Report For Mr. Wada

 
  2/19/01  
 

Addendum: At the advice of many people who advised me to go up the vertical line all the way to the top until I find a resolution, I proceeded in such fashion to resolve my inquiries concerning the unjust behavior of the NY leaders. To all those who still claim that by using the proper organizational channels going up the line to the highest leaders, you'll get a just solution, I might be one of the few who proceeded this way and discovered that it doesn't work. Here are the reports and letters (see my Letter to Danny Nagashima, and Letter to the Members) which confirm that the answer to all these members claims is clearly the opposite. 

For the past few years I have written dozens of times and spoken on numerous occasions to all levels of the organization starting with my own area leaders and proceeding all the way up to the SGI vice presidents, to be answered only with silence and broken promises at best, and bad-mouthing and back-stabbing at worse. I had a two hour discussion with Vice President Yoshigo, with Eugene Hirahara as translator. As I described to him the foul play of some of the top leaders in NY, he shook his head in disgust. He promised to investigate the matter and thanked me. I have never heard a word from him since our discussion and that was over a year ago. 

I also wrote a letter to Danny Nagashima over a year ago questioning his slick, self-serving behavior. To this day he has never answered or acknowledged my letter. Danny and I were "brothers in faith" from the early 1980's. We cherished each other's friendship more than our own families. However, my dear brother, who is now revered by all, only supported the lies and schemes of slack leaders, by his silence. He stood by smiling as he heard unchallenged rumors and lies being spread about me, my wife, Stan and others. Now all his speeches and guidances are cowardly exercises in covering up his failure. I have lost all my respect for my 'brother'.

When Mr. Wada was coming to NY in July 1999, several concerned members pleaded with me to give him a true report of the facts. They implored me to speak with him. One former staff member at the WCC told me she has worked with him and trusts him implicitly. She said all the MD leaders are scared to death of him and he must be told the details of what is going on. She said that he would definitely chop heads if he knew the facts. I chanted hours and hours for several days to meet with him. I wrote the following report determining to get an opportunity to speak with him and give it to him in person. There was a leaders meeting at the NYCC, which I attended and at the end I went up to the front and shook his hand. We bowed to each other and made eye contact. He seemed warm and willing to listen. I began to tell him briefly that there is foul play going on in NY, which he is not aware of. There are members suffering unjust treatment by arrogant leaders who are not accountable to anyone. I told him through a translator that he is getting false reports and seeing a fake show of harmony and I handed him the report and said that I would like to speak to him further. He thanked me and promised he would read it and reply to me. 

Since the date of the report, over 1 years ago, I have not gotten a reply or even an acknowledgement from Mr. Wada or any of his staff.  

Silence is my answer, and one may draw their own conclusions as to what this silence means. Nonetheless, from all this, I have concluded that the present system is defective and will continue to cause suffering and distress to many members until it is changed. Now I see from the way it functions, that instead of pruning out the bad apples form the barrel, these poisonous apples are protected and kept warm and safe to fester in the barrel until the entire contents have rotted. This is the plight of the SGI today. 

Here is my report to Mr. Wada. (Just a few minor changes in wording were made for clarity.)


July 20, 1999

Dear Mr. Wada,

By now you've received numerous reports about a "vociferous negative group" of people who are "breaking the unity" here in NY. I am considered to be one of them and I would like to speak to you so that you may hear my side of the story. You've been getting a false picture. The members who have been dismissed are sincere devoted members who have stood up for change and to protect the organization. A whole crusade was orchestrated to discredit and demonize us when we were merely protecting the members against some arrogant and irresponsible leaders. This is despicable that these members were removed from their positions for doing nothing but speaking out! How can we say we are fighting the injustice of Nikken when sincere pure-hearted members are crushed for speaking out for change? In the name of fairness, please listen to our side of the story. I would be willing to speak with you today or any time you are available. It is a total outrage that SGI-USA leaders and leaders from Japan have been coming here for 3 years hearing stories and negative reports and no one has requested to speak with us. Mr. Zaitsu and Mr. Sasaki recently came to NY and never tried to speak with us, even though we gave a full report to them in writing several months earlier. We never received a reply from them. But instead, since their departure, all these sincere members have been summarily dismissed from their positions. Likewise I didn't expect you to contact us and as expected, we haven't received a call from you yet, since you've been here in NY. Please, in all fairness, read this enclosed report and give us a chance to tell our side of the story. Also enclosed is the essay on the People's Committee entitled "Victorious America" for you to read as well. 

