Gongyo is Good for Nothing

YWD

(This blog post is meant for those who practice Nichiren Buddhism, mostly from the Soka Gakkai. Therefore, I will be writing in the jargon that they know best which means the rest of you may not understand what I am saying. My apologies.)

Greetings and salutations Nichiren Belibers,

I meant what I said: Gongyo is good for nothing and it has brought me lots of happiness knowing such a truth.

I am not saying gongyo is useless. Gongyo is great and wonderful, but I like doing gongyo as if nothing good comes out of it.

Let me mansplain why.

First of all, life sucks. The Buddha said that himself as the First of the Four Noble Truths. There is no such thing as lasting happiness and bad things will happen to us whether we like it or not. The normal thing we’re supposed to do, at least in the Soka Gakkai, is to psych ourselves up. We’re supposed to get our hearts pumping. Then we chant with the rhythm of a galloping horse and chant like the ROAR OF THE LION!!!!!

I don’t know about you, but that tires me out. My adrenaline gets all pumped for the chanting and all ready I feel drained before the day begins.

So why not take it easy? I have to deal with office politics, bad traffic, and all sorts of happenings that will annoy the crap out of me. Why not simply relax, smile, do gongyo and chant? Basically I allow myself at least 15 minutes twice daily to feel calm and happy thoughts. Besides, if my gongyo is good for nothing, why not make it an enjoyable gongyo rather than stressful one?

I could skip gongyo and do other things, but here is another reason for me to do “Good-for-nothing” gongyo: it helps me master my desires. In fact, it helps me use my desires and not let my desires use me.

This is especially the case when SGI leaders would tell me, “Hey man, you want that high paying job in Manhattan? If you start attending more activities, you might get that sweet gig.” “Hey man, you want that hot Japanese girlfriend with big boobs? Study for our SGI test and you might meet one.” “Hey man, you want to improve your work environment? You should spend your weekend at the 50K Lions of Justice of Festival and you’ll get ideas on how to do that.”

Having no reason to do gongyo means no can induce me to make commitments that I don’t want to make. Next time someone tells me, “Hey man, you want to make a million dollars? Recruit more people into SGI.”

I can say, “Nah, I’m cool. I don’t need a million dollars that badly.”

I also like to practice gongyo for no reason because I can teach people to understand their own practice and not let themselves be controlled by me. Case in point, let’s say you find out that I chant the Heart Sutra in my gongyo practice. Most of you would probably blow your top and tell me to stop chanting the Heart Sutra and even tell me a horrible fate awaits for my “transgression.”

I am going to tell you this: since I don’t have any expectations in my practice, I am going to practice however the hell I want. The questions you need to ponder over are: how will you react? Are you going to spend your time trying to change me or are you going to prove me wrong and show me that your way is the right way? How is my practice affecting yours?

Here’s another thing I want to talk about in terms of gongyo. I see gongyo as a form of exercise.

You know how exercise works? In order to benefit from exercise, you just simply do it. Sure there is some minutiae to look into, but you’ll find out soon enough once you start. Trying to “expect” or speed up results will do more to hinder your progress.  Consistency is key, not trying to figure out what kind of mindset you need to have before you exercise. As that sneaker company once said, “Just do it.”

That’s the same with gongyo, as long as you just do it the results will come in its own time. Trying to have faith in the practice, “seeking the Gohonzon in yourself”, making demands/determinations, or whatever are just more head games than anything. As long as you do gongyo, everything will fall into place. Don’t rush it and stop expecting anything.

One great benefit of this good-for-nothing gongyo is that you will finally see the Buddha’s disciples every where. People who you thought were demons actually become the guardians of the Buddha. People you thought were dry academic scholars transform into arahants. That janitor cleaning your office, he or she is a bodhisattva.

In fact, you’ll also hear the sound of the Buddha’s teachings every where. Daisaku Ikeda, Nissatsu Arai, Mark Rogow, the Dalai Lama, and even a single crow all become your teachers.

Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and kind regards,

Me

PS Those YWD members make my member go “PARN!”

Learning from the teachers and their mistakes

naraka

Most Buddhists don’t actively seek converts. If the Buddhist is a missionary for example, he or she might establish a temple or school for people to come and go as they please. If you tell a Buddhist that you’re a Christian or Muslim or an atheist, he or she won’t care nor will threaten you about going to a horrible afterlife. It’s not their style.

Nichiren is not one of those types of Buddhists. In fact, he is very unique as being the most fire-and-brimstone teacher in Buddhist history. He preached that his form of Buddhism is the only way to enlightenment, that the Lotus Sutra is only scripture worth studying, and that those who disagree with him and the Lotus Sutra are burning or will burn in hell.

