Soaking in the philosophy was the first thing that hooked me to the Soka Gakkai.There was excellent reading material and for several years my entire reading shifted over to Gakkai literature , Sensei’s guidance’s and notes on the basic Buddhist concepts . Concepts such as esho funi,oneness of self and environment , lessening karmic retribution, changing poison into medicine, the ten worlds all made interesting reading .Working for the zadankai meetings also meant that I had to read and prepare …. And perform. I was like a little kid soaking up every thing from concepts to terms and terminology, and the general dos and don’ts, behavior patterns, etc.
Mastering gonygo was another huge challenge, given my generally poor appreciation of rhythm and pronunciation .I don’t think I every got to mastering the rhythm and correct pronunciation. As a leader, in the days to come, this was not the best of situations, but I some how managed .On one occasion I was told by Major Anil Amar that my gongyo needs correction, and I went through a phase of correction with Shivan ,Raji Gomber and Krishnamurthy .Got better at it but was still not up to the mark .
Going on home visitation was another learning ground .Once I had got the general understanding of the scope and coverage, as I accompanied leaders , I was reasonably adapt at home visits .I think my innate ability to empathize and relate problems to theory and study material, helped a lot .I don’t know if I was doing all that was necessary or required of me as a leader. However the Group I inherited and started taking care off , which had a lot of long standing members who where not regular in faith and practice , slowly settled down , and become more regular at meetings .Today long after I am no longer an active member , these members continue to be regular members and several of them are now senior leaders. The motley group in the initial days included , Bimal & Seema ,Rashi & Sanjay , Sarbani & Trideep , Sangeetha , Hema ,Ramesh & Jaya and in course of time Atul Chatterjee , Leena & Satish Aparajit , and Mrs. Chatterjee .We used to do gongyo on home visits , and then read a bit of Sensei’s guidance’s .I was strong on study and hence could meaningfully cover the guidance . The fact that one took the trouble to go on home visits, and most of the members lived really far off, was probable most appreciated by members.
If I look back and ask what it was that hooked me to the Bharat Soka Gakkai , I would probably say it was the warmth and friendliness of the members and leaders ; the orderliness and structured meeting processes , my own strong need for a spiritual plank and the affinity I felt for the philosophy .To this I can also add that I was seen to be very good leadership material and encouraged a lot by all the leaders .Encouragement and opportunity and support are clearly the recipe for driving motivation. There was a social aspect also .At that point in my career I needed activities and a locus of interest outside the office also, and BSG was providing just the right social engagement for me.
In later years my enthusiasm flagged and eventually I pulled away from administrative and leadership responsibilities in the organization. There didn’t for some strange reason seem to be a way out … as Naveena went to the extent of saying that you cant retire or resign …… you just have to keep going at it .This didn’t seem correct to me, as a persons circumstances change over a period of time either due to ill health , or due to career pressures etc, and a person should have the ability to modify his engagement accordingly .I don’t know if circumstances have changed since then but I had no choice but to leave the organization once I had decided that I would no longer be fully involved in Leadership or organizational responsibilities.
So what where the circumstances that lead me to this decision?? I’ll try to answer that as objectively as I can through a brainstorming process and then try to zero in on to the root cause.
1) My responsibilities in the Office shot up after I took over as Head of the Division, and I could no longer leave early for meetings which invariably where at the Kaikan at 6.30 in the evening. Not attending leaders meetings meant I was not receiving the necessary guidance’s to communicate the rhythm of the organization to my Block & District members. Also my emoluments had increased substantially in the office, and I began to carry a guilty feeling when ever I had to compromise work on account of BSG activities. The locus of interest for me was shifting back strongly to career related activities at the cost of BSG activities.
2) My wife ,Deepa , had by now taken a dislike to the BSG and was not taking kindly to the very high level of engagement that I had to put in as a leader .Extended home visits on holidays was also some thing that was becoming a touchy thing at home , and I wasn’t feeling good about it.
3) Some of the immediate leaders didn’t seem to understand the position I was in, and some how I felt that they should have shown more understanding and come to my help.Maybe I was not communicating well enough to them or did not lay my situation down before the leaders clearly enough .I did believe that they had an equal responsibility to speak to me and guide me at this stage .
4) I began to see a few warts on the organizations face !!! I did feel that some senior leaders where not the ideal role models. On some occasions I began to feel that the some leaders, were in it all, more for themselves than the happiness and welfare of the members.
5) Being pitch folked up the responsibility chain so fast was also bringing home to me my own inadequacies as a Gakkai leader and my ability to effectively guide and lead members along the path of faith. It is only through long years of sustained practice in the face of personal problems and difficulties that leadership skills get honed in this arena . I was more like a management guru than a spiritual guide & counselor.
6) My inability on the face of it to bring in new members or shakabuku’s was also a pointer to weaknesses in faith and practice .I think I was approaching potential members more on an intellectual plane than on their emotional or life needs .Over time I would have looked at people more compassionately and related to their real life problems and offered our faith and practice as long term solutions .In short I don’t think I was compassionate enough to be a good leader.
7) It was the intellectual stimulus that was a strong motivation for me for joining the practice and this stimulus was waning with the years.
There could be several more reasons,In a nut shell I think serious flaws in my attitude and application of the faith and practice was the root cause for my departure from organization & leadership responsibilities and consequently from the organization it self. I can always get back as a lay member and play what ever role the leaders deem fit .I would first like to bring about the necessary changes within me such that my wife sees and acknowledges them ,and along with her would like to return to the fold .Also along side her would like to teach and help as many people as possible on the benefits of our faith and practice in their daily lives.
Meanwhile , though I do not attend many meeting,I continue to do Gongyo and daimoku on a regular basis daily .Some day the timewill be right for me to get back to the fold.