Saturday, August 04, 2012

On Lip Service and Formality

In the excerpt of The New Human Revolution found in the May 11th issue of the World Tribune, SGI President Daisaku Ikeda surrogate Shinichi Yamamoto asserted: "Standing up with the awareness that we are disciples of Nichiren, in terms of our concrete practice, is committing ourselves to the Soka Gakkai, striving for kosen-rufu and living out our lives in the spirit of 'many in body, one in mind.'"

Nichiren Daishonin states: "If you are of the same mind as Nichiren, you must be a Bodhisattva of the Earth." Yamamoto further expounds, "'The same mind as Nichiren' means the same heart and spirit as the Daishonin."

What does the spirit of the Daishonin mean? This is the same as asking "what is the spirit of Presidents Makiguchi, Toda and Ikeda?" In gosho after gosho, and lecture after lecture, we see that this means more than simply providing organizational structure to the members; it means making a sincere effort to connect one on one with them, supporting them, providing guidance to them, and helping them understand that whatever fortunes and misfortunes they encounter is tied back to deep Buddhist principles in a caring manner.

Ikeda also states: "Those who, in the same spirit [of the Daishonin, or mentor/disciple], dedicate their life to the mission of kosen-rufu, exert themselves in their Buddhist practice with all their being and strive with a sense of responsibility for our movement, are true disciples of the Daishonin and Bodhisattvas of the Earth. It would be an affront to the Daishonin to merely give lip service to this spirit or take action out of formality alone."

Ikeda, in his other writings, spends a lot of time talking about the twin evils of lip service and formality. This is especially true in his Youthful Diary, where he worries that the Soka Gakkai of the early fifties was entirely too driven by shakubuku drives without ensuring that new members are truly connected to the Mystic Law; he also spends a fair amount of time ranting against meetings becoming too formal. 

Using this as our basis, we can see that the spirit of the Daishonin, Presidents Makiguchi, Toda and Ikeda, and the spirit of mentor and disciple is defined by a desire to talk and spread this Buddhism through sincere efforts to connect with the person/member/buddha in front of you. As a chapter leader, being anything but sincere, whether it's a lazy approach to presentations, or an authoritative attitude with the district leaders or the members is to rely on formality, and giving lip service to the beneficial aspects of this practice.

I personally believe that these twin evils of lip service and formality leads to a facile practice within the leader and the members, it creates what I like to call Cheerleader Buddhism. Where surface efforts are made, but no real understanding of the practice is imparted. As Men's Division, I fight against this tendency by striving to connect with the members; when conflict arises, doing my best to ensure that all parties are heard before discussion of a resolution begins; and most importantly by encouraging lively debate and discourse at all district meeting functions, because there is nothing deadlier to our organization than boring, surface meetings, where items are checked off the same tired monthly agenda.

And so I engage the members, and ask them to connect the things we talk about back to a deeper Buddhist truth. I further ask that instead of merely relying on the publications to do the talking for us, to also risk sharing our understanding of these Buddhist principles--whether that understanding is deep or shallow--because it is in that fusion of our knowledge with the wisdom of our leaders, from Ikeda back to Shakyamuni, that the foundation of mentor/disciple resides. It in the sharing and the connecting that the spirit of mentor and disciple grows and spreads.

This is where I place my sincere efforts of spreading this Buddhism with the mind and spirit of the Daishonin.


Blogger DJspinster said...

Spot on. It seems to me the pervasive twin evil mentality dwells exclusively in Seattle. We have much karma to expiate.

10:22 AM  
Blogger The Observer said...

You are not alone.

10:16 PM  

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