slotted windows letting light into the room. A couple of hundred chairs were positioned on the red carpet, all facing the altar. On the altar was the butsudan: the cabinet that housed a giant Gohonzon. It really was beautiful,  finely crafted from rich woods, with shining gold hinges and lock-plate. Between the chairs and the altar was a lectern from where the MC kept things moving along and members would present their experiences. On the wall opposite the windows was a hallway leading to restrooms, a small library, a kitchen, and a play-room for the kids. SGI had used incense at one time, but complaints from those with delicate respiratory systems put a halt to that in most centers some years ago.

Gohonzon conferrals took place at the end of these meetings, so I had plenty of time for my anticipation to build. Sansho-shima hadn’t had their wicked way with me, so obviously the Shoten-Zenjin (protective forces) were on my side. The Chapter Leader called three of us to the front of the room, and solemnly bestowed our Gohonzons to the cheers, whistles, and applause of the other members. We were now officially Bodhisattvas of the Earth! A bodhisattva, by the way, is someone who has achieved enlightenment but opts to return to the world to help others achieve enlightenment. Part of the Lotus Sutra describes bodhisattvas rising from the earth during the Ceremony in the Air when the Treasure Tower emerged. Or something like that: who cared? I was one of them! I just knew that through the force of my practice and devotion, I could make my life better and, as a result, improve the lives of those around me. That was my personal, self-appointed mission. And, holy cow, I knew it would work! I could just feel with every bone in my body that I had the tools to make that happen.

Confirmation bias – that’s an interesting concept. We start doing something differently, and we perceive every positive event in our lives as being directly attributable to that new action. That’s how cults work; they provide you with a new tool to handle those challenges in life, and your mind automatically associates that new tool with a successful outcome. You will be surrounded by people who will reinforce that idea; you’ll be congratulated and made the center of very positive attention. In my organization, you would be encouraged to share your story at a meeting: there will be others who will take heart from hearing about your experience. They’ll chant more, participate more, donate more and try harder to develop a deeper allegiance to the fearless leader. And there was really so much good fortune to share: green lights all the way to work, not being late for a meeting, finding enough change so that you could buy a soda! Once in a while, it would be something meaningful: a better job, a new love, making it through a difficult challenge –  you know, things that never happen for people who dont chan’t.

The meetings kept us busy. There was Kosen Rufu Gongyo (the meetings described above, held the first Sunday of every month  Kosen Rufu is the SGI time for their world-peace initiative), and then there was a study and a discussion meeting every month. Of course, we had to have a monthly planning meeting to schedule the latter two meetings that were held in the homes of members. There was some jockeying that went on to have meetings in your home – to do so was an opportunity to gain benefits, which were sort of positive-karma points. And then there were the tosos. A toso is fairly informal: people would gather in your home to chant . . . sometimes for hours. You could have as many of those as desired. Member Care meetings took place once a month: these weren’t mandatory, but of course if you want to keep racking up those karma points, you just can’t miss that opportunity. We went through the membership index cards at those meetings, and you walked away with a list of members who hadn’t been seen or heard from for a while; you were to contact them and try to bring them back. If you were a leader (as I became, on a low level), there were more meetings and, since I was on the Subscription Committee (SGI has two publications that the members are pretty much required to subscribe to: The World Tribune and Living Buddhism) there was an additional meeting every month for me, plus contacting members whose subscriptions were about to expire. Busy, busy, busy. Keeping us busy served the organization well; we not only didn’t have time to associate very much with people outside of the group, those meetings provided additional conditioning opportunities. Theres nothing like 20 minutes of chanting to put you into a trance state and keep you highly susceptible.

Oh, but what if despite your best efforts, it doesn’t work? What if, despite spending hours chanting in front of your sacred scroll, attending meetings or volunteering your time, you still can’t resolve that pesky problem? It’s time to go talk with one of your trusted local leaders; you don’t discuss it with anyone outside the organization: they won’t understand, because what you’re doing is so deep and mystical that only other members can get it. They will be kind, but frank. It’s obviously your fault. You weren’t chanting enough, or with a sincere enough heart. You aren’t participating in enough group activities – didn’t you miss that study meeting a couple of months ago? You don’t donate enough. You aren’t devoted enough to the Greatest Mentor Ever. Or you need to work off all of that terrible karma you’ve accumulated through your many lives. Or maybe (just maybe), you’re doing it so right that you are actually bringing all of that negative karma forward so that you can put it behind you and moving into your bright, shiny new life! It’s kind of hard not to visualize a great, festering karmic boil there.

While there’s quite a bit of sarcasm in this article, it comes from hindsight. While I was in, before I came to my senses, I eagerly swallowed everything this cult organization fed me. The only thing I questioned was the implied divinity of President Ikeda, but I viewed those doubts as a failure on my part. I believed that if I chanted enough, I could overcome anything, achieve any goal. The Mystic Law (the force behind all of this) was on my side, and because of that, I was a special and superior person. It was beyond my comprehension how anybody who was exposed to this wonderful practice didn’t see the absolute common sense of it. Cause and effect – you make a good cause and you reap a positive effect. So simple. Physics!

Being in a cult is like a country dance . . . sometimes you advance, sometimes you retreat. Be assured, though, that there is always someone at the head of the room calling the moves and the tune. Some people are incredibly lucky; they get tired of the dance and start seeing just how senseless and abusive it is. I’m one of those very, very fortunate people; it only took me seven years to start seeing what was going on around me – two of the most intelligent people I know had two and three decades of the SGI Shuffle before hearing the flat notes.

Editor's Note: While we at OMF value all free expression of opinion, the views expressed by our contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of OMF, its board members, or trustees.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Do you have a story about being in a high-control group that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!

Author
Marye is a former member of Soka Gakkai International. She currently works at a NY State Authority supporting the construction and rehabilitation of energy-efficient buildings across the state.

190 Comments

  1. Harry July 24, 2017 at 1:12 am - Reply

    Help I’ve been battling with my superstitious tendency of joining and quitting sgi for years. I know it has tremendously messed wiTh my mind and I want out. I’m not happy, hooked on antidepressants, and lost.

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 6:01 pm - Reply

      Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a lay Buddhist organization with 12 million members in 192 countries and territories, has been in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 1983. As an NGO working with the United Nations, SGI has been active in public education with a focus mainly on peace and disarmament, human rights and sustainable development.

      • George April 2, 2018 at 4:19 am - Reply

        What? That’s your response to the person who commented about needing help?

      • Patricia April 6, 2018 at 5:03 pm - Reply

        Harry, I am so sorry you are going through this. Please, educate yourself on cult like religious. I was born in one christian cult, the as an adult I joined the SGI. It took me 9 months to realized what was really going on. There is book called “Though Reform and the Psychology of Totalism” by Robert Jay Lifton. This book will help you to understand the emotional and psychological abuse you went through.

        Alex, this is such a narcissistic pre-made answer you give to someone in need for help.

      • frenhmonik June 28, 2018 at 2:51 pm - Reply

        Alex, is that how you acquired such level of compassion?…pardon my sarcasm!

      • Lydia August 27, 2018 at 12:08 am - Reply

        Half of the members are forced into SGI. I went to my second meeting as a guest and to my surprise I was given gohonzon and became a member! I accepted it because I was shocked and thought “ill give it a try”. The talk about “devilish forces” all the time. SGI forces you to purchase their publications and all they teach is Ikeda writings. This cult has nothing to do with Buddhism. It is the Ikeda cult. Many people are forced just like I was in and it is hard to get out.

        • Simon September 12, 2018 at 8:32 am - Reply

          Hi mate my name is Simon Browne from Rockdale NSW the sgi hurt me and I think anyone who would chant bull shit is a mindless slave stay true to love cheers AUSTRALIA

        • Kirk Edwards November 7, 2018 at 7:35 pm - Reply

          Nonsense.There was no effort to control or retain anyone.I was briefly a member and left.No coercion at all.

    • Linda April 30, 2018 at 5:08 pm - Reply

      I am an SGI member in Hong Kong., I am.also a perfectly sane, normal and educated person.

      Let me assure the somewhat ignorant posters …SGI is not a cult. An organization with major representation on the world’s stage in terms of promotion of world peace and with 13 million members around the world…cannot be a “cult”.

      No money for membership or coercion of any time has been observed by me in my 4 year membership. The whole basis of the organization is to teach the method in which one can build one’s best self…and in turn affect others with positive causes…the philosophy at it’s core, focuses on giving the strength to deal wiith life’s challenges, never giving up and changing bad into good. In the same way that Christians may say The Lord’s Prayer, followers of Nichirin, chant a phrase and say prayers, which btw include prayer to transform our karma, karma of others and include memory for our dead loved ones.

      President Ikeda is a major player in promoting world peace. He.is not seen as an.idol, but instead as a mentor , whom we can respect and learn from.

      I have a great many positive experiences in SGI…such as a whole different perspective and attitude towards my marriage…creating s much more positive outcome…

      • Lydia August 27, 2018 at 12:09 am - Reply

        Linda, you are just brainwashed. it took me 2 years to get out and when I stated that I want out I received threats that gohonzon will punish me! it is a cult!

      • Jay October 15, 2018 at 8:36 pm - Reply

        I consider myself a normal intelligent human being who on many levels is very skeptical and honestly not much of a “religious” person and I have also volunteered in the SGI at nearly every level, and I find it totally misguided for anyone to label the SGI as a cult for several reasons.

        1. I think a lot of western people just don’t understand the concept of a mentor. When it comes to Karate kid we all get it but some how if you have a living mentor in a religious movement then it must be a cult (even though of course once people are dead it seems totally fine to worship the hello out of them). Daisaku Ikeda is a mentor because he is a great example of a human being. He has been working for peace his whole life. And this is not just the observation of people who are Buddhist but with highly intelligent people of all walks of life around the world. For example he has co-authored nearly 50 books with nobel-winners, historians, futurists etc. all who are not SGI. I am sure these people would not want their names associated with someone who was a cultist. And please don’t try to convince me somehow these people are brainwashed too… I call BS. Also one of the definitions of a Cult is someone who maintains absolute control over the organization whoever Ikeda does not there are several bodies that make the decisions regarding the organization.

        2. People use the SGI promoting itself as some sort of gotcha to pin it as a cult but that is most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. Please find me one thriving organization on earth that doesn’t promote itself and its activities – thats what any and all groups do. What a cult does however is promoting itself to the point of its members cutting themselves off from the outside world for example shunning their family and friends and leaving their jobs. But all I have ever seen in the SGI is people being encouraged to engage with their friends and families and do well in their jobs. In fact in the experiences people share that is what people usually talk about WHICH IS THE OPPOSITE OF A CULT!

        3. Cults usually promote Gloom and Doom version of the world but in the SGI again I find the opposite while most of the news presents Gloom and Doom the feeling inside the SGI is hopeful and optimistic. Not blindly so but rather with the sense that it is up to us as individuals to make the world a better place.

        4. Finally as I have said I have volunteered at every level of the organization and I can say confidently I have never seen any sort of directive or plan in the SGI the would give me pause. In fact my confidence has grown that this movement is very genuine. Of course I have seen leaders and people in the SGI make mistakes myself including but that was on the person not because of some SGI directive.

        This article is clearly written in anger and while I respect your decision to leave the SGI and choose your own path please don’t try to justify your decision by labeling the faith of millions of people untrue just because you didn’t sync with it.

    • HSSM July 29, 2018 at 10:10 pm - Reply

      Harry, I am so sorry you’re suffering so. I have heard that those who leave the SGI have their lives fall apart. However, from the experiences I have read and heard, I can’t think of anything that happened to a layperson that hasn’t happened to a SGI member, while they were a member. If you feel the need to leave the SGI, then by all means. And I am a SGI member.

    • Simon September 12, 2018 at 8:43 am - Reply

      Hi mate my name is Simon Browne from Rockdale NSW fuck the sgi they are weak cowards greg jonhs should be imprisoned STAY STRONG

  2. Pamela August 5, 2017 at 11:53 pm - Reply

    I joined a when I was a young woman in school.It was a very hard time in life.Away from family pressure in school, no money.It was a very stressful time. I was vulnerable to joining. It have gave me confidence and I got sucked into being brainwashed. It is too much to go into the devastation that being brain washed cause me as a result. I would say that I should have stopped this practice 15 years ago. It literally destroyed my life. In a bit shell I took advise from a so called leader and had a nervous breakdown ptsd and I lost so so much because I was trapped in ptsd. This organization is dangerous to your psyche even though on the service it seems like it is just about people growing to reach their potential. I believe it is really just front for power and Mr Ikeda is not the wonderful mentor every one is brain washed into beliving.Behind it all is money and power and all this at the expense of brainwashing people into believing that thos magic lantern(gohonzon) has power to do things for you. I see clear now and most “leaders” are brainwashed narsisist.

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:20 pm - Reply

      The SGI is recognized by the United Nations as an NGO. The SGI actually has office in the United Nations. I don’t too many cults recognized by the United Nations.

      • George April 2, 2018 at 4:21 am - Reply

        Stop.

      • The awaken one April 6, 2018 at 6:26 pm - Reply

        I am laughing so hard right now. Is this a joke?

      • Anni May 14, 2018 at 2:27 am - Reply

        SGI, like many cults spends a lot of money on trying to appear legitimate. The ‘donation’ SGI gave to gain NGO status with the UN was around half a million dollars.,and they continue to contribute.

        The Unification Church, a notorious cult (the Moonies) is also recognised as an NGO.

        Alex,you might want to find a better example to support your claim that SGI is not a cult.

        • Jasmine June 13, 2018 at 1:18 pm - Reply

          SGI members aim to encourage others and ourselves to manifest our own reality and desires. Our faith is based upon laws of the universe. How can an organization aiming to turn all negative aspects of this world into positivity be deemed bad or a cult? Whenever I’ve faced hardships, I was never told that it’s bevause I don’t attend meetings lol. Instead I’m encouraged to chant for a better schedule or motivation to go. District members and leaders even come to me. Just to listen to my challenges and brainstorm with me, so that I may find a solution. I honestly believe you, others speaking bad about SGI, and this original poster are just trolling. Lol either way I encourage you and others to embrace your inner Buddha nature, and realize that spreading lies and false claims can never bring out true happiness. Nam myoho renge kyo 🙏🏽

          • Lydia August 27, 2018 at 12:14 am

            I went to many meeting and no one ever mentioned Buddhas teaching. SGI members do not even read the lotus sutra. This cult organization brainwashing people that had life problems in order to claim more members and collect May contributions! They say it is good fortune to donate money to SGI in May, the more money donated the better your fortune you will have. I am glad I finally saw clearly that I was dragged into cult and managed to get out. Wake up!

          • Simon September 12, 2018 at 8:49 am

            Hi mate you must be indoctrinated to foolishness it’s not Buddhism in the slightest I feel sorry for you must be a coward my name is Simon Browne from Rockdale NSW fuck the sgi

  3. Nina Kwan August 29, 2017 at 10:25 pm - Reply

    I do not feel SGI is a cult. No one has ever attempted to isolate me from any of my mainstream activities or associates. No one has ever attempted to convince me that Daisaku Ikeda is an “enlightened being” or in anyway something other than an ordinary human being. Are the Amish a cult? Are Orthodox Jews brainwashed? These two sects are typically classified as “mainstream religions”. I do, however, always keep an open mind. If I ever feel uncomfortable about SGI, I will reconsider.

    • Spike Robinson September 2, 2017 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      Hi Nina, please see my reply to Robina’s comment. The fact that her comment is, word for word, the same as your own means that one (or both) of you are not using your own words, but possibly a ‘stock’ answer given to you. Can you elucidate, using your own words? I’d love to hear what *you* have to think.

      But in answer to your questions, I only consider someone ‘brainwashed’ (I dislike that term) if they are unable to make their own decisions. As for definition of a cult (another contentious term, I prefer ‘high-pressure group’), once again, the bottom line – for me – is: can members make their own decisions, without those decisions having to be ‘in line’ with the group’s teachings?

      Please read my article, and ask yourself how much applies to any group or relationship you are questioning.

      Thanks for commenting.

