Chapter 1, Section 5: Scolding Taints the Mind

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[Sorry for taking so long in continuing this project of studying Master Kim Jae Woong’s “Polishing the Diamond, Enlightening the Mind”. I’d like to continue on since there is a lot to learn. Hopefully, I won’t stop when school starts for the next semester.]

Summary:

In this passage, Master Kim talks about how monks would get kidnapped by mountain bandits only to become one themselves, helping their kidnappers, 3 years later.

According to Master Kim because the monks spent so much time in those 3 years criticizing the robbers, the robbers’ actions got imprinted in the minds of the monks. Therefore, the monks turned into bandits themselves. The monks, by criticizing the robbers, brainwashed themselves into becoming criminals.

That is why, according to Master Kim, we need to let go of criticizing and scolding other people lest we also become what we scold and criticize.

Commentary:

It’s almost a common notion that the main reason we criticize others is because those people possess the same flaws we ourselves have. If Bob criticizes Jane for anger issues, it’s possibly because Bob also has anger issues.

I think of my erstwhile ninjutsu instructor in this regard. He used to harp on me for having a lot of “shadow” or negativity in my brain parts. At the same time, however, he would always get angry for the smallest of reasons. One time we were having a beer and laughing it up when he decided to end the night accusing me of plotting against him. I made a joke about how a John Woo movie made “war look cool” which got him miffed. Later he would always use that joke as an excuse to be more verbally abusive. I’m not denying that I also have a dark side. This is why I am studying and practicing Buddhism. However, while he was criticizing my shadow, he didn’t look into his.

I can concede that what Master Kim supposes can be true, that one turns into the person or persons one criticizes.

My first time in Korea was a very toxic time. Everyone fought over petty reasons. Whenever a fight erupted between my coworkers and I, I was the first to apologize. It was a waste of time, to be honest, because they would never forgive me. They always kept a checklist on every wrong action everyone took and would love to bring them up every time we went out drinking. I hated them for keeping such a hostile attitude.

Next thing I know it, even I started holding grudges. Thankfully, I found a way to let go of them, which I started doing when I got back to the United States.

So in regards to criticism, whether the act of criticizing others will lead us to debase our character or merely reflects our own flaws, I think it is important to address the criticisms we have for others as well as ourselves.

Master Kim states that the best way to deal with our inner critic is to simply surrender our criticism to the Buddha. In my next post, I am going to elaborate more on what I think “surrender” means.

However, one idea that comes to mind is to simply write down on a piece of paper what criticisms you have for yourself and for other people. After writing them down, simply ask yourself these questions: Since this guy or that girl has these flaws, what can I do to make sure I don’t have these flaws as well? Here are list of my flaws, what can I do to improve upon them?

I would like to think that after facing these flaws, and looking at the flaws of others, one could have a map of what to do to improve oneself.

Had my erstwhile ninjutsu instructor asked himself how he can make sure he didn’t have any “shadow” or unresolved negativity after looking at mine, I would like to think he would have been able to overcome his without going through a period of self-hatred or self-loathing.

Had I addressed my criticism of my coworkers in Korea and their habit of holding grudges, perhaps I would have been able to avoid doing the same by addressing the harm holding grudges have on one’s health and livelihood.

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Progress in Zen

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

On the Zen front, progress seemed slow at first. I did keep up with my fitness kickboxing workout, taiji/qigong course, and meditation. As I felt progress was slow I more or less went through all three practices mechanically just so I can go back to watching movies or doing other things.

A couple of days ago, I went through my Facebook feed and a memory popped up about the time I went to Beopju temple in North Chungcheong province, South Korea. I was there for a templestay and it was sorta my 50th one I think. I was the only templestay guest there.

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That time I met a nun and told her of my problem with meditation in general: it is boring and feels like a waste of time to me. I told her how for a week I would sit down and count my breaths and I felt like nothing was really changing.

She recommended a mantra to me. Basically, instead of counting my breaths, I would inhale while thinking to myself, “Who am I?” I would then exhale while thinking, “I don’t know.”

I don’t know why I didn’t start right away. Life in Korea was full of its drama for sure, but I think I was just lazy.

Seeing that post on social media, however, reminded me to try the mantra out.

And so I did.

