Making the Change
Solutions and Requisites for Change
Recently 7 members were dismissed from their leadership positions in New York.
The occurrences leading up to the formation of the grassroots committee were not based on isolated instances but were the culmination of a history of events that underscored a way of thinking, that in our exuberance to protect our ideals and our noble mission, gave rise to a wall of dogma.
Then denial of many leaders' unethical and abusive behavior became an acceptable standard to preserve unity, thus leading to the absence of critical thinking and the collapse of an ethical standard. It further uncovered an entrenched belief that viewed anyone who dared to challenge the flagrant abuses, and irresponsible actions of their leaders, were considered people who are opposing our noble mission, attacking the SGI, and are a threat to unity itself. Therefore, the people who formed this grassroots committee, determined never to permit themselves to turn their backs on the endeavor to implement the committee, or resign themselves to have suffered in vain by not using such events that occurred to us as a catalyst for change for the better, to speak out and further to protect and strengthen the organization that they so cherished and loved. This was their intent.
The issue is very clear and there should be no confusion about it, for it is the fundamental basis for the Buddhist Ideal: protecting the people against injustice. Sincere people that stood up to protect their members were stonewalled. When they protested the lack of action, and the negligent behavior of their leaders continued, they were accused of breaking unity and they were slandered through lies and deception, called demons and eventually accused of being Temple members. These were the very people who worked the hardest in their own areas to lead the campaign to defeat Nikken. The question is, can there be unity when individuals are sacrificed to protect the organization or to cover up actions of people in responsible positions? Does working together with fellow members to create unity, while denying the fundamental rights of the members, ever create the Buddhist ideal, or does it actually destroy it? Could we ever justify such a process and how could we ever justify such treatment of the people who just stood up to protect their members? This could never achieve itai-doshin, but instead it supports dotai-ishin.
Recently 7 members were dismissed from their leadership positions in New York. These people fully gave their heart and soul for up to 30 years of tireless efforts to build and defend the SGI. These people literally put their lives on the line and
some were physically attacked while protecting the members and the Law. In the past these people stood up alone to protect the organization at difficult times (1976-1981), when the majority of the members disappeared and activities all but ceased.
This present issue started with one person who was unreasonably dismissed because he spoke out against his leader's negligence to protect his members and because of his audacity to challenge that leaders' condescending attitude. Right after that, he was dismissed from his position and when he inquired, the leaders denied it. It was covered up.
He had signed an agreement to take a chapter position in support of the SGI's movement to bring the HQ leaders down to the chapter levels in order to work
more closely with the front lines. When he inquired about his appointment in his new area, his leaders informed him that there were no openings, when there actually were. When asked if he was dismissed from his position as a leader, they said no. It was later revealed and confirmed that the top leaders went around behind his back to tell leaders in the new area never to appoint this person. They justified their reasons for not appointing him with unconfirmed and fabricated rumors such
as this: that he challenged a top woman's division leader to a fist fight after a meeting. Even though they were informed several times of the falsehood of these rumors by the members who were there, and were warned to stop, they persisted spreading these false rumors. It's worth noting that this person has received the highest award for protecting the organization and it's members, from President Ikeda. The actions of these leaders can only be classified as utterly despicable, unethical and an affront to what the SGI stands for.
When the members found out these maneuverings were going on, several spoke up and demanded accountability for these leaders' unwarranted and authoritarian actions in collaborating to spread lies maligning this persons good character.
The majority who knew it was wrong were afraid to speak out, and even when they proceeded through all the proper channels, to the highest leaders, they were met with a wall of denial and added lies. Furthermore, they were often silenced by threats from their leaders that they were breaking unity. A few persisted and because of their great courage and perseverance, the truth was revealed. A public apology
from the top leaders was officially issued to the NY members at the Culture Center for their actions of passing vicious rumors and false reports, without investigating whether they were in fact true or false.
In their public apology, they promised to reinstate this man to a leadership position. They also publicly approved the formation of a grassroots committee on an experimental basis to act as a check to guard against any leader being given free rein to persecute a member. It later came to be known as the People's Representatives Committee (PRC).
The leaders are ineffective in monitoring errant behavior of their fellow leaders, and end up protecting each other for the sake of unity. That's why this system was proposed so that the members oversee their leaders actions and hold them accountable to the highest standards so that the organization would flourish and become respectably established in this society that has a unique tradition of individualism, accountability and freedom of inquiry by it's citizens.
After the original apology and promises made by the top leaders at the NY Culture Center, a similar pattern of behavior by them started happening all over again. In one case the senior leaders united to support a fellow leader who was verbally abusing a member. The leaders then teamed up to silence those who rallied to protest this unjust treatment. This leader's actions almost destroyed the young members' faith.
Is this something that we should take lightly? Of course we were enraged and wanted to have immediate dialogue with this leader that caused the above problem to prevent this from happening in the future. The top leaders ruled it out and denied that she did anything wrong, in order to protect her. Our continued appeals to have dialogue and for the top leaders to take action to correct her offensive behavior were met with empty promises and hollow rhetoric. False rumors were spread about us to other leaders that we were causing disunity. Again the same pattern appeared, sweeping the problem under the rug and letting the passage of time cover up the embarrassment caused by this leader. After repeating the same scenario that lead to the first public apology, we realized the leaders had no intention of keeping their word, revealing to us that all the promises made at the NY Culture Center were meaningless.
