How’s it going 3/9/2022

사랑합니다

I know my last post on racism is not the most comfortable thing to read, but the uncomfortable truth is that racism exists. It’s not something I like to talk about, but it is a thing in our lives. Also, how is it I can talk about Buddhism and not address the issues in our society? The whole point of studying Buddhism is to learn how to deal with such problems. All too often, many people who practice and study Buddhism delve into metaphysics and forget that even the Buddha himself eschewed that type of talk.

In fact, there was a story in the Malunkyaputta Sutta in which a monk named Malunkyaputta expressed his dissatisfaction of the Buddha and his teachings. The Buddha asked why and his student went on saying that the Buddha never taught him things like how did life begin, how was the world created, will it be destroyed, and other esoteric questions. The Buddha bluntly told the student that he was not interested in those questions. The Buddha was more interested in understanding the sufferings of our daily existence and how to transcend them.

To this I agree and this is one aspect I love about Theravada teachings over the Mahayana. Metaphysical debates are fine, but in the end all of the teachings of Buddhism should gear towards how to deal with life’s problems. We have relationship problems, problems at work, problems at home or with family, problems with money, problems with our mind, and so on. Racism is one of those problems and, unfortunately, is rarely spoken about in the Buddhist community. I can go on talking about some of the racists issues I have seen over the years, but this would require a longer discussion.

Speaking of my own problems . . . .

I have to admit, that when I wrote about certain people as being toxic White saviors, that perhaps I am seeing things in not the most correct angle and maybe race doesn’t have anything to do with our dynamic. However, I cannot say for certain. At the moment, I will keep the appellation as it is since they did talk to me the way British colonials talked to Indians centuries before; as in how it is unfortunate that we Indians are born as Indians and raised in our backwards Indian ways, that we need the British to civilize us and abandon our culture.

Again, I must emphasize that I don’t think all White people are like this and there are always bad examples in every race. If anything, I feel fortunate that I have friends from different races and ethnic backgrounds as it made life more interesting and fun. Having friends from all walks of life truly makes the world my oyster.

For that matter, I don’t think all British people back then looked down upon us. Hell, there were more than a few who got into Hindu philosophy and yoga before it was cool.

Now that I have wrestled with this revelation of the past conflicts I had with certain people, I am going to do something about it.

This week, I am still writing the signs of what to look out for in terms of someone with a toxic savior complex.

Next week, I plan to restart and actually finish the book Emotional Blackmail by Dr. Susan Forward so that I have the strategies I need to deal with controlling people.

As much as that realization of the problem angered me it has given me a sense of peace. Before then, whenever I got mistreated by certain individuals I was always told it was my fault. Either I was too diffident or too confident. Either I was a nice guy or I come off as too cocksure. Either I am too compliant or that I stand out too much. Ultimately, it has less to do with me and more to do with them. That took a lot of pressure off of me.

I believe very strongly that everyone has the right to do whatever they want as long as it doesn’t harm themselves or others and doesn’t disturb other people. For example, I don’t go around punching others because it harms other people. I don’t play music too loud as it disturbs others. However, if I am in bus and sitting alone doing silent meditation and someone else complains, that’s their issue since I am not bothering anyone.

(Funny enough, that did happen. I was sitting alone in the third row of the bus and the person sat all the way at the end. Yet despite me not making any noise and sitting far from her, she complained constantly of my meditation even though she could simply ignore me and talk to her friends.)

Furthermore, as per Og Mandino’s instructions from last month, every time I think about those with a savior complex who tried to control my every move, I think to myself “__________, I love you.” In Dharma Master Kim Jae Woong’s book, Polishing the Diamond, he advises to say something like “I wish _______________ finds his/her Buddha-nature, so that s/he can serve the Dharma well. Barwon [or perhaps Sadhu?]!”

I am doing that. It is helping me take the edge off of the anger, but I still have to examine how those people acted and read up on how to prevent further manipulation.

Or as someone in the internet once said, “Do no harm, but take no shit.”

What, me? A White Man’s Burden?

Here is the problem that is throwing me off my rhythm in life. Trigger warning, if you can’t tell by the title, this post will be about racism.

One person I used to write about in this stupid blog of mine is this guy Anson. He was this American I met while working over in Korea.

I hated him.

We used to be on friendly terms. Over time, though, he became more controlling and more spiteful as the weeks and months went on. At best he would dish out these passive-aggressive insults. At worst he would outright talk to me like I was an asshole. What’s worse was that he was always trying to get me to do things that I don’t like, such as hanging out with him at social events to even running a stupid language exchange club. If I didn’t do what he said, he got punitive such as trying to blacken my reputation on Facebook and spreading gossip about me. I can never forget the times he got visibly angry whenever I stated an opinion he didn’t like, one being on Edgar Cayce’s apple diet.

One reason why I couldn’t get over him was that his actions had long term consequences for me. My original intent in going to Korea was so that I can get myself the space to practice martial arts, qigong, and meditation. Back in the US I was too busy and being pulled to too many directions in the US and so I needed more breathing room that teaching in Korea could give me, or so I thought. Instead, Anson saw himself as in charge of my life and did everything he could to see that I lived it the way he wanted. Long after he left, I still couldn’t get the breathing space I needed to do my pursuits. For one thing, he got this professor Karen involved in my life and she also was trying to get me involved in her stupid drama. Whenever I refused to do her bidding, she would harass me at every waking moment.

The second reason why I could never get over Anson was that he was inconsistent with his actions. What he never tolerated from me, he tolerated from other people. For example, he hated me stating an opinion different from his. Yet there were plenty of others who were a lot more opposite from his way of thinking in regards to religion or politics. He never tried to change nor publicly shamed them the way he did for me. He acted like I was stupid and should be ashamed for every mistake I made, yet there were others who made stupider mistakes. One even spent money like water and was constantly asking others to help her, yet he never admonish her for her reckless spending. He also hated people from the East Coast, and he even said that about me since I am from the area. However, there was another guy from New York and Anson never attacked him.

