On April 30th, the SGI-USA sent out the following memo for general distribution. It speaks for itself. Following are selected letters and excerpts of letters from the huge amount of mail this memo has generated.
April 30, 2001
Memo No. PLN-030
All Region, Zones and Office Managers
All SGI-USA Members
SGI-USA Member Services Center
Distribution of Gohonzon and Statement about the IRG
It is hoped that the following memo will help all SGI-USA leaders share a
correct understanding about the distribution of Gohonzon and about the
Independent Reassessment Group (IRG).
If you have any questions or comments, please contact Margie Hall in the Member
Services Center at (310) 260-8933 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Below is only the last third of this memo which specifically pertains to IRG.
It is hoped that the following will help all SGI-USA leaders share a correct
understanding about the Independent Reassessment Group (IRG).
SGI-USA's Statement on the
Independent Reassessment Group (IRG)
Many SGI-USA members have been asking about the activities of the Independent
Reassessment Group, which has stated its intention to "help our organization
to continue its development." SGI-USA always welcomes dialogue, and always
strives to improve the organization, but here are some points to keep in mind
regarding the IRG:
-- In recent months, the IRG, which maintains its own web site and message
board, has been highly critical of the SGI leadership. It has opposed
several core positions and policies that are based on the Daishonin's
writings. Here are some examples: IRG members have argued that the
mentor-and-disciple relationship is not part of the Daishonin's Buddhism and
that the SGI is a cult of personality; that refuting erroneous teachings has
no basis in the Daishonin's writings; and that anyone who wants to can
distribute or create Gohonzon.
Essentially, the IRG is offering views that go against the SGI and the
-- The IRG has seven official members but a large number of people have
participated in the wide-ranging dialogue sponsored on its message board,
including SGI-USA members, Minobu sect members, and so-called "independents"
(people who say they are practicing the Daishonin's Buddhism on their own).
-- IRG members have now started promoting an e-mail newsletter called
Reflections, which to this point has offered only mild opposition to the SGI's direction. Because Reflections presents itself as "an e-journal for SGI-USA members," many members across the country have been confused as to whether Reflections is an official journal of the SGI-USA.
It is not.
-- The Independent Reassessment Group is not an officially recognized part of
the SGI-USA organization. Many of the positions it promotes deviate from or
contradict Nichiren Daishonin's teachings and the policies of the SGI-USA.
For this reason, promotion of the IRG's activities is unacceptable at SGI-USA
IRG's Official Response to SGI
Dear Ms. Hall:
We are writing as the Independent Reassessment Group (IRG). We know that you
have received individual letters containing the personal views of several of
us, but we felt it was important to also send our response as a group, now
that we have had time to discuss this amongst ourselves. We wish to clearly
state our concerns with the issuance and contents of Memo PLN-030, and we
respectfully request that you pass this letter on to all involved in its
writing and approval.
First, we object to the issuance of an official policy statement regarding
the IRG in the same memo as one regarding Gohonzon distribution. Although
the IRG message board has at times had discussions about the issues involved
in Gohonzon distribution, the IRG has no position on this matter. It is not
part of our Mission Statement or any of our position papers. Including
comments about the IRG in "the same breath" as those about Gohonzon
distribution gives the appearance that we are in some way connected to that
issue. As a group, we are not.
Second, we object strongly to the portrayal of the IRG in that portion of
Memo PLN-030. At the beginning of that section it says:
"...but here are some points to keep in mind regarding the IRG:"
Following that is a list of items which we do not need to quote in detail
here. Included in the list are clear statements, presented as fact, which
are false and/or misleading. The following statements are included:
1. "IRG members have argued that the mentor-and-disciple relationship is not
part of the Daishonin's Buddhism"
2. [IRG members have argued that] "refuting erroneous teachings has no basis
in the Daishonin's writings"
These two statements are simply false. These issues have been discussed, and
questions about emphasis and understanding and application of these key
Buddhist points have been talked about and debated, but the implication that
we believe either principle is not a part of the Daishonin's Buddhism is
absurd. One would have to discard the Gosho and the Lotus Sutra in order to
uphold such positions. For the SGI-USA to officially state that we have made
such arguments is not true, is an insult, and is slanderous, in our opinion.