After I was done with my kickboxing and taiji workout, I sat down and closed my eyes. First I relaxed myself by doing the breath counting. After I counted for 10 breaths, I went on chanting the silent mantra. I went back to breath counting and then back to the mantra and alternated like this for a good 10 minutes.

When I was done meditating, I opened my eyes and saw a different world.

It’s like waking up from an intense dream. The fading images remain strong, almost burned into memory. Yet the bright sunlight penetrates my closed eyelids. As I open them, I see nothing but at the moment but at least I know I am waking up from a dream.

These are the moments I miss the most in Zen practice. This is why I really want to intensify my practice so that I can have more moments of clarity at the very least.

Starting today I decided to start doing the Korean Zen practice of 108 bows. I would do the bows in the morning and the fitness kickboxing in the evening. Hopefully, once school starts I can keep up with the bows.

At some point in time, I will start chanting the Heart Sutra in addition to the parts of the Lotus Sutra I already recite.

I can tell you right now, after doing the meditation and the 108 bows, my morning Nichiren liturgy practice felt a lot more substantive than ever.

Before I end this post, I would like to say:

Gate gate parasamgate bodhi svaha,

Gate gate parasamgate bodhi svaha,

Gate gate parasamgate bodhi svaha.

Love,

Capt. Idiotic

 

My new approach to Nichiren Buddhism

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I think I can say that I have successfully rid myself of most of the programming that I went through at the Soka Gakkai. Again, as much as I don’t agree with the SGI, it is their right to think and believe what they want to think and believe. It is my prerogative to move on and practice Nichiren Buddhism my own way.

When I did some of my self deprogramming, I came to realize that divorcing myself totally from the SGI means that I don’t have a framework to base my practice upon. That is to say I have to find out myself what works and what doesn’t work in practicing Nichiren Buddhism.

Will I ever read their publications again? Maybe. I am quite sure that I could glean something valuable from their writings, but maybe only bits and pieces.

However, from here on out, I am simply going to experiment with the chanting practice and see what I can do with it.

For now, I use my chanting practice to remind myself to keep up with my fitness regime, taiji practice, and meditation. I also have list of people that I had problems with so I am using my chanting practice to let go of any past pain and grudges. At the same time, I am also using my chanting practice to keep up with my reading goals as I want to finish reading 20 novels by 2020/2563.

You know what? Tomorrow I am going to start off from where I left off with studying Master Kim Jae Woong’s book, Polishing the Diamond.

Love,

Capt. Idiotic

My brief review of Emotional Blackmail

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I finally got around to reading Dr. Susan Forward’s book, Emotional Blackmail, a few weeks ago. I hate to use the word “trigger”, as the meaning has been hijacked by both sides of political discourse, but it is a triggering read. Every time I would read that book, I would get flashbacks of times people would manipulate me into doing things I don’t want to do. There were times I had to close the book to calm myself down and not get too emotional over the bad memories.

These triggerings and the resulting emotional turmoil, however, is worth going through as the book itself gives a lot more clarity in dealing with controlling individuals. It not only sheds light as to how manipulation works, but it is also giving me ideas on what to do about it.

The book has been giving me a lot more understanding of what kind of traps other people, including members of the Soka Gakkai, put up and how they got me into them. Dr. Forward even lists four different tactical categories that manipulators use, such as punishment and even threats of self-harm. I’ve seen my fair share of all four categories.

The book did confirm my initial beliefs insofar that manipulation is based on our desires and that the manipulator will use our desires against us. For example, the boss will get us to work weekends because of our desire for a promotion.

I never take meditation too seriously, but this is why I will from now on. Meditation is to help us understand our minds and as well as our desires. I will take meditation more seriously now so that I can understand my desires and not get controlled by them. I don’t get controlled by my desires, then no one else can use my desires against me.

I’m still not done reading the book. There is more for me to learn and I cannot wait for that.

Love,

Capt. Idiotic

Desires as weakness

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Hi there. This is going to be a stream-of-consciousness type of post. I’m preparing for my move to a new city and I don’t have the time to write a proper, less turgid post.

A couple of days ago, when I was working through my issues with one individual from the Soka Gakkai, I was thinking about another one that I wrote about a few months ago.

This isn’t going to be my usual rant against the SGI, but I will have to talk about that other person to provide context of the insight I got from thinking about him and about how he was trying to control me.

