41) “CyberSangha — Millionaire in Harvard Square”
Note: CyberSangha is no longer published. Nichiren Shoshu started posting this on ARBN as soon as it was published. They continue posting it, despite being aware of these responses, which Nichiren Shoshu has never bothered to respond to: 

April 18, 1996 
Mr. Gary Ray Editor/Publisher 
PO Box 2688 
Alameda, CA 94501-0688 
To the Editor: 
In Editor’s Perspective (Spring issue, CyberSangha), you say you prefer “wrathful bodhisattvas” as writers for your journal. You pause, though, to wonder: How do we know when the line is crossed between the actions of a bodhisattva and simple mean-spiritedness? After reading Laurence O. McKinney’s article “Millionaire in Harvard Square” carried in the pages of this same issue, I think you have your answer.

The line is surely crossed when you print a demeaning picture making fun of the object of worship (a sacred scroll) venerated by millions of sincere Buddhist practitioners. It is also crossed when you allow a writer to so distort the facts about a group of people making dedicated efforts to contribute to a peaceful world the goal of Mahayana Buddhist practice. Since you say you are “unlikely messengers of the truth,” I’d like to correct major and minor errors in your writer’s understanding of the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century and its activities.

Major errors: McKinney’s main thesis is that the Center is a vehicle created by its founder in order to make a “connection” with Harvard University. To support that idea, he sorted through the information we sent him and arbitrarily selected names of Harvard academics while he totally ignored our real, stated mission and the innumerable other scholars and activists collaborating in our programs. The Boston Research Center was created in a sincere effort by its founder to sponsor and share dialogues among scholars and activists on peace-related issues in particular, intercultural and interreligious understanding, human rights, shared values, and UN reform. A reasonable person, even from a cursory look at our publications, would conclude that our activities accurately reflect this mission. McKinney chose, instead, to cook up a theory fitting his own view of the world: that all anybody wants is a “Harvard connection.” Could this be his personal obsession? I don’t know, but it is certainly not what we’re doing here. 

Yes, the Center has hosted Harvard scholars from a variety of disciplines to speak on issues relevant to peace. But it’s a big stretch to say that our mission is, therefore, to ingratiate ourselves with them. In fact, they happen to be a small proportion of the interesting people who have contributed their views to our dialogues. In the two books we’ve published so far The United Nations and the World’s Religions: Prospects for a Global Ethic and A People’s Response to Our Global Neighborhood, the actual count is two people from Harvard out of ten participants in the first dialogue book, and one out of twenty-five in the second. McKinney’s major thesis simply does not compute!

Another key theme in McKinney’s article is that this is a “stealth center,” trying to hide its existence from everyone. If so, why would we send thousands of people a regular newsletter that covers all of the Center’s activities? Why do we go to such lengths to publish and share our dialogues? Hundreds of people, McKinney among them, have attended forums at the Center because of the vigorous outreach we’ve done. If we are a “stealth center,” then we must be giving new meaning to the term. 

Minor errors: Our logo bears no resemblance to the Cambridge Zen Center’s logo. If you look closely at the tongue-in-cheek picture CyberSangha printed of the Center, you’ll notice a banner that’s been flying on the front of the building since we moved in. This banner bears our name and our logo. The logo is a large blue wave, representing waves of peace, and a radiating, sun-like symbol. This logo appears on all our stationery, including the letter we sent to Mr. McKinney with information on the Center; and it was even carefully explained in the first issue of our newsletter. In fact, I told Laurence McKinney before his article went to press that the building facade is not our logo, but he seems to know better. 

We have not ignored other Buddhists, as McKinney claims. Buddhists and people from any other religious tradition interested in the issues we are pursuing are more than welcome to attend the public dialogues we’ve been holding. What, by the way, is wrong with stating on a flyer that our lectures are “free and open to the public” but “seating is limited” with a request for an RSVP. We have been hosting events that fill our lecture hall, seating 100 to 150 people at a time and serving refreshments for those who come and enjoy these dialogues. An estimated count of expected guests is necessary to adequately plan this kind of event. In fact, when a dialogue has been over-subscribed like our two forums last fall on the Beijing Women’s Conference attracting several hundred people each time we turned no one away, renting TV monitors to accommodate the crowd.