Sincerely,

Phil Orenstein


REPORT FOR MR. WADA

I am writing this report to outline some of the injustices that have been occurring in New York and the campaign to silence anyone who would dare to speak out about it. First I will relate some historical background of the movement in New York leading up to the present. 

I have been practicing in New York for 30 years since March. One of my most difficult trials came in the late 1970's. At that time the organization in New York which had been a mighty castle of capable people (in appearance only) crumbled into dust. Leaders evaded their responsibilities, used the organization for their own agenda and false priests corrupted the members minds. I had always been a pure-hearted member, doing my best and practicing according to the direction set by my seniors in faith. But now many of my seniors either left the practice, neglected their responsibilities or in some cases committed outright abuse against the members and the organization. My own practice suffered. I lost the joy of faith and practice. I had introduced 100's of friends to the practice years before. I was a courageous fighter spreading the Mystic Law all around. I was among the first young American pioneers in New York. I was a 'hippie' turned 'happy'. I gave my heart and soul to daily shakubuku and meetings, Brass Band, conventions, parades, seminars and many joyful activities. But then in the late 1970's the activities, the shakubuku spirit, the youth division all but ceased and 99% of all the members either disappeared or stopped practicing. Rumors, lies and malicious accusations were rampant. 

During this time I was visited by a great friend in faith. The year was 1979. Somehow his faith and practice never wavered. He had remained steadfast and unswayed. He had been continuously studying Sensei's guidance's and the Gosho and he always spoke out courageously of our noble mission as disciples of President Ikeda. His name was Stan Zir. He protected and fought for the advancement of the SGI with his life. He raised hundreds of members in faith and would give his life in an instant to protect the members. He was even stabbed in the chest while protecting the Kaikan from a drug addict. Today his name has been discredited and his character has been tarnished by malicious rumors and cover-ups spread by some of the top leaders in New York. Now these rumors have become the truth. The members go along with whatever the leaders say about him without investigating of seeking out the truth or getting the facts. So now his name has been demonized and discredited in the members minds. Not only has he been cast in this negative light, but so have I, and the same goes for my wife Alma (who he introduced) others who have stood up for him and spoken out. Now Stan, his wife Mary and half a dozen other sincere members have either been dismissed or threatened with dismissal if they don't comply and stop speaking out. I will describe the current situation in more detail so you can have a basis from which to investigate and correct these atrocities occurring in our organization.

When Stan visited me that evening in 1979, he encouraged me to the depths of my life and I was able to reconnect to the Gohonzon and the rhythm of faith. I rose up and determined to fight. Stan was the first person to stand up and support Mr. Kasahara in 1976 and the following years, when Mr. Kasahara had absolutely no comrades in faith to rely on except for Stan, and one or two others. Stan was the first. I came forward next and pledged my total support to Mr. Kasahara. I want to report this to you so you know the truth. It was Stan, myself and a mere handful of others who rebuilt NY. Stan and I were the heart and soul of NY. Stan was the driving force. This is the truth. These intense efforts brought about the renaissance of NY. Stan spared no effort to speak out, to encourage and to fight for justice. We chanted and fought from the bottom of our lives day and night until we were totally drained and worn. Enemies rose up to challenge us. These enemies were former members and leaders, who were swayed by the priests, Shoshinkai and the local Priest, Reverend Tono. Stan and I gathered and organized over 100 youth who would stand up to protect the organization. We turned the tide against this corrupt priest Tono and brought back the spirit of joy and victory to NY once again! This paved the way for Sensei's momentous visit to New York in June 1981. These are the facts. To this day Stan and I have never received nor expected any gratitude or commendation for our efforts. We just did what we had to do. Rather, today Stan and I have been demonized and cast out.

