Before moving to the UK I used to be affiliated with a Buddhist organization called Soka Gakkai. I used to practice my Buddhism religiously. But since moving to the UK, I haven't practised it with any degree for 10-11 years now. I still got the books. I still got the beads. I’ve still got most of the paraphernalia that came with it. But now they are all collecting dust. Sitting there and reminding me of the good times I had with them and the bad times that lead me to them.
I still identify myself as a Buddhist, but now I prefer to use the term Fairweather Buddhist as coined by my former boss and current friend. Sometimes I identify myself as Angry Buddhist as my other half sometimes does.
Since de facto leaving the whole group, it’s been interesting to watch and reflect on my days with them. The reason I joined them in the first place was that I was quite keen on the idea that I and everyone around me had the potential of reaching Buddhahood. Basically I could be better than I am and so can everyone else. This intrigued me on the most basic level and also on a more philanthropical level. Helping others has always been something that I’ve wanted to do. And besides at the time I was in a bad bad place mentally and being a group of like minded people helped. And the chanting as well.
What didn’t help was being told that it was the only true Buddhism. That always grated for the same reason as hearing people that their religion is the one true religion. It doesn’t work like that. You find something that will help YOU. Not to help someone else’s ego.
When I asked what the words meant that I was chanting I was told that there was no need to understand them. Just that I chanted them. Studying was encouraged. But only as far as the SGI curriculum was concerned.
You could only have the Gohonzon, every thing else were false idols. Including my little Buddha statues (That I still own).
Then there were the pilgrimages. And make no mistake that’s what they were. People HAD to make trips to XYZ to attend a conference. That also grated.
It is the cult of personality that Soka Gakkai is. Currently Soka Gakkai seems to be the podium for a gentleman called Daisaku Ikeda. Who writes books, delivers sermons and travels the world and provides words of (contrived platitudes) inspiration. But no one is allowed to dispute his words. He is the messiah. He is the modern day Buddha and no one else is.
And that is just not on. I don't hold with those "qualities" in other religions, why should I tolerate it in mine?
I still got friends involved in the group. And they all do strive for peace and harmony. And that is good. But it all still reeks a little bit of the exchange that Brian (Not the Messiah) had with his followers regarding individuality.