      • Anne Niven March 6, 2018 at 4:32 pm - Reply

        I use to work at Soka University in So Cal. I was drawn to this beautiful school/location in large part because it boasted that it was a Buddhist school and I was a seeker. By the time I left that job, I was convinced that SGI was a dangerous cult. They worship Ikeda, full stop. Early on, I attended a chanting session after which was given a copy of the World Tribune along with a lot of other proselytising literature. Not once in the WT was the word “Buddha” or “Buddhism” ever mentioned, however EVERY article extolled the divine and flawless virtues of President Ikeda. The members made it clear that they practice to increase personal prosperity in the material sense and to increase social status in society. Celebrity members were often idolized and held up like gods/goddesses. Creepy stuff. The school’s hiring/HR practices discriminated against non-SGI (I discovered that I was a token non-SGI to offset their elitist and illegal practices). The student body was primarily Japanese students from SGI families abroad. The school and the cult paints a rosey picture of itself, but it really is a dangerous cult. Sweet kids, but deeply indoctrinated in the SG culture. SGI members are deeply delusional opportunists hoodwinked into the worship of Ikeda, recruiting members and tithing the cult to keep Ikeda fat and happy on his Dias. It was upsetting to see oceans of members weeping, wailing and swaying trance-like when major gatherings were hosted at the school. Giant posters of Ikeda (think Chairman Mao) would be draped from walls and ceiling. Ikeda had a mega mansion complex build on campus, which he didn’t live in much less ever visit. Ikeda is Jim Jones with more money and influence. I can go on, but thank you Marye, my experience matches much of what you’ve written here.

        • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:24 pm - Reply

          The SGI is recognized by the United Nations as an NGO. The SGI actually has office in the United Nations. I don’t know too many cults recognized by the United Nations.

          • George April 2, 2018 at 4:22 am

            Jesus.

          • Anni May 14, 2018 at 2:30 am

            As, I said in a previous comment SGI, like many cults spends a lot of money on trying to appear legitimate. The ‘donation’ SGI gave to gain NGO status with the UN was around half a million dollars.,and they continue to contribute.

            The Unification Church, a notorious cult (the Moonies) is also recognised as an NGO.

            Alex,you might want to find a better example to support your claim that SGI is not a cult.

        • Jasmine June 13, 2018 at 1:26 pm - Reply

          😂😂😂😂😂 what is you email? You’re definitely trolling. I can send you over 10 pages with the words Buddha, Buddhist, and Buddhahood on them. These words are directly from multiple world tribune news articles . Btw, we don’t worship Ikeda. We appreciate him, along woth other leaders. You know why? Because instead of keeping the organization private, they decided to spread this forever peaceful organization all over the world. So that the human race, as a whole, may move forward in life, positively.

          • Diana S. July 30, 2018 at 11:10 pm

            Right on, Jasmine…you speak the truth! I have been chanting as a member of SGI for almost 40 years and have heard it all. The tenets of respect for the fundamental dignity of life runs through this philosophy like colorful thread in a beautiful fabric.

            Dr. Daisaku Ikeda has had more than 300 honorary doctorates bestowed on him by universities around the world. This is a reflection of the work he does for peace, culture and education. Is this how a cult leader is honored?

            Do heads of state and highly educated academics around the world (U.S., Russia, Cuba, France, Italy…on and on…China, England, Brazil, etc.) meet with cult leaders and develop life-long friendships with cult leaders?

            Tell me why Italy has entered into an Intesa with SGI if it is a cult?

            “According to Article 8 of the Italian Constitution, the Intesa is an agreement between the Italian Republic and religious denominations other than the Catholic Church. Through the Intesa, a religious denomination is granted various rights, such as the right to freely establish educational and academic institutions on Italian territory. As of today, 12 religious denominations, including SGI-Italy, have been granted such status within the Italian Republic. The Intesa was approved by the Senate of the Republic in April 2016, and by the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament in June of the same year, thereby completing the full procedure. It became effective on July 30. ”

            Before you bad-mouth the organization, its members, its founder and those who carried it forward from a lost teaching to a major world religion, do your homework. Do not accept baseless accusations – think for yourselves.

          • Simon September 12, 2018 at 8:53 am

            Hi mate you must be indoctrinated to foolishness it’s not Buddhism in the slightest I feel sorry for you must be a coward my name is Simon Browne from Rockdale NSW fuck the sgi

      • Carlton October 1, 2018 at 7:08 am - Reply

        “But in answer to your questions, I only consider someone ‘brainwashed’ (I dislike that term) if they are unable to make their own decisions”

        EVERYONE is brainwashed or indoctrinated.

        It’s only a matter of to what end ? By whom ?

        Advertising is brainwashing. propagand is brainwashing.
        Here’s one piece of very powerful evidence :

        http://theconversation.com/the-manipulation-of-the-american-mind-edward-bernays-and-the-birth-of-public-relations-44393

    • leigh February 12, 2018 at 3:19 pm - Reply

      The Amish and Jews believe in a higher power G-d and don’t chant to a paper with the belief that they have the power to control the universe.This is idolatry to these religions you mentioned.This is the difference. They do not have an ego so big as to think they are g-d and can control everything just because they say a magic word.G-d is the doer behind it all. Also they don’t believe in converted others to get benefit.If you do not see the difference in the religions you mentioned and the one you preactice I suggest you learn.

      • Alex March 25, 2018 at 6:06 pm - Reply

        From Wikapedia: The Soka Gakkai International is notable among Buddhist organizations for the racial and ethnic diversity of its members.[18] It has been characterized as the world’s largest and most ethnically diverse Buddhist group.[8][10][18][36] Professor Susumu Shimazono suggested several reasons for this: the strongly felt needs of individuals in their daily lives, its solutions to discord in interpersonal relations, its practical teachings that offer concrete solutions for carrying on a stable social life, and its provision of a place where congenial company and a spirit of mutual support may be found.[37] Peter Clarke wrote that the SGI appeals to non-Japanese in part because “no one is obliged to abandon their native culture or nationality in order to fully participate in the spiritual and cultural life of the movement.”[38]

        • Sandhya April 3, 2018 at 2:40 pm - Reply

          There needs to be a “Report Spam” option on this website. Alex is sucking Ikeda’s little trouser sausage and is attempting to coerce others into doing the same.

          • aquabahn May 9, 2018 at 9:11 pm

            When the option is available, I’ll be sure to report your gross and indecent comment here.

        • No Blind Faith May 11, 2018 at 11:20 am - Reply

          Hi Alex. Hope cutting and pasting, without using your precious mind, isn’t the sole talent you possess!

  4. Robina Quin August 29, 2017 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    I do not feel SGI is a cult. No one has ever attempted to isolate me from any of my mainstream activities or associates. No one has ever attempted to convince me that Daisaku Ikeda is an “enlightened being” or in anyway something other than an ordinary human being. Are the Amish a cult? Are Orthodox Jews brainwashed? These two sects are typically classified as “mainstream religions”. I do, however, always keep an open mind. If I ever feel uncomfortable about SGI, I will reconsider.

    • Spike Robinson September 2, 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

      Your reply sounds well-considered and well-put.

      However, I see that the same thing has been said by someone else, word for word, a minute earlier; please see my comment to her.

      Can you elucidate how you feel, in your own words? I’d love to hear your own, original thoughts.

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 6:07 pm - Reply

      That’s because the SGI is not a cult Robina.

      • Sandhya April 3, 2018 at 2:44 pm - Reply

        Hey OpenMinds, can you please ban this guy’s IP address? It’s pretty obvious he’s employed by SGI to spam websites that are against SGI. He’s not contributing anything to the subject here.

        • Jasmine June 13, 2018 at 1:30 pm - Reply

          So basically what you’re saying is, only negative comments about SGI are allowed. A comment opposing the theory that SGI is a cult must be coming from an employer or SGI? Wow. I was unaware that this was a one sided debate.

    • Simon September 12, 2018 at 9:10 am - Reply

      Hi mate my name is Simon Browne from Rockdale NSW have you read Herbie Hancocks bull shit about disaku ikeda apparently he has a golden foundation comming from his mind he’s so inlightend sounds like cool aid to me but drink up to each there own hopefully you wake up cheers AUSTRALIA

  5. Pamela Morris August 31, 2017 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I was a member for very long time.But I finally woke up so to a severe tradgety in my life.I wish that I woke up sooner.My life has been severely damaged by this mind control cult.I don’t want to waste my time in websites with my personal experience. I just want to warn people. Of course I realize that just my warning might not stop you from getting involved but at least I hope to put a seed in your mind to be careful so that it doesn’t take a painful wake up call before you wake up.

    • Spike Robinson September 2, 2017 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Pamela! I’m glad you’re back on your feet and living life!

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:30 pm - Reply

      Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a lay Buddhist organization with 12 million members in 192 countries and territories, has been in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 1983. As an NGO working with the United Nations, SGI has been active in public education with a focus mainly on peace and disarmament, human rights and sustainable development.

  6. Marye Harrison September 3, 2017 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Robina a Nina – It’s fascinating to me that you two submitted identical comments, literally a minute apart.

    • Tra February 14, 2018 at 2:46 am - Reply

      Did you ever stop and think t was from the same person? Hmmmmmm……

  7. Someone Out There September 17, 2017 at 3:05 am - Reply

    This is a great article. I can relate so much. I was part of SGI – received my Gohonzon. I didn’t practice very long – probably a year? I tried to keep an open mind, but the first thing I thought weird was how all these ladies had to come to my house and investigate where I was going to keep my Gohonzon. Next weird thing was watching this one women have people over everyday in the evening chanting – her kids seemed so socially and emotionally neglected by her. Further, I went to some big event with someone who ended up leaving me there. I had no ride home and asked several members I knew if I could grab a ride with them. Well, they all said no. Really? We were all local. I ended up having to call my boyfriend to pick me up. The straw that broke the camel’s back – as they say – was when I was at a meeting and heard other people talking about President Ikeda. He was coming into town for some event, they were so excited, and couldn’t wait. They discussed how he was like a rock star, and that during the last visit women were screaming and swooning like he was the fifth Beatle. I heard this and was like, “No!” I just knew in my heart that I could never react to someone like him in this way. Last time I had felt like that about anyone was when I was a teenager – now I was a grown woman. The Jim Jones story suddenly popped into my head. I remember thinking to myself on the way home, “I’m out.” Never went back. Luckily none ever came around to pressure me to come back. I kept my Gohonzon up for years after that – it was really very lovely – and would meditate near it sometimes. I finally took it down years later. It just felt too much like a cult to me. I still love the Buddhist concepts, though.

    • Jenni December 8, 2017 at 5:38 pm - Reply

      I hope you come back. It sounds like you had a bad experience at that particular meeting. I have been chanting for 20 years and I do see that “idolizingl aspect of the members towards Daisaku Ikeda from time to time, but that is not what Daisaku Ikeda wants. He wants for every person to shine to their fullest potential. The SGI is really an organization of common people each trying to do their own human revolution and change karma. It’s a beautiful organization and the concepts and philosophy are very spot on and helpful in this day and age…chanting really does help to elevate your life condition (state) so you have more s courage, strength and wisdom in your daily life. I hope you will come back and go to some more meetings. Please don’t give up. I’m so happy to hear that you still have your gohonzon :))
      Jenni

      • Love4Amore January 2, 2018 at 4:14 am - Reply

        How can you prove that “human revolution” is a budddhist concept? It’s not its made up by toda and promoted by ikeda. This is the problem with sgi they make their own rules that have nothing to do with real Buddhist teachings or concepts. What qualifies ikeda to be a leader? Why are HIS words so important? Sgi never mentions how to attain enlightenment.

        • Jay May 18, 2018 at 5:44 pm - Reply

          If you Read the writings of Nichiren Daishonin you’d know he espouses that chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the means for attaining enlightenment

        • Tom Rickman September 3, 2018 at 4:04 pm - Reply

          Josei Toda the second leader of the SGI formulated the concept of the Human Revolution based on the fact that it i no use trying to achieve change by externally imposed revolution unless we reform the tenets we have in our own hearts.

          I have been a member of the Soka Gakkai for over 30 years and have never felt brain washed only that my intellectual and spiritual capacities had developed a a very real and constructive way as result of the practice.

          I have never been asked to mindlessly or unreflectingly follow Daisaku Ikeda or any other leader.

      • Mme. Schneider September 25, 2018 at 7:44 pm - Reply

        Very Sweet.

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 6:11 pm - Reply

      Wikapedia: The United States House of Representatives and individual states including Georgia, Missouri, and Illinois have passed resolutions honoring the service and dedication of Daisaku Ikeda as one “who has dedicated his entire life to building peace and promoting human rights through education and cultural exchange with deep conviction in the shared humanity of our entire global family.” The state of Missouri praised Ikeda and his value of “education and culture as the prerequisites for the creation of true peace in which the dignity and fundamental rights of all people are respected.”

  8. Jon September 22, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

    I got into Buddhism / Taoism / Confucianism for several reasons: to understand my culture better (I’m Vietnamese), to learn how to meditate, and of course, to help me in life’s struggles. Over the years, I’ve done casual study, reading several of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s, Dalai Lama’s, Thich Nhat Hanh’s books. I don’t consider myself a scholar; however, I do practice meditation daily and throughout the day.

    My friend recently got into Buddhism, and I went out to visit him in another city. We decided to go to an SGI Intro to Buddhism meeting. I wanted to encourage him to practice because he recently found sobriety. I didn’t know anything about SGI; I just assumed they were like the Buddhists I had grown up around.

    In the Intro to Buddhism meeting, we started with chanting “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”. Buddhism as a whole was barely discussed. People just kept saying the practice was simple yet profound. We then had a round-table discussion. I was one of three guests, the rest all had decades of experience in SGI Buddhist practice, which seems to consist of only chanting the Lotus Sutra. I couldn’t have a conversation with anyone there without them trying to get me to chant “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”. In the meeting, I stated the number three seems to be prevalent in Buddhism; and I asked them why they chanted “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” three times. No one had the answer — even someone who had 50 years of practice.They just said: “Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the highest form of meditation!” As far as I understand, doing things three times whether it’s chanting, or bowing, it’s paying respect to the three refuges or jewels. I asked them earlier in the meeting what “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” even meant but each person gave a different answer.

    After the meeting, I chatted with roughly half of the people (10) informally. One of the SGI members told me to give up my meditation practice completely, and only chant the Lotus Sutra. I told the lady that this wasn’t going to give up my practice, but I’ll try the chanting as I already had. Most of my meditation practice comes from martial arts like qigong, Tai Chi, Bagua, and YiQuan. Most people find martial arts to be unsophisticated but it’s quite the opposite, and that’s what I told her. It’s a lifelong practice as is anything related to self-realization.

    The next morning, I went to a men’s meeting at SGI. Respect for women was one of the topics, but as we were discussing it, I wondered why the sexes were split. The rest of the discussion centered around how they were going to recruit 50 thousand young people like me.

    Another thing I found strange was that they chanted in hopes of material gain. I guess they don’t consider the 4 Noble Truths to be worthwhile study: 1) Life is suffering. 2) Suffering is caused by desire, and by clinging to the notion of self. 3) It is possible to end suffering. To end the suffering caused by desire and ego, one must eliminate the cause. 4) Suffering can be ended by following the Noble Eightfold Path, a set of resolutions characterized by a concern for morality, concentration, moderation, positive action, and wisdom.

    Another red flag for me was there library. It consisted primarily of material published by SGI. I get it: recruit young people, then indoctrinate them.

    All in all, it was a shocking experience for me. Perhaps to someone with absolutely no knowledge of Buddhism, it would be a nice experience. I get different lineages emphasize different things, but to completely ignore the fundamentals is outrageous. All of the people there were generally nice people, but some were pushy. It’s okay to say something is the the highest form of whatever, but give me reasons why. If the thing you do is the only thing you do, how do you know it’s the highest form? But what should I expect from a layman “Buddhist” organization. I also did not like how divisive they were with other Buddhist organizations / schools of thought. A few of the members stated they were not Tibetan, Zen, or Theravada Buddhists in a holier-than-thou type of way.

    • Wes Mckay November 14, 2017 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      Jon, thanks for your insight. I have recently interacted with this cult and have found their Buddhist pronouncements lacking.

      Wes.

      • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:36 pm - Reply

        Nobel Peace Prize Nomination
        Daisaku Ikeda has been nominated on multiple occasions for the Nobel Peace Prize, including nominations by Nobel Peace Laureates announced by the director of the Peace Research Institute Oslo during 2015, 2016 and 2017 in recognition of Ikeda’s lifelong work for peace.

