Time to Change a New Carpet?
As a member attending AGMs, it seems that AGMs are getting more and more exciting nowadays. At the AGM held at the end of May, Mr Mano stood up to raise several questions about the details of the construction of the Soka Peace Centre. These questions were technical in nature but all seemed to point to the integrity of the top leadership overseeing the project, especially the way money is being spent. Surprisingly, the Management Committee members who sat at the panel did not give a single satisfactory response to the questions raised. Not even GD Tay who was present that night! How long can they continue to sweep things under the carpet?
What is going on?
I can feel the growing anger in Mr Mano’s voice that night; I can also sense his care for the SSA members who have been making sincere donations to support the building fund. My view is that your own people would not normally speak in public to question you unless they have been deprived of chance after chance to do so in private. So why did it happen? Is there a lack of one to one dialogue? Is this a one-off incident? Or is it reflecting a more fundamental behaviour that is taking root in the top SSA leadership? However the Management committee tried to play down the issues, the fact is there is no smoke without fire. Is this incident just another example of the new normal they have been displaying since the forced expulsion and resignation of former SSA senior YMD leaders? The new normal seems to be lack of dialogue, display of arrogance and highhandedness in dealing with people. Are they treating people as fellow comrades and Buddhas? You, the reader decide.
Are the YMDs really a " Strong and Unstoppable Force"?
June is the month of the birth of the first president of Soka Gakkai, Mr Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. To be exact, it falls on the 6th of June. If he were alive today, he would be 142 years old. What is the spirit of Mr Makiguchi?
In short, he is a shining example of a person with a strong moral courage and sense of justice, dialogue and dedication to the ideals of value creation.
In the last editorial, I mentioned about the falling attendance of the important YMD platform. I attended the last daimokukai on 14 June. The YMD broke a new ‘record’ yet again. There were only 110 YMDs who attended the meeting, a sharp drop from 190 in April. I wonder how the General Director feels about his ‘Strong and Unstoppable Forces’. Is YMD having a bright future or are they already at the edge of the cliff? This is an utter failure! No thanks to the YMDs senior leaders. Did they understand the true significance of the daimokukai? Did they communicate the importance to the ground? Did they take the Valiant Advance Daimokukai seriously or was it just another meeting to them?
The more important question is: Is poor attendance at meetings an accepted norm nowadays?
VA daimokukai was initiated by GD Tay himself and his vice-chiefs in the 1980s when he was the YMD chief. As far as I understand it, the purpose was to rally all the YMDs in Singapore to chant in Itai Doshin to defeat the devilish functions in the form of Ichinen Sanzen Group at that time and to give assurance to the organisation that the YMD was around to protect it, no matter what. It was a show of strength and determination manifested in terms of both the numbers and the valiant spirit to overcome all obstacles that obstruct the advancement of Singapore Kosenrufu. The daimoku was so vigorous that it shook the building of then TBSC. The VA daimokukai reached a peak of 1000 and more in attendance at one point. Even a few years ago when the YMD senior leaders who were obviously more united and enlightened, the attendance was able to maintain at least 500.
So what has happened? I strongly believe that the rot started from the top leaders.
A time of great defeat is a time for further soul searching among the senior leaders. Regrettably, they did not do anything after the warning sign of April VA daimokukai. They have to wake up! Otherwise, I am sorry to say that they are not fit to be genuine disciples of Ikeda Sensei.
I quote from Mr Makiguchi:
“The problems of life can only be understood through dialogue. People listening to a lecture or talk will feel that what is being said is not their personal concern. Note that Nichiren Daishonin's treatise, "On Establishing the Correct Teaching for the Peace of the Land," was written in the form of a dialogue.”
Not many YMDs dare to voice their true opinion nowadays because they are afraid of being labelled as rebels. The expulsion of the YMD senior leaders is no doubt still fresh in everyone’s mind. Herein lies the true rot of the organisation: Criticism are not taken with humility, but with suspicion. There is no true dialogue. The top leaders think they know best. This is going to be the downfall of the organisation if this continues. This is contrary to the spirit of Mr Toda who I recall asking the young Mr Ikeda how he thought of the organisation. Mr Ikeda did not have much positive things to say of the Gakkai at that time. Mr Toda acknowledged that and encouraged Mr Ikeda to change it. Such open-mindedness!
If you ask me, some reasons for the falling attendance of the VA diamokukai could be
1) Non-rhythmic chanting
To be honest, the daimoku led by the YMD chief is not rhythmic. It is not shiok chanting such daimoku with him. We are always taught to chant vigorous daimoku which should be like a galloping stallion. This lack of fundamentals sets the cause of defeat;
2) Predictable agenda
I quote from Mr Makiguchi:
“To become caught up in immediate realities, and to fail to live and act on the basis of a more holistic view of things, is a myopic way of life. The opposite is a way of life in which one fails to see what is close at hand in proper focus; to declare impossible-to-realize ideals and put nothing into practice. A correctly focused way of life is one in which we embrace vast ideals and have a clearly defined sense of purpose while putting this into practice amidst our day-to-day realities.”
I can guess what the agenda of the next VA will be. There is no strong reason to rally all YMDs, in other words, there is a lack of ‘selling point’ for VA daimokukai. There is no sense of purpose or clear direction of where we are heading. This shows poor leadership and planning. Meetings nowadays seem to be held because ‘it is stated in the activities schedule’.
3) Uninspiring encouragement by senior leaders
I always look forward to the sharing of testimonials by members. My heart went out to the speakers who prepared the sharing and yet only a few appeared to listen to them. But I am not sure if I look forward to the low energy level encouragement by YMD chief at the end. It is quite ironic when I would expect that after chanting, he should have a higher life state. Could it be due to the non-rhythmic chanting? The poor YMD members have only a few meetings to attend per year and it is unfair that they are not sufficiently inspired in the meeting to fight to win in their lives. If Sensei were here, I think he would be very disappointed.
4) Poor communication
We as junior leaders are not motivated to do homevisits as we are seldom homevisited by our seniors. Members feel that leaders only call or SMS them when there is a meeting. There is no widespread comradeship or genuine concern shown among leaders and from leaders to members. When one to one dialogue and shakubuku are no longer the main focus, leaders will gradually lose the art of communication. The art of dialogue needs to be continuously practised.
In short, not enough thoughts have been put into the planning and communicating on the importance of this daimokukai.
Is the attendance of our next VA daimokukai going to fall below 100? Only time will tell. One thing for sure is that the future for the YMD is hazy, not a bright one as GD Tay has proclaimed.