In his letters to his devotees, Nichiren writes about how Daoists, Hindus, and Shinto believers are destined for hellfire. The same goes for Theravadin Buddhists (many who practice in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia) as well as other Mahayana sects such as Zen and Pure Land. He would probably say the same thing about Christians, Muslims, and Jews if he knew of their existence. If you never read or don’t like the Lotus Sutra, he would think you’re going to burn in hell also.

As a guy who now mainly practices Nichiren Buddhism, do I agree with that?

Hell no.

I love the Lotus Sutra, it’s a great book, but it may not be for everyone. I enjoy reciting parts of the Sutra as well as chanting its sacred title but I can understand not everyone is into that. Plus lots of people who practice other religions, or don’t practice any at all, are just as wise and kind as those who practice Nichiren Buddhism. Furthermore, people who practice Nichiren Buddhism are also as mean-spirited as those who practice other religions or don’t practice any at all.

While Nichiren created a decent practice and expounded a lot of interesting and sometimes applicable philosophical points, I think he was wrong in thinking that everyone is going to hell for not listening to him.

The most important point is to remember about every religious and philosophical leader is that they are human beings that also make very human mistakes. Some of these mistakes are influenced by the times he or she grew up in. Other times it’s because of an untreated psychological issue or baggage he or she was carrying. There are probably also other factors that influenced a certain person’s way of thinking.

Just because a religious figure is right about one thing doesn’t mean he or she is right about everything. At the same time, just because said figure has moral failings in different areas doesn’t mean those failings negate the good and value of his or her philosophy. It is up to us to decide which part of the philosophy to follow and which to discard.

Let’s be real, the Buddha (as in Siddhartha Gautama) was a misogynist. Does it mean he was wrong about the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, or the meditation techniques he taught?

No, of course not.

Does it also mean that we have to hate women in order to derive benefit from the Buddha’s wisdom and insight?

Again, no.

As a Buddhist, the logical thing to do is to study the Four Noble Truths, live by the Eightfold Path, practice whatever meditation techniques he taught, and respect women as well as men. This is really a matter of critically examining a religion before and while practicing said faith.

There are those who will argue that tradition shouldn’t be messed with, and I can see where they come from. However, history has shown that change is natural and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. When those needed changes are made, everyone can and will benefit in some form or another.

It’s really no different than a sculpting a statue. In order to make it look more beautiful, some parts need to be taken out and and others added. The same can go for religion, philosophy, and all other branches of knowledge.

In any faith and religion, critical thinking and mindfulness will help it the faith alive and help make living more fulfilling. Simply following the faith without thinking about will simply render the religion as nothing more than an opiate for the masses, turning us into crazed idiots.

 

 

Kalama Sutta_thumb[10]

Yours truly,

Capt. Idiotic

Why I (try to) practice Zen

monksbalanced

 

I’ve referenced before that I went to South Korea twice. Second time I went there I traveled around the southern half of the peninsula and learned a lot more about Korean Zen as well as the traditional culture.

The first time I went to Korea I lived and worked in a city 40 minutes drive from Seoul.

It was hell.

I worked in this private education company with about 30 other foreigners there. We all worked together, drank together, and even some slept with each other. Despite living in a very populous area of the country our foreigner-world was very small and soon enough, as the saying goes, familiarity bred contempt. One day we are friends. Next thing you know it, we were bitter enemies. Then we’re back to loving each other and then back to hating. Backstabbing was very commonplace, arguments erupted over petty issues, and everyone held a grudge.

Returning to America and living with my parents, I came home shell-shocked. I probably had some form of PTSD as everything triggered me. Whenever I watched a movie, read a book, or even played a video game I would witness something that reminded me of my time in Korea and my emotions would go haywire. It didn’t help that I was struggling to find work which was also a source of conflict in my family as I was coming up empty-handed.

This trauma went on for so long that it got to a point that suicide was the logical answer.

Before you judge me for being selfish, see things my way. I was desperately trying to get a job yet was failing to do so. I love my family now, but at the time we were constantly arguing. My life back in Korea was a Machiavellian soap opera where everyone battled with each other just to win a fleeting sense of self-satisfaction. One guy started a fight with me whenever I said or did something he disagreed with, like reading a book on Buddhism. Another guy would compete with me in getting women’s affections, especially if I like said woman. There was one female coworker who would watch for other people’s mistakes and weaknesses just so she humiliate him or her in public.