      • Alex March 25, 2018 at 6:13 pm - Reply

        From Wikapedia:!SGI members practice Nichiren Buddhism as interpreted and applied by the Soka Gakkai’s first three presidents: Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, Josei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda.[24] SGI members believe in karma[25] and that the most expedient path to enlightenment is through the practice of Nichiren Buddhism.[18] SGI members identify three basic elements for applying Nichiren Buddhism to daily life: faith, practice, and study.[26]

        The daily practice of SGI members centers on chanting the mantra “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo,” which translates to “Devotion to the Mystic Law of Cause and Effect through Sound”, or “Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law”[27][28] (cf. detailed meaning of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in Ongi kuden). Once in the morning and again at night, SGI members do gongyo (“assiduous practice”), during which members chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and recite selections from two chapters of the Lotus Sutra, “Expedient Means” (chapter 2) and “The Life Span of the Thus Come One” (chapter 16).[25][26] Gongyo is typically performed in front of a Gohonzon, a scroll considered to be the supreme object of devotion on which is written the daimoku (in other words, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) and signs of buddhas and bodhisattvas who are prominent in the Lotus Sutra.[29] The Gohonzon itself is housed in a butsudan, an altar that is opened during chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and gongyo.[30] Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the name of this potential or Buddha nature within our life. To chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, then, is to call forth your Buddha nature. SGI President Daisaku Ikeda once wrote, “Daimoku (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) is a universal language that is instantly understood by Buddhas.” [31]

        SGI members also incorporate social interaction and engagement into their Buddhist practice.[32] Monthly neighborhood discussion meetings are generally held at the homes of SGI members.[26] In the United States, for example, a study characterizes these organizational practices as socially inclusive Buddhism.[33]

        Since 1995, the SGI has formally officiated same-sex marriages. In 2008, the SGI-USA, which is headquartered in California, publicly opposed that state’s Proposition 8 (which sought to prevent same-sex marriage), and the SGI coordinated with other progressive religious groups to support same-sex couples’ right to legally marry.[34][35]

    • c.e. March 19, 2018 at 7:58 pm - Reply

      yesterday i was invited to a sgi gathering. immediately handed a chanting booklet with two lady’s on both sides to help me chant. ive studied a few Buddhist secs zen, Tibetan, Mahayana and a few others. and was always taught “if you don’t know what you chanting don’t chant” you may invite negative spirits, I was very uncomfortable.after the chant we had a round table discussions and i told them of my studies mostly zen Buddhism. my tisarana, the 4 noble truths and the 8 fold path. they became very defensive and stopped me from sharing more saying the the lotus sutta was the holy grail mind you with out explaining to me what it meant. They told me basically that theirs was the ONLY true form of Buddhism ( 3 women actually ganged up on me. when i asked if there was teachings like metta, they responded with they chant lotus chant only true way to enlightenment. well im not going back. sad part is we have no other sanga in 50 miles. and my poor car is not happy. hmm maybe i should have chanted for a new car instead of a my innerself.

      • Alex March 25, 2018 at 6:25 pm - Reply

        The first recorded Buddha Shakyamuni tells us that the lotus sutra is the king of sutras in the lotus sutra speaking of his he spent his life teaching but “had not yet revealed the truth.” Before expounding the lotus sutra his final teaching. Nichiren Daishonin, a Buddhist monk of the 13th century spent his life studying all the sutras considered it the meaning of his life to come to this conclusion and share it with the world.

        Two and a half thousand years ago, towards the end of his life, the Buddha Shakyamuni expounded the Lotus Sutra. Centuries later, it was the starting and ending point for all Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings, and remains the profound foundation for the practice and study of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism today. Twice a day in the ceremony called Gongyo, SGI members recite excerpts from the 2nd and 16th chapters of this great Lotus Sutra, translated here.
        If we are to believe these dying words of the Buddha, we must conclude that the Lotus Sutra is the only bright mirror we have, and that through it we can understand the heart of all the sutras. – Writings of Nichiren Daishonin I, 692
        The Lotus Sutra is the king of sutras, true and correct in both word and principle. Its words are the ultimate reality, and this reality is the Mystic Law (myoho). It is called the Mystic Law because it reveals the principle of the mutually inclusive relationship of life and all phenomena. That is why this sutra is the wisdom of all Buddhas. – Writings of Nichiren Daishonin I, 3

  9. Ashley September 29, 2017 at 10:29 am - Reply

    I’m in the SGI and have never encountered any member who wasn’t open-minded or completely tolerant of other religions. As a practicing Buddhist, I actually feel closer to other religions more than ever. I feel spiritual when in a church, like I want to pray. My life has been transformed by this practice and I’m now stronger than words could ever describe. I even know a pastor of my family’s church who used to practice this Buddhism and has nothing but kind things to say about it. Maybe it doesn’t work for everyone and I’m sorry it hasn’t worked for you and the others in the comments but it’s brought nothing but growth and good fortune into my life. But just as some prefer Judaism over Islam, not everyone prefers Nicheren Buddhism and that’s ok. It’s definitely not a cult though I have a ton of friends and have never been so busy doing activities that I didn’t have time for my own life. The people I know in the SGI don’t really hang out with me as friends we mostly just practice together. Also it’s important to mention that your prayers won’t just manifest themselves no matter how much you chant. If you’re chanting 3 hours a day and attending meetings and studying in hopes of getting a job you never applied for, it just won’t happen. And sometimes there are prayers that aren’t meant to happen and you’ll find through chanting what your true destiny is. That’s my experience at least. This isn’t just about chanting for what you want. There’s this inner peace and strength, this unshakable happiness that is gained through chanting that is indescribable. I’ve known people to beat serious illnesses like bipolar and schizophrenia with no medication through this practice. The proof is there. Im not sure what made you leave but there’s no denying this works. Even people in my life who don’t practice believe that it works; it’s just not for them and there’s nothing wrong with that.

    • Tom Rickman September 3, 2018 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      Josei Toda the second leader of the SGI formulated the concept of the Human Revolution based on the fact that it i no use trying to achieve change by externally imposed revolution unless we reform the tenets we have in our own hearts.

      I have been a member of the Soka Gakkai for over 30 years and have never felt brain washed only that my intellectual and spiritual capacities had developed a a very real and constructive way as result of the practice.

      I have never been asked to mindlessly or unreflectingly follow Daisaku Ikeda or any other leader.

      I totally agree with Ashley. I am currently living in an Islamic country and I fell that my Buddhist practice has genuinely helped me understand and empathise with the beauty and power of Islam and develop bonds with people who follow it. This kind of expansion of human sympathy is not a typical trait of a brainwashed cult

  10. Ian October 5, 2017 at 12:45 am - Reply

    I had practiced Buddhism for near 11 years here in Los Angeles I had witnessed the head priest of the Nichiren Shoshu Temple banish a 90 year old woman who I briefly knew because she used to sit in front of the Temple. I would come out on Sundays and sit with her. I would pray with her. She told me that the temple was very mean and accused her of stealing food from the temple. She was maybe homeless I didn’t know I never asked her. She never let me give her anything. Sometimes the Temple would leave cookies out on the table for everyone. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I watch this priest kick her out in the most wicked non peaceful ways. He told her never to return. This was the beginning of my own enlightenment about “True Buddhism” after my studies and research I later found out that Nichiren Daishonin also had a violent past. There was actually nothing peaceful about him. I will speak more about this in the future but I thought that this little bit would help you all understand the kind of evil that I had dealt with in my life when I was seeking to find peace. I used to be very terrified of talking about this. In fact I thought that people would try and kill me. There is also another organization called the Soka Gakkai who were excommunicated by this Buddhism. They are now the largest religious organization in Japan. They have also founded a very powerful political party called the “New Komeito.” These are very dangerous people that have tried to hurt me and others I know in the past. Many of them keep their religion secret to others. They are like Vampires. You would never know who they are. In the year 1275 Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Lay Preist Nichigon requesting of the Nembutsu Priests heads be cut off.

    • Jay May 18, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

      Kindly list the source please, referring to the 1275 letter to
      Nichigon
      Thank you

  11. Pamela Morris October 8, 2017 at 7:25 am - Reply

    I think that chanting namyohorengekyo to the gohonzon can in fact help.you connect to your Buddanature if that is your intention for chanting but you can also.get same results if you chant something else to just a mark on a tree trunk.Everyone has a Buddanature and there are many many ways to connect to it.The organization teaches many Buddhist theories which are true however they combo e in with the idea that this is the only mantra and that the scroll has mystic power.This is complete nonsense and that is why people are brainwashed.I have had horrible experiences with many leaders. I am not sayi g all people in sgi are bad people.Some are very nice.However I was completely betrayed and abandoned by heartless leaders to the point where there is no way I will ever be a part of this organization ever again. It is filled with arrogant hypocrites that will stop being your friend in the bat of an eye should they think you aren’t chanting enough.Also I never met so many fair weather friends.Your worth as a human is totally judged by how much you participate and chant.It is more like a click than anything else. All their talk about world peace is really lip service.I once was at a meeting where a person who.was Christian attended because she was open minded and curious. After the meeting nobody would talk to her. They just love bombed a person who was a more obvious target.It is either you are one of them or not.They actually believe that getting new members and helping others with their practice brings them benefit which is why so much love bombing goes on.The poor niece people don’t even know that the people reallreally don’t genuinely care. They are only following their leader who.contantly encourages getti g more members.They say it’s for world peace. Please tell me how any organization who believes that they have the only true buddhism and every one else is wrong is ever going to attain world peace.If chanting namyohorengekyo to gohonzon helps you that is great. But please I am actually telling this to help you.Do not get too involved with sgi or it can really do damage to your life.It actually distorts many Buddhist concepts.

    • Erik May 28, 2018 at 3:35 pm - Reply

      I agree with a lot of what you say here because I have experienced the same thing. Some of these people don’t really care about you from their heart. They just feel that they will get more benefits if they try and help you and recruit others. After meetings they’d sing a song in a circle about President Ikeda. I found that so weird and cultish. Please respond back and contact me so we can talk more.

  12. Billy October 12, 2017 at 12:42 am - Reply

    I am SGI and my experience has been identical to Ashley’s. I’m not understanding how the SGI is a cult based on your experiences provided. What specific violations of free choice through manipulation, coercive control and undue influence has the SGI harmed you with? I’ll admit I was waiting for the ax to fall for a few years in terms of what “the catch” would be as I’ve never been particularly religious or a joiner. The ax never fell. All I know is I’m surrounded by a community of supportive people who are there if I need them. However, this practice is all about being self-sufficient. If members were trying to get you to do more activities and chant a lot more that doesn’t sound like forcing they were forcing you or holding a gun to your head. I have a very busy life outside of the SGI and only attend activities when I can and am never shamed or beaten for it. As far as money, it’s not like most religions where you donate 10% of your paycheck or pay the monthly synagogue fees. The Living Buddhism magazine and World Tribune newspaper is a $50 annual subscription. Other than that, we have a May giving campaign as a major fundraising push but even that is based on what you are able to give. We try to have stretch-goals each year to increase our personal contributions (again, within our reasonable limits) over what we contributed the year prior but that’s not culty. I was raised Catholic and my parents donated monthly and dropped checks and cash in the basket that was passed around and held bake sales and mini-carnivals to fundraise. The SGI is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 and is very transparent as to where its money goes. Being a non-profit, those records are public so feel free to scrutinize them all you like. Nichiren Buddhism isn’t magic. It’s about maintaining your highest life condition which takes daily practice. Like a mental chiropractic adjustment and self-check/self-monitoring a couple times a day. It requires taking action to steer your life in the direction you truly want. Every religion (even though this is more of a philosophy, no idol-worship) isn’t without controversy but to claim the SGI is a cult is simply and totally false. Ikeda is a controversial business figure in Japan but with a little investigating, anyone can find the facts. There is no hierarchy, no god worship, we’re all Buddhas!

  13. Dan R October 13, 2017 at 10:02 pm - Reply

    For a stretch I participated in SGI and even received a Gohonzon as well. Like many, I ultimately decided that the organization was not for me Calling it a cult is a bit extreme in my opinion, most popular world religions have an insular feel where the practitioners should spend much of their time with each other. The only difference is that Christianity, Islam are global while Judaism and others are more regional, small, and/or marginalized.

    The people I met in SGI all wanted to be a better version of themselves and were using the practice of Nichiren Buddhism as their guiding light. Ultimately, outside of the meeting center it always comes down to personal ability and that’s what drove some members to success and others into continuous cycles of pain and sadness. The real lesson in taking advice from fellow practitioners is to know thyself and critique those around you and decide whether their individual advice is valuable.

    Ultimately for me, the group was too closely knit for the lifestyle I lead so I chose to move on. I still believe that the time I spent with SGI provided me important lessons and ways of thinking to help me succeed. I personally find it amusing that people could blame a whole religion for their own personal inability to discern what they want for themselves and how best to get it.

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:39 pm - Reply

      Wikapedia: The United States House of Representatives and individual states including Georgia, Missouri, and Illinois have passed resolutions honoring the service and dedication of Daisaku Ikeda as one “who has dedicated his entire life to building peace and promoting human rights through education and cultural exchange with deep conviction in the shared humanity of our entire global family.” The state of Missouri praised Ikeda and his value of “education and culture as the prerequisites for the creation of true peace in which the dignity and fundamental rights of all people are respected.”

  14. Katie October 17, 2017 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this beautiful article. I liked learning about your unique experience. May I recommend a follow up? If you really want to challenge the SGI, put the organization aside and try to find flaws with Nicherin Daishonin’s writings. After all, the SGI says repeatedly that everything it promotes, says, or does, comes from Nicherin Daishonin’s teachings on the Lotus Sutra. Go to the source. That would be the path to the truth. Otherwise, you would never know if your feelings were just deceiving you.

    • Shannon November 15, 2017 at 6:55 pm - Reply

      SGI does not teach Nichiren Buddhism correctly. They distort, misrepresent, and take individual sentences from Nichiren out of context to support their views, even in cases where if you read the whole thing in context, you’d find that Nichiren was actually saying the opposite of what SGI is claiming he said. The only reason they say their teachings come from Nichiren is so that they won’t be accused of inventing their own religion. The materialism and simplicity of their religion comes from Toda and Makiguchi, mostly Toda. And of course Mentor-Disciple isn’t taught in either the Lotus Sutra or Nichiren’s teachings. That is purely a cult teaching invented by Ikeda. So you would not be finding the flaws in SGI by looking at Nichiren, since they teach two different versions of Buddhism. If you want to go to the source of SGI’s teachings, you have to look at Ikeda, who SGI has said is “the Buddha of our age,” meaning the one to follow in our time period.

      Real Nichiren Buddhism, the real meaning of ichinen sanzen and Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, which are the things Nichiren contributed to Buddhism, is the deepest and most sophisticated philosophy on the planet.

      • Jessica Jude November 30, 2017 at 3:51 pm - Reply

        Yesssssss!!!!!!! You are the only person who made any sense here! Namu-Myo-ho-Renge-kyo is lost in SGI. Intention is not necessary. Thank yoy

      • Jacinta February 7, 2018 at 3:43 am - Reply

        Very well said!

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      From Wikapedia
      Notable awards received by Daisaku Ikeda include:

      Australia: Gold Medal for Peace with Justice from the Sydney Peace Foundation (2009)[74][75]
      Australia: Gandhi International Prize for Social Responsibility (2014)[76]
      China: International Literary Award for Understanding and Friendship from the China Literature Foundation and Chinese Writersʼ Association (2003)[77]
      India: Tagore Peace Award (1997)[78]
      India: Jamnalal Bajaj Award for Outstanding Contribution in Promotion of Gandhian Values Outside India by Individuals other than Indian Citizens (2005)[79]
      India: Indology Award for Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Indic Research and Oriental Wisdom (2011)[80]
      Macedonia: World Prize for Humanism (Macedonian: НА СВЕТСКАТА НАГРАДА ЗА ХУМАНИЗАМ) from the Ohrid Academy of Humanism (2007)[81]
      Philippines: Rizal International Peace Award (1998)[82]
      Philippines: Golden Heart Award from the Knights of Rizal (2012) [83]
      Philippines: Gusi Peace Prize[84]
      Russia: Order of Friendship of the Russian Federation (2008)[85]
      Singapore: Wee Kim Wee Gold Award (2017)[86]
      United Nations: United Nations Peace Award (1983)[87][88][89]
      United States: Rosa Parks Humanitarian Award (1993)[88]
      United States: International Tolerance Award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center (1993)[88]
      United States: Education as Transformation Award from the Education as Transformation Project, Wellesley College (2001)[88]
      International honors Edit

  15. Ian November 9, 2017 at 7:58 am - Reply

    In the year 1275 Nichiren Daishonin wrote this letter to Lay Preist Nichigon requesting of the Nembutsu Priests heads be cut off. That is not Buddhism. That is Evil.

