Allow me to give a brief autobiography of my relationship with Nichiren Buddhism.
I joined the Soka Gakkai International right before graduating university and stuck with it for 4-5 years. I did love the SGI and Nichiren Buddhism at first, of course, but then I was getting more and miserable in the practice as time went on. It also didn’t help that I have seen and been a victim of toxic behaviors.
Around 2009 I left Nichiren Buddhism, mentally speaking, and went into Zen. Sure I would get invited back to the SGI meetings and I’d show up but I loved my Zen practice. If anything, Zen changed my life for the better.
The problem is that my Zen practice is quite extensive and all encompassing, so I would have to put it off when life gets busy. Sometimes work prevented me from further practice. Other times it’s crazy people and their drama. Sometimes it’s my family.
During those times, I would go back to Nichiren Buddhism. I never liked it, but it was the only Buddhist practice I could do while I wait for more free time to get back into Zen. It was a pattern. I would practice Zen for awhile then things hit the fan so I go back to Nichiren. When things settle down I go back to Zen until something or someone else compels me to change back to Nichiren.
Now I am in that “phase” of putting off Zen to practice Nichiren. However, there is a one twist: I am finally enjoying the Nichiren practice! I haven’t enjoyed practicing Nichiren Buddhism for many many years and here I am actually liking it!
This makes me wonder: why am I finally enjoying my Nichiren practice after all of this time feeling nothing but misery about it?
I don’t know for certain, but there are a couple of things I want to ponder about.
That’s why I want to invite you, a Nichiren Buddhist practitioner, to read about what I am doing and my views on the practice in a series of articles. My hope is that if you like what I am doing, you can incorporate it into your practice.
Every Wednesday or Thursday I am going to release an article analyzing my own attitudes and changes with the Nichiren practice.
There are a couple of things I want to note:
I intend this series for every Nichiren Buddhist practitioner no matter what sect or organization:
One of the biggest problems with Nichiren Buddhism, especially on the internet, is that everyone has to argue with each other and no one can agree to disagree. I think if we want to grow in our each individual practice, or even spread the teachings, we need to cool our jets and bury the hatchet.
Obviously, I am a former SGI member now independent, so what I write may not be applicable or relatable to someone in Nichiren Shu or Rissho Kosei Kai. I apologize for this, but I hope you can glean something from my brain droppings.
If you are a member of the SGI, I want to let you know that I don’t hate or despise you. I just don’t like your organization and I disagree a fair amount of its doctrines. Either way, I hope that if you do incorporate my suggestions that you would benefit from it.
Take whatever I write with a grain of salt:
My other big issue with the Nichiren Buddhist community is that everyone speaks in terms of imperatives and commands. “Do this” and “don’t do that” is very common in the Nichiren Buddhist mindset. Even if Nichiren practitioners don’t out right speak like authoritarians, it’s almost implied.
I want to let it be known that I don’t have that attitude. I might write my posts in a somewhat authoritarian tone, which I hope not, but I don’t expect anyone to simply do as I say.
You are an individual with a free will and it is your right to do what you want as long as you don’t harm others or break the law.
So if you don’t agree with me or don’t implement my ideas, I won’t take it personally.
Anything I write in this series of posts are suggestions, not commands.
No platitudes, jargon, or mystical proverbs
My biggest issue with the SGI is that most conversations tend to revolve around 20 or so slogans and platitudes.
A typical conversation would go like:
“I’ve been praying for a spouse for at least a month and I feel like I am getting nowhere.”
“I see, then you should pray so you should be in rhythm with the Mystic Law of the Universe.”
“How do I do that?”
“Never seek the Gohonzon [mandala] outside of yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“You must chant daimoku [the mantra] with full determination with a roar of a lion. The sword is useless in the hands of a coward.”
And so on.
To be fair, I have that problem with Zen as well.
You can have a conversation such as:
“How do I deal with the existential crisis that I am having now?”
“Be like the farmer who cuts tofu into cubes on top of Mt. Fuji on a Sunday afternoon.”
To me, this type of “mystical” talk does more to obfuscate the conversation than anything else.
That’s why in my writings I want to provide suggestions that are both clear and practical. If I do have to use these platitudes, I will do my best to make my explanations as straightforward as possible.
My philosophy in teaching is that it is a teacher’s job to take something complicated and simplify it as possible so that anyone can learn any subject.
It’s okay to not practice or believe in Nichiren Buddhism
Nichiren was quite infamous in believing that his form of Buddhism is the only one worth practicing and that other form is BS. He also wrote that other religions and philosophies, such as Daoism and Hinduism, are also aberrations. The main reason was that he believed that the Lotus Sutra is the highest form of teaching and his practice aligns itself more with the sutra than anything.
Partly because of this belief, some Nichiren organizations urge their followers to spread the religion and convert as many people into the practice as much as possible.
I disagree with Nichiren on this issue. I think all religions and philosophies have their value when paired with introspection and critical thinking.
First of all, Zen helped me overcome depression and suicidal ideation. I used to live in Thailand, where most people practice Theravada Buddhism and many of Thais are the nicest and kindest people in the word,
Besides, I have known some good people in the SGI and also some jerks as well. I am friends with an atheist who treats everyone like his brother and sister. I also used to work with an atheist who was one verbally abusive @$$hole.
Religion, and lack thereof, is not everything. Character is what I look for.
So I don’t care whether or not you believe in Nichiren Buddhism, Buddhism, or any religion in general. You’re not a good person just because you practice. You’re not a bad person just because you don’t.
Besides, in order to convert to a different faith volition is needed. That is a post I want to write about in the future, although it has nothing to do with the series I am planning to write as of now.
I also like to put up funny pictures and memes on my posts
Because why not? Besides, it’s always good to have a sense of humor.