African/American Visits Nichiren Shoshu Temple Opening In Ghana; Writes letterTo African/American SGI Friends In Memphis, Tennessee
On Saturday February 21, 1998 the first Nichiren Shoshu Temple in Africa opened. Many of you who know me understand that I have always had a strong feeling for Africa and I hold to the stand that our culture and identity should be respected with other cultures. Those of you who have practiced for some time should remember reading about the NSG General Director Joseph Asomani in the New Years issue of the World Tribune. Mr. Asomani is the first African to receive the Gohonzon and through his ichinen thousands in Ghana practice Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. When the split took place I wondered what had happened to Mr. Asomani and the members in Ghana. During my 1996 tozan a Ghana member living in Washington DC had informed me that Mr. Asomani was a Hokkeko member and 90% of Ghana was Hokkeko.
Over the years I had always respected Mr. Asomani and I wanted to learn first hand about his experience and more importantly I wanted to learn about Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism in Africa. On Friday February 20, 1998 about a dozen of us from America arrived in Ghana. Around 4:00 p.m. we arrived at this Grand Temple located on somewhat of a mountain that would seat over a thousand members. Many members were working to put the finishing touches for the Grand opening the next day. After inquiring about those working I learned that this temple was build by the sweat and labor of the members in Ghana. Many members took a one-years absence from their jobs to build this temple. These African members have a faith in the Gohonzon unlike those of us in America. Many of these members are poor in finance but wealthy in faith, courage, dedication and wisdom. These African members are far more developed and surpass many American members in their understanding of the Gosho. These African members are quiet, humble and have tremendous dignity regarding the Gohonzon and their practice.
In a brief conversation I asked Mr. Asomani to explain his story of how and why he was not with SGI. Mr. Asomani explained that he was aware of many ills in SGI and always he respected Nichiren Shoshu Priesthood, however during his reign as General director he was always kept away from the Priest. In 1990 SGI implemented a policy that removed Mr. Asomani as General Director of Nichiren Shoshu Ghana. Mr. Asomani was manipulated to Japan in a big news conference resigning his leadership position. Mr. Asomani and an assistant realized that SGI tricked them into signing away their position in Ghana. Mr. Asomani was removed and SGI implemented a plan to pull Ghana into the SGI scheme.
The SGI Scheme Backfires
The SGI leaked news to members that Mr. Asomani had resigned and Mr. Asomani in route from Japan decided to spend time in London with a relative before returning to Ghana. News of the new leader was announced to members and on the Sunday the new puppet leader was to meet the Ghana members, the puppet leader was to meet with Ashanti Warriors and other tribes who were prepared to take serious issue with the new leader. Leadership did not change and the Ghana police had to seize the SGI community center. The African members explained to me that SGI dealt with Ghana with a Colonial master mentality of which they refuse to accept.
The African culture unlike the American culture respect elders and the transition of power was not just acquiesced to Japanese as in America. The SGI ex-communicated to Mr. Asomani and no person associated with Mr. Asomani was able to receive the Gohonzon. The exact thing that the SGI did to Mr. Asomani happened to Daisaku Ikeda, as he was ex-communicated from Nichiren Shoshu. Mr. Asomani held steadfast to his faith and he practiced for 6 months with members without any connection since he had no communication to the Nichiren Shoshu Temple or SGI. The members in Ghana practiced African style meetings in the bush or at any favorable establishment they could find to practice the true law. An amazing 90% of the Ghana members stood steadfast with Mr. Asomani
and a U.S. member from Ghana on Tozan explained to the temple what had happened in Ghana and informed the Priest that members needed guidance and direction from the temple. The head temple dispatched two Priests to see first hand the situation in Ghana and after viewing the circumstance in Ghana the head temple instantly granted Ghana a Temple.
Ghana Members Show Their Appreciation
The members in Ghana consider the SGI excommunication to be the best thing to happen to them because the struggle brought them closer and made them stronger. The Ghana members gave their last dollars and they personally put the time and effort to physically build their own beautiful temple. The temple will seat 1000 and is one of the largest religious establishments building in Ghana and it is certainly the most modern.
This experience of seeing Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism in Africa is a most encouraging and enlightening experience. Most people in Ghana are very poor comparing American standards to their standards. However in just talking with a few members their spirits are rich. The Daishonin while on Sado Island said "Nichiren must be the richest man in Japan". Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is in the hearts of these members. At the temple opening I spoke with two African Kings who practice this Buddhism in their village. Members from all walks of life are actively practicing Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism. An African Chief explained to me that Buddhism is understandable to the African and is closely related to African traditional religions in that Buddhism explains life.
Although the members in Ghana have broken away from the SGI and choose to practice in peace, the SGI is continuing to harass and undermine the practice of these sincere proud African people. The SGI is using in Ghana manipulation, corruption & bribery to influence policy to inhibit the growth of Nichiren Shoshu in Ghana. The SGI was successful at influencing a policy that caused the High Priest Visa to be denied after it was approved in January. I personally have a copy of the Wednesday February 25, 1998 article headlined in the editorial section of the Ghanian Times that points to paid political influence. Prior to my coming to Ghana I had heard rumors regarding SGIs harassment but being in Ghana I am seeing these shameful acts first hand. I brought my video camera to Ghana to document my visit and I will be happy to share this video with you. Hear Mr. Asomani for yourself.
Many of you have known me for over 20 years and you know that I am a sincere creditable human and I have no reason to lie. I suggested to many of you to see these things for yourself by making a trip to Tozan to learn the other side of these issues. Come to Africa and see things for yourself. I will beat this letter to America and if you have any questions give me a call.