I have asked Anson many times why he did what he did. I even emailed him a couple of years later for an explanation. He was always very evasive in his response, speaking in word salad like a slimy politician.

Before I go on, keep this in mind: if he simply insulted and said horrible things about me, that’s fine. However, he tried to control my life and never left me alone. That’s what made things worse.

It was a couple of days ago I read part of an article about the recent Jennifer Lopez movie, “Marry Me”, in which the author criticized Lopez for propagating the white savior trope. For those who don’t know, the White savior is a trope in TV shows and films in which a White character saves a non-White character or characters. This is because the film and TV show implies non-White people don’t have the intelligence, strength, or maturity to deal with their problems and can never get along in the world without a White person’s help. It is a modernized version of “A White Man’s Burden.”

That was when it hit me, was Anson trying to be my White savior? Was I a White’s man burden to him?

This sounds really far-fetched, but it all of a sudden made sense. Anson is White, I am Indian-American. That seems to explain why Anson was more tolerant of other people’s differences but was intolerant towards mine. Granted, there were Black and Hispanic teachers in that city of Korea and Anson never went after them. Perhaps, though, he was afraid of the consequences of messing with them and less with me. Keep this in mind, a lot of people were openly racists towards Middle-Easterners, South Asians, and East Asians at the time and no one saw anything wrong with making fun of them. There were even foreign teachers who would make fun of Koreans with the usual “ching-chong” jokes and no one admonished them for that.

Under the American Constitution and United States law, I am an American. My parents were naturalized and I was born in the United States. For the most part, my tastes are more American than Indian. I grew up reading Calvin and Hobbes over Chacha Chowdry (I liked Chowdry once I found out about him in a trip to India). I know more about baseball than cricket and American football over kabaddi. I listen to Jimi Hendrix more than Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I prefer watching movies starring Paul Newman over Shah Rukh Khan, although Khan is a good actor.

Despite all of this, I am still not viewed as American by many people.

Whenever I was looking for a job in the US, I have had employers say they can’t hire me because they can’t sponsor me for a visa. When I shortened my actual name in my resume, I would get more callbacks since my shortened name would sound less foreign. Plus, I don’t deny my Indian heritage and proud enough to embrace it. Funny enough, when I met up with an old coworker that I have known since 2011, she thought I was lying when I told her I am citizen of the United States. She even argued with me in every which way she could to prove otherwise. I told her that I had to register for the draft, so she finally relented.

To repeat myself, yes it sounds far-fetched, but it seems to make sense. Why was he okay with others speaking their minds but was not okay with me doing the same? Why was he tolerant of other people’s mistakes but was very harsh on every little action I made. Why was he obsessed over what I do in my personal life? Why did he want me to feel like I am the stupidest, most immature human being in the world and act like that I literally knew nothing . . .not even how to add 2 and 2? Why did he not use logic to persuade me and instead used insults and threats? As a teacher he knew that berating and insulting a student is one way for a student to stop listening and respecting him as a teacher. So why did he think I should listen and respect him after the way he insulted me?

Maybe he also rationalized that he needed to treat me like a loser because he was doing this for my own good, whether I wanted it or not. After all, tough love has to be tough and he had to be tough. That explained why he never listened to me whenever I told him that I didn’t appreciate his actions. He probably thought that he knows what’s good for me more than myself.

Maybe that was why Anson could not leave me alone. He felt he was on a mission to change me, hell or high water.

Maybe that was why he never told me why he acted the way he did, he knew how racist he would sound and how I would act if he were to say that I need to his help and have no right to make my own decisions.

The fucked up thing about this whole issue is that I have met over toxic White savior types. They see me, see my skin color, and think that I needed their help whether I asked for it or not. They also get frustrated when I let them know that I don’t see myself as their inferior and that I want to make my own decisions on how to live my life. They also would personally attack and insult me for not simply capitulating to their demands. Whenever I asked why they made their demands and they start losing their temper.

I had this realization all of this a few days ago and it made me very angry and hurt. It was a good thing I was alone in the office because I was pacing around, crying, and even going like “Holy shit that explains why atheist Alex hated me for being a Buddhist and was okay with Jeff being Christian! This explains why Bosco would act like I need his help in exercising and martial arts but never said the same to Elaine! This explains why Reggie was cool with Anson being a hippie but not me being a Buddhist! That’s also why Will was okay with Rick being shy around women and not me! FUUUUCCCCCKKKK!”

I’m still feeling a bit off-kilter through this revelation. I’m going through a bit of a phase. I know for certain that my fee-fees will settle down in due time.

Once my feelings do settle down, I will start mitigating all of the damage Anson and people like him have done on psyche. First and foremost I am going to write a little list to recognize if someone is acting like the toxic white savior, no different than those lists on the internet with titles such as “15 signs you are dating a narcissist.” After that, I will see about how to develop ways to deal with them.

I have to make this statement, though. I am not going to hate White people just because I met a few toxic White dudes (and dated one toxic White savior chick). There are good people of every race as well as bad ones. If some of my White friends give me advice on how to change my life, I won’t think of them as the toxic White savior. I would think of them as friends. However, if they seek to change and micromanage my life without my consent, and if they use insults and threats to win me over, then that’s when things will change.

That, my friends, is why Critical Race Theory is critically important.

So yeah, I really need to workout

A couple of days ago, I wrote about how last week was rough on me. Nothing remarkable happened. They were the usual gripes I have been having: working, very little time to cultivate myself the way I want, lack of adventure and excitement that I had before the pandemic. The usual set of complaints.


