Why are members made to feel guilty if they do not participate in the Zaimu Campaigns!

Dear friends;
I have been heavily burdens over the guilt one must feel surrounding making contribution for the upkeeping of leaders who are paid salaries! Are we not making contribution when we open our homes for meetings, visiting and calling members on our cellular and home phone numbers, using gasoline to travel to meetings, transporting members to meetings and etc. and taking the time to nurture new and long time struggling members?

I take deep offense when I am told that "you are not going to get benefits if you do not seek to change your karm and fall in line! If embracing the Lotus Sutra in itself is not beneficial, then why are we practicing?

I am confused when leaders use Used Car Salesman tactics to gain control over members thoughts and free will- I am not saying that all of you have had the experiences that I have had, or even process information the manner in which I do, but reading the Gosho, studying the guidance of President Ikeda for a period of 24 years, I have been able to process the information differently and has gained tremendous fortune practicing as I am.

I realize many members who have been around for years and dedicated to the organization culture will think of me as being anti- SGI, but I am not! I just want peace in this world, a reason why I joined the organization- Peace should not come at the expense of free will! Betty Smith

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Comment by Suki on June 21, 2009 at 2:30am
Thats all we can do, is be as we are each moment. We are not suppose to let people walk all over us either, yes we are supposed to stand up for whats right with wisdom. I believe that in any religion, organization, practice, or any kind of group of people.....there's going to be that chance that some will try to opress others.....that's just the way it is. I don't think anyone likes to be maltreated, it's happened to me and many others.....those individuals only make me stronger now.....because I take it to the Gohonzon & chant ernestly about the situation & for that person's happiness until there's a change.....even after that change. I even appreciate those kind of situations with those people because they really keep me on my toes & help me stay focus.....perfect chance to see the power of daimoku : ) So you see its not the philosophy thats wrong its some people's perception thats off......some of us learn as we continue & some fizzle out. Everyone has this amazing treasure ( Buddhahood ) inside of them. Once we do all that we can do.....we release it to the universe, then we can keep our heads up smile & keep moving to reach our highest potencial & help others do the same. If we hold on to resentment towards others or let others control our emotions we will be hurting ourselves. There's a reason for every encounter my dear.

The important question for me is, does our practice really work? YES, it does for me & from what you wrote it seems like it does for you too. Thats my reason for sharing it with others.

Sure I would like to have financial freedom, but I don't worry.......worry cuts the flow.....things work themselves out when we do all that we can. I've learn to appreciate life & everything that I do have.....life is such an adventure to me now. YES we are going to break through any financial obstacles or any kind of obstacle in any other area of our lives because Nam-myho-renge-kyo really works in our daily lives.....I've noticed in my life an increase of happiness, appreciation, wisdom, peace, & compassion.

Thank you Betty for sharing your concern with us, we are here to encourage & inspire each other. We don't have to close our eyes to our beliefs & values.

Comment by Betty J. Smith on June 17, 2009 at 1:41am
Good morning Suki; I am happy to hear from you! I agree, we get benefits because of our faith, practice and study of the Lotus Sutra and our action we take for world peace as we are! I read somewhere in the Gosho about the Dragon King Daughter who reached enlightenment as she was". I have devoted my life to propagating Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism as I am! I will not be discouraged by those who persecute me, nor will I stand down when I am maltreated, just to be a part of a group conscious; a problem with all religion, who iqnore the spirituality of all human being! I deeply appreciate the SGI organization for making it possible for me to receive the Gohonzon this lifetime, and changing my karma. I know deep down inside that had it not been from the courageous woman that introduced the Gohonzon to me, I would not have reach the level in life that I have reached this lifetime! Being thankful does not mean that I have to stuff my feelings and close my eyes to truth! I have difficulty practicing under oppressive energies! I know you and I are going to break through our financial obstacles, as we would any other sickness. I see financial struggles as I would see the manifestation of a sudden illness, a karmic disease that had to challenged and changed this lifetime! Take care of yourself! Betty
Comment by Suki on June 16, 2009 at 5:58am
Hi Betty,

It takes a lot of courage to stand up for what you believe. I believe that it's good to be able to give freely from the heart without getting a guilt trip or pressure tactics in these Zaimu campains for Kosen-rufu. Giving of yourself all year around or anytime of the year is also a great contribution to kosen-rufu. If someone doesn't have it to give during Zaimu campaign they shouldn't have to feel bad. It's some people that get caught up in rules & regulations but that's where they're at, thats not what our SGI Buddhist practice is all about. This one leader from NY told me that there are no set of rules on what to do or not to do, as long as we practice, study, & attend ativities the right answer will come from within as we gain wisdom from raising our life condition.