At the time, I saw that all of humanity was steeped in selfishness. Living with integrity and altruism meant opening oneself up for exploitation.

It was an autumn evening when I was walking around the neighborhood after going through another emotional episode. While I was calming myself down, I was thinking about how many people I knew back in Korea were toxic. Then I was beginning to suspect that the friends I already had before moving to Korea were the same. It also seemed quite evident that my family hated me. I was still an SGI member, but I sure as hell couldn’t make the practice work. Most people there didn’t care about me and some even loved to treat me like a complete asshole.

That was when I was thinking of killing myself. Only the strong survive and I didn’t feel strong enough to live.

I don’t know why this happened, but soon after I thought about killing myself I remembered a book I read years before.

It was The Complete Book of Zen by Malaysian Kung-Fu Master Wong Kiew Kit. As with most Zen books, Master Wong traces the origin of Zen from China to Japan and Vietnam. He also writes of the core teachings and compares it to other sects of Buddhism. Of course, he also demonstrates the influence of Zen on various aspects of Asian culture as well as the benefits of Zen practice.

What makes this book unique and remarkable is the self-study program that many Zen books tend to neglect. There are three phases in Master Wong’s program. The first one concentrates on martial arts, the second on qigong, and the third on meditation.

That was when I decided to try it out. I wasn’t expecting much to be honest, but it was a lot better than doing the unthinkable. After all, I already have a black belt in Taekwondo and learned some qigong, so it would be easy for me to get started without too much of a learning curve.

I finished Phase I of the program before getting a job. That job took up a lot of my time and so I had to put off finishing the program, much to my chagrin.

Yet despite only finishing the first phase, I got a lot out of it.

  • While I did lose a lot of pounds, the main benefit I got out of training in the martial arts is the continual endorphin release. That helped me a lot in channeling my anger, hate, and fear into joy, love, and courage.
  • Part of my training involved reading lots of books such as both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist scriptures, Western philosophy, and even self-help books. Through studying those works, I was able to see the changes I needed to make in my behavior and attitude. There were times I wanted to kick myself for acting so stupidly over the years, but 90% of the time I felt no shame or guilt at all whenever I made those changes.
  • I was part of a defunct social-blogging network that helped me make new friends. Some of the people I met on there are still my friends today.
  • Having a personal mission to learn and understand the world around me and to practice Zen, I’m loving life more each day.
  • Before I was like a leaf floating in the wind. Sometimes I’m here, other times I am there. All-in-all, I never really had much direction in life. After finishing the first phase of the program, I finally have an idea of what kind of life I want to live.
  • I came to discover one of the secrets of the Universe: If you want to change your life and your fortune, change yourself first.
  • Last, but not least, the job I got was very high-pressured and even has its fair share of high conflict personalities. It was a lot more stressful than teaching in Korea. Despite never getting back to practicing for 3 years, the lessons I have learned through my erstwhile Zen practice helped me succeed in my job.

There isn’t too much of a happy epilogue to this story. After working at the office for 3 years, I decided move back to Korea in a different city to restart the Zen program. During that time I encountered some controlling personalities, many who tried to obstruct me in my goal of Zen study. I was able to learn more about Korean Zen while over there, which was great, but starting and maintain a Zen lifestyle was a lot harder than I thought.

I’ve been back in the States for about 2 years, and even then there are lots of factors that have been getting in the way of my Zen study.

I’m not giving excuses nor am I giving up. If anything, getting back to the Zen self-study program has always been in the back of my mind and it’s more important to me than getting married or climbing the corporate ladder.

This is why I am writing this blog.

This is why I am looking for a new job.

Yours truly,

Capt. Idiotic

How do I Buddha

photography of a woman meditating
Photo by Noelle Otto on Pexels.com

 

No discussion on Buddhism can be without the actual techniques that one practices in order to improve one’s life and acquire insight.

Keep in mind, as much as I don’t mind Nichiren Buddhism I prefer Zen. The problem with keeping up a Zen in my life are threefold. One, I have a job with crazy hours, sometimes requiring me to stay in the office if things go bad. Two, my home is a bit unstable at times. It’s not toxic or anything, but drama is part of the home dynamic. Last, my sleeping pattern is really erratic. Sometimes I can stay awake for 24 hours, other times (especially on the weekends) I sleep like I’m in a coma.

Anyhow, this is how I am practicing Buddhism.

On the Nichiren side . . . .

For those who know nothing about Nichiren Buddhism normally, every morning and evening, one would sit in front of a scroll or mandala called the Gohonzon and recite two parts of the Lotus Sutra in Japanese and then repeat the mantra “Nam(u)-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” for a certain period of time. After doing all that, some would recite certain prayers in silence such as the list that SGI propagates.