In sending such information for distribution to all SGI-USA members you have
damaged our credibility and reputations as practitioners of the Buddhism of
3. [IRG members have argued] "that anyone who wants to can distribute or
While it is true that some individuals have taken this position, as stated
above, the IRG as a group takes no position on this matter. To include it in
the memo's list of "points to keep in mind regarding the IRG" is unfair and
misleading. It implies that the IRG as a group is involved in or supportive
of this position. As a group it is neither.
4. "Many of the positions [IRG] promotes deviate from or contradict Nichiren
This is false. All of us are practicing the Daishonin's Buddism to the best
of our ability. Most of us have been at it as long, or longer than, whomever
wrote this memo, with as much dedication and effort. How can this statement
be supported, other than as the opinion of a small group of SGI-USA members,
who happen to be leaders as well? It is not supportable, as any of our
published materials will demonstrate.
It is clear that the author(s) did not refer to the IRG published positions.
We are not a private group. Anyone can access our Mission Statement on our web site and see our basic positions, and look at our position papers there for further expansion. If this statement is to be made, most especially in
an official SGI-USA memo to the entire membership, at minimum we would expect
the author(s) to point to what part of our material leads them to this
conclusion. The person or persons who put together the IRG portion of this
memo are either neglectful or malicious. Either way, it's a real disgrace.
The other "point to keep in mind" was the fact that we sponsor "wide-ranging" dialogue with other members and even persons who are non-SGI Nichiren
Buddhists. This indictment is presented calmly, as though there is nothing wrong with it.
There is everything wrong with it.
We would take that exact same statement and put it on the front page of the
World Tribune as a proud and ringing endorsement of any SGI-USA group that does as much.
"District X Sponsors Ongoing Wide-Ranging Dialogue With Other Nichiren
We take great pride that we do that. We think that statement, presented in
that context, goes right to the heart of what is wrong with our organization.
The fact that it is used to indicate the way the Gakkai does NOT act, and as
a caution against those who do it, is a sad statement indeed.
Finally, as another "point to keep in mind" about the IRG, the memo refers to
the e-mail newsletter Reflections, with the implication that it is an IRG
publication. It is not. It was initially begun by members who are
participants on the IRG discussion board. The editors of Reflections are
equal partners in the enterprise. All decisions are made by consensus.
There are three IRG members on the editorial committee of nine. No one has
preeminence or veto power. The editors, from the beginning, agreed that (a)
Reflections is not an IRG organ and never will be and that (b) Reflections
will have a much broader scope than the narrowly defined IRG agenda.
No member of the IRG was informed that a memo was forthcoming regarding the
IRG. We were not consulted or interviewed. We were not - and obviously
nobody knowledgable was - asked to confirm or deny the veracity and accuracy
of statements made about us. Obviously our easily accessable published
material was not referenced.
We believe that the SGI-USA as an organization has committed a serious and
inexcusable breach of faith with the membership in making such false and
misleading statements about its own members in an official statement for
distribution to "All SGI-USA Members." We believe that this error cannot be
allowed to stand uncorrected. Today the six of us. Who is next? Are the
members to understand that, if they speak out publicly in any way critical of
the SGI-USA, its leadership, or its policies, they may be publicly censured
in a memo to the entire membership? We believe that the leadership, in
writing and distributing this memo, has disrupted the harmonious unity of the
We believe this is very serious, and that the credibility of the leadership
of the SGI-USA is at stake. We believe this needs to be retracted by the
person(s) who authored this portion of the memo, in similar memo form, to the
same distribution list, and that a public, signed apology should accompany
the retraction. We believe that this is an urgent matter and needs to
addressed in a matter of days, not weeks. Already we are seeing serious
repercussions from the distribution of this thoughtless and irresponsible
This is our request.
the Independent Reassessment Group
~~~I think that it's significant (and sad) that the SGI-USA (and Japan, I
assume) feels that we are enough of a threat to warn the leaders and members
away from us.~~~
I'm sorry for you all that SGI considers you a *threat,* period. IRG has
been only respectful to the "mission" of the organization even while
criticizing it. The crime you are being tried, convicted, sentenced and put
on death row for is the one of HONESTY. It is now clear for the country and
the rest of the world to see.
