July 16, 2008

A Conversation With My Hero

Well, yesterday, my lovely literacy pupil picked me up at the public library for our tutorial session. My pupil is my hero because of his courage in deciding, at 50 years of age, to learn how to read. We have become friends, and I trust him. I recognized his white pickup truck, waved him down, and climbed way up into the cab.

We know each other pretty well by now, and he knew there was something wrong.

HIM: You OK? What's up?

ME: I haven't been sleeping too well. I'm just kind of tired and bummed out, I guess.

HIM: What's the matter?

ME: Well, I think I'm in the process of getting kicked out of my church.

HIM: Is that the group you wanted to take me to?

ME: Uh.....yeah....but the Buddhism part is OK, it's just the group that's acting kind of weird.

HIM: Well, if the Buddhism part is OK, I mean, if it helps you be a better person like you say, then why are they acting so weird?

ME: Good question, Gilbert. I can't help you with that one.

I kind of stared silently out of the truck for awhile, while the scenic cement of Panorama City rolled past my window. I felt as desolate as one of those cracked, empty parking lots. Gilbert decided to break the silence.

HIM: So, uh...what'd you do?

ME: Huh?

HIM: What'd you do to get kicked out?

ME: They don't like things I wrote on the internet. I don't agree with some stuff that the church has done, and I started asking questions they didn't like, so they're kicking me out. They say it has something to do with the leader in Japan - that I have to be more respectful to him.

HIM: You mean like you said "goddamn the Pope", or something?

ME: Well, I didn't actually say "goddamn" anybody. It was more like I was just hoping people would think for themselves and talk about ideas without only having to talk about his ideas. I thought I was just sort of throwing stuff out there for people to think about and talk about. You know, basic free speech stuff.

HIM: And now they're kicking you out?

ME: Looks that way.

HIM: That's why I won't go to no damn churches! It's that kind of crap! I'm not going to that damn church! You better not ask me again.

ME: No, I won't ask you again, Gilbert, I'm so sorry I ever did. I would never take you anyplace where anyone would try to shut you up or shut you down. I'm sorry...I dunno....I'm just so bummed. I've been with them for 24 years, that's all. That's a long time - like a marriage, or something. And then to just get a phone call saying "you're not welcome anymore". It's kind of a weird feeling.

HIM: You got friends in that church?

ME: Oh, yeah - a lot of them. I thought so, at least.

HIM: Did they have a vote or something? To kick you out?

ME: The gal who called me said they did, but I don't know. If there was a vote, I wasn't invited.

HIM: That's why I don't go to no damn churches! You know, one time I had a preacher tell me that if I didn't bring in my whole family, that he'd kick me out.

ME: What'd you say?

HIM: I said "goodbye". Besides, he didn't know what he was asking for. He don't know my whole family. Those churches are always telling you who you can hang out with. And Jesus hung out with everybody. Nope, you won't catch me going to no damn church.

ME: Gilbert, some day I'm going to collect all your sayings and put them in a book, and I'm going to call it "The Wisdom of Gilbert".

HIM: And then we can read it together.

ME: You got that right. Then we can read it together.

Posted by wahzoh at July 16, 2008 03:31 PM


You know, I think you just gave yourself some really great advice within your blog today:

You wrote (to Gilbert): "I would never take you anyplace where anyone would try to shut you up or shut you down."

If you'd never do that to someone, well, perhaps you shouldn't be doing it to yourself either.

It must be heartbreaking to have put so much time and energy into the SGI, to try and "improve" it, as I believe you have tried, through your attempts at constructive criticism, only to be booted out

And yet, in my humble opinion, there is "more" out there - places, practices, where things like free speech and your singular voice will be valued. May this shunning be the start of a flourishing spiritual life for you, Byrd.

Namu Myo Ho Renge Kyo

Posted by: Kris at July 16, 2008 05:01 PM

Thanks, Kris - you make a good point. I'm always happy to read or hear your voice.


Posted by: Byrd in LA at July 16, 2008 05:11 PM

Byrd got dem mean ole kozmic blues again mama, she needs to be dhyambin. Not too much, though.

I guess I sorta got booted too, they stopped sending me teh chapter email. I was never told I was banned, and have no made effort to associate. Lord, I wished I had time to attend a meeting. I kind of wanted to get kicked out. I knew some good people who got the boot. I finally decided to disassociate from them -- the term they use.

"I felt as desolate as one of those cracked, empty parking lots."

Nice piece of writing, nice image. I know that feeling, one day I will take a picture of that image, a kind of hollow yet stark emptiness, tinged with loneliness, wrapped in eternity.