Recently, a little less than 2 years ago, Stan told me the news of a serious situation. Malicious rumors and lies were being spread to prevent him from serving as a leader in our Region. These rumors were the design and intent of our Region leader, Jim Corwin. A couple of leaders immediately underneath him, carried out his instructions to eliminate Stan, without even questioning or investigating the reasons. Rather than talking to him face to face they strategically concocted a series of lies behind his back to keep him out of a leadership role. When myself and other friends of Stan, who did not believe the rumors, questioned the actions of this leader and tried to investigate, we were treated with suspicion and scorn. One of these spiteful rumors was that Stan started a fistfight with a WD leader. I don't really know if Jim made this up himself to implicate Stan or believed this false rumor upon hearing it. However it is true that he treated this rumor as fact without investigating, using it as one of his ploys to get rid of Stan. Stan never had a fight with this WD, he merely had a verbal disagreement which ended in good humor. I spoke to this WD who confirmed that she had no problem with Stan that night. When Jim was confronted with the truth by a member who was a witness, he refused to accept it, and said "I heard a different story, you may believe what you want". Stan's friends who spoke out about this injustice, were put under observation and were visited in order to silence them. Further lies and distortions were invented to discredit Stan in order to cover up the injustices and protect Jim Corwin's virtuous image. Some of these distortions were that Stan refused to be visited, that he rejected dialogue, that he spoke abusively and cursed people, he is not a member here in the Area where he lives and that he should not be invited to activities because it would upset the Region leaders. Such was the campaign of rumors and cover-ups to smear Stan's character which continued for almost a year. Due to the persistence of Stan's friends, Jim eventually recanted and apologized to Stan and retracted his accusations and admitted his wrong-doing. Since his reputation was already ruined by the rampant rumors and malicious gossip by members who unthinkingly trusted whatever their leaders told them, Stan and his wife, Mary, insisted that Jim make a public apology to restore his good name. Jim Corwin and Mr. Kasahara made a public statement of apology to the members of the Region along with a promise to re-appoint Stan to a leadership position. In addition they gave their consent for the formation of an experimental grassroots committee of the members to oversee the actions of the leaders to prevent things of this sort from ever happening to another member.

During this almost year-long ordeal, I stood up for my friend Stan because I felt he was treated unjustly. During this time, an atrocity occurred in my own chapter. A top YWD leader, acting out of jealousy and frustration, attempted to destroy the faith of a pure hearted YWD in my chapter. The events that ensued when I tried to protect my members faith were even more outrageous! I was told that I have no rights to protect my members if I am questioning the actions or speaking out to correct a leader superior to me. The only thing I was permitted to tell my member was to chant about it and that leader will get her own effects from the causes she made, its her karma to meet such a mean leader. I saw that leaders are accountable to no one when they all banded together in a 'click' to protect each other and to destroy anyone who would dare to oppose them! Some leaders have a mind-set that the members are inferior to them and unconsciously treat them as dependent children so they can justify any kind of behavior towards them. I saw the need for a "checks and balances" system in our organization to control unchecked abuses of power on the part of leaders in our organization. I realized that the members and junior level leaders are powerless to deal with such things as they arise and are branded as troublemakers or worse if they speak up about a leaders misconduct. Out of jealousy and ill will this top YWD leader, Sharon Redman, tried to crush my member. I was shocked and appalled when she informed us that Sharon tried to "....not only discourage me, but also demean me, as well as try to crush my spirit with her unkind words....." She did nothing wrong to deserve this treatment. She only had excessive amounts of spirit and energy, which she freely shared with everyone brightening up every activity she attended! She was very excited about the prospect of going to FNCC. In a series of phone conversations, Sharon was short tempered, insulting and angry with her regarding her desire to go to FNCC. She was given several conditions to be met and problems she created which had to be alleviated before being allowed to go to FNCC:
1. She had the responsibility to get to know her new YWD Area leader as a prerequisite for attending the conference.
2. Lack of contact with her Area leader could jeopardize her chance to attend.
3. Sharon was now in serious trouble for recommending her telling her that "my ass is on the line".
4. Lack of a positive relationship with her YWD chapter leader was an obstacle to her attending.
5. An implied threat that next time if a team decision is made, she will not have a chance to go.