Since my home life is less than peaceful, I usually do the entire prayer ritual, without the mandala, driving to and from work. Some people don’t recommend doing the ritual without the scroll, but I have to make adjustments. I do chant in front of the scroll for a few minutes whenever I have time, but for the most part I’m not using it.

My ritual is more or less from the Soka Gakkai, but I made a few changes. People in the SGI chant “Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo” whereas I chant “Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo”. The latter makes more sense to me based on my study in East Asian languages. Furthermore, while the SGI have their own silent prayers, I compiled my list based on classical Buddhist scriptures such as the 4 Noble Truths and the Bodhisattva Vow.

As stated before, this ritual should be done daily. In my case, it’s only going to be from Monday-Friday. I work long hours and I have a long commute, which means I also lack rest. This inevitably results in my taking the entire weekend catching up on my sleep, whether I want to or not. I’m not joking when I tell you that there were times I slept for 48 hours straight.

Thank the Spaghetti Monster I’m leaving my current job soon.

On the Zen side . . . .

Most people associate Zen with meditation. In fact, most Zen schools stress that alone as the main practice. What many people don’t know is that Zen originally started in the Shaolin Temple in China, which is world-renowned for it’s martial arts. Nowadays in the temple there are fighting monks and there are meditating monks.

I believe that martial arts, or at least exercise, is just as important in seeking one’s Buddha-nature as meditation. I could be wrong, but I think there was a time that meditating and fighting monks were one and the same, that every monk did both kung-fu and Zen.

I’d rather do a more intense martial art regimen, but due to my job I don’t have enough time. At the moment, I do a 15 minute kickboxing workout, the zhan zhuang qigong exercise, and then meditate for 10 minutes.

Hopefully, once I leave the job, I can have room to do more.

Anyways, here’s what I am doing. At some point in time I’ll write about any changes that I am going through as well as my thoughts on a few issues.

Yours truly,

Capt. Idiotic

Introduction

 

adult ancient art asia
Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

Allow me to introduce myself.

 

I was a Nichiren Buddhist under the Soka Gakkai International. Later on I left it to pursue Zen. I do love Zen and got a lot out of it. Nowadays I’m at a time and place in which I cannot go on further with my Zen practice so I am back to practicing Nichiren Buddhism; albeit in a more independent manner.

What’s my name? Call me whatever you want, but I’ll go by the name Captain Idiotic.

I am writing this blog for a few reasons.

  1. I need to find a way to track my progress. To be honest, I’ve been feeling lots of negative emotions. Part of it is bitterness, part of it is hopelessness, and other parts frustration. I’d like to write about my journey from where I am now to a more happier, well-adjusted state of being.
  2. Most authors and writers of Buddhism, I find, come from the point-of-view of someone who has already found “enlightenment” or “higher-understanding”. I want to be a voice for the imperfect, for the awkward, and for those who are drowning in the three poisons of greed, anger, and delusion. I am going to write about my struggles so that, hopefully, people out there will not feel so alone when they are also struggling with similar issues. I’m no dude with a shaved head wearing a saffron robe (although I might want to try that someday).
  3. Most blogs and websites about Nichiren Buddhism tend to fall on sectarian lines, especially in regards with Soka Gakkai, Nichiren Shu, Nichiren Shoshu, and so on. I’d also like to be one of the few independent voices that doesn’t mind examining different issues from a different perspective. For example: What does Buddhahood mean? Is chanting the O-daimoku the only way? Can be Nichiren be wrong on a few things?
      1. One thing I must note: Obviously I am not a part of the Soka Gakkai International. I won’t even shy away from expressing my own views, both positive and negative, about the organization. However, I am not going to dedicate this blog to trashing and bashing the SGI. It’s more important for me to discuss topics on love, compassion, and dharma over what Daisaku Ikeda is doing or the latest tiff with the Head Priest of Nichiren Shoshu. I might write about my bad experiences in the SGI, but I’ll change all names and keep all details anonymous. Otherwise, what goes on with the SGI is not my concern.
      2. In my experience, Nichiren Buddhists tend to be very argumentative to the point that personal attacks are common over differences of viewpoints and opinions. I’ll allow any and all comments on my blog but remember this: Don’t seek the Gohonzon outside of yourself. Don’t let my “erroneous” thinking be a hindrance to your journey. If you don’t like what I wrote, you always have a choice in ignoring what I write and moving on.

Without further ado…..

Welcome to my blog.