Posted by: robin at July 16, 2008 08:13 PM


I don't know you but I read your words everyday and I always get so much from your insight- I left SGI about 7 months ago for many reasons - an overall feeling like thinking for myself was being slowly discouraged. and The whole incident that happened to you seems outrageous. cartoonish. anything but Buddhist. this kind of stuff makes me cringe! If I ever heard of anything like this in my community district (I did 1-2 times.) I could usually trace it to folks who were a bit on the aggressive cultie side. I noticed they were quick to panic over people who they perceived had an apparent conspiracy to topple the organization. total rumours or miscommunication gone wrong)Sometimes I wondered if it was a blown up dramafest meant to inject a little life into their practice. I just don't know. The fear and panic and suspicion generated by this ridiculous rumour about a longtime loyal member just blew me away.
I didn't want this hysterical fear to infect my spiritual life.
Even though I felt I needed to leave I was still very sad about it. I was only a member for a short time and the absence of this support was kind of intense.so I imagine 24 years and this would suck pretty bad. so sorry that this happened - it was hurtful and stupid. your actions are proof of your practice and patience. your frustrations are valid and real. They think they are doing the right thing and pretecting the members. from what? from what? Why do they need protection? I just wanted to reach out and say hey Byrd you are awesome and - a great wit and writer and you have helped me grow as a person with your insight. You are partially respnsible for waking me up to the potential reality of my spiritual practice. for real. I just want to say you are always welcome to chant with me 9in imagination or spirit or synch up your watch with mine even though I am here across the country) -even though I'm a sangha of one presently I'm universal and open to all. Thanks for being a freedom fighter and metta cultivator all in one.
Please never turn down the volume on your voice- personally your tone has always been a melody that helped me see the best in my ex-sangha- SGI and the promise of the new road ahead of me in my reawakned commitment to walk my own path of buddhahood.
thanks for everything Byrd!
yer pal and fellow bodhisattva
Magnolia/St. Clair

Posted by: Magnolia at July 16, 2008 10:10 PM

Byrd, I just wanted to chime in to agree with Kris: treat yourself as well as you treat Gilbert. You deserve the best.

Your friend,


Posted by: Andy Hanlen at July 17, 2008 11:03 AM

I always remember that in the part of the Lotus Sutra when the Bodhisattvas of the Earth appeared some came alone.


From childhood's hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
Then- in my childhood, in the dawn
Of a most stormy life- was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that round me rolled
In its autumn tint of gold,
From the lightning in the sky
As it passed me flying by,
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.

Edgar Allan Poe

Posted by: clown hidden at July 17, 2008 11:11 AM

Hello Byrd,

After 33 years I am still a member of the SGI-RD, old NSD, because I never signed a letter of resignation. I appreciate the rigorous training that received as Hancho and the local YMD training during the NSA-USA leadership of Mr. G. M. Williams. Also thanks again to former Hombucho Mr. Kimura by his great efforts toward personally training me for life through a complete year, perhaps, during that time, he was my true mentor.

However, because of my attitude of criticism to Org. and free thought, because my protest at a lack of consideration for my group during the visit of the sensei, now mentor, fellows and leaders ceased to visit me, not gave me more responsibilities, and it was as if I had been erased, as if I did not exist. I never wanted to have a direct confrontation, among other reasons for consideration to many people really caring and good-hearted that I knew there, particularly the elderly. Elders with whom I shared (unarmed) the night coverage and protection service at Kaikan. Only armed with the power of faith. (Today I would say with the power of ingenuity). But in honor of the truth, I have been invited to the annual meetings of the Senior Men Division, thanks to a person who I introduced the SGI-RD, but meetings which I have always declined to go.

So far I do not say more about it, I just want to say that I have travelled these two thirds of the time in the Buddhist path on my own, apparently alone. I have never abandoned the practice of the Lotus Sutra, the study material has never failed me. I had studied Buddhadharma and Gosho with intensity and systematically. I've never feel nostalgic about zadankai, and I think have not been necessary for me, because for ten years were always the same thing, and so twenty years later. They have not changed anything. I maintain personal and private contacts with some members, one of my best friends is what, and keep me informed. Contact is not lost at all.

I know how do you feel, because I did feel spiritual pain when my gakkai friends gave me back, anybody ask me anything, but so are things, and I never have felt alone in the Dharma Way. The sangha is not a real group of people, the True Sangha is universal, is the communion in our common Buddhic Nature. While group of persons have not recognize mutually their buddhist nature, are not a Sangha. But now I found a new additional eSangha at FWP. As you have seen, you are not alone and will never be.

As the Supreme Buddhic Vehicle is unique, we must act as Buddhas, and anyone who may be teach that Buddhic Nature is innate and may be oriented to Lotus Sutra, or the same NMMHRGK, that people will be part of our sangha.

Take it easy, you do not deserve a night of insomnia. You deserve the best!

