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February 24, 2014, 05:52:47 PM
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Offline Peter

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Statues and Park Gates
« on: February 24, 2014, 05:52:47 PM »
Here's an interesting read about Soka Gakkai and its leader, Daisaku Ikeda which explores the history of the group in America and in Japan. Here's a taste, and click here to read more.

Monumental Error? How a Statue Honoring a Controversial Japanese Religious Leader Wound Up in a Chicago Park

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In the center of the garden, almost directly below the expressway, stands the bronze sculpture “Peace and Justice” by local artist Margot McMahon, showing two young boys, one African-American and one Caucasian, holding a ball aloft. On the front of the trapezoidal granite base a plaque reads:

Erected in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Daisaku Ikeda’s life long struggle for peace, justice and human rights. Walking through Lincoln Park on October 9, 1960, the young president of the Soka Gakkai, Daisaku Ikeda witnessed a painful act of racial discrimination toward a young child, crystallizing his lasting commitment to rid the world of needless suffering and enabling the human dignity of all to shine.

The other three sides of the base feature quotations from Ikeda about the titular virtues.

When I first read the dedication, stopping on my bicycle en route from the lakefront to a nearby café, I was dumbstruck. After all, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), a lay Buddhist movement founded in Japan with millions of members worldwide, has often been described as a cult. What was a monument to Ikeda, the organization’s enigmatic “spiritual mentor,” doing in a public park?

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According to a 1999 New York Times article, members have been convicted of using wiretapping, arson and bomb threats against religious and political rivals in Japan. In his 2011 book “The Last Yakuza: A Lifetime in the Japanese Underworld,” investigative reporter Jake Adelstein writes that Soka has hired gangsters to intimidate its enemies. Soka’s Controversies website details cases where critics blamed the organization for the alleged murders of a female politician and a priest from a competing Buddhist faction. According to the Times piece, President Ikeda has been accused of numerous crimes ranging from financial misdeeds to rape, but he was only formally indicted once, in 1957 of violating election laws, and he was acquitted. - See more at: http://newcity.com/2012/12/06/culture-clash-whats-a-sculpture-honoring-a-controversial-japanese-religious-leader-doing-in-a-chicago-park/#sthash.A1djURT3.dpuf

February 24, 2014, 06:20:26 PM
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Offline Peter

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Re: Statues and Park Gates
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2014, 06:20:26 PM »
And then there was the proposed Daisaku Ikeda. Peace Gate in San Francisco. Interesting name for a peace gate, Barbara O'Brien, who defends Soka Gakkai cult allegations, points out. And please explore the comments (now closed) for some very interesting discussions.

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I defend Soka Gakkai International (SGI) from accusations that it is a cult whenever I see them. I sincerely do not think it is a cult, and SGI members I have met do not seem to me to be brainwashed. But news stories like this don't make defending SGI easier.

SGI has offered to give $180,000 to the city of San Francisco in exchange for naming a gate to Franklin Square Park after SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. The gate would include a plaque to Ikeda's mentors. According to the city's Recreation and Park's Department, $80,000 would be used for construction and landscaping of the gate, and $100,000 would go to the Recreation and Park Department for "general operating support."

Yesterday the offer was on the agenda of a Recreation and Park Commission public meeting , but I don't yet know if the city has decided to accept or reject it. Given the economic crisis in California, that much money would be hard to turn down, I would think.

What little local reaction I have seen has been negative, however. President Ikeda has no connection to the park, which makes the proposed dedication of the gate an act of transparent vanity.

Buddhism has a rich history in San Francisco, beginning in 1853, when the first Buddhist temple in America was built there. It would be a lovely gesture to dedicate a public monument to a Buddhist from San Francisco's past. Or, the gate could be dedicated to "world peace" or "humanitarianism" or some other altruistic principle. SGI could still get its name on the plaque, for the sake of public relations.

But SGI's practice of lavishing large amounts of money to buy honors for Daisaku Ikeda does not speak well for Ikeda, or SGI. And it doesn't make Buddhism look good, either.

Update: I have learned the commission has recommended accepting the gift. The gate is to be named the "Ikeda Peace Gate," which is a shade less creepy (to me) than the "Daisaku Ikeda Gate." But plain ol' non-attached "Peace Gate" would have been so much better.

Some more:

New gate could honor Buddhist leader
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A little park over at 16th and Bryant could get a fancy new entrance gate as long it’s named after peace activist Daisaku Ikeda and the Board of Supervisors accepts up to a gift up to $180,000 to do it.

Soka Gokkai International, a Buddhist network founded by Ikeda, is offering the money to the Recreation and Park Department under the naming condition for Franklin Square Park’s gate along with placing a plaque in the park that will recognize Ikeda’s mentors.

The Ikeda Peace Gate is on the agenda for Rec and Park’s regular meeting today at 4 p.m., and staff has recommended commissioners accept the gift. If they do, the Board of Supervisors gets the final say-so.