Nichiren--any Buddhist founder or teacher, in fact--would nod approvingly
at your efforts. If the SGI organization wanted to see the real value of
"human revolution," all it had to do was open itself for a brief while to the
compassion and truth that has found its way here. That it has chosen,
instead, to falsify, demean and attack speaks volumes as to its lack of
vision, integrity and heart.
You are right. It's sad. May the winds of healing blow across all your faces.
In sympathetic support,
Dear Representatives of the SGI Corporate Entity:
There will never be a really free and enlightened SGI organization until the
organization comes to recognize the individual as a higher and independent
power, from which all its own power and authority are derived, and treats him
(or her) accordingly.
I paraphrased that line from Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, the treatise that
inspired Gandhi and countless others. Thoreau's allegiance was to his
conscience: "The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at
any time what I think right."
I have read the recent SGI memo regarding the Gohonzon and the IRG. I note
that it was not signed by an individual or individuals, but is the expression
of a religious corporation. I am writing to inform you that I respectfully
decline to be bound by any authority that the SGI corporation wishes to exert
over me. I have taken refuge in the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha -- the
community of individuals who seek kosen-rufu -- and this is where I remain
with or without corporate blessing or censure.
Any religious organization that asks its members to follow its dictates
instead of the dictates of individual conscience, is, in my view, arrogating
to itself an authority which it cannot rightly possess.
To borrow again from Thoreau: I imagine an organization that can afford to be
just to all people, and to discuss all topics openly -- an organization that
does not feel threatened if a few members live aloof from it, or wish to
reform it, or disagree with some points of organizational policy, who
otherwise fulfill all the duties of Nichiren Buddhist practitioners and
fellow human beings. An organization which bore this kind of fruit, and
suffered it to drop off as fast as it ripened, would prepare the way for a
still more perfect and glorious organization, which I have also imagined, but
not yet anywhere seen.
Wishing you a pleasant May 3,
Lisa Jones BuddhaJones.com
Dear Ms. Hall:
I am disappointed but not surprized by the recent memos regarding the Prayer
Gohonzon and the IRG. I know you did not write them yourself and no
criticism of you personally is intended. This seems like yet another
instance of triumphalism and paranoia trumping wisdom and compassion.
How long was it after President Ikeda left in 1990 that we started sharing
with each other the parable of the Sun and the North Wind? I'm sure you
remember it. The one where the Sun and the cold North wind compete to see
who can make the traveler remove his coat. The cold wind only encourages the
man to hold his coat more tightly while the sun convinces the man to give up
his coat by shining warmly on him.
I have heard a story where a leader of the Japanese Communist Party had been
invited to an important meeting where President Ikeda would be in attendance.
President Ikeda had not yet arrived and the other top leaders were unsure of
how to deal with the guest from the JCP. They were all aware that the
Japanese Communist Party hated the Gakkai and these top leaders wanted
nothing to do with this visitor. It was a very awkward situation until
President Ikeda arrived. As I remember the story, he walked right up to the
communist, embraced him, shook his hand and for the rest of the meeting,
treated him like a long lost brother. The meeting was a success because
President Ikeda was not afraid to treat this enemy like a buddha.
The IRG is not the enemy. Those distributing the Prayer Gohonzon are not the
enemy. Read what they write for yourself. Think for yourself. We have made
great strides in removing authoritarianism from this organization. But the
other side of the Authoritarianism coin is fear and group-think and we have
more work to do to remove
them. True Itai Doshin is a great goal. It cannot be achieved through
intimidation and half-truths. It can only be achieved through heart-felt,
compassionate dialog, where all voices are heard.
I believe that the Mentor/Disciple relationship IS what makes the Gakkai
uniquely successful among Nichiren Buddhist organizations. That does NOT
mean I am OK with how it is often presented to members. I believe the way
many talk about President Ikeda DOES make us look like a cult. Does that
make me evil, or a parasite? I don't think so. It means we must all do a
better job of trying to understand what is essential for Kosen Rufu and do a
better job of talking to each other about it and how it can happen in America.
I hope you and all of the other senior leaders of the SGI-USA will consider
these things. You can try to Crack Down on dissent if you want or you can
follow President Ikeda's example. There is a great opportunity for growth
here if you will sieze it, and an opportunity for failure as well.