We knew the top leaders had become incorrigible and what happened next confirmed this. When the people who were originally given permission to form the PRC and to proceed with their plans, they were met with antagonism and opposition by many of the members who had previously embraced the idea openly. The members who attended this initial PRC meeting said that
"the leaders never gave you permission to do this," and a top youth division said we were "parasites in the lions
bowels". We were astounded because they had originally gave us permission in their public apology, with hundreds of NY members in attendance just a two months earlier.
It was also uncovered that the leadership in our Region went to the members behind our backs, communicating discouraging and false information about us, and planting fear in their minds about the PRC project. For instance, one leader told the members that what we were doing was 'anti SGI'. Subsequently, we were treated and judged as traitors and received numerous calls at all hours, and letters and emails from the membership calling us devils, slanderers and negative members. The leaders also spread rumors and accused us of disrupting the District meetings by discussing the PRC. This was a blatant lie. Two leaders who supported the PRC, who were loved by their members, were asked not to come to their own District meetings if they were going to bring up these ideas.
Eventually the top SGI-USA leaders came to NY and denounced the PRC and it's supporters as a devilish function, without even meeting with us, even after our requests. Ultimately, the NY leaders had the impudence to deny the fact that they really apologized, inferring that they had done nothing wrong, and the apology was done merely to appease the original members who had protested.
Thus, they had effectively discredited us and our honorable protests against unethical behavior.
Finally the people from the original PRC committee were told to "cease and desist" from talking about the PRC, or any ideas, or guidances pertaining to it, including those of President Ikeda and Makiguchi, which dealt with empowering the people and justice. This statement was issued by the top leader of NY. Some were threatened with dismissal from their positions if they didn't comply.
We did not cower and were not shaken by these insane threats. In the end we would not degrade ourselves to give up our freedom of expression and belittle our dignity and the Mystic Law, to be subservient to such authoritarian behavior.
We didn't join the SGI to support tyranny in any of its aspects.
One by one, many of the supporting members and our friends backed down in the face of this pressure and gave in to their leaders' influence. Finally the remaining 6 members, who had continued to speak out for this change, were roundly dismissed from their positions by phone or letter, without home visitation, which is in violation of our personnel procedure manual.
These courageous people who stood up to preserve and protect the organization, that they loved dearly, were stereotyped as negative malcontents who went off-track. Many of their good friends and comrades and the membership in general turned on them in fear of their own ostracism. Their former friends kept their distance, treated them suspiciously, and phone calls from members ceased.
After a Kosen Rufu Gongyo meeting, one of the dismissed individuals was talking to someone, a woman's division member followed him around the NY Culture Center trying to listen in on what he was saying. Then she blurted out loud so that everyone could hear: "he's a liar, don't listen to him".
It is evident that the NY leaders failed to honor their original promises. They failed to reinstate the original person that they had unjustly dismissed and they removed all the others who persisted in speaking out for this grassroots committee, the PRC that they originally consented to. It is also evident that the leadership abused their power by using their status and influence to turn the whole membership against the original PRC committee members.
When we finally realized the leaders became incorrigible, we chanted for guidance. At this point we found Makiguchi's guidance in one of Sensei's speeches:
"Mr. Makiguchi insisted that the constituent members of a body or organization must direct the actions of the leaders."
This was in the midst of writing Victorious America. We were excited by this confirmation that the PRC was on the right track and we did not need the permission to oversee leaders who had acted in such an unethical manner. Our experimental grassroots committee, the PRC was perfectly in line with the precepts and guidance of our organization's founder. In view of the events that transpired it was our natural right to proceed with this idea of empowerment of the members against abusive of authority and implement it where it was needed. Soon thereafter, Victorious America was completed and distributed among the members as the basis for the
PRCs that they were forming. The initial response from many of the members was great excitement and jubilation. The essay was a pure inspiration for positive change based on Makiguchi and President Ikeda's guidance. There was no mention of any NY leaders' name or any incidents that would have exposed their irresponsible behavior in the essay. Yet a few weeks later, a slanderous letter was distributed to the NY members written and approved by the highest leaders in NY. In the letter they falsely accused us of being vicious and abusive, making us look like the abusers and they were the victims. They used their influence and status as authorities to censure us with fabricated reports to make us appear to the members as vicious people who were trying to destroy the integrity of the organization and start a 'parallel organization'. This was a bald-faced lie. The letter included lies of omission, libelous misrepresentations of our intent, inflation of their own stature, hiding their failings, and distortions of the facts and other subterfuges. It is worthwhile to mention that fewer than 50% of those top leaders who signed the letter had actually read Victorious America at the time.
In conclusion, we are stating that we have the right, more by a duty to show that such inequities did occur and in fact do exist, so we can make a change. Furthermore based on President Ikeda's
has mentioned that if you do not stand up to set the record straight when lies are told about you, you then
deserve to suffer their consequences. We will be providing documents and more detailed reports, for we have nothing to hide and wish to have these documents on record until our good names are cleared.
December 22, 2000