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Cult or Culture (part 20 of 20)

April 8, 2012

…I probably would have said, OK, yeah, you’re right, but that day I did not.

Today I no longer say the four magical mystical words. I use some of the time I would have sat muttering them, to sit still in silence. My Mother always tried to teach me the value of what she called quiet time. I hated quiet time as a kid and as a young woman. I can’t function without it now. Finally I get it – happiness is always present, like air, it’s always there – whether you choose to inhale or to hold your breath is up to you.

Today there is a peace in my own breath. I feel peace in a sunrise, or in the waves of a body of water, or in the flavor of a delicious meal, or in the melody of a great piece of music, or in the smell of my Mom’s perfume, or in the warmth of my cashmere sweater, or in the security of having enough cash on hand in the nick of time, or in the sincerity of a genuine friend. They are feelings I enjoy. Happiness. Feelings I never found in a room surrounded by dozens of people bellowing a chant.

Don’t misunderstand, my life is not all butterflies and unicorns now – butterflies are seasonal and unicorns don’t exist, but now I understand that my attachment and my re-attachments to the Culture Center Clutch were, attempts to fill the most primal need to belong. It’s nice to have people remember your name – yup just like at Cheers! It feels good to have people tell you how important your happiness is, especially if you are the slightest bit unhappy. It’s nice to be with people who are certain they are right when everyone else is wrong. It’s good to know there will be a potluck when you haven’t eaten much in a while. And it is best of all to be made to feel that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. But these things are also some of the same things that bad marriages and street gangs are made of – and they can be dangerous – like fire – it can warm a chilly campsite or it can destroy the entire forest.

I still agree there is a mystic law that governs everything in the universe – but I disagree that it is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

I still agree there is cause and there is effect – but I disagree repeating any collection of words over and over affects it.

I still agree the Buddha was an ancient teacher from India – but I disagree that revering an aging Japanese multi-millionaire leads the way to the Buddha’s teachings. Although in my case, in an enormously indirect way, I guess it did.

I still agree happiness exists – but I disagree it will be acquired by chanting to a piece of paper inside of a box.

Months after I discontinued my involvement with the Culture Center Clutch I would continue to get invited to meetings – All the meetings. The Planning Meeting – to plan what would happen at the meeting. The kick-off meeting – to get ready for the meeting planned at the planning meeting – and of course the actual Meeting.

I still get emails from some of the clutch, from time to time, but not from the entire clutch, anymore. And the few emails I get now are not about their brand of “Buddhism”, but are now about whatever brands of business they are selling in their personal lives, or they are the occasional computer worm you get from simply being included in someone’s email address book. But never ever are there any of the hey howya doin creative literate lady we liked so much we made one of our leaders – just checking to see how you are kind of emails.

Even after my final farewell I still went to the Culture Center Clutch one last time, at the urging of my closest clutch comrade, to attend a women’s division meeting that she assured me I would enjoy regardless of my choosing not to practice anymore.

When I arrived I was not greeted with the same delight I had always been greeted with regardless of how long I had ever been away. The men who would always rush to hug me just a little too tightly and for a little too long, under the guise of brotherly “Buddha” love were all in a big hurry that day and all had to rush off to put out some fire – each one brushing past me sans hug. The women, who always wanted to get together with me to collaborate on some project because I was so creative, and so artistic, and so articulate and so academic and so acrobatic and so astute and such the cat’s meow, couldn’t have cared less about my surplus of attributes that day and barely spoke to me, if they spoke to me at all. Let the shunning begin. The word was out. She thinks too much.

Was it a Cult or was it a Culture? You decide.

The End

13 Comments leave one →
  1. nichiju permalink
    April 8, 2012 2:36 pm

    One thing I admire about the group I’m in now is their honesty. There is no question that if you abandon the practice, discard the banner of propagation [Object of Devotion], or the group, you are persona non grata. We will give a person one second chance but the person must practice for one year before receiving another Object of Devotion. There is no third chance to receive a Gohonzon. You will never get the impression that we will remain friends if you leave the faith. Faith in the Three Treasures and Three Great Secret Laws is the sole reason for our association. Even if a man takes faith but fails to convert his wife within three years, both husband and wife are excommunicated. If a wife takes faith and fails to convert her husband, there is no such mandate.