This treatment caused her to sink into an abyss of anger and discouragement and stop attending activities altogether and to lose her trust and respect for SGI leaders. Eventually she would have stopped practicing altogether. Sharon refused to have dialogue with us to discuss these events, never returning our phone calls. When two fellow chapter leaders and I expressed our outrage to our senior leaders and tried to set up dialogue with Sharon we were met with scorn and contempt! The leaders senior to me all banded together to protect her. They never even showed a bit of concern for our YWD member. One Area leader said that this YWD has been known to lie in the past! Then they denied any wrongdoing on Sharon's part saying "she's only human" and "everyone makes mistakes" and "why don't you consider Sharon's happiness". They accused us of attacking her and "ganging up on her" and that we have no right to judge and challenge the wisdom of her actions. This occurred over a year ago and it has not been resolved to this day! All we wanted was to sit down with Sharon, with the YWD and the 3 of us and have a frank dialogue about this and how this behavior can be prevented from happening again. We have written letters to all our leaders up through Mr. Zaitsu, we have discussed it with the leaders on many occasions. Our Region leader promised to take action to set up dialogue agreeing with me that she should talk to us, but it never happened. I was snubbed on this issue by Tarik Hassan who said that I should just forget about it. All the while, I have been repeatedly reprimanded for continuing to stand up for the resolution of this issue. To this day, nothing has been done. Furthermore, she was promoted to be the Northeast Zone YWD leader. That's why we formed the people's committee on Long Island without formal consent. Other injustices were occurring at the same time. The chapter YMD leader, Scott Stickley who never communicates, and hadn't raised a single YMD and rarely visited a member in the 5 years he's been in that position, had been recommended to be my MD Vice chapter leader because he was going to be the future son-in-law of the Region Chief. I informed the top leaders in NY as to why we were forming the committee. We held a number of pleasant discussions where I informed them of our need for it. I discussed the need for grassroots groups of members who represent the voices and concerns of the general membership in the affairs of the organization. That they would be working together as an enhancement to the traditional structure making for a more balanced system in the case where inequities might arise. This way it would not be a top-down only organization, but it would be bottom up at the same time providing a more holistic approach to the way the organization should be structured in America, where the people have a voice and can even speak out and change by-laws and remove corrupt leaders. I answered all their objections. They were at a loss for words. I quoted Sensei's guidance's upon which all these ideas are based and Tarik Hassan replied that I'll chant about what you are saying and lets continue to dialogue on this issue. Then they crushed the committee behind our backs warning all the members about it and that we went off track, that we were doing something against the SGI. They sent letters out to all our members informing them that we were forming a "shadow organization", that we were comparing the SGI leaders to Nikken, and that we were making "vicious personal attacks". The members distanced themselves from me and any one else who spoke up for the idea. In Queens Area, one chapter got the verbal consent of the top NY leaders to go ahead and form the people's committee on an experimental basis and see if it helps. Hundreds of members heard the announcement by Mr. Kasahara and Jim Corwin at a Region leaders meeting for the formation of the people's committee. Then these leaders broke their word and went behind our backs and crushed the committee before we even had a chance to discuss it in open dialogue with the general membership. When my wife, Alma, was going to make a brief 5 minute presentation on the committee in her District and invite those interested to find out more about it, she was interrupted by her Chapter leader who stood up and said "this committee is not sanctioned by the SGI". Alma said that she was acting on the basis of approval from the top NY leaders. Then one YWD leader yelled out that it's not true. Then her members looked at Alma with mistrust and disdain. Little did she know that this YWD leader had called Mr. Kasahara before the meeting and asked if he had given his approval for the formation of this committee on an experimental basis in their chapter, and he lied - he sad no, even though he had given verbal approval for the grassroots committee in his public apology. This was all orchestrated beforehand behind Alma's back to stop the peoples committee from spreading in Queens. It was already becoming too powerful for the leaders comfort. Unthinkingly most of the members just trusted the leaders statements and rejected and renounced the committee and its representatives.