A few months ago, the SGI-USA was planning to hold a big spectacle/celebration with lots of song and dance numbers, gymnastic performances, and some billowy speeches. This spectacle is very much in the same vein as North Korea’s Mass Arirang games, although in a smaller scale.

My one friend in the SGI, for the longest time, was trying to get me to go to that spectacle. Not only was he trying to get me into that spectacle, but he also wanted me to get back into devoting my free time and weekends to SGI meetings and activities. Even though I told him of how little free time I had back then, working 50-60 hours a week, he was still persistent in my getting back into the SGI lifestyle as well as attending said spectacle.

He knew that I was practicing Nichiren Buddhism on my own, which was only performing the liturgy twice a day. To him, it was not good enough that I just did the liturgy. I need to do more.

What he told me, though, through our conversations was that the chanting and praying on my own can only improve my life so far. If I were to devote my free time to Soka Gakkai activities, then my life will really improve 110%. To him, without doing the activities or attending the spectacle, I won’t nor can’t get far in life.

Desire.

It just occurred to me a couple of days ago that this guy was trying to appeal to my desires, maybe even greed. He’s been trying to get this idea in my head that if I put all my free time into the Soka Gakkai, I would get more than I would ever dreamed of. I can guess he didn’t want me to be content with what I had, or the small benefits I gained from my solo practice, and wish for a lot more.

Thankfully, I haven’t capitulated to his demands. On one hand, I’d like to think that I’ve learned to be a lot more content and grateful for the things I have. While I’m not living in a palatial mansion, at the very least I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep on, and indoor plumbing. On the other hand, I remember the insanity I encountered in the SGI way too much for me to go back.

During that time when my friend was trying to get me back into the SGI and attend its big show, I did go back to the local place of worship. There, I’ve would meet some people who have been in the Soka Gakkai as far back as the 1960s. When they asked if I was going to attend the show and I told them no, a few of them exploded with outrage. While not as calculated as my friend’s actions, the principle is the same: do as I/we say and you will live a better life. Don’t do it and you’ll suffer the consequences. In this case if I want us all to be cool and get along, then I should go to the show. If I don’t, then everyone will hate and berate me for the rest of my life.

Before I go on, I cannot blame the SGI members’ for their actions. Their masters in Tokyo, as well as their former masters in Taiseki Temple near Mt. Fuji, would tell their flock that if they want to live better lives they should do as the masters say. If the members deviate from their masters’ teachings, then their lives will be in shambles.

One example that comes to mind is from the SGI book series The Human Revolution, a supposed history of the Soka Gakkai, in which 2nd President Josei Toda told this old woman that the reason why the Americans bombed her house during the WWII was because she chanted the Nichiren mantra in front of “the demon daughter’s picture” instead of the mandala (ie the Gohonzon). Had she done what she was told and chanted in front of the mandala, then her home would have been saved.

I want to take the concept of manipulation of desires outside of the SGI and speak about other times other people played with my desires and even got what they wanted out of me.

My first time in Korea I worked with an American atheist. He would get belligerent with me every time I did silent meditation in my seat, read an online article about Buddhism, or even read a book on Buddhist philosophy. I capitulated to his demands because I wanted us to get along and remain friends.

My second time in Korea there was another American teacher who would expect me to express the same opinions he expressed and also spend my free time doings things he wants such as going to social clubs and attend expat dinners. Why did I capitulate with him? Because every time I didn’t he would spread rumors about me and even humiliate me on Facebook. I wanted to have friends and a decent reputation.

Then there was that Korean-American professor who wanted me to attend her language exchange meetings. Failure to do so meant her harassing me on Facebook, emails, phone calls and Kakao texts. Why did I capitulate to her? Simple, I wanted her to leave me alone so I can be free to pursue my own interests.

I did write another post about the Korean-American professor and how another friend of mine had the same problem with her. In his case, he found a way to placate her ego to point that she left him alone for the remainder of his time in that city. I don’t possess his intelligence to be able to do that. Someday I hope I can obtain the same insights he has.

However, until then, I still need to protect both my autonomy and sanity. I cannot let myself be other people’s puppet until I have that insight to placate their egos. Here’s the one way I can deal with that problem:

Say to myself: F**k it, let it happen.

