Beneficial Brainwashing 3: Faith, Practice, and Study

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I never intended this to be a series of posts, but I am rehashing this one idea: how to brainwash myself into becoming a wiser and more rational human being.

In the past two posts I have written on the subject, I point out that cults are in the business of brainwashing their devotees into accepting alternate realities. According to a proportion of anti-cult activists, mantra chanting is one of many tools for brainwashing.

The last time I wrote a post on this subject, I was thinking of incorporating the Tibetan lojong, a collection of aphorisms. I have yet to do that because I want to test whether or not my liturgy practice will help me overcome or attain my desires.

However, I am somewhat testing this principle out in a different manner.

In Nichiren Buddhism, one often hears the phrase, “Faith, Practice and Study.”

Faith is basically having the belief that practicing Nichiren Buddhism is good and good for you. In my case, I don’t have much faith in Nichiren Buddhism. However, I have enough faith to sit my ass down and practice the liturgy.

Practice is exactly what I am best at. I take the time twice a day to sit in front of the mandala and perform the liturgy. To other Nichiren Buddhists, especially in the Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, I should also go spread the practice and have others practice with me. I don’t do that because nobody likes being proselytized. If people want to discuss Buddhism with me, sure I can discuss it but I am not going to go and force or manipulate people to practice the way I do. Besides, back when I was in college so many Christian groups tried to get me to change my religion. The same happened in South Korea. Yet, here I am, not a Christian.

Study is my weakest point. According to Nichiren Buddhism, I should read the Lotus Sutra and/or the collection of letters Nichiren wrote to his adherents. The main problem I have reading both is that they are very long and difficult to get through. I’m not acting like a millennial who wants everything in bit-size chunks, I am acting like a millennial who has no time to read because I have a lot work to do! Back when I was jobless during the lockdown I could have studied both, but I focused on Zen practice instead.

Then there is Nichiren’s tone in his writing. He was very in-your-face about his teachings and that you should practice his form of Buddhism or else you will burn in hell. I understand that he felt the world was about to end so that influenced his sense of urgency. However, modern day practitioners take his style of proselytizing at face value and also to try emulate him. That’s why there are so many flame wars on the internet in the Nichiren community.

I had this idea of reading The Dhammapada after every liturgy session. I also had this idea of reading The Enchiridion as well.

The Dhammapada is one of the earliest books in the Buddhist canon. In this book, the Buddha expounds on the importance of keeping mindful of one’s thoughts, words, and actions as well as the beauty of self-discipline. When I returned to the US from South Korea the first time I was teaching there, I felt nothing but anger and bitterness at the world. My anger was so deep that I was seriously thinking of killing myself. This is one of the books that got me to live and change my life for the better. It’s also one book I would recommend to others because the text is very clear in its meaning and the teachings can benefit anyone no matter one’s religion or lack thereof.

Then there is The Enchiridion. The Enchiridion is more of a pamphlet than a book as it has less than 50 pages of text. One hard copy I had was no thicker than 5 mm! Still, good things do come in small packages. This is a book written by a student of the Greek philosopher Epictetus, who was taking notes on the philosopher’s lectures. Just like the Buddha, Epictetus also expounds the importance of self-discipline as a way to total freedom. Epictetus also offers practices to in order to live that Stoic lifestyle.

Thus far, I have been praying this way for a couple of days now. While I have had trouble starting the liturgy sessions, reading those texts ends them quite nicely.

If this goes on quite well, and if I feel myself changing for the better, I might incorporate other Buddhists and Stoic texts. Once I am done with Dhammpada I might start reading the Spell of Emptiness. Once I am done with the Enchiridion, I will start with Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations.

As I also have an hour long commute to work (and another hour to get back home), I am also thinking of listening to Earl Nightingale’s audio series, “The Direct Line.” I have listened to the first of the series before and maybe a couple more. They are great and have lots of awesome ideas. The only reason why I have not made a decision in listening is because I want to have as much leisure as possible before I deal with the drudgery of work.

Lately, I have been unearthing my old CDs from high school and find myself enjoying the sound of music, which was something I haven’t done in years. Last night, on the way home, I had a profoundly spiritual experience listening to Led Zeppelin’s Achilles Last Stand.

 

*If you click the links to The Enchiridion and Marcus Aurelius’s Meditations, you will be asked to sign in. Just click on cancel and you can still access both works.

4 thoughts on “Beneficial Brainwashing 3: Faith, Practice, and Study

  1. Don’t be too discouraged by the present–the boring work and the long commute–and just take it as a trial Buddha is putting you through. You will have the life you love with people you like and the job you enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

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