  16. David November 21, 2017 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Ok, it is a bit late being 2017, but I knew all about SGI back in the ’80’s when a former friend got into it for a few years. What really put me off was the chanting for material gain. I knew people who chanted for new apartments, new dishwashers, etc. I was also very much put off by how much of a cult it was and still is. I remember what was the culminating event that did it for my friend back then and this was a “reenactment” of the declaration of independence on stage at an SGI event. And I do recall that the director of SGI America at that time anglicized his name to George Williams (it was a headline in the World Tribune). If you feel that chanting NMRG to the Gohonzon on the wall enriches your life, spiritually that is, then more power to you. But I’d recommend exploring what I call real Buddhism.

    >Judaism and others are more regional, small, and/or marginalized.
    The person who wrote this has very little knowledge of Judaism and the Jewish people. Jews are “global” and we are not marginalized or regional. If you are referring to the State of Israel, well yes that is our country, but we are also all over this world. And most emphatically no, we are not a cult. Perhaps Chassidic Judaism has some cultlike attributes, but not Judaism as a whoie.

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:46 pm - Reply

      From Wikapedia
      Soka Gakkai (Japanese: 創価学会 Hepburn: Sōka Gakkai, “Value-Creation Society”) is a Japanese Buddhist religious movement based on the teachings of the 13th-century Japanese priest Nichiren as taught by its first three presidents Tsunesaburō Makiguchi, Jōsei Toda and Daisaku Ikeda. It is the largest of the Japanese new religions and holds the largest membership among Nichiren Buddhist groups. “The Gakkai” bases its teachings on Nichiren’s interpretation of the Lotus Sutra and places chanting “Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō” at the center of devotional practice. The organization promotes its goals as supporting “peace, culture, and education”.[1][2]

  17. Jan Bretman December 6, 2017 at 6:58 pm - Reply

    So, in a nutshell. It’s not really a cult, but people who believe in it are very keen to recruit new Buddhists. It’s interesting that when I first started going to meetings (invited by my art teacher, now friend) I was full of questions which were met with patience and interest. It was even said that it was helping people to renew and strengthen their own practice. Not sure why. But I wasn’t really able to get satisfactory answers to some questions. Nothing was mentioned in the article about the beads. I asked what is the point of them…..no one has been able to give me a clear answer. This whole idea of the Gohonzon doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I also had that experience someone mentioned that 2 women – one of them my friend – came to my house and were asking where I intended to put it. What’s it got to do with them, it’s my house! Then the Japanese woman asked me to close the doors of the Butsudan that contained my downloaded Gohonzon because it was actually quite distressing for her. Of course it wasn’t the actual piece of A4 white paper that offended her, it was what it represented. A fake.
    When they came they brought a membership form for me to complete. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this either. Why did I have to give all my details to an organisation to become a member in order to benefit from chanting. If chanting is the most important thing, which they constantly say it is, why does everyone decide to become members. I think there’s a certain kind of person who likes to have that sense of ‘belonging’ to a group. I’m not really that kind of person. In fact, I am the kind of person who wants to be very much my own person, an individual who does things in my own way. I’m someone who pays a great deal of attention to the detail in my surroundings. Plants, candles, paintings, rugs, furniture, everything has to be in the ideal place to enjoy the full benefit of each thing. I wouldn’t want someone else to choose my paintings, or indeed to tell me where I should put them. I’m thinking recently (in the past few days) that I would like to create my own personal space for meditation, perhaps based on Buddhist principles, but it will be my choice in every respect, not some organisation’s choice.

  18. Maggie December 10, 2017 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Hi Marye.
    Is there a way for me to talk to you directly?
    It is urgent.

  19. Patrick December 16, 2017 at 9:25 pm - Reply

    So my adopted mom was Japanese and practiced with SGI so naturally so did I. I did for over 45 years. However, the organization in my opinion is only interested in bringing in new members and increasing their numbers. The other issue I had was the total and complete adoration towards Ikeda. He can never be questioned and he can never be wrong. Isn’t he human? He’s not a god, but he is revered as one. SGI only uses his books, his encouragement(which is really just rehashing of things he’s said for years). Also, having practiced in the 80’s as a youth, I remember the General Director for SGI-USA, George M. Williams and all he did for the growth of the SGI in America. He was erased from the history books and never talked about or referred to..anytime you asked about him, it was as if you were wrong for even asking. The man was blacklisted! Stay away from SGI and Buddhism in general. You need a savior and that is only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ!

    • Tra February 14, 2018 at 2:10 am - Reply

      If the SGI is so awful, what kept you there for 45 years? I find it hard to believe you adopted Mom forced you to stay for 45 years…..

      • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:50 pm - Reply

        Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a lay Buddhist organization with 12 million members in 192 countries and territories, has been in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council since 1983. As an NGO working with the United Nations, SGI has been active in public education with a focus mainly on peace and disarmament, human rights and sustainable development.

    • Tra February 14, 2018 at 2:11 am - Reply

      If the SGI is so awful, what kept you there for 45 years? I find it hard to believe you adopted Mom forced you to stay for 45 years…..

      • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:52 pm - Reply

        Wikapedia: The United States House of Representatives and individual states including Georgia, Missouri, and Illinois have passed resolutions honoring the service and dedication of Daisaku Ikeda current president
        Of the SGI as one “who has dedicated his entire life to building peace and promoting human rights through education and cultural exchange with deep conviction in the shared humanity of our entire global family.” The state of Missouri praised Ikeda and his value of “education and culture as the prerequisites for the creation of true peace in which the dignity and fundamental rights of all people are respected.”

    • Erik May 28, 2018 at 3:43 pm - Reply

      So you practiced for over 45 years and then went back to Jesus Christ? I was born and raised Catholic but been SGI member for 30 years. Jesus never did much for me. With the SGI I do see some of the things you pointed out. Very confusing.

      • Delbert Grady July 18, 2018 at 10:12 pm - Reply

        Mr. Williams isn’t the only person erased from SGI history. Remember that interpreter lady who was at President Ikeda’s side through the 90’s? Nowadays if you search for photos of President Ikeda with say Mandela, you’ll notice that she has been very carefully cropped out of the frames. That’s because she and her husband were arrested & convicted in 2006 for illegal possession of narcotics, and they were quietly dismissed from the SGI. I’m sure SGI-USA members will go into denial & brush this off as malicious lie, but this is all a matter of public record over there; the interpreter’s husband was Takashi Omori, a very famous rock star in Japan & one of the most prized celebrity converts for the SGI. If they were temple members the SGI would have had a field day from this scandal! They have been largely successful in hushing this up in the US.

  20. Giullia December 26, 2017 at 5:31 am - Reply

    My mom is a sgi Buddhist and always forces me to go to meetings and stuff ever since I was little she’s been telling me that this is the only way and I have to chant for anything good to happen lately I’ve been having bullying problems at school and I ask if I could change schools but she keeps insisting that it’s not the school making me unhappy it’s my self and I’m not devoted to the practice and it’s my fault I’m unhappy. I respect my mother greatly and am totally cool with her religion but I feel that a lot of the times it clouds her judgment and she makes bad decisions because of it like i know it’s not my fault I’m being bullied but she just won’t have it and just keeps pressuring me I really don’t know how to handle this, I feel like religion is fine to an extent but you can’t let a mystical force determine how you live your life if anyone has advice it would be greatly appreciated thx

    • Rie December 29, 2017 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Hi Giullia,
      If your mom says so, she needs to read some more Ikeda’s writings. He repeatedly, strongly says the ones who bully someone is bad for 100%, for 1000%.

      I read it in his speeches on Seikyo shimbun (Japanese Soka newspaper). It is also in Soka book called ‘Kibou Taiwa’ (means Dialogue of hope, I guess). The book is mainly for youth. He says the ones who bully someone is in frustration and taking it out on someone with no fault. He talks more in details, also about individual cases.

      A boy suffered by being bullied said to Ikeda ‘Possibly something of me get them bullying me’. Ikeda replied ‘No need to think such a thing at all! If you lack something, it never can be a reason someone can bully you. Everyone lacks something. If lacking somethings is bad, the ones who bully are the worst as human..”

      I tried to find “Kibou Taiwa” in English but couldn’t find. Is there any good person with Japanese langage around you? If there is, he/she can tell you/your mom what Ikeda says about bullying. Search “希望対話 いじめ” (= “Kibou Taiwa Bullying” in Japanese) on internet.

      I have experienced members blame me for issues I’ve got. They say it’s my fault.
      At meetings and on SGI publishments. they say members support and encourage each other.
      but it doesn’t happen to me.
      Once I said so to a member who live far from my town. she said it was my fault. As my life stage is very low, I gather mean members around me. Chant for certain time and the mean members will be disappeared. she said.

      Now I try not to see members as I’m afraid of them for damage my faith and my self-respect.

  21. Linda Ruocco December 31, 2017 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Chanting, prayer, visualization, faith are the mind and spirit working together and somehow manifest results in any religion… . Positive thinking, gratitude, and love for our highest good are all a part of the chemistry of life that seems to provide results. All religions, can be manipulative, brainwashing if the person is receptive…. not only in this one. SGI has offered many wonderful insights to Buddhism, however, it is not the only one, there is never the only one of anything. Religious organizations of every kind are made of people, who are just that, people who bring to it whatever they are already. So go easy, we are all seekers trying our best! Peace and love to all!

  22. John Mastery January 11, 2018 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Well no one is forcing you to do anything. People are multi-dimensional beings you can’t expect them to be perfect and interact with you always in the way you want, and people try to help one another and encorage you. Ikeda himself claims he’s not worth more than anyone. It really depends of the people in your area and above all it depends on your own seeking spirit, will to learn and put it to practice in your daily life as you see fit. No one is forcing a real Christian to go to church and pray, if it works for him perfect, there are plenty of great Christians. Those who go because they are forced to and don’t like it or devote themselves, are not Christians. Same thing with Buddhism or any other religion.

    There are many ways to enlightenment my friend, if you feel this one doesn’t resonate with you, you’re free to try another route.

  23. Robert Campion January 11, 2018 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    I’d love to say something positive about SGI today.
    I have been chanting for 38 years now and the practice has been very helpful. At first SGI was too but I’m afraid that as it grew so did the number of highly paid jobs within it which stimulated the aspiration to ‘get the gig’.
    At the worst time of my life those who wished to protect their own positions effectively turned their backs and by example encouraged others to do so also.
    This is understandable, the history of the world and religion. The only problem is SGI today pupports to be different. But because highly paid ‘leaders’ who live of donations and have only their own interests at heart are endemic there is no real way it can be different and my experience I’m afraid confirmd this.
    Nichirens Buddhism is great, it really is and it saddens me that a corrupt few can turn people off so.
    Their is a solution ie dont give them money and dont empower them and then resent when you are shunned. Noone quite does shunning as well as the SGI. Does this make them a cult? No I dont think so but they are highly organised and do exhibit some wacko behaviour probably due to cross cultural dichotomies.

    It it a good cause to support such behavior?
    Thats ones own personal call.
    My fear and expetience is that SGI has lost its spirit and the abilty to review itsef. It has become self centred and judgemental.

    There should be no discrimination but when people have bills to pay…they will do anything
    and this concludes my view of the paid leadership of SGI and their aspiring cronies.

    • Alex March 25, 2018 at 5:55 pm - Reply

      From Wikapedia : The Soka Gakkai International comprises a global network of affiliated organizations. As of 2011, the SGI reported active national organizations in 192 countries and territories with a total of approximately 12 million members.[2] The SGI is independent of the Soka Gakkai (the domestic Japanese organization), although both are headquartered in Tokyo.[18]

      National SGI organizations operate autonomously and all affairs are conducted in the local language.[18] Many national organizations are coordinated by groups such as a women’s group, a men’s group, and young women’s and young men’s groups.[19] National organizations generally raise their own operational funds, although the SGI headquarters in Tokyo has awarded funding grants to smaller national organizations for projects such as land acquisition and the construction of new buildings.[19] SGI-affiliated organizations outside Japan are forbidden to engage directly in politics.[19]

      While the national organizations are run autonomously, the Tokyo headquarters of SGI disseminates doctrinal and teaching materials to all national organizations around the world.[19] The Tokyo headquarters also serves as a meeting place for national leaders to come together and exchange information and ideas.[19]

      The election or nomination of the leaders is typically not decided by the SGI’s general membership but by a board of directors.[20] Leadership below national staff, however, has been liberalized; in the United States for instance, the nomination and approval of leaders includes both members and organizational leaders in the process.[21] Dobbelaere notes the election of the presidents,[22] as well as a process of “nomination, review and approval that involves both peers and leaders” in choosing other leaders.[23]

      Beliefs and practice

  24. Mark January 12, 2018 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    I was a member for five years, but left four years ago. The best thing about the SGI was the members I met. I could not have wished to meet nicer people. For me, that was its strength.

    As for the practice, it seemed to me to have little to do with Buddhism (I had studied it for some years before joining the SGI), unless of course you believe that Nichiren was indeed the Buddha of the Latter Day, etc. and found the answer hidden in the Lotus Sutra. As I got further into the practice the differences between it and the Buddhism I knew from non-SGI sources became ever more apparent.

    There were various things that made me increasingly uneasy and resulted in me leaving. One was the unquestioning adulation I saw from a lot, but not all members towards Ikeda. Watching his videos, with a rapt audience of identically dressed people in Japan, with fellow memb0res here who seemed equally enamored and unquestioning, gave me an uneasy feeling. This, to me, was the cult element, but it was not shared by everyone. Another issue was the dismissal of the four noble truths, eightfold path and other key Buddhist practices as being irrelevant. From my perspective it increasingly seemed akin to Mormonism’s relationship to Christianity, with someone else coming along, revealing new information and radically changing the religion in a way that significantly distanced it from its origins to the point where it was almost out of sight.

    I felt uncomfortable hearing people being told that although they had not got whatever it was that they wanted (some of this smacked of a prosperity cult, which seemed to me to have nothing to do with Buddhism), they could get it if only they strengthened their faith, chanted more, undertook more activities and did more studying. If something good happened to someone it was due to the practice. Confirmation bias, rather than evidence played a key part here, supported by groupthink (cheering and clapping at discussion meetings, with people being congratulated for the actual proof they had shown of the practice). I could recount many conversations I had with members where, just like people who are members of Abrahamic faiths, they insisted that prayer worked and had given them what they wanted. Evidence wasn’t required in order to sport these assertions and I was frequently taken aback at the capacity of some people to view the bad things that were happening to them as absolutely nothing to do with their faith. However, when they were resolved, it was down to the practice. If it was good it was down to the practice. There is a massive amount of research showing that prayer does not work, e.g. a study conducted on behalf of the Templeton Foundation on Christians praying for people who have had heart surgery.

    It became apparent to me that if I spent the time I would otherwise have spent chanting, taking some concrete actions, I could change things. Sitting there chanting might give me hope, but that was it.

    I do not think that the SGI is any more of a cult, or any worse than many other, for want of a better term, mainstream religious organisations. It gives people hope, comfort and community, just like other religions. That does not make a religion true, however. In common with other religions there is a profound lack of objectively verifiable evidence for its claims and practices, which may be why they are called faiths, i.e. belief without objectively and independently verifiable evidence. It will come as no surprise to anyone reading this that the SG was my gateway to atheism. Who really needs any form of religion when you can base your life on evidence, reason and your own judgment?

  25. John January 18, 2018 at 10:56 am - Reply

    If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing.

    – Dogen

    Enlightenment is not a state of being that any person in the modern world can achieve. You must own nothing. No preconceived notions, no judgments of good vs bad, no favored possessions. The true path towards the Buddha nature lies in the abandonment of myriad things and the realization of the impermanence in the world. One mustn’t seek the way outside of meditation. The only enemy that we face on the path to an enlightened life is our own ego.