Michael E. Stewart
To: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Margie and Danny,
I have been a member of SGI-USA for 15 years. However, I began chanting
without knowing about Buddhism in 1968. I was obviously born to chant. I am a
boddhisattva of the earth. I have fought diligently against the Nikken sect
by debating the priests and by befriending the misled members.
I am not a member of the IRG and I do not have or plan to have an alternative
However, I have been convicted (behind my back by a Stalin-like group who
never even once, although I begged and begged for dialog, consulted with me
or allowed me to tell my side the story) of the "crime" of reaching out to
members within the IRG and those who have alternative Gohonzons.
Now that you have issued the official memos regarding the IRG and the
alternative Gohonzons, I expect that the shunners and Stalin-like
prosecutorial "leaders" will be heartened. More shunning and exclusion of
sincere members will follow. THE SOKA GAKKAI SHOULD NEVER NEVER BECOME A
GROUP THAT SHUNS MEMBERS WHO DISAGREE WITH THE LEADERS!!!!
I had a seeking mind and I was "excommunicated" without talk or trial. TRUE
LEADERSHIP DOES NOT GO ON BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!!! IT DOES NOT CONSIST OF
SQUELCHING DEBATE AND DISCUSSION!
Look at the Daishonin's own words in, On Flowers and Seeds, "Always talk
among yourselves... then you will reach eagle peak and speak in one mind." (I'm paraphrasing from memory.) In that gosho, significantly and
profoundly, he is speaking not even to members, but to priests in his former
sect. Note how kind he is. Note how respectful. Should not Gakkai members,
especially, always talk among themselves?
Itai-doshin is not created by coercing members into agreeing with the
leadership. Itai-doshin, AS THE DAISHONIN HIMSELF NOTES, is achieved through
By issuing the memos, you are accusing certain members of causing disunity
because they took issue with the leadership. How can you be certain that it
is not the lack of dialog that is causing disunity? How can you be certain
that it is not your own pointing, accusing fingers that are causing disunity?
How can you be certain that this precious Soka Gakkai is not being ruined by
your own fears? Why not look at your own actions to discover why members have
chosen to leave this organization? How can you be sure that it is they who
lack faith? In any case, I am not leaving. My faith is solid. I have no fear.
I turn to the Gohonzon, the Daishonin and the Gosho to find answers to my
troubles. Right now, I am weeping over what has happened. I believe that the
Daishonin is weeping, too - and he is angry! If you discard a true hearted
member like myself, you are discarding a Buddha. I am not deluded. Buddhism
is all-inclusive. It is not a group of shunners and haters who cause rifts by
summarily excluding and labeling their peers. Buddhism seeks happiness for
all humankind. It is patient as the soft egg develops into the strong beak of
Whether you choose to dialog with me or shun me will show me whether or not
you have the hearts of Buddhas.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
Subject: leader's responsibilities to support member's perspectives
As a practitioner on the front lines of the organization it is my
responsibility to demand that an apology is published for the misguided fax
that was sent out on Monday regarding the IRG to all SGI offices.
SGI-USA staff will continue to isolate themselves from the collective will of
the very members they are charged with supporting if this divisiveness is
allowed to continue.
You have a responsibility as the General Director of SGI-USA to support the
perspectives of your membership. Your opinion and the opinions of the staff
of the SGI-USA are of no greater or less value than that of any other
members. It is the collective perspectives of the entire membership that is
the only valid "official stance" of the SGI-USA.
If the fax was sent as the official opinion of particular members on staff I
would have absolutely no problem with it. Since it was sent as the official
opinion of the SGI-USA, it is my responsibility to point out that it is
completely un-binding since it does not include my perspective and lacks
evidence that the entire membership was consulted. As a practitioner who
sincerely fights on the front lines I have officially vetoed yesterday's
fax. You can now consider that fax invalid in every way. I am waiting for
an apology to the members for not including their perspectives in this fax or
a new fax on the issue that includes the perspectives of all.
Before I begin repeating myself to much please read the following email I
sent to Margie Hall upon reading the fax on the IRG.