However, what I lacked the most last week was exercise. I didn’t work out at all until Sunday. Then I realized why I needed to exercise, it helps me endure this boring phase in my life and even enjoy it.


Here’s where I talk about one of the few aspects of Nichiren Buddhism I agree with.
In Nichiren and Tendai Buddhism, it is said that we inhabit these ten worlds in our lives. These ten worlds mainly correspond to our emotions. Most of the time, external stimuli tend to push us into each of those worlds.


For example:


You wake up in the morning you are all grumpy from a bad dream or bad night’s sleep. You woke up in hell. You got yourself some coffee, now you are feeling okay. Not bad, but not good, very neutral. Now you are in the realm of human beings. You decided to go out for a run around the block. After your run, you feel damn good. You are now in heaven. After your shower, you feel hungry. Now you are in the ghostly realm. After you eat and get to work, the first person you talk is Gina. You like her because she has a good sense of humor. Back to heaven again. Next person you see is that jerk Elmo who always manages to put you in a bad mood, the realm of anger.


You get the idea. Whenever we encounter a positive or negative stimuli, it could put us in a good or bad mood which corresponds to the “world” we inhabit at the moment.


However, the reverse can also be true. Our reality can also be influenced by our state of being.
If you are in the realm of anger, all bad news becomes worse and even good news could ignored or be interpreted as bad. One day you are driving to work and someone cuts you off, you start thinking all of humanity is doomed to stupidity. You might get a text from your crush asking you to dinner, and the next you know it you are thinking that your crush is probably not worth your time anyways.


I can speak from experience. Many years ago, I visited a friend of a friend in Dalian. It is a city in Liaoning province, northeast of Beijing in China. It was a very beautiful city and very clean. My friend and his wife lived in a nice apartment. They even got me pizza which I love. Also, since modeling is huge over there, I saw lots and lots of beautiful women.


Yet I was miserable at that time because my girlfriend and I weren’t getting along and I was too preoccupied with trying to improve our relationship.


If you are in the realm of heaven, then all good news are great news and are problems pretty easy to resolve if they are not problems at all. For example, you get a text from your crush asking you to dinner, and now you feel the world is right. One day you are driving to work and some guy cuts off, you start thinking, “It’s a nice day, why bother getting bothered over this?”


Here’s where I speak from experience. It was the lockdown of 2020. I was supposed to go back to Thailand, but I lost my job and got stuck living at home in virtual house arrest. The year before I could go out drinking with my friends or I can travel to see nice cities or temples whereas now I had to stay put. Plus, there was my girlfriend in Bangkok who eventually dumped me.


Yet, for the most part I was feeling good. Sure I wasn’t happy at my situation but I was dealing with it the best way I can. Even when my girlfriend dumped me, I was sad for a bit but I let her go and wished her well. Why was this? Most of the time I was either meditating, doing qigong, or working out all three which made me feel good about living.


That’s the whole crux of the matter. How do we get and keep ourselves at a higher level of thinking or (as some people say it) a “higher vibration”?


If you ask many Nichiren Buddhists, chanting their mantra will get you there. Yet, there are other alternatives. Getting lost in your favorite activity helps. So does hanging out with your friends or your pets. Affirmations work as well as meditation and your choice of prayer. Some go for yoga and others jogging. For me? It’s cardio and qigong that helps out.


Last week, when I felt too miserable for words, I didn’t exercise at all nor did I do qigong. However, Sunday and today I made sure to workout and do qigong which made a world of difference. Do I want to change my life for the better? Yes. Am I depressed about how things are? Definitely no.


So therein lies my incentive to keep exercising and not skip out on qigong ever again.


If there is one advice I have for you, it is to find your happy. Find what makes you happy and never stop doing it. See to it that you revisit/redo what makes you happy so that you can get a proper perspective on your life, your dreams, and your goals.

What about my Buddhist practice?

ผมรักประเทศไทยรักมากมาก Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

This coming Sunday I will start studying Og Mandino’s Greatest Salesman course and also devote time to qigong. While it won’t be the forefront of my cultivation, I will also still make time for Buddhism.

So obviously I am done with Nichiren Buddhism. There were times I enjoyed the practice, but most of the time I didn’t. I still think it was due to my previous life as an SGI member. Would I go back to practicing Nichiren Buddhism? Possibly, but more likely no. I still have this crazy belief, though, that practicing this form of Buddhism does help absolve my negative karma as my life goes south whenever I do start practicing. Therefore, I might practice this form of Buddhism once a week to absolve some of it rather than everyday to absolve all.

Besides, I would like to also create good karma and acquire the wisdom to do so even in bad times.

I would like to meditate as well, whether in the context of Zen or Theravada. I would also like to meditate in the context of Creative Visualization. Unfortunately, the future is always in question as to when I can do so without interruptions. A couple of days ago, for example, my boss scheduled a Zoom meeting to be taking place during my free time.

The only form of Buddhism that I plan to enact is Pure Land.

Pure Land, for those who don’t know, is a type of practice in chanting the name of the Amitabha Buddha in order to reach the Western Heaven. The whole idea behind this practice is that it is too difficult for us to be enlightened on this Earth, so we’re better off going to Heaven and get enlightened there. Pure Land Buddhists are told to chant at least 10 times a day, but there are those who advocate chanting 25 hours a day and 8 days a week.

Do I believe in such a place? I am agnostic on it. I have no idea happens when we die since I haven’t died yet. I am also opposed to chanting the mantra all the time. It’s good to chant for a few minutes, but all the time sounds ridiculous to me. Also, I came cross some information from a Pure Land youtube channel that somewhat disturbs me and I might want to write about it soon enough.

What I do know is that I do enjoy chanting the name and enjoy spending a few minutes of silence after chanting. What I also like about the Pure Land practice is that it serves to remind me of my mortality and that I should not waste time on stupid things. What I also love is the simplicity of the practice.

