BACK       NEXT

One day a man decided to bring home an extra large prime cut of beef to his wife to cook for dinner because he had received a bonus at work. Much to his surprise his wife cut a third of the steak out and put it into the freezer, while she put the rest in the pan for cooking, Though a little disappointed, the man said nothing to his wife. Each time the man received a bonus and brought home a steak to his wife, she did the same thing. Finally, one evening the man asked his wife why she did such a thing. The woman replied that she honestly did not know why, but that her mother had taught her to cook steak this way. Perplexed, the man asked his wife's mother why the family recipe called for this strange method. His mother-in-law confessed that she didn't know why either but that her mother had taught her this way and said that her mother had done it that way too. Finally, one of the other elderly women in the family was able to provide the answer to this mysterious family tradition. It seemed that long, long ago in Russia, when the family was absolutely poor and always near destitution, the only frying pan they owned was quite small and could only accommodate 2/3 of a steak at one time!

The family never questioned the tradition for generations even though the original reason for cutting the steak this way had long ago been overcome.

What is good for one time is not necessarily suited for another. What is sufficient for one generation is not necessarily workable for another. People get used to things and become comfortable, never questioning them.

Our organization should never be like that. This is not a gymnasium where you just use the equipment for yourself and then go home. On the contrary, the organization is our home and it is up to us to update it when certain habits become outdated. This is an obligation of all members, not just the "management".

Some people advocate that the fundamental structure of the organization that we now have in this country is the eternal blueprint that we must follow in order to preserve the teaching. Furthermore, any fundamental change in its structure would be considered a threat to the present system and the unity of believers.

With this way of thinking, people who would assert that such changes at the core of our organization might be necessary for its advancement would be considered upstarts: an unhappy, unappreciative, " verbal negative minority" as one leader characterized it, making unnecessary waves.

This way of thinking which characterizes these people as upstarts is very dangerous because its basic premise is rooted in the control of people and the fear of change. As I remember, it is this so called unhappy verbal minority that have caused changes throughout history when the status quo turned deaf ears to reason and common sense.

Of course one becomes upset and angry when confronted by an insurmountable wall of dogma- but this does not mean that they are unhappy individuals per se. Would you consider Martin Luther King and Gandhi unhappy negative people because they spoke out for change? They are unhappy precisely because such circumstances exist. Any reasonable being, no matter what the circumstances, will strongly and incessantly challenge such a state of affairs, eventually breaking through until reason and common sense prevail.

We must always keep in mind that it is the organization that is eternally committed to propagating the True Law, which is sacred. Its structure and mechanics, however, is only a function to serve this end and may change with the time to suit the people's needs. It is not a set process that is engraved in stone. Therefore, to think that the structure is set in stone is erroneous.

The organizational model we have been using up to this point is one based on the original Soka Gakkai structure, and has served well up to the present. But a new age calls for a new approach.

Neither President Ikeda nor President Toda was attached to the specific structure of the organization. Quite the contrary, President Ikeda always encourages us strongly to be in harmony with the culture and traditions of the country in which we practice.

President Ikeda says in his dialogue with Bryan Wilson:

"In Soka Gakkai we have until recently adopted the traditional pyramid pattern. Nevertheless, in keeping with fundamental Buddhist egalitarianism and in harmony with prevailing social trends in Japan especially among younger people - we are in the process of shifting to a basic circle system of organization, ensuring total equality and solidarity. We by no means insist, however, that other related groups in other countries follow our lead in this matter. All peoples and nations have their own individual traditions and backgrounds, which ought to find a reflection in local religious organizations. In the matter of adapting systems to suit local needs, I also believe flexibility to be the most effective approach, as long as the maximum number of members is allowed to participate in organizational control."

"For it to function effectively under the widest possible range of circumstances, a religious organization must be able to combine the authoritarian pyramid structure with the egalitarian circle structure in just the right proportions to suit the instance at hand."
("Human Values In a Changing World" pp. 116-117)

While our present structure has served us well up until this date, the enlightenment of the membership under the compassionate guidance of President Ikeda has progressed to a new stage. Now the scaffolds of our building must come down least they become an impediment, blocking our view of the future.

