A Renewed Sense of Purpose
I practiced as a member of Nichiren Shoshu for the past eight years. I would like to share what I experienced as a temple member.
I was introduced to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism 37 years ago in San Diego by a Soka Gakkai member. I was dissatisfied with Shinto, my family's religion. An SGI woman left a book by Josei Toda with me and I was impressed. I joined in October of 1963.
A year later, my husband got transferred to Seattle, and once there, I met Mrs. Hiroe Clow. She was a warm, honest, and sincere woman. Shortly after moving to Seattle, there were difficulties in our marriage, I returned to San Diego with my three children, and later we were divorced.
I had never worked (outside of raising three children) before. My husband wouldn't pay child support. There were days when we didn't have food. I had no skills. I chanted to find a job. Eventually I became a waitress and met my second husband. We were together for 23 years, until his death in 1991. Because of the support of SGI members, I was able to overcome every obstacle as it arose in my life.
My life was going so good, I lost touch with the daily goings-on of SGI.
In 1991, a friend told me about the schism between the SGI and Nichiren Shoshu. Because the Gohonzon I received was from Nichiren Shoshu, I decided to go to the temple to find out what this was all about. The priest there told me that the SGI was trying to take over the priesthood. I trusted him so I went to the temple.
At this time the Etiwanda temple was virtually deserted. With the few members that were left and the priest, we united to protect our temple and Nichiren Shoshu. At first practicing with the temple seemed to go well.
Then around 1993, things began to change. The head temple replaced the chief priest. After that, instead of having open discussion meetings, the meetings became very cold; the new priest was very controlling. The priest had to obey the High Priest and everything was handled in a secret manner; believers were kept in the dark. We could no longer voice our opinions, talk about our problems, or make suggestions.
The temple stopped our study meetings. Study was reduced to a priest reading a one page passage without any explanation or discussion. At all these meetings we were expected to make a financial contribution. Many American members realized that they could learn nothing at the temple so they studied the Gosho on their own at home.
Doubts about Nichiren Shoshu grew in me. This doubt stemmed from the priests' insistence that Hiroe Clow lied, and also the destruction of the Grand Main Temple and the Grand Reception Hall. What disturbed me most was the fact that Nikken was using a huge amount of financial contributions to rebuild these structures. I had contributed to the Grand Main Temple in 1965. I honestly cannot understand why it was destroyed.
For the last three years as a temple member, I stopped attending most activities. I found them to be void of all spirituality. Most temple members were consumed by trivial interests, gossip, and complaints about the priest. There was no encouragement from the priest either. All he ever said was to be friendly, unified, and of course, we should have absolute obedience to the high priest.
My eyes opened slowly to the reality of the priesthood. After five years with the temple I saw no growth in my life. I thought about the old days with the SGI. I remembered so much joy and so many breakthroughs. Then I remembered that it was the SGI and not the priests who introduced me to this practice.
I returned to the SGI after the sincere encouragement of Danny Nagashima. I was impressed with his polite attitude, his humility and his passion. He listened with all his heart to all I had to say. This encounter prompted me to leave Nichiren Shoshu. I was determined to return afresh to the spirit I had when I first encountered this Buddhism.
Now I am surrounded by many warmhearted people. I can see many of my old fellow SGI members and even some temple members who also left the temple. When they see me they comment on how much more happy I look.
I may have stayed too long at the temple because of pride. Now I feel a renewed sense of purpose. I believe experience is power, and I will continue to share this experience.
[Excerpted from the 2/11/00
Tribune, p. 4]