STATUS QUO

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In the following pages of this chapter, you may recognize some circumstances that to a certain degree exist within our organization. The problem is not so much in recognizing that it does exist - because then we can make a change. This is an example of a healthy organization and a healthy membership, which is not afraid to speak up.

The difficulty arises when there is a problem and we refuse to acknowledge it. This leads to an organization in which the members become submissive and complacent, becoming irritated by those who would lead the charge for change when change is necessary.

President Ikeda says:

"While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring and morning and birth." (ST,3/90)

He further states:

"Also in the organization for kosen-rufu we have to clearly say what must be said. The purpose of Buddhism is not to produce dupes who blindly follow their leaders. It is to produce people of wisdom who can judge right or wrong on their own in the clear mirror of Buddhism." (ST,3/90)

That is why it is necessary to have people with courage who are willing to point out situations that need to be changed in our organization based on the spirit of the late President Toda who stated:

"The organization is more important than my life."

If we are willing to make the necessary changes we can avoid compounding negative effects and prevent our organization from going off track.

After all is said and done we must stand alone in our obligation to make sure that this is the type of organization that represents President Ikeda's vision. As Sensei says, we must speak up in spite of any negative reception we may receive.

The status quo is the established order. When people gather together for a common purpose or goal, there obviously has to be an organizational structure so people can work together in harmony. People take on different but equally important functions to keep the organization intact.

However, when there exists an unhealthy balance between those who are in the position to fulfill the function as leaders or authorities and the membership we can say there is an unhealthy status quo. When the goal or the common purpose becomes to serve the ego of those who function as leaders, we can say there is lack of health.

The pamphlet, "Questions and Answers on the Temple Issue" states:

"The most elemental purpose of Buddhism has never been well-received by those with a strong stake in the status quo, in the established order, particularly when that order is stagnant and calls for passivity or unquestioning obedience on the part of ordinary people."

It further declares that the practice of Buddhism produces a happier and more aware populace, a socially responsible and politically involved citizenry. Whether the organization is religious or secular, people who are served by it must be perceptive and courageous enough to unmask self-serving authority.

Why as Buddhists must we ever so carefully study the nature of the status quo? We study so we will prevent any unhealthy system from gaining a foothold in our own organization. 

We study so we will be able to fight against any organization that would rob the people of their happiness. All organizations are vulnerable to this change in the established order. President Ikeda says people in positions of authority have the tendency towards the status quo. We study the status quo so we will have an early warning system to enable us to recognize the characteristics when they appear. This in turn will help us correct this system before it can ever gain a stronghold.

When the status quo is left unchecked it becomes the breeding ground for those who habitually deceive the people. A negative status quo unleashes an army of self-centered individuals who consume good leaders and the membership alike, leaving them stripped of their judgment and integrity. Unchecked systems leave the doors open to parasites of justice that provoke schisms between the righteous while consuming the innocent with lies.

Makiguchi states:

"For people to become happy, they must be made wise. People tend to be easily fooled by social status and titles. The Soka revolution, the Buddhist revolution seeks to change that. The goal is to make people wise and enable them to create their own happiness."

In Nikken's case, he manifests the supreme evil using the status quo as a weapon. He ravages the treasure tower of its jewels which is promised to the people, offering them trinkets in their place. If we look at how Nikken's organization functions, we will know what kind of organization never to become and what to guard against. The victory over Nikken can truly be celebrated when the members have a decisive victory over their own passive nature and fight evil on all levels. Nikken accelerates this process. He provides us with this opportunity. This is our perfect opportunity to do human revolution and gain our enlightenment.

In Nikken's case the status quo has fully blossomed. This is the extreme case. We must continually distance ourselves from him and make sure that if any such function or its potential to exist have invaded our organization we have the determination and courage not only to uncover such flaws and uproot them but take steps that prohibit and keep in check the spreading of such negative phenomena.

We must be healthy enough to look squarely in the face of our own reality. This process should not be considered just a criticism of our organization and people who have the courage to stand alone and speak out should not be greeted with persecution or considered a threat. The people ultimately know what is the truth.

The characteristics of a negative status quo: when the focus of the leadership of an established order shifts from serving the people and is replaced by the emergence of a controlling hierarchy infatuated with its own self importance and irreplacability. The goal is to protect themselves and perpetuate the established order. This becomes more important than the people it was supposed to serve.

This occurs when an inordinate amount of control is gained by the authority or leaders and thus leads to the situation where the constituency loses the power to oversee the actions of the leaders and hold them accountable. In this type of system people use their social standing to maneuver themselves into positions of authority. Once they have gained this status, people naturally treat them with great respect, captivated by their great influence and power. They dare not question their integrity. Now finally, left unchecked, they manipulate the doctrine that would free the people and use it to subdue those who would question their actions.