As part of studying Og Mandino’s work I have to read these essays or “scrolls” three times a day. Before I read the scrolls, I will also chant the name of Amitabha Buddha 10 times. This means I will chant 30 times a day.

Do I expect anything out of this Buddhist practice? No, but I don’t mind.

 

Perhaps if I chant the name of Amitabha Bachchan, maybe I can be as manly as him. He one time fought a bunch of gundas with a fine bottle of scotch.

My Nichiren Buddhist Last Hurrah: A retrospective

If it fits, I sits

I wrote these words below a couple of weeks ago and I was waiting until I finally finished my Last Hurrah just in case I needed to change anything. Well, I finished my 100-day long Last Hurrah and nothing has changed since then.

Here are my thoughts on my last foray into Nichiren Buddhism:

When I started my Nichiren Buddhist Last Hurrah it was just something I did mechanically. I was just going to practice Nichiren Buddhism for a 100 days so that I can prove to myself, once and for all, if it was a practice worth doing for the rest of my life. Later on, it did provide me a source of happiness and serenity to a point I could have made this practice something a part of my life.

That was why I wrote a series of articles of Suggestions to to Improve Nichiren Practice. It was a form of gratitude I had for the practice and a wish to help others going through the same questions I did.

The last two months or so proved otherwise. I wasn’t enjoying it as much and I didn’t feel like my life was changing for the better. By then I was back to being mechanical about my practice, but this time just doing the bare minimum.

In a sense, I don’t think I will get back into Nichiren Buddhism for some time.

There might be a chance in which I do the Nichiren practice once a week as a way of clearing away bad karma. I still believe that the practice does that, as crazy as it sounds. Maybe I can get back into Nichiren Buddhism, while having a self-improvement goal in mind and a book to study. Otherwise, more likely than not, I am going to stop with the Nichiren practice.

The other factor and obstacle to my Nichiren practice is the fact it makes me think of the Soka Gakki International and recall all of the bad experiences in the organization. Not only do I recall people being mean-spirited, I also recall their weird and illogical ways of thinking.

It’s like the difference between a typical Hindu and a someone who left ISKCON chanting the Hare Krishna mantra. The typical Hindu could find joy and peace chanting the mantra. The ex-ISKCON member might be traumatized if s/he chants that mantra ever again. That is the same with me and Nichiren Buddhism.

I did have some minimal success with Nichiren Buddhism. I wanted to get myself back into Taekwondo and soon created a Taekwondo calisthenics workout. I wanted to get myself back in Kung-Fu and I found a short Kung-Fu Calisthenics Workout on the Internet. I have a back problem that messes up my sleeping pattern and I found ways to alleviate and treat it all together.

In my unscientific conclusion, I see the greatest function/benefit of the Nichiren liturgy is mind orientation. When you want to lose weight, praying about it will get you to put the focus on weight loss. When you want to get a promotion, the prayers will help you focus on getting that promotion. When you want to clean your house, the prayers will get your mind to focus on cleaning your house.

What your mind focuses on influences what you do.

So in a sense, there is no changing of reality. Reality is reality. What you change is your thinking. So if you pray about changing the orbit of the moon or levitating, those events will never happen.

If you pray about something you can achieve through your actions, the prayers will serve as a psychological push.

One thing that SGI teaches is that if you if there is anyone difficult in your life, you should pray for him or her to happy. You should never pray for misfortune and disasters upon him or her as well. I can somewhat agree to that, but for a different reason.

Your prayers will not materially change their lives for better or for worse. What happens is that you slowly change. When you pray for someone to be happy, you slowly change to be friendlier and accommodating to that person. If you pray for misfortune upon that person, your hatred intensifies.

I saw this for myself in the SGI. It is well-known that the SGI was part of the Nichiren Shoshu Temple. Once they both split, it has been an ugly divorce since. I joined the SGI long after the split and witnessed extreme anger and hatred the Soka Gakkai members have towards Nichiren Shoshu. The more they wished for Nichiren Shoshu’s downfall, the angrier SGI members became.

So that is all I can say about my Nichiren practice. I still think it can be helpful if taught in a sane and rational manner, but for a lot people it might not be the best form of Buddhism to study.

That includes me.

For now, I will take a break and chill out with my cultivation practices. After a week of relaxation, I will start into my next foray: Studying the Greatest Salesman in the World.

Suggestions on Improving Nichiren Practice, Part 5: Introspection

Soka Gakkai’s second president Josei Toda once said something to the effect that you don’t need to know how the liturgy practice works. All you have to do is do the liturgy and you will enjoy the benefits. It’s like turning on a light switch. You don’t need to know how the light switch works, just turn it on and benefit from the light bulb illuminating your home.

I’m no homeowner, but I think it’s a damn good idea to know how the light switch works so that if there is a problem you can do some thing about it. In fact, the main reason why my family doesn’t spend money on electricians unless necessary is because my father knows a thing or two about circuitry. Whenever the sink or toilet clogs, my family calls on me to do something about because I know a thing or two about plumbing. That’s why we hardly spend money on plumbers.

Home improvement metaphors aside, I feel this idea of not needing to understand the liturgy and its effects lends the devout into irrational conclusions.

For example, the in the first post of the series I referenced that one of the most common questions that members of the Soka Gakkai has is why, after so many days of performing the liturgy, the devotee did not receive any benefits much less experience an effect. One of the most common answers is that the practice does not work unless one has faith in it. There are other answers to that question as well. If one wants the practice to have a positive effect, one also has to devote time to attend SGI meetings and volunteer for their activities. I had one SGI friend who hinted that if I didn’t go to the infamous 50K Lions of Justice Festival, all my efforts in prayers would be rendered useless.