As for the leader that was being disrespectful who knows what life condition he is in, but we do know that cause & effect is no respector of persons. If thats the causes he's making his effect wont be to favorable. We are humans with frailties, the question is how are we going to respond when we are done wrong. Our practice teaches us compassion, when someone does us wrong we are suppose to chant for thier happiness.It's not always easy especially when it comes from a leader with potential to harm others, it should be reported also...
which you also had the courage to tell someone for the sake of everyone.

I didn't give because my hours at work had been cut to 25hrs a week from a 40+ hrs. a week,I don't feel guilty either, & been getting good benefits.....somehow my current bills are paid ( myoho ) circumstances shifting at the right moment. To top it all off, happiness has overtaken me for a month everyday steady in the midst of challenges. I will give $$$ soon as I can, even if Z.C. is over....I appreciate our SGI practice in my heart all year around.

Comment by Betty J. Smith on May 12, 2009 at 11:11pm
On a second note, Sidney- The two members who aided this leader in his action, were asked to leave the Island and their work permits were not renewed! I am reading my home for a new beginning, and dedicate it for SGI activities- My husband, who is a Bermudian made that determination seven years ago! We are working on developing two groups at the same time- one in Georgia, and one in Bermuda- Oh! course I have a hot temper, but I am committed to the world peace activities. I am often misundestood because I have a stand alone spirit- My first year of practice before learning Gongyo, and barely pronoucing NMRK correctly, but I took the responsibility for 40 members- I am seeking to find my niche again- Now Bermuda is ready to accept this Buddhism because I did not run away! I am aware that King Devil donot want me on the Island and will use whomever, to hit at the weakest moment; that is exactly what happened- My father passed and I felt lost and alone- My family all turned against me at one, and I realized that my father was my connection to the family and he was gone- Since I did not give up, continued my practice in Georgia, and now I am back stronger than ever! June 7, 2009 will be my 25 myoho birthday! Betty
Comment by Betty J. Smith on May 12, 2009 at 10:58pm
Good Morning Sidney; From the depths of my heart, I thank you for your words of encouragment. I will never give up practicing Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism, is what the Soka Gakkai practice, and President Ikeda pushes the members toward. I understand what you are saying, but I still feel that such individual should not have a place as a senior leader in the SGI- I am unable to let him slide and he will have to be ex-communicated, not me! This individual is a dangerour person, and will eventually be one of the reason SGI will have a discrimination charge against the organization. I received personal guidance from President Ikeda during the Grand Opening Ceremony at the FNCC. I do not know how he knew what I had experienced with the leaders in the organization, but in the presence of all the top senior leaders and members standing around, he said to me, in kissing closeness; " "flush out those leaders who disrespect and mistreat members!" A senior member in Florida has a picture of us face to face, and for the first time in my life I was speechless! He then went on to say, "according to a president of a country in Africa, that the next war will be between men and women, and if their is a war he would most definitely be on the side of the women." I think members should be allowed to freely express their hurt without feeling that it is against some sacred law! One of the reason I have continued to practice this great Buddhism is because it is a "religion of freedom", and "peaceful world is the Buddha 's will. I understand and agree %100 percent on all the points you have made, and truly thank you for taking the time to encourage me! Betty
Comment by Sidney on May 11, 2009 at 9:28pm
Hi Betty,

Congratulation to you for having to face such individual. You are practicing Ikeda Sensei guidance with your life. I have read from Linda Johnson guidance about how Sensei encourage us to learn from the hurt that others hurl upon us and not to repeat that mistake onto others.

I always believe that when our faith is so strong that we believe that nothing can stop us, Sansho shima will find our weak point and attack, causing us to doubt, disbelieve and to question. It is at this crucial moment that we return to our prime point of faith and ask for what do we practice?

There is a Japanese ex-member who had practiced for fifty over years and had betray the gakkai and Sensei recently. Can you imagine that person who practiced since Toda Sensei's time, accumulated so much good fortune but near the last moment, he backslide. What a waste?!!

You have experience the frustation that Makiguchi and Toda Sensei felt when they against the Shinto talisman in WWII and the insensitivity of the priesthood towards Ikeda Sensei before the split up. Gakkai is always embracing the priesthood, it is the priesthood who do not want us, so embrace that individual with your wisdom, courage and compassion. If he do not appreciate, he will not take it any longer and "excommunicate" you.

Everything has a reason behind. If everyone in the gakkai are goodies, how can we polish ourselves. How can we do human revolution? Then the doctrine of ten worlds and ichinen sanzen are just theory only.