The purpose of the organization is in taking care of members, teaching them the basics of faith and helping them to do human revolution. Of course this is true, but in order to perfect our organization to achieve that end, all the members have to become aware and more involved in advancing this great organization of the people. To that end, it must be perfectly clear to the members what human revolution encompasses. The purpose of doing human revolution is defined as follows: "to produce a happier and more aware populace, a socially responsible and politically involved citizenry, a people who know what true leadership means, whether religious or secular, and who are perceptive and courageous enough to unmask self-serving authority." (Questions & Answers on the Temple Issue, p. 4)

But quite often we hear such statements as the following: "You did not come to the SGI to change the organization, you came here to be happy, any conflicts within the organization are not your concern. Just do your own human revolution". Such statements will minimize the members' input producing a membership that will not be directly involved in instituting change and protecting the organization itself

I think further clarification is necessary to stress this. President Ikeda says the people can't be fooled and their wisdom is boundless. 

When people join the SGI they already have experience in the world and they're not easily fooled. So from the very start, if we tell them to overlook unjust behavior within our own ranks , we will just be maintaining the same status quo from which they came. 

While it is true we must show great appreciation to our leaders for their efforts and sincerity in conveying Sensei's guidance's, we must realize it is our obligation to speak out when Sensei's guidance's are not honored by members and leaders alike, in order to protect the organization. Sensei has told us to connect directly to his spirit and there can be no doubt about that. He is our compass. People all over the world, even nonmembers, can understand what Sensei writes and what kind of man he is. That is why we can have confidence to fulfill his mandate. The point of our practice is to produce a people who will protect and defend an ethical and moral standard that promotes humanism.

In the Elementary Level Textbook on page 88 it says: "The Daishonin is not encouraging the brothers to merely go against what was accepted as a social norm. Rather, here he tries to inject the spirit of humanism into this social obligation, thereby reviving its original intent. 

When ethics and morals go against humanism as expressed in Buddhism, we do not have to follow them."

Without an ethical or moral code as our starting point there can be no advancement of the individual in doing human revolution. The new members must know from the very beginning our stated purpose: whether we are facing the priesthood or any internal or external obstacle to our organization it is an essential part of their human revolution to speak out and address these issues because their involvement is crucial to their enlightenment. The people are not weak and fragile and they can't be duped into believing that peace is merely the absence of conflict.

The structure of every organization is defined through the working relationship and functions of the constituency and its leaders. 

Participation is the key to their enlightenment Standing up against injustice and inwardly polishing yourself are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. It is this complete formula that contains the essential ingredients for human revolution. As the people's enlightenment progresses the active role in changing and overseeing the policies of the organization increases proportionally, This will ensure and maintain the edict "The organization exists only to serve the needs of the people".

Every species exists in an organizational framework. Strict arrangements are made so its members can achieve their survival.

This type of co-dependence is part of the natural order of existence. All species other than the human are subject to the forces of nature and the laws of the environment as the exclusive controlling factor. There is no policy-making decision by the members in this type of community. Everything is set in place, each entity conducts its activities dictated to them by the instinctual process.

Their organization is sustained and controlled through select entities that maintain order through domination.

This system is good for ants and tigers, birds and even microorganisms, where there is a constant battle for survival and self-preservation. While it might be admirable to witness the great sense of unity that can be achieved under these systems, we must always remember the dimension of their reality is contained solely within the food chain system where one species is constantly having the other for dinner!

When we talk of the existence of human beings, the properties of conceptualization and freedom of choice come into play as the deciding factors that form our social structures. Therefore it would be ludicrous for us to implement any systems or social structures fashioned after that which is exclusively reserved for the food chain entities.

Strangely enough many governments and religious organizations in the past have used the model of the food chain to obtain the goal of unity by limiting the rights of their subjects through uncontested control and intimidation.

This was achieved through either use of political propaganda, coupled with external threats in the secular world, or a diluted spiritual agenda with the intent of suppressing the conceptual facility and freedom of choice through the threat of spiritual punishments in the religious world.

But all these organizations were doomed to failure unless they changed, because they were aberrations of the law that governed the realm of human existence. The ones that did not change only set up a karma of discontent which led to a revolt by the people until such systems were eventually dismantled and replaced by more suitable systems to serve the needs of the people.

