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|Mission Statement and Letter of Intent|
Independent Reassessment Group
September 20, 1998
Fred M. Zaitsu
Dear Mr. Zaitsu:
I am writing on behalf of the newly formed Independent Reassessment Group. We are a small group of concerned members who are interested in addressing issues which we believe to be in need of change within our American organization. Attached you will find our Mission Statement and Declaration of Intent, which should make clear what our motivations are and what we hope to accomplish.
I hope you can find the time to review this document and share it with others on the Central Executive Committee, as well as with the SGI leadership in Japan, specifically including President Ikeda. In the next few months we hope to present clear and detailed position papers detailing the points which concern us.
We invite comments from you and others in the SGI-USA leadership, and we look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
On behalf of the Independent Reassessment Group, I am
Submitted by the Independent Reassessment Group
September 16, 1998
We, as members of the SGI-USA, have formed this Independent Reassessment Group because we believe that there is a need for reformation of aspects of our American organization which will enable it to better support the practice and study of Nichiren Daishonin's teachings and promote the spread of this philosophy in the United States. We will offer positive steps toward the goal of assisting the SGI-USA in returning to its primary mission: becoming an organization which is responsive to, and attractive to, an American membership. We hope to foster reasonable discussion and debate about these issues, which will be made accessible to all members, both those active in our organization and those who are not currently involved, and we will make every effort to promote their implementation. We want our organization to become a dynamic force for expansion of the kosen-rufu movement in America by developing a program for steady and sustainable growth.
We have identified the following areas for our initial submittals. The statements made herein will be expanded upon in position papers to follow, which we will prepare on each issue. These will include identification of the topic being discussed, an overview or summary of the issues of concern, an in depth discussion of each issue, and a discussion of suggested courses of action or correction. It should be noted that the topics and issues raised herein are stated briefly, to identify our areas of concern. They are not intended, in this document, to carry the arguments. Full discussion and verification of facts will be contained in each ensuing position paper.
1. Democratization of the SGI-USA
We believe that, in spite of well-meaning and ongoing efforts, our organization has a long way to go before it is ready to be " the launching pad for the worldwide kosen-rufu movement (President Ikeda's) wish is that NSA will eventually even develop the strength to provide a lead for Japan." The SGI-USA, while endeavoring to give the appearance of openness, remains hierarchical in nature, and remains dependent on and subject to Japanese leadership and direction. Our paper will address this broader issue by delving into the Divisional system, the nature of our organizational structure, the methods for leadership determination, our relationship to our Japanese mentors, and the need for an effort at reaching all members, active and inactive, to determine their needs and wishes regarding these concerns.
As a sub-set to the above, we will look at our publications. First and foremost we are interested in investigating means for removing the obstacles in the way of American-style free and open discussion in print. As President Ikeda said recently, the World Tribune is urged to become "the eyes, ears, voice and heart" of President Ikeda's American friends. He also stated that the WT is urged to "revitalize the glorious tradition of American democracy." We have found nothing that contradicts this guidance, and we feel that our publications need to be more open to the spirit expressed by President Ikeda. As he said at a youth training session on February 20, 1990, "Of course you are perfectly free to say what must be said even to your fellow members in faith, and it is necessary to do so." He went on to say " there is a difference between words spoken with real concern for your listener and those spoken with hatred or jealousy. It is extremely important to understand and observe this distinction." We agree entirely and will attempt to point out what we feel can be done to realize the intent of these words.
Our aim in this paper (or papers) will be to realize that the "simple truth is, people can no longer be led by authority, by orders, by force or by sheer volume of information."
2. Appearance of the SGI-USA
We believe that, in addition to the underlying authoritarian nature of our organization as indicated above, there is an appearance of a "cult of personality" which is detrimental to efforts for expansion and works against us when we try to reach main-stream Americans. Without commenting on the appropriateness of this practice in Japan, we believe that " 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." Our organization currently gives this appearance.
In addition we will be addressing the SGI-USA's public relations work, specifically focusing on its past and ongoing promotion of contrived or arranged awards and honors for President Ikeda, and the unfortunate need for its efforts at damage control vis a vis the appearance issues mentioned above.
3. The Temple Issue
While we agree that Nikken is wrong in his actions toward the SGI and its members worldwide, and in his authoritarian assertions and activities, and, without comment on the Sokka Gakkai's activities in Japan, we believe that the Temple issue has been mishandled in America. The information given out has often been propagandistic rather than strictly factual in nature; it has been incomplete and/or misleading; it has on occasion been untruthful. The Temple issue has not been addressed utilizing methods which are appropriate to American culture, and this has resulted in the alienation of many American members and has provided ammunition to our detractors, both religious and secular. The emphasis on this issue, in our meetings and in our publications, has been detrimental to propagation efforts.
Our Independent Reassessment Group is united in its devotion to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism and in its affection for the organization which enabled us to hear of and practice it. For this reason we hope to present reasonable papers which will serve and support the organization we love. While we are unable to commit to an exact schedule at this time, we hope to prepare and submit our work on all of the topics described herein within two or three months, if possible. Protection of our organization is of prime concern to our group, and this is why we want our organization to rethink activities and policies which appear to put it in jeopardy.
Respectfully submitted by the Independent Reassessment Group:
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