Nichiren Daishonin laments people's approach to Buddhism, saying,

"The people of our time - whether clergy or laity, nobles or commoners - all revere persons and do not value the Law. They make their own mind their teacher and do not rely on the sutras."

Members in our organization should never fear or be swayed by status. On the contrary, we must always be aware of content, no matter what the source.

This does not imply that we should not trust any person who happens to have status. That is not the point. The point is that the preoccupation with status is unhealthy. We should view all people and judge them by their character, not their status.

The status quo is the supporting structure for unchecked power and control over the constituency. It is a historical phenomenon. It is a virus that can invade a healthy body and make it diseased. The blueprint is always the same, only the names of the people change. It can appear in any organization, ours included.

There is a progressive development of a superior social class. As these cliques develop the attention of the constituency focuses on the opportunity to show loyalty and gain approval from these groups which now become the defining purpose.

Now the ability of an individual to stand alone or disagree with the established order is opposed by the members who measure the credibility of a person by the approval of the hierarchy. This of course leads to the isolation of such a member. Now the freedom to speak out against unhealthy conditions in an organization is relegated to those few who would risk their own castration.

The philosophy of the unhealthy status quo is always the same. The end justifies the means. Actions of deceit and cover-ups are all justifiable under the system. This becomes more despicable when the goal of enlightenment and happiness of the people is manipulated to protect the system.

UNQUESTIONED AUTHORITY

Unquestioned authority is when a group of people do not feel obligated to those who would dare question their wisdom or challenge the validity of their statements or actions. Why? Because they feel the people do not have the capacity of perceiving the importance of their leadership. Thus the people themselves are considered devoid of the qualities that would fit the criteria for equal consideration, thus eventually deeming them unworthy, they cannot receive fair and just treatment. This is absolute power.

When the inquiries into the actions of the leadership or authorities of any organization is obstructed and leaders not held accountable to the censure of its members because it is considered a threat, an unacceptable formula to maintain the order of unity in the organization. This is absolute power.

When there is no due process and fair and just treatment to those whose actions and interest come into question by the hierarchy because judgment is relegated only to those who are left unmonitored and unchallenged by the people we can say there is the condition for absolute power. Why? Because now the hierarchy has the absolute power of both accusing and judging and reserves the right to withhold information and prohibit inquiries from the constituency. This is absolute power.

While holding the constituency accountable to the rules that are chartered by the organization, they claim the privilege of arbitrarily changing the rules when they feel it suits their objective without conferring with the constituency.

When there is no document or process that empowers the people to prevent and censure such actions, the people in such an organization have turned over unlimited and absolute power to the authority. This can happen in any organization. Nikken dismissed Sensei as Daikoto by arbitrarily changing the rules of the charter. He was denied due process. This is absolute power.

When the people are not empowered, they have lost the right to implement changes from the people. Because the power to make changes has been invested in the hierarchy. They're in charge. Therefore any individual that wishes to make changes who is not part of the hierarchy will be told, "All organizations are the same. They all have rules and regulations. You must accept this fact. Therefore, change can only be approved of and initiated by the hierarchy." This was the case with Nikken. We were not mandated as a people for the process of change. This is absolute power. This is an example of, "It's my way or the highway" mentality.

EXAMPLE OF THE STATUS QUO

In the following example you can substitute any persons who are in the position of authority. The actions are consistent in varying degrees whether it is in business, government or even religious institutions where the people do not put the power of the authorities in check.

A priest in one area becomes incensed when a member in his congregation questions his actions and another priest in the same area knows of the situation and knows his fellow priest is wrong. Even though he knows this, and that it continues to happen, he will not speak up.

If he does speak up, he considers, and mentions this to the bad priest, he will be told by his senior priests, "You must support each other no matter what, if you do not, the people will fault us all. Then any one of us can be subject to criticism by the congregation. This would create disunity and the people will not trust us."

The senior priest talks to the member to smooth over the situation, promising that he will take care of it. In talking to the senior priest, the bad priest finds out that what he did was reported by the member. The bad priest becomes incensed further at the member. His stance is that the member, not the priesthood, is expendable. He now steps up persecution of the member who reported the incident. Now when this member complains again because of threats that were made to him, the situation drastically changes because of the priests' own politics. They can not punish this priest because they will all lose face, being that they are all tied together.

Now the crucial decision is made: the member is deemed an upstart and must be stopped. For if other members side with him because of this injustice there would be an open rebellion. The priests, not realizing they are creating the disunity, level the final weapon to quell the disturbance. The very teachings that are meant to save the people are used against them. The members are told to ignore this situation and that it will be taken care of. If it continues it will cause disunity.

