Making the Change
Solutions and Requisites for Change
When there are leaders of high status in a religious organization that justify the suppression of the fundamental rights of it's members, in the name of protecting the organization and the faith, these actions then begin to undermine the basic tenets of their religious doctrine. This becomes very serious when we are talking about the doctrines of Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. It is in such a system where the people are not mandated by word or procedure in the organizations by-laws to oversee and inquire into the actions of leaders, that such unhealthy circumstances can fester and remain endemic.
Despite Makiguchi's guidelines for the people to oversee the actions of the leaders, no such implementation in our organizational by-laws is in effect today. When viewed from an historical perspective, where people are not fully empowered in religious and secular institutions, the fundamental rights to protest unethical behavior, the right to hold leaders personally accountable, freedom from censorship in publications and the freedom of free expression are denied, when these rights are exercised. When these rights are expressed by the people to challenge inequities in the system, the consequences for them are very severe: ostracism, defamation of character, and fear of punishment. The purpose of this remonstration is to call for immediate change in our current antiquated system. In our current system, where the people are not fully empowered to keep their leaders in check, the leaders can make any statements and act with impunity because there is no venue for the members to monitor the behavior and direction of the leaders. Could we accept such a system?
CROSSING THE BRIDGE TO A NEW SYSTEM
In our era there is a shift from traditionally run institutions to organizations based on religious democracies and our President Ikeda has taken the lead in this shift. It has long been the tradition that the structure of the religious institutions were governed by the power of faith in the doctrine they embraced. Since the organization was considered a working model of the teachings, it was generally accepted that the structure itself was equal to the faith or doctrine they embraced. The organization, literally became absolute itself, because it embodied the teachings.
Unlike secular organizations there was no mandate whereby the people were empowered to censure or put in check the actions of the leaders. The only recourse was prayer and the mechanics of the prayer operated in only one way: through your sincere faith all would be taken care of, and justice would be restored. Any other actions such as speaking out against unjust actions of the hierarchy were viewed as a threat to the institution. People became very docile by accepting this limited understanding of the faith and its relationship to the organized structure.
With this kind of thinking it is easy for the leaders to keep the control from the top down. In this way, the doctrine can easily be manipulated to keep the members in check. For example, it then becomes easy for the leaders to say to the members "just have faith and pray" when you are treated unfairly, because the supreme law has absolute justice. So if one is critical about the organization or it's leaders, then he refrains from speaking out because he fears he is slandering the faith itself, because the organization embodies the teachings.
They can further assert control and protect themselves by asserting that we must protect the name of the organization, inside and outside, against negative exposure, because of our noble goals and faith. Now the members fear that they may be slandering the organization and remain silent even when encountering injustice from within. Now the leaders have asserted full control in silencing the members.
The supremacy of our faith does not justify that it can be interpreted to override people's fundamental secular rights to speak out against injustice, for we could never defend the absence of these basic human rights when dealing with unjust actions that are covered up from within. This would belittle the Law. The supremacy of the Law was never meant to say, "sit down, chant and shut-up!" Rather to say "sit down, chant and speak out!" and fight continuously until unjust situations are overturned wherever they occur especially inside the organization, so that we can protect it. That is not as to say that the Supreme Law is not superior to the secular law. But it is in fact, superior because it functions to empower the people to stand up for their fundamental secular rights and it provides an avenue of faith, so that if they keep fighting, they will get absolute justice. It then stands to reason that there is a systemic flaw when we think that faith could overrule such principles of people's fundamental rights. Makiguchi could foresee this happening and that is why he gave guidance for the people to oversee the actions over the leaders.
We assert that our Buddhist faith serves to empower the people to be strong enough to champion these rights as an essential ingredient for one's happiness and to protect the Law and the organization.
In conclusion, any system that would support such actions that impose a threat to people's fundamental rights must be changed immediately. Victorious America is the philosophical foundation for changing the system and finally empowering the membership at the grassroots level. It's a positive solution that can unify all diversity. No organization, no group, no person, nothing stands above peoples fundamental rights. When we tried to exercise our fundamental rights to make a positive change within the organization by writing Victorious America we were denounced.
December 22, 2000