There is a Chinese saying "If I don't go to hell, who else does?" meaning that "I will go to hell to save those who are suffering in hell" and Ikeda Sensei mentioned "I have a mission and mine alone. You have a mission, only you can achieve it." Hence it is your mission to face and overcome that negative feeling inside you and become a wise practitioner of the Lotus Sutra.

May your group in Bermuda experience great growth and benefits.
Comment by Betty J. Smith on May 11, 2009 at 12:13am
From the depths of my heart , I thank all of you for your comments and encouragment- I will never forsake the Lotus Sutra, and stop propagating it's teaching. I owed my life to this Buddhism, but like to express what's on my heart. I feel so much better since I was able to express what has weighed heavily on my heart since 2004, The leader that came to Bermuda and created such chaos in the group that I established and was so disrespectful that it knocked me back , and fragmentized my respect for SGI. He did it on the heal of my father's death, leaving me to see SGI from a whole different perspective. I reported the incidence to Mr. Danny Nagashima, the General Director, and he state that he was aware of this individual tendency to disrespect women, yet the individual was appointed to a higher position in SGI- This individual is a paid staff member of SGI- As are result, I will support the movement and give of myself by protecting and supporting the teaching of Nichiren Daishonin- At this moment, my gut does not feel that it is time to let go until I see real concrete changes - My daughter who is a leader in New Jersey informed me that SGI has instituted a new code of ethics for leaders to follower- I am glad that progress is being made- If not, then we are no different from the Catholic Religion that ignore what the members are subjected to by the Priesthood- When the priest mis behave, he was transfered to another church, but continued with his deviant actions against members. I have difficulty seeing how the actions of SGI is any different when it comes to behaviors of leaders_ I understand that we must support the movement, but I cannot tolerate injustice and discrimination- Isn't this what President Ikeda says in his guidance- stand up against injustice at all cost! What is the difference? Help me to understand this! Betty
Comment by Bob Mann on May 9, 2009 at 11:25pm
Hi Betty, I feel your concern is not that you have been "reminded" about the yearly contribution campaign, but in the way it was presented to you. When someone says you wont get any benefits if you don't do blah, blah, blah, it just tells me that they themselves are weak in faith. I dont listen to that type person, I follow the Law not the person..... BTW, falling in line is not the Gakkai way. All people are different. As you said "free will." President Ikeda wants us all to have a back-bone. If some leader thinks the Zaimu campaign is a "contest" of some sort then we are all in trouble....

At any rate, since this subject has been discussed before, here are some comments from the past that might shed some more light on the subject at hand: (BTW, the comments from Dan, Sidney, and Richard are right on)(in my opinion))

The following comes the the FAQ on the SGI-USA website.

Does Buddhism place a significance on making contributions?

Yes. Many of the letters Nichiren Daishonin wrote to his believers
begin with expressions of gratitude for their sincere offerings. He
praises them for their support of his activities to teach and
propagate the Buddhist Law. Because this is an organization that
promotes Nichiren Daishonin,s Buddhism, making sincere offerings to
support SGI- USA is a profoundly significant and important act for the
sake of the Law. Making financial contributions is an expression of
our sincere faith in the Gohonzon. It is a cause that will help lay
the foundation for peace and prosperity of the world, as well as our
personal good fortune and happiness. As Nichiren Daishonin writes:
'Still greater are the benefits arising from ten or twenty
contributions, or from five years, ten years, or a lifetime of
contributions. They are even beyond the measure of the Buddha's
wisdom.... When you embrace this sutra, you will overflow with
happiness and shed tears of joy. It seems impossible to repay your
debt to Shakyamuni, but by your frequent offerings to me deep in these
mountains you will repay the merciful kindness of both the Lotus Sutra
and Shakyamuni Buddha' (The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol.
1, p. 254).
- - - - - - - -
Here is a question from a concerned District Leader asking how to get/inspire new people to contribute, followed by my responce.... I hope it is of some value!

Please don’t fret. Your concern for your member’s welfare is admirable. An excerpt from "On the Stages of Faith and Practice" says, "There is a danger that a beginner will be led astray by subordinate concerns, and that this will interfere with the primary practice. The beginner should directly give all his/her attention to embracing the sutra; that is the highest type of offering."

Among subordinate concerns would be almsgiving. Primary practice would be chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

There are to many people who start chanting for no other reason than to obtain/fulfill short term objectives. They act as beggars or addicts, get their fix and move on, or simply give in without obtaining anything significant. This is usually because they haven’t established a sound foundation of faith, practice, or study. They didn’t yearn for human revolution (personal improvement/development) or kosenrufu, just with satisfaction in small rewards. They didn’t understand or see the big picture.