Also, if your practice is not helping you out, then you need to proselytize other people and have them join in the SGI. That never made sense to me. How can I tell others to take up a practice that never helped me one bit? It’s almost like I own this crappy Soviet-era Russian car and I am trying to get others to own one so that mine can work.

That’s why I think it is important to understand how prayers work and its effects.

That is easier said than done since this is all a matter of faith. There is no science behind prayer. Psychology is the closest science we have, and even then that is tenuous.

So the next best thing is experimentation and introspection. See how the prayers work for you.

Whenever you do the Nichiren liturgy, see what happens. See what happens if you pray a certain way and see what doesn’t happen. Try praying in a variety of approaches and see their effects. See where you get the most benefits out of your prayer and where you get the least.

What happens if you chant the mantra while concentrating on aphorisms such as “The only constant in life is change.” What about affirmations such as “Everyday and in every way I am getting better and better?” What about chanting while of nothing at all? What happens if you read a philosophy book after you finished with the liturgy?

These are a few suggestions to get you experimenting with your practice.

While you are at it, start writing your thoughts down. Write about your progress and lack thereof so that you have a better idea on what you can try next.

Write about your own experience with Nichiren Buddhism to see if it is worth your time at all. Again, not everyone benefits from Nichiren Buddhism and that’s okay. Maybe your personality does not match up with Nichiren practice and you are better off doing other things.

I also want to emphasize that just because you can’t or don’t benefit from Nichiren does not mean you are flawed or inferior.

I am tempted to write my own conclusions to the Nichiren practice, but I am going to wait until I do my “Last Hurrah”. Besides, they might be different from your views on your practice.

There are those who might say that by doing examining one’s own practice, almost independent of others, might say that one might not get the full benefit of the practice.

Of course, what is full benefit is anyone’s guess. That being said, it is better to have some benefit than none at all. If, by praying to the Nichiren altar, you find yourself a lot happier and more productive at work despite not getting a nice mansion, then I would say that is good enough. If your prayers have not helped you find a spouse, but you find that your bank account is getting larger, I’d say that’s good enough as well. If you find yourself being a lot more understanding and compassionate towards others despite not getting yourself a Ferrari, why not be happy?

This reminds me of a funny story when I was in college. I met up with this Kung-Fu fanatic and we were about to practice when I was telling him about this Taiwanese guy teaching me qigong.

The fanatic asked me if I was being taught on how to levitate on air or snuff out candles by punching the flame or anything like that. I said no to which he said my qigong practice is a low level one.

Be that as it may, when I was practicing that qigong style (I use style in this case because I was doing 5 sets) my immunity improved. I would always feel relaxed and serene. I would get a good gentle stretch doing some of the movement and my breathing became more efficient.

Sure I never learned how to fly or shoot fireballs out of my palms, and I have yet to meet anyone who has, but I was happy enough.

***********

Anyways, this is the conclusion of my series. For any of you who practice any form of Nichiren Buddhism, I hope my suggestions are helpful and they give your life more fortune and more meaning.

All the best and Nam(u)-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.

My Nichiren Buddhist Last Hurrah: Day 82.5

This is going to be a post I don’t want to write.

Let me explain.

The one dark side of Buddhism, and I speak from experience of dealing with people from many sects, is that there is a number of them who have arrogant personalities. They started learning Buddhism for some reason, got some insight and success out of it, maybe even felt bliss, and now feel privileged enough to talk down to others and treat them like garbage for not understanding as well as they do. They got “enlightened” and need to make others feel like crap for it.

For me, the reason why I am sensitive to this problem is because I never forgot why I started getting into Zen in the first place. I was depressed and suicidal. It the worst time of my life and it was hard work getting myself to stay alive be a lot happier for it. So for me to mock others for not understanding Buddhism as well as I do or shame them for dealing with problems is both hypocritical and dishonest on my end.

I also see Buddhism in a never ending quest to help those of the lowest common denominator. Buddhism should help the outcast, the downtrodden, and poorly educated. If it is meant only for those in the upper classes and scholars with too much free time in their hands, then I think that Buddhism will become a culture of mental masturbation if it hasn’t already.

Besides, the Buddha himself was a Nepalese-Indian prince living in a highly sophisticated civilization. He was living in a time that, for all intents and purposes, Vedic Hinduism was very pervasive. One of the most infamous, highly controversial aspects of Hinduism today is the caste system. Even though the caste system is officially abolished in India, it still plays a role in Indian society.

So if Prince Siddhartha Gautama wanted to be the most elite schmuck in the world, he had plenty of brahmins to help him in out in that manner. Instead, he eschewed all forms of elitist thinking to a point that he spoke out against the caste system. One time, he even had a night soil collector listen in to his lectures. This was quite radical as no self-respecting brahmin would even talk to one like a human being.

I say this is going to be difficult because, just like in the Law of Attraction communities, it’s almost forbidden to express one’s troubles and dismay without being shamed for it. Again, it comes back to this elitist attitude, especially among Western Buddhists.

Funny enough, a couple of years ago, when I was first working in a village in Thailand some nasty teacher started screaming at me in Thai over a very small faux pas. She screamed and yelled at me in Thai despite being an English teacher who could have explained what I did wrong. The screwed up thing was she was screaming at me over printer paper. I was trying to print flashcards for my class and the printer had no paper and I grabbed some out of a desk. All she had to do was explain the proper procedure on how to print flash cards and this would not have been that big of a deal.

Anyways, I decided to break the man code and rant about it on my blog. I did say that I am going to focus more on my cultivation methods and try to work past that stupidity to which some other “Buddhist blogger” decided to tell me that it was my fault and he wasn’t sure if I was introspective enough. That “empowered” me.

No, I am being sarcastic. I got angry at him. I still think he was in the wrong, especially since he had this idea that I would not be able to figure out of my problems without his admonition. That’s what I get for not being perfect.