  26. leigh February 12, 2018 at 4:01 pm - Reply

    The sgi mixes buddhist concepts with their own personal agenda and distort many of the concepts.I don’t even think Nicherian ever once told his followers to chant for stuff.I was a member for many years and now that I am out I can see how all that group thinking really was so detrimental to my mental health.The leaders of the organization often give very bad “guidence” but members are taught to think that they are wise because they have been practicing for so long.They pass advise that can be very dangerous. For instance telling a member that the reason they can’t get what they desire is because they have week faith.Then the member blames himself and believes something is wrong with him when in fact that might not be the reason why he isn’t getting what he wants.And Buddhism isn’t about getting stuff anyway.I think that this organization is actually training people to be narsisist and that underneath Disaku Ikeda humble facade is a huge narsisist as well. He has gotten more degrees than all of the famous people he talked with combined and at every meeting you here this.Yet hardly anyone you know in you work place even knows the name Ikeda.How can you not see something wrong with this?There is a huge pink elephant in the room.I really don’t care what any one practices.As long as what they practice doesn’t hurt me or as long as they don’t push their beliefs on me which people from sgi do all the time yet see nothing wrong with this in fact they are encouraged to do so. I totally think that this organization is about mind control and manipulation and not healthy.I learned the hard way and so I really want to help others to see that it’s better to not get too involved that’s all but like I said it doesn’t matter what others want to do with their lives.Im just trying to help.I wish someone woke me up before I wasted so much time with this organization.

  27. Ruth matthews February 14, 2018 at 5:22 pm - Reply

    For anyone who doesn’t think it’s a cult, they should try leaving the SGI. I practised for 15 years and was a committed member who had leadership responsibility. I went on courses and was deeply involved in the local group and even went to Japan to visit places like Sado island. But when I left I was placed under extreme pressure to come back to the organisation with leaders visiting to say I would lose all my benefit and good karma and then other members were slandering me because I became a Christian and the things being said about me were designed to blacken my name and question my mental state. It was vicious! All my so called SGI friends disappeared into the woodwork and not one of them showed themselves to be a true friend who would unconditionally support my decision to leave and practice a different faith. Leaving the SGI was the best decision I ever made and 12 years on I can say that I am happier now than I ever was then so all the stuff about bad karma if you leave SGI is a load of bullshit.

    • Jolene February 26, 2018 at 7:49 am - Reply

      Wow. Yes, this would completely be my definition of cult. And you’re correct. You can’t know this until you leave. I was recently introduced. I’m planning on taking on my own version as I am NOT religious at all. I am simply wanting to better myself and I can 100% see how self focus leads to this. But chanting for others. Nope sorry, if “god” doesn’t create miracles I’m sure not.

    • Wibbble July 27, 2018 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Absolutely correct! I left after 30 years. On the whole I enjoyed my time in the Sgi until I started questioning the use of finances, the increasing deification of ikeda and some of the senior leadership and thier authoritarian conduct. I had a leader above me who was essentially a sociopath and they delighted in trying to ruin my good name. I was senior in practice than a lot of leaders, but was treated as if I was not as ‘wise’ as them. I finally had enough of the politics.

      I so wish I had left earlier, but it took me a long time to see that I was not the problem.

  28. John February 22, 2018 at 3:01 pm - Reply

    I meet two people from SGI and i think they full of bullshit, they both said it not about money and later on ask me to give them money to join this bullshit. Both of the people seem unhappy but act like they happy. This was two different times in my life that people came to me with this bullshit.

  29. Jchris February 23, 2018 at 1:25 am - Reply

    This is a cult that asks people for money when they already has millions of dollars, i wish i saw this site before they got my money, scam artist.

    • Jasmine June 13, 2018 at 1:42 pm - Reply

      Those were either not real SGI members or you just made that up. I’ve never been asked for money. Please embrace your inner Buddha nature, as everyone attains it from deep within .

  30. Anne Steele February 26, 2018 at 1:20 am - Reply

    I met a lovely women on a bus that introduced me to SGI, She was warm and caring, I received my
    Gohonzon, I met other nice caring people. I found it hard to focus on chanting and going to the Centre,
    place of wosrhip. The biggest problem was the pressure to recruit family. They assume your husband and
    children should be recruited . I find that stressful. The seasoned members offer to come to your home but
    think they can put pressure on your family. I think people should realize that all couples have different interests and it is not right to expect your husband to participate. I am not a member now. I was a member
    for about 2 years.

  31. Anne Steele February 26, 2018 at 1:23 am - Reply

    I met a lovely women on a bus that introduced me to SGI, She was warm and caring, I received my
    Gohonzon, I met other nice caring people. I found it hard to focus on chanting and going to the Centre,
    place of wosrhip. The biggest problem was the pressure to recruit family. They assume your husband and
    children should be recruited . I find that stressful. The seasoned members offer to come to your home but
    think they can put pressure on your family. I think people should realize that all couples have different interests . I am not a member now. I was a member for about 2 years.

  32. J D March 1, 2018 at 7:07 am - Reply

    Have you every tried Nichiren Shu. Just look them up. It’s the tradition version or the most traditional the resembles the original practice of nichiren buddhism.

  33. Menes March 2, 2018 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    I joined SGI on my owna bout 7 years ago; my mom did tell me to check it out, and my dad gave me a book called “Buddha’s brain” which inspired me to go deeper into various Buddhist practices as per the scientific nature. I have never been one for organized religion and my parents would never indoctrinate me into their own belief systems. I joined with much skepticism, and basically read the chant through in english multiple times to understand what I was being told to recite. That’s where my break through came.

    SGI isn’t a cult, though it may have some cult-like tendencies – that happens in any group. Overall one has to look at the intention of the organization – human revolution. These guys wanna save the planet and they’re serious about it to the point of giving their lives. That is what kept me interested; the sacrifices the founders made. Humans are naturally imperfect, so no group of humans will be 100% either. For me, the teachings and practice have been life changing.

    The basic idea of it is solid – cause and effect and the law of vibration, transforming failure into success or poison into medicine as they’d say, how the lotus grows from the swamp. Thoughts and words affect (create?) reality, so when one chants in for any specific purpose, one subconsciously and consciously takes steps towards said outcome. I stay on the fringes of the organization but still donate and visit every now and again when I fall in a slump – it’s always good to visit, and have positive people around – so this organization has been a blessing to me because all they want you to do is win in life and help others win. [im a transplant to NY, so you don’t meet people who care this much typically. My first objective when I went back to new york was to keep those guys a little closer; I make it a point.]

    I do agree that at times it feels a bit dogmatic, in a christian, “our way is the only way kinda way”; but not all of them have pushed it to me like that, and I have my own mind. We are encouraged to read the lotus sutra, and I’ve been told that if it doesn’t fit into my reason, throw it out. Each paragraph starts with “this is what I heard,” not “this is what he said”, which is an important distinction.

    I’ve never liked their emphasis on recruiting; so that made me a bit distant. I feel that with a level head, one is able to reap the benefits of the teaching and steer clear of the pitfalls of human imperfection, or the mob mentality, in group settings. Overall I thank my lucky stars for SGI, but feel as well that noone should stop their spiritual growth with any particular practice.

    Since then I’ve gotten into TM and more recently Isha Kriya, but whenever I need that boost of energy for a major transformation I chant. We have to keep things in perspective and realize these are only tools or pointers to enlightenment, and be open to growth. We also have to remember that people are not perfect, and not ascribe our negative experiences with beings on the path to the entire organization or to fault the doctrine itself.

    I feel that everyone should know the ten worlds, ten aspects, and experience the benefits of chanting [AND meditation] – even if not with NMRK, because it works, and has worked for millennia, but that doesn’t substitute having a therapist, or a good friend [which is half the battle as per the sgi doctrine] The thing about cause/effect and vibration is; that that is what we are literally – so the mystic law of cause and effect through vibration [nmrk] is hard for me to logically refute.. All in all the esoteric knowledge is there, and it chimes with things I’ve studied from quantum physics to neuro-linguistic programming, mentalism and even the kabbalah – but maybe I’m reaching.. 😀

    I’ve studied all major religions, so I would say check it out and form your own opinion, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.. There’s a lot of gems there, though sometimes the messenger destroys the packaging of the message and or the actual message.

  34. Peter Forde March 4, 2018 at 3:46 pm - Reply

    And then there is Nipponzan Myohoji – the Japan Buddha Sangha who also chant NaMuMyoHoRenGeKyo. I had a brush with in in 1978..80 and helped to build their “peace pagoda” at Milton Keynes, UK.
    For a long time I thought this wasn’t a cult, (and I have been much involved with the cult monitoring network). I still haven’t decided that it is, BUT…. The monks and nuns who arrived in the UK to build the pagoda were fervid and loyal more than to life itself. They all sported fourth degree burns on their limbs, caused by tying bunches of burning joss sticks to their bodies. I concluded at tgevtime that they had been ordered to self-inflict those burns, and fled. A few years ago I learned that they had indeed been ordered to burn themselves. Nipponsan Myohoji reckon that Sokka (whatsit I cannot pronounce it) is a cult. Well methinks it takes one to spot one.

  35. Casmir March 5, 2018 at 2:04 pm - Reply

    Yup took me 7 years to get out as well. Now i got to the “evil” nichiren shoshu because of the juryo ” life span” chapter has truly opened the eyes. And my life has changed because ive cut out abusers. Still a work in progress but glad i took the step and got out!

  36. Ashton Barker March 8, 2018 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you very much for posting. You nailed this on the head. I and my siblings were raised with the practice. We had the causaic fortune of being born “fortune babies”! My mom went in and out of the practice through my childhood and at 17 I received my gohonzon. For the sake of discipline it was a good experience. I practiced gongyo each night and finally had it down without the book within 3 months. Pretty soon i was a chapter leader. At 18! Wow i must have REALLY done something impressive huh? Couldnt be that no one else wanted the job cause it was pointless. I became indoctrinated rather quickly and remember being invited to other Buddhist type meet ups but feeling that this would somehow bring on negative karma or that it was forbidden. But hey the SGI is better than those “other” organizations. Namely the Shoshu priesthood. TOTALLY different practices. By the time I was 20 I fell out of the practice and periodically came back to it. I remember seeing the looks on members faces when I would tell them I had tried other spiritual practices in between. I always felt put off by this Ikeda guy too and it was obvious that he was rich and i was still poor but somehow for good benefits and fortune i had to subsvribe to his press’s constant regurgitation of thousands year old principles. Finally when I was 25 I had had enough. I heard a woman at KR gongyo say at the mic that she had essentially prayed to Daisaku Ikeda and at my next district meeting I sat astonished as everyone listened wide eyed to a man talk about how much money he made. Not how happy he was or spiritually connected he felt. Nah. They never talked about that. “This is NOT Buddhism.” I thought. I haven’t been back since. It feels good to put the organization in the past. Now if I could just remove this tattoo of their logo..

  37. Dinah Davis March 14, 2018 at 10:59 pm - Reply

    I was a member of NSA/SGI from 1977 to 1987, so I missed all of the “schism” drama that occurred when the priesthood disavowed Daisaku Ikeda, and the SGI split from Nichiren Shoshu. I heard snippets about some of the chaos; the “fake” vs. “real” Gohonzons, members removing other members’ “incorrect” gohonzons, etc.

    I left the organization because it became increasingly controlling as my ten-year stint wore on. At one point, our European-American leaders were replaced by Japanese citizens; a move I thought was racist and demeaning. The new leader was so poor at reciting the Sutra, I could not follow him! My interest in the finer points of the priesthood and the teachings were discouraged. The last straw came when I was told I could not attend a big gathering because I hadn’t done enough successful “shakubuku” or proselytizing, which was deeply upsetting. ( I always found street proselytizing deeply offensive, no matter how much I participated.)

    With such a cold reaction from leaders I knew for almost 10 years, I was really heartbroken. It was at that moment that I realized I could no longer follow an organization that only cared about recruitment and conformity. I stopped attending meetings. No leaders contacted me. Only one close friend inquired about my well being.

    It was obvious that the organization I had joined was no more. Hearing about the bizarre worship of Ikeda makes me very glad I left when I did. Nothing horrible happened to me, I got the (professional) counseling I needed, and went on to have a happy marriage and a good career.

    Now I would like to return my “real” Gohonzon to the Nichiren Shoshu temple. Is there a way to do that? I live in Portland, Oregon.

    Thanks for listening!

  38. Stephen Wambsganss March 17, 2018 at 4:16 pm - Reply

    Calling the SGI a cult is a bit far-fetched.

    It may be organized differently than other religions, but it’s because it’s a Kay organization. Where the only paid employees are those with administrative functions.

    The philosophy is that the individual is ultimately responsible for their own happiness and fulfillment in life, that there is ultimately no difference between oneself and ones environment, that even through our most base desires and needs we can achieve enlightenment, that nirvana/heaven (or hell) is not some far off place but right here and right now, that even in hell we can actually achieve enlightenment and transform our lives, that in one single moment of life we have the potential to exist in any life state, and that through raising our life state we enter into rhythm with the universe and gain wisdom to live happy and fulfilling lives.

    Nichiren (a 13th Century Japanese Buddhist monk established he practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to the Gohonzon in order to raise ones life state and attain enlightenment in this lifetime. However, the Gohonzon is not to be viewed as an external object, but a mirror into ones own mind and inner life.

    For me, the practice resonates deeply. It has seen me through incredible obstacles (a successful and hard fought battle with cancer, deep financial and emotional crises, and ultimately to a life of peace and contentment – though there is always room to improve and become a better person, friend, father, partner and member of my wider community.

    Yes, I hold Daisaku Ikeda in high esteem, because his take on Nichiren Buddhism and the way he encourages me through his writings to become a better member in the society in which I live. He’s not a god, but he is a great man who has surmounted incredible obstacles and lived a very good life, helping millions of people along the way. Perfect? No. Worthy of honor as my living mentor? Yes, I think so, but not because I’ve been brainwashed or coerced, intimidated or bullied. But because I deeply respect the man and value his philosophy.

    Is the organization perfect? No. It’s filled with people of all walks of life with differing opinions and different experiences. Is it like a church? In a way. There is a concerted effort to remain true to the concepts of Nichiren Buddhism and to promote study of the precepts in order to learn more about the deep and rich philosophy backing it all up. However, it is all up to the individual. Unlike a church, there is no external god or force that will the individual. It all begins and end with you. There is no one to save you, but at the same time no one who stands in condemnation of anyone else’s path.

    I love this philosophy and practice and no one has paid me or coerced me to write this. I was just searching the internet trying to find out how to tie a knot in the pesky string upon which the Gohonzon hangs for a new Gohonzon confederal ceremony for a friend of mine. When I ran across this article.

    I have practiced this Buddhism for almost 20 years on and off. But following my battle with cancer I resumed practicing with renewed vigor and determination after noticing the tremendous difference the practice made in focusing my mind and life force halfway through my struggle with cancer.

    I’m a licensed psychotherapist in a professional setting. I live on a small island in the Pacific Northwest. I have several degrees and have studied a host of different religions. I was raised as a fundamentalist baptist in a family of ministers – so, if you want to talk brainwashing cults, I can’t tell you some stories. Nothing comes as close to a mind-controlling, live devaluing cult as “Fundamentalist Evangelical” Christianity. And boy do I have stories to tell there of how a little boy was terrorized his entire life because he was slightly different from everyone else and asked questions.

    However, it’s easy to throw the word cult around. Claim brainwashing. Blame our mistakes on others. Externalize our failures or unhappiness. If a form of religion, belief or philosophy doesn’t resonate with you move on, try something else or not if you wish. But please don’t slander a beautiful form of belief and practice, and all of its practitioners by calling it a cult and inferring that it’s practioners are brainwashed idiots. It is no more a cult than belonging to the Girl Scouts.

    • Matthew March 24, 2018 at 11:58 pm - Reply

      Thanks Stephen for your beautiful comments. I’ve been a member of SGI-USA for 46 years and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made to advance my life and commitment to world peace.

  39. Stephen Wambsganss March 17, 2018 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    Meant to type “lay organization” above, but spellcheck struck again.

  40. Ashley March 17, 2018 at 6:17 pm - Reply

    I disagree with calling it a cult. My experience with SGI hasn’t included manipulation like shutting me off from non members. They definitely do get together to chant a lot though. It does make me kind of wary how nice the people are but I’m trying to be a less cynical, paranoid person, at least sometimes. The people I know involved in it are nonjudgmental but I know there’s probably some bad apples spoiling the bunch.