We are dues-paying members of the Harvard Buddhist Studies Forum. McKinney states we haven’t given them a “yen.” The issues we have held dialogues on nonviolence, the global ethic, and UN reform have not yet attracted substantial numbers of Buddhist guests, although there have certainly been some Buddhists there, and our intention has always been to open our dialogues to all religious traditions. The Center’s lecture series this spring on Religion and Trans-national Civil Society which we are promoting in collaboration with the American Academy of Religion, the Harvard Buddhist Studies Forum, the International Association for Religious Freedom, the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies, and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, among others includes a presentation on “Socially Engaged Buddhism in Asia and the West” by two Buddhist scholars. Perhaps this will be of more particular interest to area Buddhists. 

As editor, do you care when CyberSangha crosses the line between the actions of a bodhisattva and simple mean-spiritedness? If you do, I hope you will let your readers decide for themselves when that line has been crossed, by printing in full these corrections to Mr. McKinney’s biased article about the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century.

Virginia Strauss 
Executive Director 
May 3, 1996 
Mr. Gary L. Ray Editor/Publisher 
P.O. Box 2688 
Alameda, CA 94501
Dear Editor: 
I write to correct some mistakes about the nature of our organization and its president, Daisaku Ikeda, which appeared in your spring edition in an article written by Laurence O. McKinney.

The part of the article that was most disturbing was the writer’s (and photographer’s) mocking display of our religion’s sacred object of worship, the Gohonzon. To see how the author chose to portray this essential core of our Buddhist practice in an utterly frivolous and disparaging manner was both disturbing and distasteful.

Daisaku Ikeda, contrary to the reporter’s opinion, does not seek to be “a legitimate spokesman for world Buddhism.” He is, however, indisputably a legitimate spokesman for the Soka Gakkai International (SGI) and pursues a format of dialogue with a variety of individuals both powerful and common citizens because he, along with most Soka Gakkai members, believes that such action is indeed a building block toward world peace. 

I was surprised by the writer’s gratuitous comments about the “dialogues” that he describes as constituting much of the activity of the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century. His implication that dialogue “is not about the Lotus Sutra, it is not about World Peace, it is not even about Buddhism,” is ill-informed. The Lotus Sutra itself is a dialogue between Shakyamuni Buddha and his followers. The SGI believes that respectful dialogue as opposed to debate is one of the most essential manifestations of Buddhist thought. It is this spirit and this principle that the SGI had intended to be infused into the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century. There was no other reason for the Center’s founding.

The SGI does not parallel traditional Buddhist schools because it does not overly concern itself with traditional religious formalities. The organization, rather, upholds both a religious and a social mission. Its members seek to apply the benefits of a religious practice based on the teachings of the 13th century monk Nichiren to a philosophy of life that we refer to as “human revolution.” The personal empowerment generated by our Buddhist practice is the source of energy allowing us to strive toward such philosophical principles of human revolution as learning to live without fear, to take responsibility for our individual environments and whatever befalls us, to create value at every waking moment, and to cherish our families and friends. If many millions of people aspire to live with that sort of world view, the positive effects in society will be noticeable. 

The writer also seems to be confused about the relationship between the Soka Gakkai and the Nichiren sect priesthood with which it split. He twice implies that the Soka Gakkai employs “methods pioneered and modernized by the Nichiren sect.” This is not correct.

The Soka Gakkai’s hesitance in the past to participate in more interfaith activities was due to the priesthood’s directives to not associate with what it considered heretical schools of thought. Some of the few legitimate criticisms of our organization that the writer raised in the article stem from the control of the SGI by what we now realize to be irrelevant and disrespectful religious formalities asserted by the Nichiren sect priesthood. Since the 1991 excommunication of the SGI’s entire membership (not just Mr. Ikeda and his staff, as the article states), the SGI has been free to pursue interfaith activities, which it does locally on a worldwide basis. As one larger example, since 1994 the SGI has co-sponsored with the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center the most extensive exhibition in Japan on the Holocaust, which has been viewed by more than one million people.