This almost reminds of one aspect of the SGI that I find really disgusting: the longer one practices their form of Nichiren Buddhism, the less responsibility and agency they have.

For example, let’s say I was still in the SGI and a national leader calls me a racial slur.

I would be told to have compassion and understand why he did what he did. I should remind myself that he was practicing so hard his “fundamental darkness” came out of the wood work and I should forgive him. Failing that, I would be told that I must have done something wrong to compel him to verbally insult me that way because there was no way he would have done so out of volition.

If you think I am exaggerating, I am not because it happened to me.

In fact, when I went to teach English in China I hooked up with an unofficial SGI group in one of the big cities. I used to live 3 hours by bus away from one of them could have kept to myself. However, because I loved the SGI so much back then, I asked my SGI friends if they know of any groups I can meet up with in China.

Once I met with the SGI group in one of the cities, the leader treated me like human garbage. I tried to do everything I could to be polite to her but she was very abrupt and rude towards me. It affected me so much that when I returned stateside and tried to talk to other SGI members about this, they always changed the subject and basically tried to shut me up. When they did bring up the subject, however, it’s to illustrate how I was never seeing that woman as a Buddha or that I failed to connect with the SGI group there. I actually want to write about the latter part.

Funny enough, one of the guys who said I was in the wrong was someone I was friends with since I first joined the SGI. Although he was not there in China and did not know the de-facto leader, he took her side and said I didn’t understand Chinese culture. It was pretty insulting since I majored in Chinese and no Chinese person has treated me the way she did. The crazy thing was that Chinese woman became an SGI member when studying in the US, yet somehow it seems she couldn’t understand American culture!

Those SGI leaders never took any compassion towards me nor treated me like a Buddha. Yet I had to be a lot more compassionate and benefit than them despite only practicing their version of Nichiren Buddhism for less than a decade.

Some of you might read this and think to yourself: Wow, that Thai teacher treated you like crap? The SGI group in China did the same? Your local SGI also called you out for being a jerk? Maybe you are a jerk and you don’t want to admit it.

By that logic, if the Jews weren’t jerks then poor Adolph Hitler wouldn’t have been compelled to kill over 6 million of them. If the civilians in Nanjing didn’t have such bad attitudes, then the poor Japanese soldiers wouldn’t have mistreated them. The same could go for the Koreans. Or how about the Kurds and the Turks.

If you can’t tell, I am demonstrating how this blaming the victim is absurd. No one is ever compelled to do harm and abuse on another, no matter civilized or “enlightened” the bully is.

Also why don’t you get to know me first before you pass judgment? Why don’t you question why I try to practice Buddhism instead of something more selfish like Objectivism? Why don’t I start my own religion and charge money and get laid for it just like every other two-bit cult leader?

Furthermore, if a rank beginner in Buddhism has to hold him or herself to a higher standard than someone who has practiced it for a lot longer, then what is the point in studying or practicing Buddhism?

I have known plenty of people who go out of their way to abuse others and blame everyone but themselves. I used to work with a guy who loved talking down to me and yelled at me. Later on he would try to get me to pity him because the boss yelled at him, his mom’s best friend was dying of cancer, he has a lot of work to do, I was too nice to him, and so on. Whatever it was, he felt he had no choice but to take his anger out on me. By the way, he is a non-practicing Catholic.

I can do the same things. My life isn’t perfect, either, and I can rationalize that I have the right to treat others like crap. I choose not to do so for one reason: because I am trying to practice Buddhism.

OK, rant over.

So what I really want to write, but somewhat afraid to do so, is that I am basically going to give up cultivation for now.

I’ve been so physically and mentally tired that all I can do is get myself up to go to work and do whatever chores I get asked to do, then I just want to lie down and do nothing. Even though I told myself I would meditate to get myself to love Nichiren Buddhism I just lost the will to do it.

I lost the will to do a lot of things. Sure I would workout a couple days and then I stop. Same with qigong and stretching and anything else.

The only cultivation methods I am doing now are affirmations recitation and the Nichiren chanting and even then those feel like a chore. For one thing, I don’t even do the full liturgy anymore. I just go to my mandala, chant the mantra for a couple of minutes and then call it a day.

At the moment, I am going to finish my Last Hurrah. After that I am going to chill out, rest, and think of what to do next.

Some of you who reads my blog knows that recently I have been writing a series of articles called, “Suggestions on improving Nichiren practice.” Yes I still stand by what I write. I think practicing the Nichiren liturgy, paired with philosophical study as well as some other form of self-improvement, is helpful. While I do not have too many nice things to say about the SGI, or even Nichiren at times, I can appreciate the power of the Nichiren liturgy. In my case, I am so busy and tired that practicing Nichiren Buddhism has been a form of hardship for me.

Will I go back to practicing Nichiren Buddhism? Maybe. There are plenty of reasons why I would not continue, but there are some reasons I might. Once my Last Hurrah ends I will write my new thoughts on the Nichiren practice.

Anyways, I won’t be writing too much for the next couple of weeks unless I have some random thoughts to put out in the internet.

As the Chinese say: 再见.

Suggestions on Improving Nichiren Practice, part 4: Self-Improvement

One often repeated talking point in the Soka Gakkai is that you don’t simply pray for your goals. You have to take proper action as well.

That is a pretty logical statement. When praying for a job, you have to also look for and apply to any position you find. When praying to become a doctor, you also have to attend medical school and devote time to study. When praying for weight loss, you need to change your diet and start exercising.

However, there are times you don’t know what proper actions you need to take in order to improve your life. To that I say, start improving yourself. How you do that is up to you. You can go into yoga. You can learn a new language. You can start learning a new hobby or skill like Mexican cooking or woodworking.

In my last post I wrote about the need to study philosophical or self-help books. That is also a form of self-improvement. Even if you are not actively improving yourself through reading, it will give you good ideas on what to do.