    As a kid I was a Jehovah’s Witness for a few months. My mom ran into an old friend and decided to give it a shot. She was pretty much cult-proof and was able to leave. It’s true that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t let members talk to their friends who quit, but she said if they’re gonna force us to sit in a 3 hour meeting every week just to for permission to talk to them, it’s not worth the aggravation.

  41. dora March 17, 2018 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    it’s vital to understand the reasons why you would join. are you allowed to voice an individual experience, as well as show support for others’ individual experiences? if it’s supposed to be about equals, that’s only fair and reasonable. we may be part of a big human family but every
    individual is part of that whole. it might be helpful to ask some open-ended questions about your concerns. sometimes some people join groups out of fear, etc. not really what spirituality
    is about. I’ve had about as many odd experiences as outside of that group. you can teach them something about your own experiences and be able to say “well, you are not able to ‘know’ my reasons any more than I would claim to ‘know’ yours. we can dialogue (dialogue is two-sided) about this issue. you always have the right to leave.

  42. Alex March 24, 2018 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    The SGI is recognized by the United Nations as an NGO. The SGI actually has office in the United Nations. I don’t too many cults recognized by the United Nations.

    • Grace March 28, 2018 at 10:56 am - Reply

      Alex, are you trying to bamboozle people by posting, what, 16 times? I think one or two comments when well founded are enough to make the point. I understand your allegiance to SGI. I was a very active member myself for 28 years until a couple of years ago, when I took the frightening path of questioning everything when the contradictions in what I was seeing/hearing became obvious and when the subtle and not so subtle mangling of doctrines became too uncomfortable for me to bear. This included questioning the Wikipedia page you quote so liberally, which I believe is heavily edited by SGI. I now have a totally different view from the SGI party line on everything, including their history. It’s been a true Opening of the Eyes! That’s my story, and yours is respectfully yours, and the stories of everyone here, non-SGI and SGI alike is respectfully theirs. Cramming the comments section with your refutations seems disrespectful. I know it’s a huge deal in SGI and Nichiren Buddhism in general to refute erroneous teachings that being said, so I can imagine you are acting sincerely. All best to you.

  43. Stephanie Juste March 31, 2018 at 1:15 am - Reply

    I recetnly completed 33 years practicing Nicheren Buddhism.Almost 30 years as some sort of leader in SGI.My parents were concerned when i joined in NYC in the 80’s and called the cult hotline.Lol.
    But, no, its not a cult, not by a long shot.Mr. Ikeda is admired and appreciated, not worshipped.The organization is wealthy because as our financial fortune grows, we naturally want to contribute to this great world peace effort.
    Personally i introduce scads of people to Nam Myoho Renge Kyo every day because i KNOW the chanting of this phrase opens hearts, minds and lives.
    No one TELLS you what to do.They tell you HOW to practice to see a breakthrough in your life.
    If…if…the people you were with were pushy, or did things you found offensive, that’s the ‘hairy potatoes effect’, where we experience ‘discomfort’ (temporarily) as we work together for world peace.
    Agsin, SGI is a wondetrful organization, even though i,too, have issues with some individual leaders and members.
    So thankful for SGI.

  44. Stephanie Juste March 31, 2018 at 2:05 pm - Reply

    I was moved to add an addendum to the comment made last night People have complained that SGI leaders and members have told them their problems are their ‘fault’. Fault and blame are explosive words, so I want to explain.
    A better term is …we are RESPONSIBLE for our own happiness.
    Most of us are not aware of how much we are locked up with feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence, and past hurts that generate actions that can be classified as greed, anger and foolishness. Along with positive qualities of kindness, generosity and affection, this becomes the ME that we present to the world.When things ‘go South’, it’s obviously the ‘fault’ of the person who hurt us.Or so society says.
    But a human life is complex – like a Garden of Eden, a pit of snakes and a long winding road, all wrapped up into one.It’s our responsibility to take our lives into our hands and make it work.
    When we align ourselves with the Mystic Law (the Law of Life, or ‘God”), we RISE above our circumstances, like an airplane and problems /issues become small. We are OPEN to solutions, we can SEE things for what they are – temporary situations, we can fix by changing our attitude and approach.
    Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the best way to have this experience 24/7.
    The reason SGI is wonderful ,yet frustrating to some ,is that the perfect condition we THINK should happen, is a transformational one. All transformations take time (meetings, activities)and effort (daily practice)
    People who don’t chant do have victories, turn arounds, etc ,to be sure, but this is the NORM when one practices with the SGI. Enemies become, ‘frenemies’, then many times. lifelong friends. Remember, they are trying to change THEIR lives and attitudes, too .Just like you.
    Problems go away, new problems come up for us to battle.
    That happens solely because we allowed ourselves to change rather than expecting the other person to change first.This is the message of Nicheren Buddhism. The purpose is to create a happy life and help others do the same. If only one person on this thread ‘gets it’ . I’ll be happy.
    I advise people who had a bad experience with SGI to give it one more try, one last effort to practice correctly, observe the workings of your mind and to see the problem solving process through.
    If you have chosen another path, then do it to the max, get all you can from that practice. Not much can be gleaned from half-hearted attempts and scurrying back into a shell.
    Life has to be lived with courage.

  45. Nagarjuna! (Actually it's Frank) April 7, 2018 at 1:27 am - Reply

    This is an interesting topic. I had no choice in becoming a member of NSA/SGI in 1972. My white American mother converted at that time, and I was three. The rest of my family was Catholic or some kind of Christian. At an early age, I greatly disliked NSA. All kinds of oddballs crowded into my mom’s small apartment for meetings and chanting. I was constantly being dragged to meetings at other people’s homes and to the kaikan on Foster Avenue in Chicago.

    What I learned as a child was that if I didn’t chant, then something bad would happen to me. NSA and now SGI members use a subtle form of coercion – after all it’s all about selling the World Tribune and Living Buddhism, which contain either nauseating stories by members or stuff promoting Ikeda. Oh yes, let’s not forget that Ikeda have written more books than necessary. I think that there is a new version of the Human Revolution – is it Human Revolution Reloaded with Keanu Reeves as Ikeda?

    Sure, the SGI has tried to do some things to promote “world peace,” on the one hand, but on the other hand, the SGI alienates others, particularly other Buddhists. If you do not practice the SGI way, then you are doing it wrong.

    After calling myself a Buddhist for most of my life, I am done. I am a nihilist.

  46. Nagarjuna! (Actually it's Frank) April 7, 2018 at 1:30 am - Reply

    And don’t get me started on the brass band and gymnastics corps. I played “Forever Sensei” until my ears bled. How many human pyramids is enough?

  47. Nilanjana April 7, 2018 at 10:06 am - Reply

    Best article i read so far on the topic…i was associated with them for 11 years…since my teen years…phew

  48. Magenta April 11, 2018 at 5:10 am - Reply

    Your an idiot. Lol.
    You have no idea what the definition of a cult is clearly.
    All I get from this article is this person doesn’t seem to be an individual and use their own brain that’s why they think they were in a cult.
    Uneducated.
    No intelligence what soever.
    Sad.

    • M. LaVora Perry April 26, 2018 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      Magenta,

      Calling someone “an idiot” doesn’t seem like the Buddha way to me. By doing so, you’re not being a great representative of the SGI.

  49. M. LaVora Perry April 22, 2018 at 4:35 am - Reply

    I joined the Soka Gakkai International ((SGI) in New York in 1986, when it was called NSA (Nichiren Shoshu Soka Gakkai of America). I began practicing ((chanting Nam myoho renge kyo) regularly in 1987 and fully entrenched myself in the organization’s culture at that time.
    I left the organization in about 2012 and for a couple of years didn’t practice, although I continued to believe in the teachings of the Lotus Sutra and most of what Nichiren wrote about it. I began practicing again sometime after 2014 and have continued to do so.

    Some of the statements about Buddhism made by the author of this article are inaccurate in that they misstate what’s written in the text of the Lotus Sutra — the scripture upon which Nichiren Buddhsim is based and misstate what Nichiren wrote about Buddhism. He is the 12th century monk who founded the school of Buddhism named after him. The SGI is not a type of Buddhism contrary to what the author said. It’s an organization or sect based on the Nichiren school.

    The fact that the author could have practiced for as long as she apparently did and have misinformation and lack of understanding about foundational aspects of Nichiren Buddhism, Buddhism in general, and the Lotus Sutra is the major reason why I left the SGI. It is a cult of Ikeda and therefore encourages members to rely on his interpretation of Nichiren’s writings and the Lotus Sutra instead of encouraging them to make personally studying these texts for themselves a basic part of their personal practice.

    Very often I heard people who held higher leadership positions than I did say they had to rely on Ikeda’s interpretations of Buddhist texts because these writings were too difficult for them to understand without Ikeda’s spin attached to them.

    This reliance on an external interpretation of Buddhism is at exact odds with what Nichiren and the Buddha, as quoted in the Lotus Sutra, advocated. Time and time again they both urged their followers to find out the truth for themselves. To study independently. To rely on no person but, to instead, rely on the Law (the fundamental truth of life).

    My study of Nichiren’s writings and the Lotus Sutra (which he repeatedly urged his followers to read for themselves instead of blindly believing what he said was written in it was true) has led me to believe that this Law is the only true path to absolute happiness and is, in sum, to treat everyone as you want to be treated. Awakening to and committing one’s self to practicing this Law is the entire point of Buddhism. The true practice of Buddhism is one than anyone can engage in. It is a practice that transcends labels like “religion.” Everyone has the capacity to respect themselves and others. This capacity — the action a Buddha, an enlightened person — is universal. No one gets left out.

    There is so much more that I could write about this subject but I’ll leave it at this: The reason chanting “works” is because it’s a very effective tool, just as the Gohonzon is, in helping you remain awakened to the eternal Law and your true identity as an eternal Buddha.

    However, just as with any tool, you don’t need either of these to get the job done. They just make it easier. Plenty of people, in fact, most people who lead enlightened lives do so without chanting or ever seeing a Gohonzon.

    Feel free to follow me on FB, or not. It doesn’t matter to me either way. I’m only offering the invitation because I write about these things there sometime and would be happy to discuss all this there with anyone who wants to do so respectfully. It’s the online space I frequent the most.

    • Jasmine June 13, 2018 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      That’s odd. Because studying is 1 of three VERY important parts of the SGI organization. Total transformation and continuous growth comes from not just chanting, but from the combined three-chant, practice, study.

  50. M. LaVora Perry April 22, 2018 at 4:47 am - Reply

    I still chant, as I said. I live in New York and would love to chant and study and discuss and debate even Nichiren’s writings and the Lotus Sutra with anyone who wants to do so. I’m not, however, interested in anyone trying to get me to rejoin the SGI or with meeting with people who want to spend a lot of time talking about what’s wrong with that organization.

  51. Sid Gau April 29, 2018 at 10:20 pm - Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this whole article and commentary on SGI. As a practicing Buddhist to date. I have a strong belief that everything you encounter in life has a significant meeting for whatever it is your life purpose is!! I too have felt the same way, in many of the comments I actually thought I was the one writing the comment. The human emotion we feel when we can relate is amazing, and it can also be harmful!! SGI, is an organization made up of people (humans), as like any other religion or philosophical developed institution. What we choose to believe and allow is completely our own responsibility!

  52. Marie May 6, 2018 at 1:38 am - Reply

    Great post!! with lots of truths I must say. Bottom line is if you want to understand Buddhism, go to the basics. It is true that there are lots of schools out there. Was a member of SGI, but somehow all this asking advice to a senior leader did not speak to me. The only truth is in your heart, if you can expand your heart and be receptive you will find the answers and you do not need to be in any religious group or chant for that to happen. I have met lots of teachers who have gave me clarity about Buddha’s teachings (I mean the one and only buddha Shakyamuni) and also diverse teachings from other masters.

  53. Bodhisattva Sanjaya May 13, 2018 at 4:55 am - Reply

    What a wonderful thread of all sorts of thoughts and feelings and opinions.

    Insightful, reassuring, justified, and some crude and rude! But only slightly.

    I was around Buddhism for 7 years before joining, long ago. Never quit since.

    Life is this amazing thing. Brilliant in its profound beauty, tragic too in all its sadness and wickedness.

    We of the SGi fight for life as we are and we will always continue our mission, our vow as Bodhisattvas of the Earth.

    Please embark or re-embark on a path of life that holds in the most highest regard the great phenomenon that is life, our lives, a treasure to all living beings on this grand stage of life.

    All aspects of our lives are truths as is the glorious amazing universe.

    Chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to resonate and bring forth the truth and greatness of our life and its realtionship to our own unique realities. And change that what you must for your own happiness.

    All human beings posess this incredible greatness, regardless, ultimately.

    Lets take our planet to higher grounds, for us human beings and for all living beings and for our home, our Earth.

    Peace.

    May 12

    I want you to understand the subtle workings of the mind. How you orient your mind, the kind of attitude you take, greatly influences both you yourself and your environment. The Buddhist principle of a single life-moment encompassing three thousand realms completely elucidates the true aspect of life’s inner workings. Through the power of strong inner resolve, we can transform ourselves, those around us and the land in which we live.

    Daisaku Ikeda, SGI President

  54. Lotus May 28, 2018 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    I am an SGI member and have found it tremendously beneficial for my life. I have severe depression and anxiety, and let me tell you that this practice is keeping me alive. It is the only thing that has worked for me. Ive tried so many things and this is the only practice that offered real change and provides me with a sense of empowerment, and opened my eyes to my ability to help others through my own struggles.

    You have rights and free will, you’re allowed to do anything you want, and don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do in the SGI. Some people remain members and never become leaders, which means they have very little responsibility, except to go to a meeting every once in while.

    I understand why certain outside people looking in might see the SGI as having cultish tendencies, but if you actually practice the right way, you will see benefit in your life. Cults don’t offer That, only a false sense of security. Why don’t you just try it with an open mind? If you don’t want to, fine but don’t bash something you don’t understand or haven’t tried. If you have been a member and had bad experiences, I am sorry. That is not everyone’s experience. I didn’t feel comfortable in the SGI for a long time, but social anxiety will do that, that’s because that is the type of person I am and the type of Karma I was dealt. The more I challenge and push through this discomfort, the more it goes away and the happier I am. Now the SGI is my 2nd family. When I have faith, engage in study and practice correctly, I am so happy. I feel good about what I am doing for myself and others.

  55. Jasmine June 13, 2018 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    Wow, I’m so sorry that you feel this way. We are not cult members. Our goal is always encourage others to do their very best. Our goal is to teach and show others they we absolutely can change their paths and manifest our destiny. Our faith revolves around the laws of the universe. Chanting and saying that you will change your life around does not happen without actual belief. You may be able to fool other humans, but you can not fool the universe. The universe consists of energy; everything is energy. This is why it’s important to have absolute conviction. Move forward with conviction. I also would like to know what district you were assigned to? I rarely go to meetings ( one of my goals is to change this) and have been told by a fellow member that my “karma” is due to this. That is absolutely false. We do not discourage others especially not other memebwra. We only ENCOURAGE eachoher to chant for better schedules or motivation to attend meetings. Most distric leaders take this a step further and meet with you. I will definitely be chanting for you in my morning session. Chanting that you join this wonderful organization again. Chanting that you take the advice given to you as encouragement and not as belittling judgement.

  56. Amanda June 14, 2018 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    I’ve been practicing Buddhism with the SGI-USA for almost 14 years. I did consider leaving about 7 years in because I did not understand why I did not see President Ikeda like many other members. I had planned to keep my Gohonzon and keep chanting, but practice Buddhism by myself. I also never tried to understand Daisaku Ikeda. I’m so glad I hung in long enough, and with educating myself was able to see. Now, because of my practice and encouragement by fellow members, I’ve been able to change things in my life for the better. My husband has made major positive changes too-like so many! SGI has given me the opportunity to meet and befriend so many different types of people that have enriched my life and I hope I’ve enriched theirs all the same. I still have problems for sure. I’m still challenging big things in my life. I don’t expect the SGI or the Gohonzon to automatically fix me. I have to fix me through chanting and my own effort. The SGI members just support me and I’m so grateful. Leaders in the SGI are volunteers and ordinary human beings doing their best to encourage one person at a time. The SGI does not exclude anyone, does not extort its membership, or require anything of its members—not even to chant every day. Practicing Buddhism is a lifelong journey. We are encouraged not to give up on ourselves no matter what. I’m so glad I’m not practicing Buddhism or anything else alone. What I learned from the Buddha’s teachings in the Lotus Sutra is that we are here to support each other in our individual journeys.