The Nichiren sect priesthood has insisted that SGI members could not achieve enlightenment without the intermediation of the priests. This is contrary, we believe, to the liberating spirit of Buddhism. The SGI and certainly not the Nichiren sect has been a progressive force among Nichiren-based organizations in the past half- century.

Regarding more mundane matters, the SGI representative that the reporter cites is named Rob Eppsteiner, not Rob Epstein. And hundreds of SGI Boston members have either visited or attended meetings at the Boston Research Center for the 21st Century. We’re proud that this facility is located in our area, and quite a few of our members are involved in the various events held there.

I realize that the article was mostly devoted to the research center, but I hope that you will also take into consideration these comments regarding the SGI. Thank you. 

Steve Potoff, 
Regional Director

More rebuttal of SG-eye:
1) "Harassment"
2) "Airbrushing and Doctoring Photos"
3) "Internet Domain Games"
4) "Disgusting Articles and Speeches"
5) "Just Plain Crazy"
6) "Gakkai Casts Voodoo Spells"
7) "Arson"

1) " Soka Gakkai — Japan's Militant Buddhists"
2) "Australia — Rush Hour of the Gods"
     "San Francisco Chronicle"
3) "Los Angeles Times"
4) "Straits Times"
5) "Look  Magazine 1963"
6) "Weekly Post — High Priest's Room Bugged"
7) "Mainichi Daily News — Soka Gakkai Leader Arrested for Grizzly Murder"
8) "Weekly Post — President Ikeda plans to appoint his son as successor"
9) "Weekly Post — Indictments by former American Members"
10) "Asia Times: Sex Case Haunts Religious Leader"
     "Japan Times"
     "Honolulu Star Bulletin"
     "Victims of the Soka Gakkai Association"

11) "New York Times (2 stories): 
    1. "Soka Gakkai Linked to Tokyo Stock Scandal"
    2. "Money Found In Dump"
12) "New Frontier Party Is the Party of the SGI"
     "Problems Within the Komeito and the Soka Gakkai"
13) "Other Activities of the Soka Gakkai"
14) "Fight Against Coercive Tactics Mentions SGI"
15) "Japan Times — Invasion of the Body Snatchers"
16) "Leader of SGI Priests Ordered to Vacate Temple"
17) "Weekly Post — Women's Division Leader stabs her SGI leader boyfriend"
18) "TACL January 1992"
19) "Public Records Reveal SGI is Pirating Name of Former Religion"
20) "Problems With Komeito and Soka Gakkai"
21) "Buddhism American Style"
     "How a controversial Japanese religious group wins friends"
22) "Funny Money Stories Uncovered in Japan — Boston Globe"
23) "Far Eastern Economic Review"
     "Weekly Post — SGI Chairman Daisaku Ikeda & Politics"
24) "Minneapolis Star Tribune — Cults of the Nineties"
25) "Broward - Palm Beach New Times"
26) "Time — Power of the Soka Gakkai/Following the Leader"
27) "Manchester Guardian"
28) "Tokyo Journal — Statesman, Billionaire, God"
29) "Newsweek"
30) "BBC: The Chanting Millions"
31) "SGI Tries To Censor BBC"
32) "U.S. Court Transcripts of SGI Harassment"
33) "SGI Harassment in Korea"
34) "Washington Post — New Cults Flourish in Japan"
     "Sect Bent on Worldly Power"
35) "LA Court Transcript"
36) "Cults on Tokyo Campuses"
37) "Asahi Shimbun — Soka Gakkai Sending Warning Signals to the Religious World"
38) "Who is Daisaku Ikeda — in his own words"
39) "State Senator letter to the United Nations"
40) "Weekly Post — Japan, Haven for Religious Groups"
41) "Cyber Sangha — Millionaire in Harvard Square"
42) " SGI Exchanges Humanitarian Award with Castro"