I also want to point out, especially for most Nichiren Buddhists, that meditation is also an option for self-improvement. I know how it is considered taboo to do so, notably in the Soka Gakkai. There is even a video of an SGI member telling his audience to not meditate. Meditation helps in relaxing oneself, relieving stress, and helps increase one’s ability for rational thinking. Meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like it then go for it.

Right now, I haven’t been able to meditate but I sure as hell want to get back into it.

Some of you might tell me something like, “I have 1000 problems and flaws to deal with. I don’t have time to figure them all out and don’t know where to start.”

First of all, start somewhere. If you have 1000 problems, just start with one until you have less problems to deal with. Besides, when you focus on one area of your life, you will be surprised how it affects others. Maybe you find that learning pottery has helped improved your marriage, that you got a raise thanks to your daily morning jog, or that you learned patience and compassion when cooking Egyptian cuisine.

In the Soka Gakkai, there is this notion that one must “Employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra before any other”. Basically that means when you have a problem go to the altar and pray about it until the problem resolves itself or that one can come up with insights on how resolve it.

While praying is not a bad idea, especially if it calms the person out of worry, I still find this notion problematic.

Number one, it fosters an attitude that praying is a one size fits all solution, when in reality it is not. Different approaches need to be taken. This is especially the case with mental health. Does prayer help? Sure, but sometimes a person needs therapy, medications, or exercise in cognitive behavioral thinking.

Secondly, prayer can turn into a crutch in which the devotee becomes dependent upon. This dependency can diminish one person’s ability to rationally solve their problems. There is no looking at facts, weighing the pros and cons of different approaches, nor drawing conclusions. It’s pray first and let the Universe resolve everything.

I would like to end this post with a story I learned from Hindu camp. Granted this a Buddhist blog, but I think this story and it illustrates a point:

There was a hermit who lived in a forest in India who spent his days meditating and praying. One day a man came by and said to the hermit:

“Swami-ji [Respected Sage], I heard in the weather report that a flood is coming soon. You should get out as soon as you can.”

The hermit thanked the man and continued to pray. “Why should I leave?” thought the hermit, “God will save me.”

Soon enough, it started to rain. As the rain was falling, a car drove up to the hermit’s hut and the driver honked his horn. The hermit looked outside and the driver rolled down his window saying, “There’s a flood coming! Get in the car, I will drive you to anywhere you want to go!”

The hermit politely refused and bade the driver to go away. After all, thought the hermit, God is going to rescue him. He had faith.

The rain became heavier and heavier and it was starting to flood. The hermit then went on the roof to keep himself safe from the flood. Soon after, someone else in a boat stopped by.

“Swami-ji! The flood is going to get worse! Get on the boat!”

“No I am fine!” replied the hermit, “Go on ahead. God will help me!” The man in the boat then shrugged his shoulders and went on his way.

By then the hermit was imagining that the sky will open up and that a chariot from Heaven will fly him out. He then became disappointed when a rescue helicopter came by instead.

“Swami-ji, please climb the ladder! You are danger! Please!” said on of the rescue workers in the helicopter through the megaphone.

The hermit still refused and wouldn’t get on the helicopter. Since the weather was getting more violent, the helicopter had to leave lest it get caught up in the wind.

The hermit faithfully prayed and prayed for God to rescue him until the water rose up and drowned the man.

The hermit opened his eyes and didn’t know where he was. After looking around, he then realized he was in Heaven! All that praying and meditation did pay off! He finally got into a happy afterlife, but . . . .

He was happy that he’s in Heaven, but why didn’t God rescue him? He really did believe in God and loved Him, but God let him die in that horrible flood. So the hermit decided to find out what was going on and decided to talk to God.

Once he found God and greeted him with all the love and glory he wanted to give, the hermit asked, “O Lord! When I was alive and a flood was coming to my hermitage, you let me die. How come? Was this part of your plan?”

God looked at him and said, “Well, no, not really. You see I wanted you to stay alive. First I sent a man over to warn you to leave your house. You didn’t move. Then I sent a man with a car. You still didn’t leave. Then I sent a man with a boat and then a helicopter pilot. Since you refused their help, I didn’t know what else to do but to let you perish.”

My Nichiren Buddhist Last Hurrah: Day 75.5

So I have been a bit of a wet blanket for the past couple of weeks, maybe even a month. With family life and job pulling me in all sorts of directions, I have been feeling like a puppet without any control over my life. Bitterness has been growing in my heart for quite a long time.

A couple of nights ago, I couldn’t sleep due to the bitterness as well as worry. I was thinking of changing my Buddhist practice after I am done with my “last hurrah” and decided to see what happens if I chanted the Pure Land manta aka nembutsu aka nian fo.

I chanted the mantra in Mandarin Chinese 108 times and . . . . I felt peace and happiness!

I was blown away! Minutes before I chanted the Nichiren mantra for a couple of minutes I felt stuck and hopeless. Yet chanting the Pure Land mantra changed my mood almost immediately!

Last night, as I was working in my office I watched a video by late Taiwanese Zen Master Sheng Yen in which he gives a lecture about the effects of mantra chanting. He was talking about how they embody certain Buddhists deities and creatures within the cosmology and yadda yadda yadda he said something about how the effect of the mantra depends of different factors, such as concentration, attitude, and (yes) even faith.

The main “function” of the Pure Land mantra is enable the practitioner to call Amitabha Buddha to help us go into the Western Heaven once we die. The main reason why Pure Land believers constantly practice this mantra is so that in the hour of our death, our when consciousness is about the evaporate from our being, we keep on chanting the mantra so that the Buddha of the Western Heaven can send someone to take us there before we reincarnate into a different realm or body.

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe in such an existence of the Western Heaven. I am open to believing it and I am sure will find out when I am dead. However, why did I feel joy in practicing such a mantra?