  2. nichiju permalink
    April 8, 2012 2:41 pm

    They do give the impression that “we will remain friends for life” unconditionally. They should be upfront about what to expect should one ever abandon the faith. They are dishonest. Their love [bombing] is nothing but a ruse.

  3. April 9, 2012 1:20 pm

    Great series, Rouge. I enjoyed it. Thanks.

  4. April 9, 2012 1:50 pm

    Sorry to see this finished! I wish it could go on and on because it was very well written and a good laugh.

    I would say though, that unlike in the 80’s and 90’s where we only knew of one source for Nichiren Buddhism, whether Soka Gakkai or NST, same thing; now days people can practice independently and get the same benefit, or more depending on whether you recognize it or not, and actually learn what SGI and NST don’t want to teach.

    • rougebuddha permalink
      April 9, 2012 8:23 pm

      Thank you Mark. I laughed a few times myself, remembering it all.
      As for your question in an unposted comment – thank you again, but
      I no longer consider myself a Nichiren Buddhist, so I don’t think
      it would be what ION is looking for.

  5. Joe Isuzu permalink
    April 11, 2012 10:44 am

    Thanks for the story. I haven’t felt like writing for so long because I’ve become an apostate. As a heretic I had much more to say. That also made me more dangerous to the Buddhist organizational fundamentalists whose real job was to “hide the crazy”. But you’ve inspired me by your wonderful reflection of the human condition.

    • rougebuddha permalink
      April 11, 2012 1:05 pm

      Thanks for reading, Joe. I’m glad I could be an inspiration. I can’t WAIT for you to get back on the page!
      And I can’t stop laughing at how much “apostate” sounds like apostle and apostolic…kinda trippy don’t ya think?

  6. April 15, 2012 1:07 pm

    Hello Rouge,

    thanks for that wonderfull story. I’m still chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo, but as an Independent Nichiren Buddhist. I had the same Questions about this CULT/ CULTURE here in Germany, but before became a member. So I decided to be on my own, like many others finding a Sangha here in the Internet.

    I find out, that it is better to read literature many people, not only from one. That is in most cases dangerous for your mind.


  7. Shawnna permalink
    April 24, 2012 6:18 am

    Thank you for sharing your experiences! I really enjoyed reading the series.

  8. November 13, 2012 1:30 pm

    I have a gohanzon and a butsudan and the whole shindig – i think i just never really believed in any of it. it is very strange to ‘chant’ something and have things happen. i have ‘friends’ who cant for 12 hours a day. 12 hours?! that alone is evidence of craziness. chanting something versus DOING something – i always think doing something wins. at the end of the day – though, i think people cling to it because they want something to believe in, and they want someone to believe in them. But there are other ways to get at this. I don’t need no planning meetings 😀

  9. Hagar permalink
    January 31, 2013 7:14 pm

    So glad I found this well-written and very funny (yet poignant) blog series. I’ve been a practitioner of Theravedan Buddhism for a couple of years, and two of my friends who had formerly been doing the same found SGI around the same time in different cities and said it was “much easier” because you “can chant for stuff” and one gave an example of one member who had chanted to find a certain house at a certain price . . . and found it because she kept a description of it under her Gohonzon. It sounded like a Japanese version of some crazy shit run by Creflo A. Dollar — asking a deity (or a person, really) for material goods. They’re both encouraging me to check out my local SGI, but having read your article, I think I’ll stick with the vipassana meditation and skip next week’s new members’ meeting. Awesome blog, btw.

    • rougebuddha permalink*
      January 31, 2013 7:19 pm

      Hagar, thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. Peace be your journey.

  10. November 30, 2013 11:57 pm

    Really enjoyed your well-written and humorous account of your experience with the SGcult. I can relate to what you have been through on so many levels, and feel inspired to return to work on finishing my own story. If you would like to take a look at what I have written so far, please check it out at Thanks again for an enlightened read.

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