Be blessed by The Dharma, The Eternal Buddha and The Universal Sangha



Posted by: Gnomegang at July 17, 2008 12:25 PM

Wow you are so great! Don't Disprage over this. This is a great test that the SGI must always pass as a Buddhist Organization. Where is the Middle Way? What are the three treasures? Are we upholding the Dharma?

Posted by: Rita at July 17, 2008 06:36 PM

You've joined the Elephant Herd. If enough of us start walking with them, maybe the rest will calm down a bit and realize they can't carry on full of hatred, discontent, animosity and onshitsu -- while putting on a happy face to the world.

Instead of expecting us to behave like Japanese are expected to behave and march in goose-step with identical smiles -- they should learn from folks like you who chant, practice as the Buddha teaches and try to propagate the Lotus Sutra.

People don't like to fight, but sometimes there are principles and long term survival at stake. Then one is "fighting" but not any person -- just against stupid ideas. Sometimes people fight the wrong things.

Sometimes when two people are fighting -- both have been corrupted by the darkside. How to do what is right without anger and hate -- easier said than done! Eventually those who hate find themselves hating all alone.


Posted by: Chris at July 17, 2008 06:41 PM

Hello Byrd,

Just a thought....have you thought of writing to Mr. Ikeda....now I know he gets bad press, but who knows, these people that voted you out from SGI may have no right to do so!

I understand getting no sleep, its emotionally draining....however, like a love affair, one gets over it, sometimes, even looking back and thinking......my goodness thank heavens I got out of that, or, if I had actually got involved deeper with that person, dread to think what I would be like now.

There is good and bad in everything, including SGI as we know...however, groups can be the very devil if one is not prepared to swallow all the teachings/propaganda.

Keep busy don't rush into another "affair" and take care of your true friends. The people in groups who dump one, may have been friends when you were a good girl, but obviously, in the end the group is more important than you....Not friends at all then!

Bon Courage!!!!!!! Gassho Suzanne

Posted by: Suzanne Rees Glanister at July 18, 2008 07:31 AM

What I have learned in the past 9 years since I moved away from San Jose is that each member's experience is related to where they practice. We were transfered to another district in the early 1990's. This group of people had been together for 20 years or more. They had become dysfunctional, but didn't want us to change anything. This went on for a couple of years. I hated the meetings. Then one night I told Greg I was never going back to that district. Two months later I called my former district leader and told her I was coming back and Greg came, too.
You should track down David Leisure. He has experience with the same issue. It is up to you to fix it. Not "them" or "her", but "it". LA is a big place. Find another district with people who understand Buddhism.

You can do it.


Posted by: Nancy at July 18, 2008 12:31 PM

So I have been following the discussion here and at SGU regarding Byrd’s “excommunication”, and somehow I feel that everyone is missing the real issue. Basically Byrd’s problem is that she associated herself both in words and in physical action with groups that the SGI does not approve of, specifically rival schools within the same general tradition and so-called “wayward” members.

While I suppose this sort of thing does happen elsewhere, it is really an anomaly, and as one who has spent some significant time in other Buddhist traditions, I have never personally seen it. Only in the Nichiren traditions do you see such a high level of anger, resentment, and polarization. You see this on all the Nichiren forums, and here at FWP, people fighting each other, insulting each other, using duplicitous reasoning and word games to prove that they’re right and the other person is wrong, name-calling, etc. Each Nichiren sect seems pitted against all the others, determined to show how the others are heretical and how their believers will forever burn in the hell of incessant suffering for their wrong beliefs. While one Nichiren school does appear on the surface to take a higher road, I can assure you that if you scratch beneath that surface, you will find some of the same attitudes lurking in the depths.

I can’t help but feel that there is something just wrong about all this bickering and polarization, and more critically, something anti-Buddhist about it. While historically lines in the sand were drawn, especially in regards to Hinayana/Mahayana, one finds that it usually applied to theory only, not to actual practice or real life situations.

In most (remember I say most, not all) other sects of Buddhism, no one would be prohibited from attending a meeting or find themselves “excommunicated” for merely expressing their opinion or practicing with members of other sects.

What baffles me is why this fact doesn’t send off alarm bells in more people. To my mind, you not only be questioning the SGI but the entire tradition. I realize however how that would be a huge step for many people to take, just as I realize there will be those who disagree with my assessment of things. But for anyone who is not afraid to challenge his or her own pre-conceived notions, I offer it as something to think about.

And before you start to throw darts my way, just remember that nowhere in the Lotus Sutra does it say, go out and accomplish worldwide kosen rufu by splitting into fractious little groups and battle with each other. Really, extreme sectarism is not what the Buddha-Dharma is about at all.

The thing for you to remember Byrd, is that while someone may be able to take away your right to belong to a particular group, no one can take away your right to be a Buddhist. But, I’m sure you already know that.

Posted by: David at July 18, 2008 05:34 PM

Hi, Byrd. I think that Suzanne, Nancy and David have brought up some new and interesting points of view on this topic. Hope that by today you have gotten your bounce back:). Take care and stay cool.