It is as follows:
To: Margie Hall
I am not a member of the IRG. Though Andy has clearly admonished you for
authoring such a slanderous fax attacking the perspectives of some sincere
members who are doing their best to implement Daisaku Ikeda's guidances (and
some insincere members, as well I am sure), I feel I would like to add a few
words of support in protection of all the members who value their own unique
Buddhism is a round teaching. It is the collective perspectives of all
practitioners of this Buddhism in this particular country that make up the
"official stance." This most certainly includes your perspective as well. I
value and respect your personal opinion on the IRG, because it is based on
your practice. As a leader you must understand that your role does not
include placing any extra value on your own opinion, than that of any other
member. Your role is to support the collective efforts of the membership.
If you cannot reflect on this and change, it is my responsibility, as an
individual member on the front lines of the organization, to ask for your
I trust the practice, I know it works, and so I trust the members. Once you
really trust the practice, you can accept that different members have
and opinions, sometimes quite contrary to the needs of other members or
ourselves, but all of equal value.
Practicing correctly I mean faith in the spirit of Buddhism to accomplish
kosen rufu and nothing more. Yes, the reality is that there are members who
do not practice correctly and are attracted to reform groups because they
have their own issues and agendas, but who is anyone else to judge another
practitioner's perspectives on how to accomplish kosen rufu in their
particular environment? The vast majority of people
that post messages on the IRG board are sincere members that are in the
process of working out their own issues with the SGI to make it a more
attractive organization to their environment. In time most of these people
will realize that the best way to reform is to just do it. I for one, do not
acknowledge position and division in the SGI because it does not work for me
and my environment, but I respect those that do participate in the
traditional organizational structure and trust them that it works for them.
Since I stopped talking and crying about reform and just started living
reform, I have had little opposition from anyone in the organization because
I have learned to respect the diverse ways people propagate this Buddhism in
their own particular environment and no longer try to impose my ways on
others. It is only at times as crucial as the current public slander of
members that I will speak up.
This is an opportune time to realize that within the staff of the SGI-USA,
people exist that only want Daisaku Ikeda's guidances applied within the
parameters of their own opinions. Even though this was an official fax from
SGI Central to all members, it is
still only the perspective of only a handful of practitioners. All other
member's opinions on the sincerity or insincerity of the IRG are just as
valid if not more so.
You have a direct responsibility to Nichiren Daishonin and Daisaku Ikeda to
support all our opinions and efforts, as long as they are based on attaining
Soka Gakkai members are capable of deciding for themselves how to best reform
their local area's organizations and how to best propagate Buddhism in their
own environment. The opinion of one practitioner on the front lines is more
worthy of respect than any "official" SGI fax now or ever.
It's with great appreciation towards the SGI, my sincerest prayer for the
organization's prosperity and the shared dream of creating the conditions for
world peace to exist that I plead with the so called "official" SGI to understand
their role as servants to the collective perspectives of us, the membership.
P.S. The SGI-USA is gaining a reputation of not returning letters, emails,
and phone calls from members. Unless, you feel a need to respond, I would
hope you will spend the time you might spend returning a response to this
email on encouraging other staff members to not neglect common office
practice in the US of getting back to people with at least an acknowledgment,
even if a form letter. I can handle it but it saddens me when I here that to
many fragile members are not able to get any kind of response out of the
staff these days.
I just read the 'official' statement from SGI-USA on their rejection of the
Prayer Gohonzon and attack on IRG (!!?????)
I am really saddened to see that the SGI-USA have taken this decision toward
the Prayer Gohonzon AND hitting out on a website that is committed to trying
to create the grounds for a better organisation for its members. They're
obviously worried and see it as a threat; otherwise they wouldn't give it so
much attention. (just my thought).
You have my support here.
I don't mean to sound pessimistic, but after this, I expect that we in the
SGI-UK may see a similar statement (about the PG in particular), as the one
just issued to the US really smacks of the official stamp. No doubt this was
talked about a plenty in Japan and in the US by the head leaders. So my
guess is now that those dedicated to reform, and those who wish to chant to a
different Gohonzon than the 'officially allowed' one are destined for lonely
exile or be referred to as heretical Buddhists 'cause they don't tow the party
line.....??? No freedom of choice allowed thn.
If this doesn't do more harm than good to the organisation, I won't be
surprised at all; if it drives more people to embrace the PG, that wouldn't
surprise me either.