Some random thoughts about SGI:
1. I think that chanting itself affects the brain and nervous system. Meetings generally open with a period of chanting, so perhaps that makes members somewhat more receptive to what the leaders say after that.
2. There’s definitely love-bombing for both new people who come to meetings, and members who give an “experience” about how they chanted a lot, contributed to SGI, and were able to overcome a problem and gain something that they wanted.
3. Keeping members busy with SGI activities. It keeps you away from friends who are not into SGI…. after awhile, most of the people you know will be SGI members. Leaving SGI then means losing a lot of your social circle. You think that you can stay friends with the members after you leave, but often that doesn’t happen.
4. Peer pressure; adults are not immune to this. If you’re in a room, and everyone else is watching the President Ikeda video and cheering, you feel like you’re strange, thinking, “What’s so great about this guy?”
5. Chanting to get something makes you think about it a lot — which will make your mind come up with some ways to get it.
6. There’s a “confirmation bias.” You’ll remember if you chanted a lot for something and then got it. If you’re an SGI member, you’ll also have given an experience — given a speech at a meeting about how you chanted and achieved your desire. So your SGI friends will also remember that you chanted for something and got it — and they’ll likely have love-bombed you if you gave a great speech about it.
If you chanted and didn’t get what you wanted — you’re not going to be up there in front of everyone, saying that. And if you do complain, you’ll just be told that you didn’t chant hard enough, or with the right attitude, you didn’t work hard enough for SGI — basically, it’s your fault! SGI members who have problems that they can’t resolve…tend to just stop coming around.
Then of course, the leaders say, “Well, of course, so and so’s life’s a mess, he never comes to meetings, what do you expect?”
7. The whole notion of “We are SGI, we are going to save the world and bring about world peace,” may make certain members feel more entitled to go for, and get what they desire. Especially if, say, you are looking hard for a job — AND, on top of that, chanting a lot, and doing extra work for SGI. You start to feel, “Damn, I really DO deserve that job, what with everything I’m doing.
8. You can unite people if they all dislike the same person or group. I think that this was a huge part of the SGI/Nichiren Shoshu split. The SGI leaders felt that they could unite the members by making us all hate the high priest Nikken and his cronies. I think that a lot of the drama around this distracted members from asking about what was going on in the higher ranks of SGI.
This is all very manipulative — but we live in a very manipulative world. All of us, every day, have people who want to manipulate us to get what they want — friends, family, coworkers, spouses, salespeople, advertisers. And if you’ve got kids…they can be the most manipulative of all. My former fiance was a rather manipulative sort. When I accused him of this, he said, “No, I don’t use manipulation…it’s just ‘skillful use of influence.'”
My question is, what exactly is the difference between persuasion, manipulation, ‘skillful use of influence,’ and brainwashing? Is it just a matter of degree — persuasion is mild, manipulation is a bit more intense, brainwashing is the most intense? Or are there other differences?
In the beginning, I DID like SGI, and I enjoyed some of the experiences that I had with my groups. As time went by, SGI changed, and I changed. The things I didn’t like outweighed what I did like, and I left. Was I manipulated? Yes, I did some things for the organization, like become a group leader, that I really didn’t want to do. I stayed a few years too long, in the hope that the organization would change. But I also had some choices. I can agree that I was manipulated, and that information was withheld from me, and other members. Brainwashed, though? That’s too strong a word.