Posted by: CMC at July 19, 2008 05:51 AM

Hey David,

I have marveled at the polarization since I first became aware of it. As an innocent newby in 1972; I just bought the story that the Minobu Sect was horribly corrupt. :-}

As for the feuding between other sects never going past theory, puhlease. Dharmajim once offered some recent perspective on that. Just scratch beneath the surface of any tradition. Or read about the armies of quasi-monks in Japanese history. People are people.

One difference is that the other schools are not proud of nonsense like wealthy Lamas torturing peasants, monks beheading rivals and placing the heads on fence posts, Tendai monks burning the temple of a rival Tendai faction, or even Asian Bhikkus recently getting into turf wars and riots over dana rounds, or competing to bless motorcycles for a fee. So they do not advertise that "stuff" -- they do not air their dirty in public, for all to see, not in the west at any rate. They have good PR.

Nichiren's relationship with Ninsho Ryokan comes to mind. Ninsho, if we believe Nichiren, followed all the precepts in an affected, publicized, high profile way. He went about acting mindful, generous, patient, and compassionate. Meanwhile, behind the curtain, he got rich from collecting excessive road tolls, and apparently contrived to have rivals exiled or executed.

See the first Nichiren quote below. Pema Chodron said something similar, albeit in a gentler manner, and about a different precept: "For instance, you might know that the first precept is not to kill, and you may know all the stories of how that precept came into being, and you may know the logic of how killing increases ego-fixation and how working with the precepts cuts the chain of cause and effect -- you may know all that, but the question really is, when the desire to kill something arises, why is it that you want to kill something? What's really going on there? And what would the benefit be of refraining from killing? What does refraining do? How do you feel when you refrain? what does it teach you?" -- PC

I think Pema was alluding to "Abhisila" -- the higher ethic of what is truly in one heart. In this context, was Ninsho truly kind and generous; or mean and greedy in a slick manner? In the context she talked about; do we refrain from killing because we must, or fear getting caught, or is it because we are kind and empathetic, and really want to do no harm?

I suppose it is sort of a backhanded compliment to say that Nichiren Buddhists are, by and large, brutally honest. They say what is on their minds. They do not, like Ninsho Ryokan was alleged to do, smile in your face, and literally stab you in the back. They tend to get right up in your kitchen. Maybe daimoku, especially :the galloping horse" style, makes folks fiesty. That is not always a bad thing.

BTW; I think a lot of it boils down to competition for secular influence and donations. See the second Nichiren quote below. It is rather ironic that this sort of applies to some of the Nichiren Schools of today.



"There are wise persons who strictly observe the two hundred and fifty precepts and are revered by the entire nation more than Taishaku is by all heavenly beings. Yet what if, in the eyes of
Shakyamuni Buddha and the Lotus Sutra, they are as sinister as Devadatta? They may appear respect worthy to others now, but what horrors await them in their next life!" -- The Workings of Bonten and Taishaku."

"The Buddha stated that, in the latter age, monks and nuns with the hearts of dogs would be as numerous as the sands of the Ganges. By this he meant that the monks and nuns of that day would be attached to fame and fortune. Because they wear robes and surplices, they look like ordinary monks and nuns. But in their hearts they wield a sword of distorted views, hastening here and there among their patrons and filling them with countless lies so as to keep them away from other priests or nuns. Thus they strive to keep their patrons to themselves and prevent other monks or nuns from coming near them, like a dog who goes to a house to be fed, but growls and springs to attack the moment another dog approaches. Each and every one of these priests and nuns is certain to fall into the evil paths." -- From "On the Fourteen Slanders." Written near the end of 1276, this
letter was a reply to the laypriest Matsuno Rokuro Saemon

Posted by: robin at July 19, 2008 02:53 PM

Dear Byrd

Glbert is a Gem - and you have kept him hidden in the pocket of your coat too long! P^) You Naughty Little DKD you!

I wonder what Good Old Shakyamuni would have done if he had felt obliged to be subjected to the power games and controlling attitudes of others?

The SGI is filled with supposedly Reasonable Men who fit in and are terrified to stand up in case they rock the boat.

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man." G B SHAW.

You is being attacked by the supposedly Reasonable men of the SGI because they are afraid of advancing and they fear anyone who can show them the way or any other way than the one they love being trapped within.

For many the Gakkai is a Marriage and as George Brnard Shaw said;

""Marriage: When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive, and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal, and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.""

For me that sums up the mentality of many folks who have married the SGI - and when folks have that mind set they also open the door to Abuse - Domestic Violence - Control Issues - The whole bag of horrors that comes from a Brain In Neutral and someone else pushing the vehicle of your life in the direction they dictate!


Posted by: That BloomingPouf at July 22, 2008 02:25 AM