Now the member is isolated by his own fellow members who have been intimidated into believing that speaking out against injustice is the same thing as creating onshitsu. Though the priests are lying, and he has been treated unfairly, he stands no chance. The priests have closed ranks. They will continue to fabricate this lie because they know that the members are too afraid to stand because of the fear of "breaking unity" themselves. Thus this bad priest is protected when in essence he has created the greatest cause for disunity by punishing a sincere member. Now only the member is accountable and the priest is exempt.

What happens to the people is probably the most hideous in nature. The people are left open to an unending assault on their dignity and intelligence. In our world of religion the doctrine of faith is absolute because we can extract solutions to all our problems. The established order is usually set up where the members are required to trust the leaders of the organization in order to keep unity and protect the doctrine. Of course there has to be trust between the members and leaders if we are to proceed but we cannot make trust an albatross that the members wear around their neck. This cannot become a responsibility that they must execute in order to protect the organization and preserve the faith. This is misleading, false and despicable. No such pressure should be put on the members. Trust can only be gained through sincere action. It cannot be dictated.

In order to avoid the previous scenario, the people must be empowered to oversee the entire organization. When any organization is set up, it must ideally be set up that the "authorities" are accountable to the constituency, otherwise individual members will suffer.

In our organization President Ikeda points out "unusually kind and good-natured people will tend to believe that all others are the same. In the SGI there are a great number of people who are full of good will and intentions. In a sense some might be even too good-natured and trusting, to the extent that I fear they could be deceived by deceitful people….Also, in the organization for kosen-rufu we have to clearly say what must be said. The purpose of Buddhism is not to produce dupes who blindly follow their leader, it is to produce people of wisdom who can judge right or wrong on their own in the clear mirror of Buddhism." (ST, 3/90)

Since there is no empowered body of the constituency to check the actions of the leaders in our own organization, unfortunately, situations occur where a member or a leader challenges the reasoning or actions of another leader and the leader is usually protected by statements such as "your faith is too weak - just chant" or "your life condition is too low" or "you must accept responsibility for your karma" or "there is not one right and no one wrong" and finally "you don't understand President Ikeda's guidance". These statements may be true in some cases but they cannot always be true, especially when a member is protesting problematic actions of a leader. Unfortunately, then the guidance's are used to subdue the member. Everyone has experienced moments of "weak faith". However, it is wrong to use it to discourage a person from standing up for justice and speaking out against evil acts. 

We have faith so we can have the courage to speak up and make changes. Faith is meant to empower the people not suppress them. The other way is passive: "it is your karma to take responsibility because you might be receiving the effect from not standing up in the past, so just apologize and move on" may be only half the process. It is also your karma to speak up when situations do not measure up to common sense and the truth. 

This is how you change your negative karma and apologize: through acts of genuine mercy and compassion.

And for those leaders who say you don't understand Sensei's guidance, it must be said that Sensei wrote these guidance's for the people in a way that could be understood by everyone. When he says remonstrate with leaders - what's not to understand?

SAVING FACE

Saving face is activated when the main concerns of a person drift from protecting and serving the people and becomes focused on proving one's capability and allegiance to their peer group and superiors. This purpose is achieved when there is greater allegiance to them than to the people they represent. Their sense of irreplacability and self-importance drives them to maintain a perpetual picture of harmony and happiness as the only suitable reality to be presented and supported by all so they don't lose face in the eyes of their peer group or superiors. 

Of course, to present such an unrealistic reality and the hunger to maintain such an initiative comes at great cost to the people. Now control replaces humanism as the essential means to achieve unity. This phenomenon is rooted in a basic feeling of the superiority of people in responsible positions, and manifests itself in a fundamental mistrust and disrespect of people of lower status or deemed intellectually inferior to themselves. This leads to a plantation mentality in dealing with the members.

Therefore, if face-saving becomes the dominant character and influence of people in responsible positions people begin to feel it is their privilege to show unquestioned allegiance to them in presenting a perfect picture of happiness, and even sacrifice their integrity rather than lose face by not supporting such a unity. If anyone dares to question the authority, the direction of such leaders they would now be considered by leaders and members alike a chink in the armor of preserving phantom reality. Therefore, if face-saving gains a hold in our organization, people who do speak up can be portrayed as "ring-leaders", malcontents, giving the impression to the membership that they are conspiring against Sensei and the SGI. Such leaders who would attempt to suppress people who speak up for change because they challenge the validity of outdated ideas would be despicable because they would use the organization that is meant to empower the people to ostracize and turn against those that would exercise the right to speak up for change. Therefore, if such an occurrence appears, we must always be ready to unmask it.

What is the answer to keep such an injurious tendency in check. The answer lies in the compassion and mercy of the constituency to keep the authorities in check. That is the formula for maintaining a working harmony between the people and leaders. It already lies in the psyche of the American spirit, a country that has gathered together all the people of the world under the banner of protecting the individual's integrity and keeping the status quo in check.

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