So, it’s now almost 8 months since I made the decision to quit the SGI. My reasons for quitting were primarily my inability to stomach the Ikeda worship, but since that time I have also come to regard the whole Nichiren movement as too entangled with materialism at a fundamental level. It’s pointless trying to explain this to anyone who is still in the SGI why this is so, but anyone who has spent any time studying Buddhism in a broader context with an open heart will hopefully understand where I’m coming from.
Anyway, the point of this little article is not to try and convince SGI Buddhists they are doing anything wrong, but simply to report on my experience of the SGI since I left. So here it is…
… that’s it. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
Nobody has hassled me to come back to the collective lest I fall into the Avici Hell. No ominous visits from district leaders, or threats regarding the Gohonzon I still have in my possession. In fact nobody has contacted me at all apart from a good friend who I help in a work related capacity – and he has never pressured me or even made the slightest suggestion regarding my practice. In fact things have remained as cordial as ever since I left.
So, regardless of the history of SGI USA and how things may or may not be over there right now, over here in the UK I see no evidence of cult behaviour in the membership itself. Yes, I’m sure that the Art of Living is still a monthly journal of Ikeda worship, but that’s to be expected as the SGI’s brand of Buddhism is evangelical and personality led, but I just felt it was right to report to the world that the SGI in the UK is pretty harmless in a conventional sense, and certainly not the dangerous organisation it has been cracked up to be by some.
I suspect if I had stuck around for much longer, then I might have begun to “feel” more locked in, but then that would have been a fabrication of my own mind. When I left, I felt nothing more than the mild disappointment that any friend might feel when a member of a group decides to leave.
I’m currently practicing a mixture of silent meditation and chanting of various mantras depending on what life is like at the time. The more I have read, the more I have come to realise how ridiculous it is to think I am any authority on the subject. While I enjoy writing about Buddhism I’m unsure what I can contribute as the Internet is already full to bursting with more academically (and spiritually in a lot of cases) competent commentary.
The book I wrote has just gone past 700 downloads, but I’ve yet to receive a single comment, which perhaps says more than I need to know about any value it has added to it’s reader’s lives.
The good thing to come out of all this is that I am happy to accept my place, for now, simply as a guy who is handy with WordPress, who likes to blather on about his spiritual beliefs in the hope that he might reach out and encourage even one person to transform their suffering. I have come to realise that I can only write with any authority on my own experience – if I try to teach people Buddhism I will probably fail, but if I write about how it’s helped me, then that may help someone, so that’s what I’ll do from here on in. As my friend David at theendlessfurther.com says “Practice is everything” – without daily practice, you’re basically not connecting with yourself at all.