The New "NSA"
In the past, I wrote about the Independent Reassessment Group (IRG) and the SGI Reform Group. Now I find myself writing about a new organization called Nichiren Society of America (or NSA). The interesting thing to me is that these three groups each represent a different evolutionary stage in a process of dissociation that has been going on for the past few years. These groups are, for the most part, composed of and dominated by the same people.
To briefly recap, IRG presented itself as a group of loyal SGI members who merely wanted to reform the organization. Sadly, the methods they chose could (and did) only lead to continued dissatisfaction. They issued position papers to the top SGI-USA leaders, telling them what they thought was wrong.
The idea promoted on the IRG discussion board was that certain leaders were holding SGI members back from creating a truly democratic and open organization — by teaching and believing this, IRGers bought into personal victimhood. They believed that the things that were wrong with SGI and with their own lives were the results of actions by OTHER PEOPLE.
Inevitably, this led to feelings of powerlessness and helplessness — not exactly the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. Even though he was abused by the authorities, exiled, and left for dead (a situation where most would have given up), the Daishonin wrote that he was the richest man in Japan. Because his practice sustained him through anything, he never gave up, no matter what. We Buddhists believe in self-empowerment.
Wanting to assuage their condition of helplessness, many IRG adherents hoped that the new SGI Reform Group would be more successful. Their first action consisted of issuing their Reform Declaration, which was widely circulated on the Internet. Again, the emphasis was on other people changing so that problems could be solved. No longer addressing just leaders, the group attempted to reach as many SGI members as possible, encouraging complaint and forming networks of like-minded people.
Just as on the IRG message board, a pattern was established on the reform board: people joined, their complaints were encouraged and then escalated, and leaders were demonized. An alternative form of practice, an “independent practice” not associated with any organization, was promoted. Shortly after issuing the Declaration, most of its earliest supporters decided to leave SGI and practice “independently.”
That’s when NSA became established. It’s an organization that is not an organization. It’s “anything goes” Buddhism.
As soon as NSA was established, discussion on its message board turned to how to acquire statues of Shakyamuni and where to get alternative gongyo books. As people become unaffiliated with SGI, they also let go of what they have learned there. Soon their beliefs drifted all over the map, becoming indistinguishable from doctrines that Nichiren Daishonin denounced. And soon the infighting and arguing began.
Seeing the changes that these unfortunate people go through brings to my mind this passage from the Lotus Sutra, regarding the parable of the excellent physician and his sick children:
“Those who are out of their minds are equally delighted to see their father return and beg him to cure their sickness, but when they are given the medicine, they refuse to take it. Why? Because the poison has penetrated deeply and their minds no longer function as before.”Practicing without an organization is a sad step for anyone to take. It means you’ve cut yourself off from other opinions and ideas, other voices chanting with you, others’ support when you are down. It means incredible difficulty in introducing others to Buddhism.
In “Reply to Jakunichibo,” the Daishonin wrote:
“‘This person will practice among the people...’ means that the first five hundred years of the Latter Day of the Law will witness the advent of Bodhisattva Jogyo, who will illuminate the darkness of human ignorance and earthly desires with the torch of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nichiren's endeavors to have all the Japanese embrace the Lotus Sutra are the work of Bodhisattva Jogyo. His unremitting efforts never slacken, even here on this mountain.”We followers of Nichiren Daishonin have a mission, corny as it may sound, and our efforts must never slacken no matter what. We have to spread Buddhism. To do that, contact with other people is vital. Working together as a team is vital.
The Gosho says:
“All disciples and believers of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with one mind (itai doshin), transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim.”Only in SGI is this happening. Nowhere else.
Copyright Kathy Ruby 2002. May not be quoted without written permission.