Furthermore, it has only been recently that I had any affinity for the Pure Land practice.

When Nichiren was alive, he hated Pure Land Buddhism and railed against it for the entirety of his existence. I heard nothing but bad things about Pure Land when I was part of the Soka Gakkai. When I left Soka Gakkai and went into Zen, my main text was the Complete Book of Zen by Master Wong Kiew Kit. While Master Wong never really said anything bad about Pure Land, he said that it is ideal to reach Buddhahood while alive as a human being. Why? Because if we go to the Pure Land, we would be so damn happy that we would not care to become a Buddha even though it is quite easy to do so.

So why is it that I felt happy chanting the Pure Land mantra?

The only answer I can come up with is that I conditioned myself to love the mantra back when I was studying the Master Key System.

When I was studying the Master Key System, Charles Haanel instructs us to find a way to let go of any negative emotions that arise during meditation. That week, I decided to tell myself that every time a negative emotion came up, I would chant the Pure Land mantra and watch it dissipate and disappear.

After a week of hypnotizing and conditioning myself to do this, I found it worked. There was a time I would chant the Pure Land mantra and felt nothing but happiness fill up my heart.

So why not try that the Nichiren mantra? Why not condition myself to love and enjoy chanting the mantra so that it can make me happy every time I chant it?

Starting tomorrow, I am going to start doing that. I am going to meditate and give my subconscious mind a suggestion that whenever I chant the Nichiren mantra, negative emotions will disappear and happier ones will replace it.

Part of what makes me happy about this endeavor is that I will go back to meditating. Lord knows I miss it.

Suggestions on improving Nichiren practice, Part 3: Study

“Faith, practice, and study” is an often repeated phrase within Nichiren Buddhism. I have even come across a Nichiren Shu priest who also says this.

I agree with that statement. In my last post I write that wisdom is the best way to deal with bad karma. The best way to acquire wisdom is through study and learning as well as introspection.

The next question is, exactly what should we study?

If you are in any Nichiren organization or sect, the obvious answer would be the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren’s writings and letters. Some would also include writings from people such as Daisaku Ikeda, Nikkyo Niwano, or the odd Nichiren priest here and there.

Speaking for myself I love the Lotus Sutra, but it is too turgid for me. The way my life is now, I don’t have time to study it properly. Nichiren’s letters do have some profound wisdom, but I find him too hateful. As I was part of the SGI, I read a fair amount of materials from Daisuku Ikeda. Sure he has few good things here and there, but I find him too attached to fluffy platitudes among other things. I’ve read some stuff from other Nichiren practitioners but nothing really stuck to me.

For now I am studying The Dhammpada, The Enchiridion by Epictetus, Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” by Dr. Richard Carlson, and Dharma Master Kim Jae Woong’s “Polishing the Diamond”. I am reading those books because I find them practical and applicable to my current situation.

Now what about you?

If you find Nichiren’s writings, the Lotus Sutra, and so on helpful then good for you. All the more power to you.

However, if those books don’t help you out, then look around for books that will. There are plenty of good philosophy and self-books that are worth looking into in the libraries, in the bookstores, or even freely downloadable on the internet.

I do urge you to choose at least one. You don’t have to read as much as I do as I am a voracious reader. However one book can be helpful. Reading these type of books will not only bring more depth into your living, they will help increase your capacity to solve problems.

This has to be said that books are not the only source of study. There are audiobooks and lectures as well. One of my favorite, that unfortunately I never finish, is Earl Nightingale’s “Direct Line” series. Of course there are other lectures to explore. Funny enough, Nightingale said that it is better to listen to these lectures than to read an actual book.

The only advice I have in terms of studying is to be critical of what you read. Remember, people are the ones who create these works and are also flawed in their thinking and actions. Nobody is perfect. I love the Buddha, but he had a dim view of women. Epictetus is my favorite philosopher, but he also exhibited some sociopathic traits. Marcus Aurelius was a great philosopher as well as an emperor, but I disagree with his assertion that we should avoid literature. Plus, I heard he was not a good father.

One possible objection to this approach is that if one studies works outside of Nichiren’s canon, then the practice ceases to be Nichiren Buddhism.

That might be true, but consider this:

If we take a look at technology and science, we see that it changes over time. The Boeing 747, for example, looks far removed from the little craft the Wright Brothers flew in North Carolina over 100 years ago. Of course, there would be no 747 without the Wright Brothers, but it’s imperative that we make changes and innovations so that the newly found technology can serve us better.

Why can’t we do the same for religion and philosophy?

Which is something we somewhat do, actually, even though it is never explicitly stated.

Buddhism has changed for thousands of years. If you look at the Buddhism of Siddhartha Gautama vs that of Nichiren, you will see lots and lots of differences. If you went back in time tell the Buddha that all he needed to do to attain enlightenment is chant “Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” he would be puzzled. Since he only spoke Pali he even ask you what kind of gibberish you are talking about. The same can be said for any other religious and philosophical traditions. What made sense as a way of life back then does not make sense now and it’s not a bad idea to change that.

In regards to reading outside of what is considered “proper canon”, Nichiren had this to say: “There are three types of doctrines that are to be studied. They are Confucianism, Brahmanism [Hinduism], and Buddhism.” While he was a huge proponent of the Lotus Sutra, he also advocates studying other philosophies in order to get a deep understanding of one’s practice.

Furthermore, anyone in the Soka Gakkai International knows that Daisaku Ikeda loved to quote many other authors and philosophers in his speeches. He would quote Spanish authors, Greek philosophers, Brazilian poets, and so on.

If Daisaku Ikeda can read up on different philosophies and literature, why can’t you? You may not be able to do what President Ikeda does in the meetings, quoting authors from different parts of the world, but at the very least you can study them to improve your life.