“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:
Gary Ray Editor/Publisher
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Gary L. Ray Editor/Publisher
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
More rebuttal of SG-eye: