Soundtrack: Slowdive, “Waves”
Since the beginning of this blog, I have tried to sing the praises of Sukyo Mahikari, the spiritual path that I’ve called my own for eleven years. One of my purposes in starting this blog has been to try to put out something positive about Mahikari on the Web. Part of the reason is that there have been many disgruntled former members leaving Mahikari who were posting negative things about the organization. There had been little effort by Mahikari members to put out alternative viewpoints, and so I felt called to do that. Also, I wanted to put my writing ability to service on behalf of what I believe in most strongly.
I have had many positive experiences with the spiritual path over the last eleven years—some of which have been posted on this blog. I have fond memories of the “light-giving” open houses I used to hold out of my apartment in Chicago, of the trips I took to Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota to visit group members (and the time a group member and I spontaneously started a light-giving open house in a bar outside Stevens Point, WI at 10:30 p.m.) of the trip I took to the Autumn Grand Ceremony in in Takayama, Japan back in November 2000, and a wide array of other spiritual experiences that have colored my eleven years in this organization.
But what I’ve posted about Mahikari is only half the story. It was only half of me talking.
The truth is that the other half of me has had some very serious issues with the organization for quite some time now. I’m not going to go into details. I see no point in condemning an organization that, despite its flaws, has definitely helped me grow spiritually over the last eleven years. But those flaws do include things that go against my core values. I thought for years that the organization would change—there were some signs that it might, but I finally came to the conclusion that it wouldn’t.
I’ve never really been afraid to say within the organization what I honestly think. Several staff within Mahikari are well aware of most of my concerns with the organization. But in the blogosphere, I’ve been publicly concealing my concerns about Mahikari because I’ve felt that the best and most appropriate way to address them is within the organization. After all, my primary goal has been to build and promote the organization.
But no longer. I am leaving Mahikari.
An astute observer of this website may have noticed a few weeks ago that I removed the page that talked about my reasons for being involved in Mahikari, and later I removed links to the Mahikari organization websites. I have also removed other posts that talk about Mahikari, because I don’t want to encourage people to join the organization.
I started the blog in part to promote Mahikari, but try as I could, I found it hard to write about that spiritual path. I think what I was really was doing, even from the beginning nearly two years ago, was to try to rekindle a fire that was dying and perhaps already dead. I wanted to write and express myself, but more and more, I found that I couldn’t talk about Mahikari anymore, to close friends or to anyone.
I just can’t hide this fact from my readers anymore. I have probably written literally thousands of pages in my journals sorting out my feelings about the organization. What has been on this blog has been only a small portion of me, and I’ve been remarkably silent, especially in the last few weeks. The reality is that a lot of things have been going on with me, a lot of things that I consider to be exciting and revolutionary. Walls are crumbling within me and it feels very liberating.
As these changes progressed within me, I began, a couple of months ago, to open some books on the Baha’i Faith that have been sitting on my bookshelf for nearly two decades. I seriously considered the Baha’i Faith at the end of the 80’s, but for various reasons chose not to go in that direction. But now I’ve started going to the Madison Baha’i Center to participate in the devotionals and some study classes. We’ll see what comes of it.
One thing I’ve noticed recently is that since I’ve started seriously considering this change, my prayers have become more genuine and whole-hearted. At one point my prayers were ritualistic and literally on automatic pilot. Occasionally I would even fall asleep while praying. Now I am no longer going through the motions in my prayers, and it’s gotten to the point where I look forward to them every morning and evening.
I wanted to hide my feelings about Mahikari until I was sure, absolutely sure of my decision to leave. Right now I am quite sure. I also accept that I will never be absolutely sure about anything. I am re-opening a door I closed eighteen years ago and I’m discovering new treasure inside. I had very good reasons for closing that door at the end of 1989 just as I have very good reasons for opening that door at the end of 2007. As such, I can’t completely rule out Mahikari or any other path in the future, either. But my reasons for leaving Mahikari are very sound, and I have little doubt in my mind that it’s the right thing to do.
If you are considering Mahikari as a spiritual path, I can’t tell whether you should get involved or not—that’s a personal choice. I did grow spiritually through my involvement in the organization. I would, however, suggest that any visitor to a Mahikari center or who receives light energy from a Mahikari member should pay close attention to what s/he sees and hears. Ask a lot of questions. Then ask more questions. And if Mahikari members start to get uncomfortable with your questions, politely ask even more of them.
In the meantime, I am not going to join other ex-members in slamming the organization. I am leaving Mahikari with many fond memories. But those are all in the past.
And now it’s time for me to move on…