SGI had to "create" a new religion after excommunication for copyright/tax reasons?

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KiwiNFLFan
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SGI had to "create" a new religion after excommunication for copyright/tax reasons?

Post by KiwiNFLFan »

I was reading a discussion on the SGIWhistleblowers subreddit (a place for ex-SGI members to vent) about how Nichiren Shoshu held the patent/copyright on Nichiren Buddhism and that after being excommunicated in 1991, Daisaku Ikeda and the SGI had to create a "new" religion for tax purposes.

How true is this? I know that SGI has no concept of priesthood - everything is lay-led and no-one wears any special robes. The ceremonies that required a priest such as the Gojukai (precepts/conversion to Buddhism ceremony) are no longer practiced by the SGI. This was something I was not happy about as I wanted to properly convert to Buddhism, which I later did at my local Thai temple. They do not have "temples" but rather "centers". SGI have also shortened the number of passages recited in Gongyo. I have never been invovled with Nichiren Shoshu (due entirely to geography) so I don't know how the SGI teachings stack up compared to Nichiren Shoshu.

Interestingly enough, it seems like SGI kind of implicitly accepts 1) the authority of the priesthood and 2) that they don't have it. Dropping ceremonies requiring a priest is an indicator of this, but the biggest one is that Ikeda doesn't inscribe his own Gohonzon to be given out to the faithful, but they rather use copies of a Nichikan Gohonzon. If there is truly no distinction between the laity and priesthood, then why doesn't Ikeda inscribe a Gohonzon and why don't SGI district leaders perform Gojukai? In contrast, Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Catholic priesthood, yet Lutheran pastors continue to celebrate the Eucharist/Communion, which according to Catholicism, only an ordained Catholic priest can validly do.

Is there anyone here that was involved with SGI both before and after the excommunication who can attest to whether the religion is significantly different after the split?
narhwal90
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Re: SGI had to "create" a new religion after excommunication for copyright/tax reasons?

Post by narhwal90 »

I was in NSA and SGI now. The basic practice is about the same; gongyo, daimoku and so on. SGI has revised the gongyo books a few times, one can chart the divergence from Nichiren Shoshu wrt the content of the silent prayers. I believe I perceive a slow shift away from Shoshu in some topics; the dai-gohonzon, kaidan, Nichiren as honbutsu (SGI does not emphasize the point, pushing individual human revolution instead). On more obscure points eg ichi vs shoretsu I don't think there is much movement or desire for it. The gosho and human revolution material dominate study- sadly the Lotus Sutra itself is less prominent than it was under NSA.

SGI is an operating organization thus needs all the related legal trappings, and thus copyright of its created works as well.

Its true that after the split all the functions of the ordained priesthood were replaced with SGI activity; for instance gojukai is a local activity but carried out in one's local meeting and conducted by a nearby regional/area SGI leader, nowadays referred to as "conferral" and no vows are required. I was given gojukai at the local Shoshu temple when I started back then, I made the vows as stated, but the NSA lay organization was at all times more relevant wrt practice than the temple ever was. That is possibly a better characterization of the brewing conflict between the priesthood and NSA than anything else I could say. When the split occurred, I stayed with NSA/SGI but a lot of folks went to the "temple" instead. People are attracted variously.

Since culture is not dharma, I find it interesting to see the modern SGI as an experiment; what elements of practice are important and which are not and how that importance is manifested. Personally I preferred the NSA Japanese vocabulary such as "kosen-rufu gongyo" instead of the now used "world peace gongyo" and so on. The "de-japaneseification", if you will, of the practice vocabulary over the last 20 yrs has changed my experience a bit, some old-timers are often marked by continued use of the older terms. I prefer a very sparse practice, others may not.

The usual home altar hasn't changed too much, though the old NSA crane emblem seen on various items is usually replaced by SGI's swirly flower thing (stylized lotus blossom I guess?). I still use my old NSA altar items since they remind me of so many folks I've practiced with.

There are conventions by which gohonzon are designed and created which have evolved since Nichiren, somebody plunking down and making their own would certainly be a departure from them- and why do it? Most gohonzons (since the 1st couple generations after Nichiren) were composed of design elements of older ones, or are outright copies. Theres nothing pernicious about that other than forgeries presented as originals (which has often happened). Consider the difficulty of duplication back in the old days and the constant need for new gohonzons, and the value of a pious copy vs an original done by oneself. What if SGI published a gohonzon made by Mr Ikeda (when he was in good health), consisting of a copy of one of Nichiren's originals? What about the Independents who print their own, from scanned originals? Depending on one's perspective the Independents might have the most orthodox gohonzons of all.
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Queequeg
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Re: SGI had to "create" a new religion after excommunication for copyright/tax reasons?