That brings us back to your dilemma, how to explain the significance of the special contribution. It’s not what you give or how much you give. It is the sincerity behind it that counts. How about the fable of the little boy’s offering a mudpie to Shakyamuni, and the relationship to King Ashoka of India. It’s an honor to be able to contribute. Did God ever build a church? Did Nichiren ever build a community center? No, it’s always been the people. Give and ye shall receive is a universal concept. SGI, per se, doesn’t pass the plate. In the past you even had to apply, wait for months, for the opportunity to give. Given this opportunity, one should be ecstatic. People who draw a salary within the organization are not well paid. In fact, they are poorly paid. I have so much respect for them and for those others who volunteer their time and efforts so that you and I can advance in faith. It costs to maintain community centers in each city. It costs to travel from city to city to help develop the faith of each member. In our plus and minus society, we get a tremendous ROI (return on investment) for our generosity.

Let me add from "The Three Kinds of Treasure", "Live so that all people of Kamakura will say in your praise that Shijo Kingo is diligent in the service of his lord, in the service of Buddhism, and in his concern for other people. More valuable than treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!". Try adding your city for Kamakura and your name for Shijo Kingo. It sure reads well, doesn’t it?

Akemi, I hope this is of some value to your new members and to the people on this board. Let’s end with the following thought….. From "The Opening of the Eye’s", "If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present."

Quite evident that we make our own causes, we sleep in our own beds, and what goes around comes around…. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo to all….
Comment by Dan on May 9, 2009 at 10:03pm
There are many ways of contribution. No one should be made or feel guilty about not being able to give contribution$ when it's not done with common sense and willingly from the heart. There have been many times over the years that I chose to NOT to give monetarily. I made up for it in other ways, small ways but enough for me -- doing toban (volunteer to watch the community center for security, scheduling the reliable members who could be there to make sure the activity goes smoothly, helping out with bringing youth out to activities, taking up the slack in communicating in the district or chapter and encouraging people to even give contribution (big big smile). But one of the ways that you can 'contribute' is making sure you maintain your SGI publications consistently, and helping others do so also. This past few years I've been pretty consistent about giving contributions during the special zaimu campaign.

It's looking like I may not be able to do it this time around. But I'm thinking a lot about how to do it in other ways -- I might decide to do a lawn/garage sale and contribute what I make & at the same time get rid of stuff I've accumulated over the years. Whatever profits I make selling some photographs in June (even if it's after the campaign) I may give to the organization. Half the fun is figuring out how to do it and it's done because I WANT to do it. Benefits? Pffft! There are many benefits that I want but the one that I want most is that this organization will grow in sooo many ways. Any way you can help even as thankless as (when I was younger) like securing the parking lot for the safety of the members late at night and making sure there are no accidents at activities goes a long way. best, Dan
Comment by Sidney on May 9, 2009 at 8:09pm
May I offer my humble opinion.

1. Contributions that you have mentions are contribution of body, offering places for meetings and doing shakubuku etc. But in our modern world, there are bills of electricity and water to keep the community centers going and full-time kaikan staff to deal with the daily affairs of running the whole organinsation. Can you imagine an organisation as large as ours has all the leaders doing part-time. These salaried leaders are contributing their full time and effort and should be appropriated compensate. Our financial contributions are not to the salaried leaders but to the movement of kosen-rufu. If any salaried leaders taking advantage of the gakkai, they will suffer harshly as stated in the Gosho. We who contribute financially to kosen-rufu activities such as the water and electricity bills will get benefits as the Gosho stated.

2. There is no coercion in gakkai. The leaders are too enthusiast in promoting zaimu. It is not the amount that matters, it is the heart. As we know that it is the neutron, which is smaller than atom and too small for naked eye to be seem, that trigger the nuclear fission. Our financial contribution may be like the neutron but the benefit derives from it is not only a fission but seven times of it. So the important point is be a part of zaimu, no matter how small. We contribute from our heart and not for others to see.

3. About free will, is it about what we like to do or what we want to do? If it is about what we like to do, then it is not free will. What we like to do is determined by our life state conditions. But what we want to do is free will. As it free the shackles of karma and to breakthrough ourselves. Makiguchi Sensei made a clear distinction between a believer and a practitioner. A believer do not fight sansho shima but practitioner fights sansho shima and work for kosen-rufu.

4. No one is perfect. We may be offended by the high-handed approach by the leaders but I believes that their intentions are good. Please forgive them. The most important is to practice for our lives to shine, be expansive and happy.

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