I will sum up the most recent events briefly. It should be known that Stan was never re-appointed. That was the first promise that was broken. The second was that they broke their promise about the People's Committee and stopped it without letting us know of their intentions. 

Queens Area was having very successful Soka Spirit Toso's to defeat Nikken. Already 4 members were in the process of leaving the Temple. There was true harmony and shakubuku spirit. The Area and Region leaders created disunity and divisiveness by telling the members that the people's committee was not sanctioned, that its against the SGI and that it is creating disunity. The Soka Spirit Tosos were stopped and they started "Unity Tosos" which were in essence to repudiate those who were promoting this concept. Those who supported the people's committee idea were Mary Zir the Chapter WD chief, the District leaders and several general members. Calls were made to many of their junior leaders and members that they are going off track. Then they lost their trust for them and in some cases called them "devils" or "evil". My wife is a WD District leader and when one of her members heard that it was not sanctioned she called my wife a devil to her face. Recently these members spoke out to Mr. Sasaki and Mr. Zaitsu when they were in NY asking them why their District leaders are promoting an idea that was not sanctioned. It was reported to my wife that one members of hers heard Mr. Zaitsu say that the Committee is a devilish function in the organization. He never spoke to any one of us about it. Since they left NY 3 or 4 weeks ago, these District leaders and Mary Zir were given ultimatums and the dismissed from their positions. Mary was told by Tarik Hasan to "cease and desist" or she will be removed. The next day she got a letter saying that she was dismissed. My wife was told by her Area leader that she will be dismissed if she doesn't comply. This is America, where everyone is entitled to freedom of speech and no one has the right to take it away! We should not have this kind of behavior in our organization where members are threatened into silence! It is against our rights as human beings! We have never said anything to slander the law or corrupt the practice. We have never slandered another human being either. We have only been speaking out for concepts of change based on Sensei's gudances and pointing out where we needed to change ourselves in order to make a better organization for the members. On a couple of occasions we may have spoken out in anger, but only when we were backed into a corner and provoked. Some leaders claimed that we exhibited angry behavior. For many years, we showed patience and restraint and proceeded through all the proper channels. But finally in the end, where the organization and the Gohonzon were at stake, we spoke out in anger and have no regrets. They claim that we won't have dialogue. But is it fair to think that dialogue is possible with people who break their word and lie about it and then spread rumors to cover it up and then dismiss you? Is it possible to talk in such a situation? What about the numerous times that we did sit down and have dialogue, but they denied all the facts? We had 100's of dialogues with them but they lied and wouldn't acknowledge factual reports from the members. In the end, they would only meet with us on their own terms and refused to meet with the people as a group to have a common dialogue. It would take a book to untangle this quagmire of lies and deceit that we were met with.

I have made an effort to report to you some of the injustices happening here in our organization. I have only scratched the surface because for years such atrocities have been going on unattended and unchecked. This has caused good people to leave our movement and stop practicing and now some of the greatest pioneers of Kosen Rufu have been dismissed. I urge you to meet with us and investigate the facts that I have described to you and to remove the "bad apples" before it completely ruins our organization from within. The answer to the Nikken issue lies right here. How can we defeat Nikken when injustice is brewing in our own organization? We cannot just keep sweeping it aside until it "passes", all in the name of unity. That is not true unity. It is a false picture of forced unity, which is merely conformity. It is a unity in which leaders can escape from judgment and are not accountable. Our answer is to empower the membership giving them the right to oversee the actions of the leaders so that when inequities occur they can be corrected. In this way the people can protect the organization from harm and since the people will be liberated from their fear and dependence on authority and stand up to any kind of evil or oppression, then the battle against Nikken will be won. 

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