1. A destructive cult tends to be totalitarian in its control of its members' behavior. Cults are likely to dictate in great detail not only what members believe, but also what members wear and eat, when and where members work, sleep, and bathe, and how members think, speak, and conduct familial, marital, or sexual relationships.
Response: This "Warning Sign" does not apply at all to SGI. SGI members are actually encouraged to develop and grow and blossom in their own individual ways. The Buddhist principle of O bai to ri explains that each person is different and that those differences are precious. From the Ongi Kuden, the collection of the Daishonin's oral teachings (found at http://www.angelfire.com/mi2/mica2/OngiKudenMuryogiSutra.html):
"In other words, each entity's individuality is as unique as cherry, plum, peach or apricot [Jp: o, bai, to, ri] and, just as it is, manifests itself as the Buddha who inherently possesses the three enlightened properties."You may also find relevant the experience posted at http://www.gakkaionline.net/Experiences/MailAnger.html, where a woman describes what it's like working with someone she disliked:
President Ikeda writes that the objective of our faith lies in the continuous revolution of our own lives. Kosen Rufu is just that revolution, aimed at contributing to the peace and culture of mankind. He's not saying, when you do your human revolution, then Kosen Rufu can happen; he's saying that human revolution IS kosen-rufu.
2. A destructive cult tends to have an ethical double standard. Members are urged to be obedient to the cult, to carefully follow cult rules. They are also encouraged to be revealing and open in the group, confessing all to the leaders. On the other hand, outside the group they are encouraged to act unethically, manipulating outsiders or nonmembers, and either deceiving them or simply revealing very little about themselves or the group. In contrast to destructive cults, honorable groups teach members to abide by one set of ethics and act ethically and truthfully to all people in all situations.
Response: Again, this "Warning Sign" does not apply at all to SGI. The goal of practice in SGI is self-reformation -- to become a better person. Certainly, there is no double standard in effect. One ex-SGI member had to admit: "Honestly, SGI does not get involved in the personal lives of its members …" (from http://www.rickross.com/reference/gakkai/gakkai19.html)
3. A destructive cult has only two basic purposes: recruiting new members and fund-raising. Altruistic movements, established religions, and other honorable groups also recruit and raise funds. However, these actions are incidental to an honorable group's main purpose of improving the lives of its members and of humankind in general. Destructive cults may claim to make social contributions, but in actuality such claims are superficial and only serve as gestures or fronts for recruiting and fund-raising. A cult's real goal is to increase the prestige and often the wealth of the leader.
Response: This does not apply to SGI, an organization with the goal of world peace. To that end, SGI has labored at length, promoting dialogue around the world and in our communities. Some peace activities are listed at:http://www.eaglepeak.clara.co.uk/peacehome.html
4. A destructive cult appears to be innovative and exclusive. The leader claims to be breaking with tradition, offering something novel, and instituting the ONLY viable system for change that will solve life's problems or the world's ills. But these claims are empty and only used to recruit members who are then surreptitiously subjected to mind control to inhibit their ability to examine the actual validity of the claims of the leader and the cult.
Response: What is it that is being offered in SGI? It is a Buddhist practice that is carried out by the INDIVIDUAL, not controlled by the group. Whatever results one has are based SOLELY on one's individual practice not on any validation by the group of believers. From the SGI-USA website: "The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) was formed to support practitioners of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism and help them teach others about it on a global scale."
And are the claims of SGI empty claims? Ask an SGI member. If they were not getting something out of the Buddhist practice on a regular basis, why would they continue practicing?
I am also mystified by the idea of
SGI using mind control. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my
opinion. Practicing Buddhism with SGI enables one to fully realize one's
own mind in front of the Gohonzon. The Buddhist principle of O bai to
ri explains that each person is different and that those differences
5. A destructive cult is authoritarian in its power structure. The leader is regarded as the supreme authority. He or she may delegate certain power to a few subordinates for the purpose of seeing that members adhere to the leader's wishes. There is no appeal outside his or her system to a greater system of justice. For example, if a schoolteacher feels unjustly treated by a principal, an appeal can be made to the superintendent. In a destructive cult, the leader claims to have the only and final ruling on all matters.
Response: There is no such concentration of authority in SGI. Each local area has its own local coordinators who merely convey information about meetings and various activities. There is no one in place to judge what a believer thinks or does.Here are some of the guidelines designed for leaders in SGI (from the March 1990 Seikyo Times):
"It is important for leaders to be fair and impartial and to hear out opinions that differ from their own. Having the broad-mindedness to consider others’ views will win you the respect of your juniors. If you have the humility to treasure members who offer good suggestions, you will be able to raise many capable people. By giving sincere consideration to diverse opinions, you can develop a broad, flexible outlook and make stable progress.
"Discussing all things openly as siblings or members of a family, please proceed hand in hand, step by step, toward construction and growth. In this sense, the world of Buddhism must be a model of democracy.
"Without personal growth, a leader loses his appeal. Not only are the juniors of such a person affected, but he will himself arrive at an impasse. People will not follow him, and as a result he will try to control them by weight of authority. Such arrogance, however, can only drive people even farther away. It is a vicious circle.
"If leaders make constant efforts to study hard, grow, and maintain a sense of freshness, the organization will advance and be filled with dynamism. An organization will change and develop only to the extent that leaders change and develop themselves. The advancement of kosen-rufu in the community and country proceeds likewise."
6. A destructive cult's leader is a self-appointed messianic person claiming to have a special mission in life. For example, leaders of flying saucer cults claim that beings from outer space have commissioned them to lead people away from Earth, so that only the leaders can save them from impending doom.
Response: In SGI, leaders are simply people who corrdinate activities. They are no more enlightened or "worthy" than even the newest practitioner. For example, this guidance is designed for leaders (from the March 1990 Seikyo Times):
"All people are equal. There are absolutely no distinctions of superior and inferior among human beings. Differences of position in an organization are temporary and provisional. They are no more than an expedient means for enabling all members to practice joyfully and become truly happy.
7. A destructive cult's leader centers the veneration of members upon himself or herself. Priests, rabbis, ministers, democratic leaders, and other leaders of genuinely altruistic movements focus the veneration of adherents on God or a set of ethical principles. Cult leaders, in contrast, keep the focus of love, devotion, and allegiance on themselves.
Response: The focus in SGI is on one's individual practice. To that end, we chant, study and encourage each other. There is no hierarchy -- everyone is equal. In fact, basing one's practice on another person can be extremely dangerous. Here is an example of a Buddhist way of thinking (from the March 1990 Seikyo Times):
"it should be pointed out that the 'Law,' not the 'person,' is to be regarded as the proper standard in all things. Putting the person first gives you an uncertain standard; it is to let that person’s mind become your master. At some point, relations based on such a standard will become like those existing between a paternal, godfather-like figure and those bound to him by personal loyalty."
8. A destructive cult's leader tends to be determined, domineering, and charismatic. Such a leader effectively persuades followers to abandon or alter their families, friends, and careers to follow the cult. The leader then takes control over followers' possessions, money, time, and lives.
Response: The opposite is true in SGI. Believers are encouraged to maintain and strengthen their ties with the community, on the job, and in the family. This example is from the March 1990 Seikyo Times:
"Our organization for kosen-rufu exists so that each member can attain absolute happiness. Let me make it perfectly clear that the objective of this organization is your happiness.
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