  57. Jack June 15, 2018 at 9:03 am - Reply

    I definitely feel there is a different approach from different national organisations. The SGI-USA approach would never work in the UK. People asking to pay for a piece of paper effectively that they could easily access and print themselves, yet at the same time isn’t something that is required for the practice. If you feel that it is something that you ‘need’ you are externalising to something material and I would feel definitely aren’t worshiping your own inherit treasure tower (blah blah all that religious fluffl). A donation is asked for however I simply didn’t donate when I received gohozon, I purchased enough books. When I had issues with the personality cult aspect when I started practicing, the ‘mentor disciple relationship’ is something I struggle with, I was spoke to outside of the meeting but in an open way advising that people don’t realise they practise in a way that isn’t in line with nichirens teachings. I do not want to externalise my happiness onto something/someone else, wanting to build a resilient self who can be vulnerable but have a rooted happiness. And I feel that the Ikeda worship is something which has to be questioned and kept in check. I want many mentors in life not just one, everyone is a mentor in some capacity, can learn from everyone and every situation. So this mentor disciple relationship is a little too much for me, but other aspects I love and keep on practicing.

  58. 2002 SGI Member July 9, 2018 at 7:50 am - Reply

    I joined SGI in 2002 when I was a high school student at the time in Nordhoff community center. I spent three weeks learning about their organization and their teachings, just before leaving for University abroad. To SGI’s credit, my sponsors were always kind to me and spent a great deal of time teaching me to memorize Gongyo ABC (My Gongyo booklet I purchased for one dollar had the ABC). He taught me a great deal about Karma, life existences, Ichinen Sanzen, White Juzu beads, the history of the Head Temple and the importance of the Dai Gohonzon as central in our practice. After my willingly indoctrinated into this seemingly positive religion, I was given the SGI Gohonzon (as it was called) the second week of joining at the donation of $20 USD inclusive of one year subscription to SGI newspaper. After that week, I did not connect with the organization but I practiced diligently using my Sutra book fast forward ten years later in 2014 when I received notice that the gongyo books, Juzu, Dai Gohonzon teachings were now altered/changed/removed. It turned out that this has been done many times decades before I joined SGI for membership control purposes. I spent a great deal of time listening to SGI pioneer members, and most importantly the person who introduced me to this practice but in the end. As a fair-minded person, I now heard both sides of the story and I have sympathy for the priests who believe they were given the sacred charge to guard this Orthodox Buddhist practice even at their faults of arrogance or accusations of superiority, and on the other hand, SGI members who felt betrayed that their Lay Organization and their modernised efforts were being invalidated by the Head Temple without consideration of their feelings. I get both sides, and for my own accord, I felt duped, manipulated, lied to and forced to accept a brand new set of SGI tenets that was not what I learned years before. The members I spoke with insisted that “Life is about changes”, and the organization intends this towards a renewed vision of the SGI practice. Then and now, I honestly thought that was a lousy excuse to change the doctrines I learned in 2002 and I refuse to accept it using common sense. I also went to Nichiren Shu and was disappointed by their inconsistencies on doctrine and religious syncretism. Now at that point, I did my extended research and compared the teachings at the Nichiren Shoshu temple nearby. I met the Chief priest, assistant priest and a lady who I would consider my friend for life. Ultimately, I made the decision to go with what I was previously taught and I ended up in the NST temple, where I continue my Buddhist practice today. By no means I am an exemplar member and I have my own hangups, delusions, attachments to former religions and culture but in persisting through with this practice, I would never go back to SGI knowing that a more orthodox, traditional practice is available in Nichiren Shoshu / Hokkeko. In addition, I have had the numerous opportunities to see the Dai Gohonzon and I am truly affirmed and moved by this practice despite times of slander, questioning and doubt. On the other hand, the mental therapy, religious affirmation and nostalgia on SGI restorative belief et cetera were my main reasons for retaining my practice in Nichiren Shoshu. As a westerner, I think Soka Gakkai is entitled to have their own religious version of whatever they teach but they should finalize their doctrine as to not mislead people like myself and others who feel betrayed by what they were once thought. I have the highest respect for my SGI leader and it is with deepest regret that my common sense and analytical thinking prevented me from joining his lay organization again, although a part of myself tried to convince myself of this but that would be “Relying on persons, not the Law” – the Law being the Dai Gohonzon of High Sanctuary of the Essential Teachings which is what I was taught, what I believed, and what I will continue to follow until my next Karma and reincarnation.

  59. Andrea July 11, 2018 at 1:12 am - Reply

    I myself am a newbie SGI member, having joined just last September, so my first year is coming up. I am not here to bash the SGI nor am I here to praise it, at this moment I am a little upset and skeptical about the organization…I too was recruited during a difficult part in my life, when I was depressed, taking medication and felt like nothing good was going to happen. I left my first SGI meeting with such positivity and happiness, I told myself “I found a group that I can be a part of!” – even saying it was like therapy. Just like everyone else, I received my Gohonzon, was told to chant morning and night, come to meetings, go to the center and chant, take the exam, and meet with other members to chant at their homes…everything has been okay, up until recently. With the 50K Lions of Justice coming up, I have been getting basically thrown into a corner to invite my friends, members even telling me to PAY FOR THEM AND SIGN THEM UP. Are you f**king kidding me!? That is SO disrespectful. “Hey I signed you up for this thing in September, just pay me back and come with me.” – The most selfish and disrespectful manner. I have this one member who will honestly message me several times a week asking to chant, if I signed up friends and to go to activities. Every. Single. Week. I am so close to replying and telling her to f**k off, I have a life. Side note: My father just beat cancer, a miracle that I shared with SGI and they have taken the credit for it. Here’s the funny thing: I have barely been chanting for my father during these past couple of months, only a few times. Doesn’t SGI say that you HAVE TO chant A LOT or else you will not be successful? So…explain to me how my dad beat cancer? Hmmm, maybe it’s this amazing thing called SCIENCE. It bothers me that these people think they cured my dad. No, my dad is a strong mother-F with good genes and the oncologists under his care did the most aggressive form of chemo and radiation…together, THAT is what beat this cancer. But it’s funny how I said I chanted a lot, yet didn’t…All in all I am growing a little weary about this organization. Yeah it’s positivity and yeah there are some great people in it, but the premise and activities behind those smiling faces, is all about money and manipulation. I may not have long until I get out myself.

    • Melodie Bryant July 17, 2018 at 4:34 pm - Reply

      HI Andrea – I’m a longtime SGI member with a healthy attitude of skepticism. Here’s what I can tell you from my own past experience. President Ikeda made it his mission to spread this practice world-wide. He was just one person and couldn’t be everywhere at once. SGI in the 70s was NSA, and extremely dysfunctional. When he came here in 1991 and saw how cult-like it was (like Jesus and Gautama Buddha, he never meant to be worshipped, but to show the way to others), he fired everybody! Before there was literature, things were truly strange and like you, I saw it as a money/numbers game. Look, don’t believe everything people tell you just because they themselves believe it. You have to keep in mind that a lot of the people who joined, came from backgrounds with very strict but even more dysfunctional religions and that is often what they are passing down to you. Stick to the literature, get close to the older, wiser members. This practice is so wonderful, I can’t imagine my life without it. It has seen me through every single crisis, changed my family dynamic (no, my family doesn’t chant; I was the one who needed to change). I would hate to see anyone deprive themselves of it. If you don’t like the activities – don’t go!! We have a senior leader who hated them so much as a Young Man’s Division member, he put himself in the Men’s Division to escape it all(!). Hahaha, I can’t blame him. I HATED all those activities as a young woman. There are still things that are creepy – some of the songs etc. But these have nothing to do with Buddhism. Follow the law, not the person.

  60. ABC July 18, 2018 at 5:36 am - Reply

    Here’s a tip for everyone.

    If you need to apply for a membership, memorize verses and repeat rituals, pay money or purchase things, succumb to peer pressure (joining or not quitting), volunteer your time to do work in an institution, overly venerate a certain person… it’s not spirituality (or God).

    It is man-made bondage and control. You are wasting your time, money and energy.

    Doesn’t matter if it’s Christian, Buddhist or new age-ish (e.g. Indian ashrams, Scientology, Happy Science).

    If you want to find spirituality or seek the divine, go inside and go within. Go inside. Walk in nature and be by yourself for a while. Meditation is okay but do not ‘meditate just for the sake of meditation’.

    The way I see it: Soka Gakkai is a tight-knit, Japan-centric and wealthy Buddhist sect group with political connections not just in Japan, but around the world. Usually, SGI folks infiltrate college campuses, and reel in new young recruits with fun activities, camps and ‘cultural exchange’.

    • Melodie Bryant July 19, 2018 at 5:17 pm - Reply

      This is so interesting. The Soka Gakkai was ridiculed initially for being an organization of the sick and the poor. Through transforming their lives with hard work and determination, through overcoming immense obstacles, they are now being ridiculed for being successful (because historically the Buddha had taken a vow of poverty, as did subsequent monks).

      There are things about the organization I don’t particularly like, it’s true. But the chanting and the study are the basis of my practice. I’ve never known SGI members to “infiltrate” anything. They are a lousy cult. Chanting is free, Buddhism and enlightenment are available to all equally and cultural exchange is healthy – dialogue is one of the great ways to achieve peace.

      Before labeling the SGI a cult, It might be helpful to look at its history. If you do, you will learn that their founder, Tsunaburo Makiguchi died in prison as a “thought criminal.” His crime? sticking to his core belief that the Buddha nature resides equally in all of us. This was considered an offense to the government who wanted to control people with its own state religion. Our second president, his disciple Josei Toda, voluntarily went to prison with him. Our current president Daisaku Ikeda has also fought injustice his entire life and separated from the priesthood which still teaches that only through them can one achieve enlightenment.

  61. Teri August 1, 2018 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    This article doesn’t point to anything solid that says this organization is a cult. I haven’t noticed anything of the kind. Nor have I found any other information or articles that show any proof of this being a cult. Please show me some solid evidence or proof that points to this being a cult. They only wish good for everyone. Makes no sense why anyone would consider this bad.

  62. Suren August 4, 2018 at 10:50 am - Reply

    You donate from your pocket… Spend hours and hours of your precious time for organization without expecting a dime and chant same mantra over and over and over again millions of time, fooled to donate & expect windfall of 10 times in return.. if this not cult, then what it is…. I have been watching this happening with some one very very close who is part of SGI and behaves like a zombie in real life… Due to this, there is no time left with the person for the family which is almost at verge of breaking up due all this.. This is sad but 100% real.

  63. songtothesirens August 11, 2018 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    I just wanted to say that I am a perfectly normal person with a healthy dose of skepticism. I am also perfectly sane and in my right mind. I am also a member of the SGI. i have never felt forced to donate money, my time, or anything else to the organization. I do not think that President Ikeda is the be all, end all of Buddhist leaders, nor do I have to question whether he is a “divine” figure as it is plain to tell that he is a human being and has never claimed anything else. Now, David Koresh is a completely different ball of wax. He DID claim to be the second coming. I have never once felt like I was forced to do something I did not want to. When I have received “guidance” from leaders, it has been at my request to get a different outlook on my problem; it has not been forced upon me nor has it been because my problems are so esoteric that only a fellow member can understand them. They are normal, everyday problems. I am not the world’s most consistent practitioner; I chant at home when I feel like it, not because I have to. I am a Chapter level leader, but all that means to me is that I have more to do behind the scenes than regular members; it bestows no special powers upon me. It means supporting the other members, especially younger members who may be struggling with life’s issues due to their age. Since, I am older, I have been there and done that, and act as nothing more than a mentor or someone who gets where a younger member may be at in their life. One youth member and I have bonded over a love of rock music. That’s not mind control; it is two people with a commonality. Yes, I agree the videos are creepy, and sometimes I question how much Ikeda really has written, but the man is 90 years old. That’s plenty of time to produce a huge body of work; just look at James Patterson…he comes out with a new book every two months. Does that make him a cult leader? No, it makes him a prolific writer. Quite frankly, having studied many religions while taking my Sociology degree, I have concluded that most, if not all, religions have cult-like features to them. So, singling out the SGI is pointless. If chanting nam myoho renge kyo makes you feel better and more in control, then go for it. It’s really no different than encouraging someone to meditate. You aren’t hurting anyone, and if you don’t like the term “human revolution,” think of it as living mindfully…..

  64. Lisa n Yoffie August 11, 2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

    I searched for ” SGI tries to recruit members” after I went to a chanting session with some SGI people, and was really repulsed at how they try to recruit you like the CHristian church. I told them I will NEVER choose ONE path as the ultimate one and only way because that is NOT my path. Wow they were disappointed. They seem as indoctrinated as a church and I was really turned off. I do like and appreciate aspects of Buddhism , but not how they try to convince you that this is THE one and only path. The chanting is also incredibly hypnotic and you have to assert that you will NOT fall into any trance where you lose your autonomy.

  65. IRis August 15, 2018 at 1:49 am - Reply

    My last memories of SGI was bring a guest who then was smothered by other members, I was forgotten, I didn’t exist. They all don’t believe in anything else other than fake mandala a scroll and then the chanting. They don’t believe in God, Jesus, the bible and St. Peter or all other saints. If you mention meditation they were all shut down. I don’t know if its evil or cult witchcraft, demons other forces. All I know if you believe in God don’t go there its not a vibrational match.

  66. Maria Port August 15, 2018 at 8:30 pm - Reply

    I was a member of the SGI for about 6 years. I mainly was in love with a guy who had practiced since the 70’s. At first I thought if he was so evolved and compassionate it must be because of his practice. Turns out he was an alcoholic who yelled at me and was controlling and emotionally abusive.

    My first doubts were really solidified by viewing the videos begging for money, (Jerry Falwell style). Even if I was broke if I sent them enough money all my problems (including my financial ones) would be erased. Oh along with more chanting.

    It’s a load of bullcrap. I’ve done some research into Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. Nichiren Buddhism is a cult. You chant for what you want…(hey, I want a BMW), not for enlightenment. I’m a happy agnostic now and I’m so glad not to be involved in all that fakery and peer presure.

    • brad September 24, 2018 at 1:31 am - Reply

      videos begging for money?

      that is a complete lie! the only part of your story that is full of crap is you.

  67. Lee August 16, 2018 at 2:29 pm - Reply

    I am an SGI member and it has changed my life for the better. I don’t feel like I am in a cult. What I do get from my practice is a sense of undeniable consistent courage, hope, confidence and joy. I feel that some people can have a bad experience with the membership being too pushy. There are all different types of people from all walks of life in the organization and their personality traits can mirror traits of the large society. This is unfortunate. I would distance myself from those people but not give up my practice and not decide that the organization is a cult based on negative interactions with some members. WE ARE NOT ALL PUSHY AND WORSHIP Daisaku Ikeda. The practice has given me as a Black Woman the confidence to do things, have experiences and go places that I would never have gone or done elsewhere because of the confidence and hope that I have gained through chanting and practicing with the members who I feel are supportive and not toxic….. In a church perhaps where I would be judged for this or that reason or another.. Different Strokes for Different Folks……. Some people are just turned off by organized religion and that is fine but don’t down the organization as a whole because of your negative experience. It works for me and makes me happy and that is what counts to get me through life….

  68. Lee August 16, 2018 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Marye….. and everyone else …I also want to add that I am sorry you had people in the organization preach to you about what you should be doing and what you were not doing enough of ….Without sharing their own personal experiences based on their guidance about how your life circumstances could have improved….. The many community centers around the country and the world are maintained by the financial contributions of the members. We have to keep the lights on, A/C running and toilet paper in the bathrooms……The contributions go toward that and- not to support Daisaku Ikeda… If you don’t know his background he is a self made wealthy man who took over his mentors publishing company many many years ago. He is wealthy from his own efforts and not from the members donating to him to have a nice lifestyle. Also please learn about the history of Japan after world war II because this ties in with the SGI history

    . Everyone who is under the impression that SGI is a cult needs to do more research about the SGI organization’s origins and founding in Japan in the 1950’s to learn true and accurate information,,,, and not be made to form an opinion 100% based from Marye who has had a negative experience and is now writing about it on a blog…

    The rest who longer practice and are feeling negative….I wish you well and please let us know what you found that has made you happier…..

  69. Maria Port August 17, 2018 at 3:45 am - Reply

    I have met some very nice people through the SGI. This is not just about my ex-boyfriend. I guess it was 2015 or 2016 when at the May giving time they showed a film about a woman who had cancer, her husband had lost his job, and their house was going to be foreclosed on. They stated that they wanted to but didn’t know how they could round up enough money to contribute. They decided to go ahead and contribute as much as they could. Miraculously her cancer went into remission and he got a job and their house was no longer being foreclosed upon. Remember that one? What total bullshit! If anything…this is the total dumbing down of what Buddhism is…which is a quest for enlightenment. Where is the talk of rebirth in Nichiren Buddhism? They never talk about it or skirt the issue…because they can’t explain it and most people don’t understand it. I personally don’t buy it but why do they play it down…isn’t that what Buddhism is all about?

    I went to Episcopal church when I was a kid,. My parents weren’t that pushy. This is not so much different. It’s a feel good thing you go to and then forget about it the rest of your life. Hey, and what is so great about President Ikeda? Another Putin I think?

  70. Kimberly Donars August 26, 2018 at 3:20 pm - Reply

    I’ve been practicing with the SGI-USA since 1984. It sounds like this article was authored by someone who practiced prior to 1991 when the organization underwent a massive reform. In the early days in the USA there was much more pressure to recruit and attend meetings. This is no longer the case. It sounds to me like the missing piece for this individual was not really a lack of commitment in any sense, but a lack of study which is a critical part of the practice. Study materials have really improved in the last decade. We don’t worship or diefy Ikeda. We study his writings.

    • Martin September 4, 2018 at 3:15 am - Reply

      I recently quit SGI, I don’t think its a dangerous cult, never the less it is a cult, but I guess any religion can be described as a cult really.
      People there are friendly and supportive, but anything anyone ever talks about is president Ikeda, every meeting you go to big or small – Ikda said this , Ikeda did that… It’s pretty much his church, he certainly is the ‘dear leader’. Nothing wrong with that, he doen’t seem like a bad person but maybe they should call SGI ‘the church of Ikeda’s teachings’ or something like that.
      SGI is also a very wealthy organization and seems very opaque about whats going on behind the scenes – how much money they have and who pulls the strings. Again I’m not accusing anyone of any wrong doing, it just felt like being part of a big Japanese cooperation or something like that that – everything is structured in an unusual way, with chapters and region leaders, district leaders. Its seems very efficiently organized – I see myself as a free thinker and all this felt very sterile to me. There are lot more I could talk about – positive and negative but the one thing I did not like at all and bothered me the most and had red flags flying all over the place is that one of the things you are required to do as a member is to ‘shaka buku’ which means – recruit new members to SGI. If you are practicing a religion and someone like a friend or a co-worker of yours asks you about your religion – then I think its perfectly OK to explain it to them and then if they want to know more you can invite them along, but I think its absolutely wrong and immoral to go out and to actively recruit members (that goes for any religion). There is a big drive to do this in SGI. No one should be conversed in to joining religions. It seems obvious that a big part of getting everyone to recruit new members is to get in more revenue. Again most churches and religious organizations have loads of money but normally where there is a lot of money there is also a lot of corruption. So I’m not telling anyone who wants to join not to do it but just keep an open mind and don’t blindly accept anything anyone is telling you, I think SGI works for some people but it certainly didn’t work for me.

  71. Jason Jones September 2, 2018 at 1:02 am - Reply

    I am a Quaker but go to SGI. I have an earned doctorate in counseling. The ten worlds is similar to concepts of cognitive therapy and chanting it a form of meditation and thought stopping. I studied buddhism for three years with a Thai Buddhist monk, so I can appreciate the difference in the two forms of Buddhism. No one is critical of me for still meditating in the Quaker way which is the direct communion with God. SGI is very clear that they dont have an opinion on God nor do they try to impose their will on God like Christian preachers do. SGI promotes a better way of thinking and no one I know asks the scroll for magic solutions, money or other material things. Sensei had guts to depart from the Buddhist priests. Believe me I have seen both Christian and Buddhist priests that love money. I suggest those unhappy with SGI to review their basic introduction to buddhism pamphlet. Its very clear.

  72. Peter Pan September 23, 2018 at 5:54 am - Reply

    I was a member of the SGI for decades, and traveled to different countries and continents. What always disturbed me about the SGI and especially after the priesthood split was how we were expected to accept Ikeda/ Sensei as our mentor. And that if we did not then we were doing something wrong. I know some people who have done this and their lives prospered and some who did not and their lives went down and then others who just continued on an even keel even without Sensei. As time as gone on, all the focus now seems to be on Ikeda and Sensei, and pictures adorn the centers everywhere. I use to ask sometimes – Why is there is never an image of Nichiren? It just did not seem to make sense. How can you be promoting the writings of Nichiren, the founder and there is not one picture or image of him anywhere. The pictures of the three presidents will abound, they changed the Gohonzon, some say it is fake – whatever – I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe the so called Nikken Gohonzon is fake either but there has been a focus on getting new members who understand very little of what has gone on in the past, the priesthood issue and events leading up till now. With Ikeda gone or indisposed it is time to move on. I know that chanting helps me but I do it at home now and I do not accept the bullshit that everything is my karma. If something happens, well you know shit happens sometimes. I can pray for good fortune but in the end it is up to me to make it positive or negative. If I have a car accident, well then maybe I should be grateful that it was not worse. I got tired of going to all those meetings miles and miles away, and certainly it may have helped me to get out of bed on Sunday mornings, but I wonder sometimes who made half the shit up. Relationship karma, financial karma, health karma, work karma…. Etc like there was some big bad guy out there who had decided your fate, and you needed to work off the brownie points. I met some amazing people in the SGI many of whom I am still friends with today even although I do not attend the meetings regularly, but I am tired of the mantra that we have to travel, when in fact they could just send an email and be more open about things. A lot of the older members are single in my view because they spent so much time doing activities, they have health problems because they spent so much time chanting and not exercising it was bound to happen. Instead of getting to the gym to get healthier and stronger, some would spend hours and more hours chanting to solve their health problem. Still I think many of the members are sincere other than those who want to shove it down your throat at every opportunity. The SGI could attract more members if it was more open about its activities, its aims and how it planned to get there. A more open and even keeled SGI.

    • brad September 24, 2018 at 1:19 am - Reply

      Are you seriously asking, why dont they have more pictures of a guy that lived in the 1200’s?

      Wow!!! I don;t even know what else to say to that level of ignorance. WOW!

      • Peter Pan September 24, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

        Yes Brad that is what I am asking. Why is that so hard to believe? Pictures of Ikeda everywhere and not one of Nichiren. Does that not seem odd to you?

      • Ivy October 26, 2018 at 6:10 pm - Reply

        Jesus Christ lived over 2000 years ago and there are pictures of him everywhere.

  73. brad September 24, 2018 at 1:43 am - Reply

    I’m not an SGI member. Been to a couple of meetings to check it out. But have not joined, and honestly don’t plan too. Just not my thing, but I definitely would not call it a cult. But I am open to my mind being changed on that, with some sort of evidence. I keep reading from people claiming that it is a cult that they were constantly asked for money or donations, through videos and printed material. Yet. of all the times I attended, not once was I ever asked to donate or give a dime. With the constant amount of requests for donations, these people claim to have experienced it should be no problem giving us a link to just one of these official videos or a scan of these documents that there are so many of. Just one. I know for me personally, that would go a long way in believing it may be a cult. Because at the moment, if your an honest person who genuinely believes it is a cult and care about the truth. Even you would have to admit there are clearly a number of “SGI Cult Experiences” in these comments that are obviously made up fairy tales.

  74. Maria Port October 11, 2018 at 10:22 pm - Reply

    May is the “Giving” month. There is always a video emphasising the personal benefits you will derive by donating to the SGI. During that month donating is pushed really hard. The rest of the year they pretty much lay off and the focus is on recruiting new members.

  75. mervin carter October 17, 2018 at 12:31 am - Reply

    I joined the SGI in 1973 and quit in 2010. My life was totally dedicated to the spread of Nichiren Buddhism. I introduced hundreds of people to the practice, attended every meeting required of me and served in organizational positions at the group, district, chapter and region levels. I conducted lectures on Nichiren Buddhism for 10 years. Before joining my life was hopeless and depressing as it lacked direction and purpose. I was an angry drug addict and a social deviant bent on self destruction. I joined the military to escape my addiction environment only to find myself facing a court martial (facing 18 charges) after only 2 months of post basic training active duty. After a chance encounter with an inactive Nichiren Buddhist I decided to try chanting Nam Myoho renge Kyo with an open minded skepticism. I began by studying the philosophy and chanting maybe one hour per day. After the first few days I began to feel empowered and my outlook became much more positive. Having doubts I decided to chant a minimum of 3 hours per day so that I could say I gave it an honest try. Life began to make sense to me. Somehow I was able to sneak unauthorized into the commanding officer’s office. Initially he was very angry but the condition of my life had a calming effect and he allowed me to say what I had to. The meeting ended with him dismissing all the charges against me and recommending me for officer’s training. After that I decided to continue with the expectation of continuous results in my life and that if ever I should encounter some inconsistency in the philosophy I would quit. This was before I knew anything about the SGI organization. I officially joined 6 months later after receiving the Gohonzon. I understood the Gohonzon was no magic charm but a tool to be used in the practice and study of Nichiren Buddhism. My life changed and developed drastically through the years but this was always after difficult and often painful struggles. I developed some strong relationships within the organization and these people would serve as mentors to me as I struggled to change many of ugly tendencies I possessed. To this day I can’t thank those people enough for the time they spent listening and often times instructing me. They never told me to do this or that, rather they always provided me with a point of view based on Nichiren’s writings. I can honestly say that I have transformed many of the negative aspects of my life into to value creative ones. No doubt. It wasn’t magic. The painstaking effort I put forth was difficult but effective. I know that prior to practicing Nichiren Buddhism my destiny was early death or life in prison. That’s the direction I was headed based on my behavior. There’s no question about that. Instead I have enjoyed a life of meaning and purpose. I earned a 6 figures yearly income and with no college degree working for a defense contractor. I did work for the Pentagon, NSA, and one former Vice President of the United States. I had great reputation in my field with multiple International Awards to my credit as well. The one dark area of my life that took many years to finally crack was intimate relations. It has taken this long to finally change that aspect. For this I am most grateful. Now, about the SGI. I quit after the sudden shift from Nichiren Buddhism to Ikeda’s emphasis on a mentor and disciple relationship (ultimately with him). Open minded skepticism tells me no way I’m going to follow this unproven philosophy. As a matter of fact the 6 main disciples of Nichiren split and formed their own versions of Nichiren Buddhism. If it didn’t work at the beginning why will it work now? So, no way I’m doing that. The writings of Nichiren himself warns of such nonsense; in particular: Questions and Answers on Embracing the Lotus Sutra, and The Real aspect of the Gohonzon. Read it! The SGI has always exhibited cult-like ways. But I was able to overlook this because my life was developing in ways I never thought possible. But now that they have actually deviated from the true spirit of Buddhism there is no way I can continue to associate with SGI. Today my practice of Nichiren Buddhism is independent of any organization and I frown upon religious organizations as they are always inevitably based on a focus on some person whom is supposed to be “the one”. Nah, no thanks. My life has grown more since I left SGI than when I was in it. SGI was a means to an end. Would I change the past if I could? … No! I enjoyed it, I loved it with my whole heart and soul, but now is now and then is then. Don’t need them, don’t want them in my life. Sad but True!

  76. mervin carter October 17, 2018 at 1:00 am - Reply

    There are pictures of Nichiren but they are drawings that were done while he was alive. I have several such drawings. But I think the matter of whether there are pictures of Nichiren or Ikeda displayed is rather unimportant. What’s most perplexing to me is why the SGI fought so hard to reproduce the Gohonzon they currently use to present to the members and not a copy of an original Nichiren Gohonzon. What is the rationale for that? They had a golden opportunity with the split between laity and priesthood, but ultimately chose something other than an original Nichiren hand scribed scroll. This act smells of an attempt to phase Nichiren to the background, which they have, as they push Ikeda to the forefront. I was able to acquire a Nichiren inscribed gohonzon for my use (not from any person online).
    As to the question about proof of SGI being a cult: look no further than the belief that their leader is infallible and beyond reproach. Any former member to have had conflict with Ikeda has historically been branded as a liar whom took advantage of the members either sexually or monetarily. All of them! Ikeda himself was accused of rape. A young Ikeda, along with a group of young men assaulted a priest back in the late 50’s I think. Not sure about the date but the rest is true. As for the rape allegation: All members of the SGI will acknowledge that Ikeda Sensei is a brilliant, wise and intelligent man. How could such a person allow himself to be in a situation where he was completely alone with a young woman for several hours? Where there’s smoke there’s fire. Point is he is human capable of making mistakes but the members treat such notions as taboo. Is that not a cult?

  77. THOMASSINA GUO October 23, 2018 at 3:09 pm - Reply

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  78. Ivy October 26, 2018 at 7:03 pm - Reply

    I grew up in SGI. In fact, my very existence is often attributed to the practice of SGI Buddhism. My parents never missed an opportunity to remind me that as they had a hard time having children they chanted hours on end every day for me to be born. A beautiful story, perhaps, if it wasn’t one tool among many in my parents’ arsenal of emotional abuse. The indoctrination, dogma, manipulation, and authoritarianism in SGI are absolutely real, whether SGI members like it or not. Marye captured SGI “Buddhism” fairly well but what’s not mentioned is that I’ve found most members of the organization joined as adults. While I noticed plenty of youths move on to keep practicing as adults I found that many aren’t in it after they reach adulthood. Parents in SGI who fail to keep their kids in the organization are publicly pitied and supported but harshly judged behind closed doors. Harshly. It’s considered an utter failure. My parents failed too.

    Growing up you’re taught to chant for your bullies – they aren’t enlightened like you are. Failed your history test? Didn’t chant enough. Every action is judged on good or bad karma. When something bad happens to a child of SGI it’s because they made a bad cause. Knicked a cookie from the cookie jar? Well that’s why the next day sucked so bad. Anything good, no matter how small, is attributed to chanting. The threat of a life of misery at any poor choices was constant. The words are presented in the typical way that appears palatable when you’re in SGI but looking at it from the outside, it’s just fearmongering.

    The notion that SGI are so understanding of other faiths is utter bullshit. Will they engage in peaceful dialogue with other faiths? Absolutely. But after that they constantly speak of how theirs – not just Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism, but very specifically Ikeda-taught Buddhism – is the only key to true happiness. All other faiths are severely looked down on.

    SGI convinces its members the only way to attain happiness is to chant in front of the Gohonzon for at least an hour a day, stay in the organization, study study study, bring others into the organization, and chant in front of the Gohonzon some more. People losing faith or leaving is considered a karma crisis. I had to cut my parents out of my life (not just for the SGI bullshit but many reasons) to get them to stop trying to drag me back in on a daily basis. Forget my own beliefs, my own personal feelings, they were so completely convinced that without SGI Buddhism my life would be in shambles. Ironically it’s never been BETTER since I was rid of the constant dogma.

    And honestly using a following of millions as an argument here isn’t doing SGI any favors. I mean, maybe this is reaching, but look at the president of the US currently. He has a following of millions as well. While they’re vastly different people in appearance, they’ve also both been accused of rape and sexual harassment on several occasions. Food for thought.

    And before anyone who may happen upon this starts to argue, please don’t waste your time. I do support practicing all peaceful faiths. Even Nichiren Buddhism. I don’t support the methods people use to convince others to follow their faiths. I won’t read any replies to this I just needed to say my peace. So don’t waste your time. May you all be at peace.

  79. John Harman November 9, 2018 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    SGI is a cult and banned in many Nations. Nichiren Shoshu excommunicated SGI In 1991 and SGI dramatically changed the tenets, doctrines and practice. SGI by their own statistics has a 90% dropout rate.
    Nichiren Shoshu is not on any cult watchdog list.

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