That is to say if doing what I want is going to bring about some bad consequences such friction in my relationships with others, fine. If I have to put up with the Korean-American professor’s harassment just for not attending her meetings, okay. If I have to lose my reputation and deal with online humiliation for not doing what the other American teacher wanted me to do, very well. If the American atheist wants to lose his temper just because I read a book on Buddhism, cool. No one is putting a gun on their head to act they way they do, it’s their choice. Let it happen.

In case you are wondering, my caveat is that I will do whatever I want as long as I don’t harm myself or others.

The main reason why I wanted to skip SGI meetings was to relax in the weekends and read a good book. If having other SGI members berate me is the price I pay for this relaxation, then it was worth it. The main reason why I wanted to skip the language exchange meetings and other social obligations was to study Zen and practice taekwondo. If dealing with harassment and a loss of reputation the price I pay to do both, then it’s worth it. I wanted to read books on Buddhism so that I can live a better, more fulfilling existence. If putting up with a friend’s verbal abuse and losing his friendship the price I pay, then it is worth it.

Love always,

Capt. Idiotic

Letting go of past issues

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My apologies for not posting sooner. I was in Bangkok for 4 days and have been back in my village for 2. Bangkok was a huge distraction, but a welcome one. Here in my village I’ve been busy preparing for the move and hanging with my friends for one last time. Today, I’d like to write about the psychological procedure I use to let go of past anger and pain.

As I have written before, some aspects of the Soka Gakkai still affects my practice to this day. I want to free myself of such aberrations so that I can go practicing Nichiren Buddhism without constantly being taken back to those . . . . crazy times.

For this, I decided to focus my procedure on one such individual who truly encompasses everything I don’t like about the SGI such as its authoritarian culture, the black and white thinking, and the fear of questioning the philosophies and practices of the organization.

Here’s my procedure:

  1. I would take a notebook and a pen then write an angry letter towards someone who I don’t like. I would write something like, “Dear John, Here’s why I don’t like you, you poisonous bunch-backed toad.” I would then write of specific incidences in how such this person mistreated me, why I think s/he was wrong, and so on. This is the moment I let all hate and anger out of my heart and onto the paper.
  2. After I am done writing the hate letter. I simply put it away and let myself relax for a few hours to a few days.
  3. Once I am all nice and happy, I reread my hate letter. Then I take out a new piece of paper and rewrite that letter in both kindness and gratitude. For example, I wrote to that one SGI person how I am grateful that he has gotten me to leave the Soka Gakkai. I also wrote how I cannot blame him for acting the way he did, since he grew up in the organization whereas I joined when I was in college. I even thanked him for giving me my personal quest of finding out how to practice Nichiren Buddhism in a more rational, loving manner.
  4. After I am done writing the letter of love and gratitude, I would spend a week doing the Loving-Kindness meditation with the person in question as my main focus. Nowadays, I also chant and pray for his/her happiness.

For now, I just got done with step 3. Starting tonight, I will do the Loving-Kindness meditation and will also pray for the SGI Member’s happiness. In due time, I can finally go at least one step closer to practicing Nichiren Buddhism without the Soka Gakkai framework.

Love,

Capt. Idiotic

The first step

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I recognize that in order for me to continue on and benefit from my independent Nichiren practice, I need to stop stewing over the Soka Gakkai and my problems with the organization. After all, it’s the right of the organization to operate the way it does and the members who stick with it like it that way. I could either shut up and stick with the SGI, at least when I return to the US, or leave it altogether. Physically, I left it. Mentally, not really. Practicing Nichiren Buddhism while thinking about the SGI is basically putting one foot outside the door and the other in, so to speak.

The best course of action would then be to find a way to let go of the frustration I went through with the Soka Gakkai as well as the programming.

Today, I took my first step. I used a psychological tool that I came up long time ago to address past issues. I reopened some old wounds and voluntarily let myself get triggered by some bad memories. I spent a good 45 minutes letting out the anger in my heart, as I am supposed to, in order to move on from my years in the SGI.

I am not done yet, there are other steps I need to take. However, the worst is over. Now the healing will begin.

Tomorrow I will take some time to write of this exact procedure. Hopefully someone else out there will benefit from what I write.

For now, though, I am going to relax and enjoy the rest of the day. Tonight, I am going to have a four day vacation in Bangkok. I will do some shopping, site seeing, and what-not. So I am going to prepare for my trip right now. Besides, I have to catch a bus soon for an 8 hour ride.

Oi vey, but things are better.

Love,

Capt. Idiotic