Post by Queequeg »

KiwiNFLFan wrote: Wed May 22, 2019 12:30 pm I was reading a discussion on the SGIWhistleblowers subreddit (a place for ex-SGI members to vent) about how Nichiren Shoshu held the patent/copyright on Nichiren Buddhism and that after being excommunicated in 1991, Daisaku Ikeda and the SGI had to create a "new" religion for tax purposes.

How true is this? I know that SGI has no concept of priesthood - everything is lay-led and no-one wears any special robes. The ceremonies that required a priest such as the Gojukai (precepts/conversion to Buddhism ceremony) are no longer practiced by the SGI. This was something I was not happy about as I wanted to properly convert to Buddhism, which I later did at my local Thai temple. They do not have "temples" but rather "centers". SGI have also shortened the number of passages recited in Gongyo. I have never been invovled with Nichiren Shoshu (due entirely to geography) so I don't know how the SGI teachings stack up compared to Nichiren Shoshu.

Interestingly enough, it seems like SGI kind of implicitly accepts 1) the authority of the priesthood and 2) that they don't have it. Dropping ceremonies requiring a priest is an indicator of this, but the biggest one is that Ikeda doesn't inscribe his own Gohonzon to be given out to the faithful, but they rather use copies of a Nichikan Gohonzon. If there is truly no distinction between the laity and priesthood, then why doesn't Ikeda inscribe a Gohonzon and why don't SGI district leaders perform Gojukai? In contrast, Martin Luther rejected the authority of the Catholic priesthood, yet Lutheran pastors continue to celebrate the Eucharist/Communion, which according to Catholicism, only an ordained Catholic priest can validly do.

Is there anyone here that was involved with SGI both before and after the excommunication who can attest to whether the religion is significantly different after the split?
I would take whatever you read there with a grain of salt. You know in Return of the Jedi where the Emperor is trying to get Luke to let the hate flow? Well, that's an example of what that looks like in real life.

There are the legal requirements of every modern organization - you need corporate status to have bank accounts, own property, employ people, pay salaries, etc. To the extent that they had to make changes from being a lay organization associated with an established sect to an independent group under the Japanese religious corporation laws... that's just the reality of life in the modern world. It doesn't really have much significance. Same goes for copyright and other intellectual property. It legal formalities.

Do those formalities affect an individual person's practice? Maybe in some abstract way, but when you sit and recite gongyo, that is not something that anyone can own. That's you and the Sandaihiho.

As for vows... technically there are no vows in Nichiren's teaching other than the Diamond Precept - NMRK. Everything else is supplemental.

There will always be people trying to insinuate themselves into your awakening. The Devadattas are rampant. Don't let them. We have spiritual friends, but we all walk the path ourselves.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
dude
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Re: SGI had to "create" a new religion after excommunication for copyright/tax reasons?

Post by dude »

I have been a member since the 1970's and saw (from a distance) the schism as it happened.
The practice is the same as it ever was : reciting the Lotus Sutra and chanting its title (Nam Myoho Renge Kyo). The former has been shortened significantly to make it possible for people to practice "correcctly" even if they don't have hours each day free to carry it out.
True, some of the formalities have been discarded, and things have changed a little in the USA contingent of SGI. The organization is less regimented, less authoritarian, and there is less deference shown to all things Japanese. I attribute these changes in the SGI-USA culture more to the organization maturing and gaining more and more non-Japanese members than any changes at the top.
As for inscribing Gohonzon, the organization is growing so fast we would have to streamline it some kinda way anyway. I have indeed (long in the past now) heard people talk about how Ikedasensei should do it.
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gohonzon
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Re: SGI had to "create" a new religion after excommunication for copyright/tax reasons?

Post by gohonzon »

SGI making their own interpretative Gohonzon for their believers is an excellent decision.

Yes, that would be a tremendous benefit for everyone concerned and I can imagine many Nichiren Shoshu believers would also be delighted for the senior SGI leadership to stop using any renditions of the Dai Gohonzon image that is transcribed and copied by the High Priests of Nichiren Shoshu.

Makes things a little easier, cleaner, clearer and settled once and for all of us. In this modern age, I am sincerely hopeful that some sect of Nichiren Shu (with their open/mixing practice) could accommodate the Soka Gakkai vision for implementing its own Gohonzon. They ought to.
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