As we approach the millennium the battle to reform religious institutions is now raging because many have modeled themselves after secular institutions that have historically tried to control the people, thus losing touch with the heart of the constituency.

As the people progress toward enlightenment, the individual's part in forging the organization increases. The individual becomes more and more active in the decision-making process. As this happens, the structure of the organization changes to accommodate the people and open up every avenue to make progressive changes at every level of the structure.

This type of organization provides a solid structure toward continually supporting the development of the people. So as we have stressed before from the very beginning, the members must be made aware of the importance of the basics of practice but equally aware of the importance of the necessity of their commitment to partake in, develop and maintain a fully empowered structure.

The palace of the people can never be occupied by anyone but the people. It is not to be the residence of any that would promote their own personal agenda. People's happiness and the dignity of their struggle to achieve it are the only agenda to be respected. People are not to be treated like carp racing up a waterfall only to be rerouted and transformed into goldfish in a little pond. People are not meant to be an embellishment on their own estate.

In reality it is the attachment to negative images in the people's own minds that would support such a mirage. Now is the time to break our attachment to such images that would promote a tale of servitude. We are reaching the millennium and it is the determination of the Bodhisatvas of the Earth to expose this false image and fulfill the mission of our collective human revolution to change that picture and remove every barricade that would block the promenade of the people.

The true reality of the people's palace is the earth itself where great edifices of harmony are built to house all people of this world where they can celebrate the dignity of their life and the life of the True Buddha, Nichiren Daishonin. In the marketplace where people gather, their exchange of ideas continue to refresh, protect and adorn their lives. It is on this promenade that the common people gave birth to the sacred documents that support the integrity of the individual as the building blocks of our civilization and the lifeblood of our existence.

These ideals now become the basis for the people to direct and oversee their social institutions. Now from the market place arise the representatives of the people who are approved to expedite and advance the agenda of the people. 

It is the prime responsibility of these representatives or leaders not only to be accountable to at least the same standards of ethical behavior the people are held accountable to themselves but through their actions and deeds uphold the edict and ideals of their sacred doctrines.

So the essence of these responsibilities lies in the commitment to justice. The pledge to protect any one from the onslaught of injustice must override any personal loyalties or attachments one might feel. A true leader must be accountable to such a pledge, jeopardizing his own status even his life if necessary in order to preserve and uphold this pledge thus ensuring a sanctuary of justice for all against the abuse of power. 

A true leader of the people is the bride of justice.

In the case of our organization our standards must be higher than secular ones because our cause is so much more important.

Those with the courage to embrace and carry out this pledge, this mandate, will be filled with the passion and wisdom necessary to lead the people. It is of crucial importance in our organization that we embrace these ideals as a standard for leadership. Especially in Mappo, a time in which we are trying to revitalize hope in all people, to embrace these ideals that would rejuvenate and save our nation.

Toda said that the placing of individuals in the correct position of leadership was the decisive factor in the success or failure of our organization. Of course leaders are members too but the leaders have a tremendous responsibility and obligation to the members first. This defines their membership. Just read President Ikeda's guidance's to the leaders. 

They must not only be accountable to the Gohonzon but must be directly accountable to the members they represent, which gives the membership every right to judge and sanction their actions when necessary.

President Ikeda said:

If in the future there are leaders who sit back nonchalantly on the foundation that has been built by their predecessors, who maneuver their way skillfully to avoid hard work or responsibility, who are reluctant to devote every ounce of their energy to serving the members, then it will spell ruin for the Soka Gakkai. Indeed, I'm afraid that there are already such individuals in our organization. It is vital that you youth division members, strictly remonstrate with such negligent and self-complacent leaders.

The most important things in faith are the Daishonin's teachings and the Soka Gakkai spirit. To protect them you may have to strictly admonish people in senior leadership positions. There is nothing to be afraid of.  (WT 4/17/98)

When people quote Sensei's guidance saying "leadership position is not important", this statement is taken out of context. What President Ikeda means here is that enlightenment does not depend upon a title or position. However, structure is important! It can either support or retard growth. Any structure that will support and enhance growth should be regarded with great anticipation.

Democracy without a mandate from the people would be devoid of meaning. It would be like a train without an engine to run it! As people progress in the process of governing themselves and their own actions (human revolution) they naturally demand an equitable response from those who represent and lead them. This is only natural.

