If it were up to me, I wouldn’t go back into Nichiren practice. Of course, circumstances beyond my control have pushed me back into it. It’s almost the same as before in which I was working full time, for the same job. The two differences between then and now is that I meditate and have some form of exercise.
Yet here I am, back to practicing Nichiren Buddhism because there is no other practice I can do. Maybe I can find a better alternative but that will take time and research, so I am stuck for now and have to make the best of it until I return to Zen.
The hardest part about doing Nichiren Buddhism and its liturgy is that I don’t really see the use for it. Plus, at least according to the Soka Gakkai, it doesn’t work anyways unless I believe in the power of the liturgy.
You may not believe in the concept of Buddha-nature or in the teachings of the Buddha, but at least meditation will help calm your mind and give you insight in your thinking. That’s why the Hindus meditated before the Siddhartha Gautama and Mahavira (the founder of Jainism) was born and why Chinese Daoists picked it up from the Indians. That’s also why a lot of mental health professionals have been studying the effects of meditation for decades.
You don’t need to believe that exercise can help lose weight or build muscle. If you just do it, as a sneaker corporation used to say, you will achieve that weight loss and muscle formation whether you believe in it or not.
If the Nichiren liturgy doesn’t work without my belief, as most Soka Gakkai practitioners preach, what’s the point in my sitting down and chanting the titles of the Lotus Sutra over and over again?
That’s one mental obstacle.
However, the one belief I have with the Nichiren practice is that it will make my life worse. It will bring about a lot of calamities and disasters no matter what kind of attitude I have towards the practice.
If anything, I can’t remember a time when the practice ever helped me or that my prayers have been answered. On the other hand, I can remember too many times when my life gets worse whenever I start practicing regularly.
The reason behind this phenomena, according to Nichiren Buddhists, is that I am absolving all my bad karma from eons before. Since I was possibly a jerk back in 1126 AD, 23 BC, 56703 BC and so on, I would undergo all these hardships so that I can have a clean slate karmically speaking.
Is that true, though? Well, there is no science that proves a thing called “karma” exists so of course this is a religious matter.
But here is the problem I have with this concept, in which I have written before, bad karma is best dealt with wisdom. If one doesn’t have the wisdom, and we all don’t know everything, there is a chance one can create more bad karma.
In the post I linked above, I used the example of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future movies. I will reiterate using a more common example.
One day when Jeff was working at the factory, his supervisor comes up and starts berating him. What does Jeff do?
If Jeff doesn’t have enough wisdom he could take his anger out on his coworkers. He might take it out on his wife and kids. He might start arguing with his boss. Of course if he does that, he would lose friends, his family, his job, and maybe even get arrested and lose his liberty.
This is an example of how bad karma causes more bad karma.
If Jeff has wisdom maybe he would have talked to his boss in a civil manner about how to improve his performance. Maybe Jeff would have channeled his anger out on a kickboxing workout. Maybe Jeff would use his anger to motivate him to look for a better job or education. Jeff could have also used this as an opportunity to improve working conditions in the factory.
Whatever Jeff chooses, his life will improve for the better. Remember, though, the main reason why his life would improve is because he had the wisdom to deal with his bad karma. In this case, his bad karma is his boss yelling at him.
So what about me? Here I am “attracting” all my bad karma just because I decided to start practicing Nichiren Buddhism again. Since I don’t have the infinite wisdom to deal with all of that bad karma, what can I do so that I don’t create ore bad karma out of the pile I already have?
Most Nichiren Buddhists like to use the phrase, “Faith, Practice, and Study”. What I should study, as a Nichiren Buddhist, would be the Lotus Sutra and the Nichiren’s letters to his followers. I like the Lotus Sutra but it is turgid. The first chapter itself is about a big meeting with Buddha who was about to give his final sermon and the entire chapter is a HUGE list of who was attending. It’s like how there is a section in the Bible over who begat who. Nichiren’s letters are also turgid, and there are some good philosophical points to study, but I find them mostly reprehensible. I don’t share in his hatred of other Buddhists and I also find him to be quite arrogant. Many SGI practitioners would study the writings of Daisaku Ikeda, the current head of the organization. He does write some good things, but all-in-all I feel it’s mostly fluff. Just like Nichiren, I also think Ikeda cares too much about his self-aggrandizement. A lot of the songs that people sing in the SGI, for example, are all about praising Daisaku Ikeda (and sometimes his wife).
Again, what’s a guy like me supposed to do when facing bad karma without the wisdom in doing so? Here’s the only way I know how.
Bruce Lee has once said, “Do not pray for an easy life, pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”
To me, that’s basically it for the most part. Just do the liturgy practice, prepare for the dooky to hit the fan, and keep myself calm when it happens.
There are two other approaches I want to write soon enough.