Democracy supports the essence of Buddhism because its intention is to give sight to those who have been blinded by injustice. Our faith is the agent of justice that arms the people with a healthy vision of compassion and a commitment to end the suffering that comes forth from evil.

There is no doubt that the leaders in our organization are acting with the utmost sincerity in ratifying and mandating the agendas that maintain our structures. At the present time the sole responsibility for such endeavors and the execution of its policies is relegated only to this group. But in order for us to couple our resources and reach our full potential as a true Buddhist democracy we must be willing to take one more step to complete the equation. 

Forging such a union of shared responsibility between the leaders and the members is truly the gateway to the millennium.

It might be wise to consider that the members have now gathered on the frontier of democracy and through President Ikeda's guidance they are now tasting its sweet nectar. The wheel has turned and now the members must take a more responsible position in guiding the ship.

Now not only the policy-making decisions must become more directly accessible to the membership in their duty to oversee the agenda of our organization, but the constituency must be directly reflected in its charter at the grass roots level to establish the recognition of their credibility in fostering an organization of the people. Such a mandate will let all advance without any obstruction to clarity and purpose.

When no such responsibility is mandated to empower the people directly in our own manual of procedures we lose the great chance to give the members a choice to take a direct seat of responsibility in forging and protecting our organization. Therefore no matter how much we talk about democracy, without a mandate, it would be stripped of its greatest asset and resource, the power of a concerned self-governing people that would ignite and protect our organization and the teachings of the Daishonin eternally.

By mandating this responsibility to the members we now provide a working model in our own organization confirming the process of our human revolution, which stated previously was "... to produce a happier and more aware populace...."

In doing so our organization will literally turn into the training grounds to produce a more active citizenry that is independent, self reliant and empowered that will effect the course of history. 

Those that feel such an empowerment would pit the members against the leaders thus planting the seeds of mistrust of those in responsible positions, please consider the following: since our organization is supposed to be a reflection of our own culture and society, would you say that because people are empowered to take action when our leaders act in an irresponsible way, that democracy is the medium to pit the people against the leaders and plant the seed for the destruction of democracy itself. It is precisely this interchange of an empowered constituency that can hold in check and even change the policy-making decisions and monitor the actions of their leaders that protects the trust. 

It is workable because the people trust the leaders with a certain power of influence and leaders trust the people with a certain power of influence and both are mandated by mutual decree. 

Therefore mutual trust. Without the mechanics of this mutual trust, the concept of trust itself to maintain our current organizational structure can be confused with absolute trust in the Gohonzon.

This working concept of mutual trust opens the door in our organization to the establishment of viable body of believers standing behind and supporting any of the members that wish to speak out and institute change that will enhance the organization. When this body of influence becomes mandated, it acts as a magnet for change drawing forth unlimited courage from the heart of the membership, propelling us forward into the enlightened dimension of human relationships. With this platform in place the membership itself is released from any whirlpool of complaints preventing this dangerous infestation of onshitsu. The leaders and the members can act in accord achieving a truly harmonious organization. Now the members have an avenue of recourse and can no longer blame any leader for their unhappiness. Now they must truly take responsibility for their own actions. The reality is that our organization does have leaders and President Ikeda has time and time again stressed their responsibility towards the members. Leaders are members too, but their leadership responsibility defines their membership. In a religious democracy consent and accountability replaces voting and politics.

The innumerable benefits of such an endeavor are too exciting to contain and too long to list. What can a temple member say when we tell them that in our organization the people are mandated to oversee the actions of our leaders. It is the people who are directly entrusted to protect the teachings. Can you correct the priest or can you even oversee his policy or behavior? This will truly plant the seed of doubt in the temple members who live in this country and we will show by example the true meaning of responsibility and freedom we inherit from the true teaching and how they have abdicated it. What a kick in the head to Nikken!

The following proposal contains an outline of a committee that puts these ideas in place. For those who have any concerns relating to the practicality of such an endeavor, please read the accompanying outline of the People's Representatives Committee. We think it will alleviate your fears. 

This is not to be confused or co-opted by an ombudsman committee whose staff is comprised and selected by the leadership. Our proposal is a grassroots movement that is chosen and comprised by the people.

TOP       BACK       NEXT