Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Thirty some years ago I began a life in Manhattan.  I don’t remember how we were friendly or even why but a couple of folks dragged me to a mysterious meeting. They said it was a cool group of people who got together to create prosperity or something vaguely like that and suddenly I was shoeless in a spacious, barely furnished living room sitting in a huge circle of undernourished looking folks who reminded me of the Macrobiotic crowd from my old Aspen days.

I went just once and I don’t think I continued that friendship as I have no memory of the faces or names of the people who brought me but the bulk of the evening centered on an unforeseen event which was the seemingly ceaseless chanting of “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”. The reason for chanting was money. You could chant in cash. It was a sure thing. There was proof. They said so.

It was my first encounter with what looked to be Buddhism. It didn’t seem too appealing. I can’t pretend I remember any details but I’ll take writer’s license to say that I thought it was a real turd fest.

I had forgotten about that until I read this piece in the New York Times about the Buddhist folks who decided to retreat to huts that looked like crypts and tombs including a couple of them who appeared to have lost their minds and died.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, it turned out, is not a chant for money but roughly translates as a call to devotion from the Nichiren Daishonin Buddhist sect in hopes of attaining happiness and fulfillment. I am no Buddhist scholar so forgive me if this is not accurate or complete. I guess the folks running that group years ago narrowed the meaning of the chant for their own purposes; probably because they needed money and they believed it worked. I don’t think that sounds reasonable but someone reading this does and you may or may not be right.

It seems there may have been some tweaking of the chassis of reality within this recent Buddhist group and I don’t find it surprising. They were free.  They made a choice. Perhaps they narrowed the field to accommodate the vision or desires of the group. It’s nothing new that people stretch or mold what the larger population calls the truth to make all the pieces of their own puzzles fit.

Is it cliché to talk about the surprise of someone who was “such a nice boy, such a sweet girl, from such a good family” going wrong? Sometimes there is no apparent reason; no abuse, no poverty, no divorce, no chemical imbalance or disease, no obvious thing that would point to a person’s reactions. I think reactions before behavior because isn’t our behavior usually a reaction to something even if it’s not something immediate?  What that is may be a result of something we can’t fathom. That’s the crap shoot of humanity. You just don’t know.

      Where did that come from!

     But I raised both of them the exact same way and ….

Any kid on the playground has seen what happens when one kid becomes a self proclaimed leader and a break out group follows. But what they see is in the eye of the beholder and there it is.

Now people have joined another cult of their own free will as they have before and will again and things have unsurprisingly gone wrong. Get rid of the cult and you eliminate the symptom of human confusion but not the cause so that cause may just slip in the back door to stir up something else, somewhere else.

If we had genetic markers for harmful behaviors like we do for diseases, we might prevent behavior from surfacing as symptoms. The symptoms are many but they all beg the same question; why and how can we prevent them.   There is a common genetic marker for humanity that says there is a pre-existing condition for confusion.  We keep coming up with methods of sobriety and reasonableness to prevent us from doing harm to ourselves and others.  They are not infallible. And there is a choice not to use any of them. And there is chance that they will be reinterpreted. There is Yoga is among them.

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11 Comments

Filed under Buddhism, cultism, new age enlightenment, Uncategorized, yoga

11 responses to “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

  1. I’m starting to bore myself by overstating my belief that people are strange and it’s not surprising to see us do strange things. But I’m marking this blog with events. Someday I may look back and see something about this time that I hadn’t considered while it was happening: This time being my life.

  2. Personally, I am not at all bored with your reflections on how strange people are. I find them interesting and insightful. Not to mention, I agree.

    • Carol, I used to look at strange and laugh and then I looked at strange and saw myself and I still laughed and then I got older and looked at strange and worried and worried about myself too and now I look at strange and wonder. I don’t know if it’s true but for now it seems that my wondering is what I have to offer and the thing that makes that strange wondering more wonderful is when my strange and other’s strange understand something of each other in that moment. Then nothing feels strange at all.

      Thank you

  3. Forgive me if this is entirely too long to be considered a “comment”. I loved your post 🙂

    It seems to me that, when it comes to chanting for cash, it would make more sense to chant in one’s native tongue. I mean why not just sit around chanting “cash cash cash”? Oh, because that sounds greedy and unenlightened: NOT cool. But still, it seems safer to ask for what you want in a language you understand so as to avoid the possibility of unwittingly summoning a plague of locusts or causing the sea to part thousands of miles away. Witnesses will call it a miracle but the malnourished and pony-tailed practitioner will call it disappointing. Grasshoppers don’t pay the bills after all.

    As confusion dwells at the root of the human condition, “I grasp at straws, therefore I am”, it is not surprising to me that not only do we enjoy chanting cryptic messages of questionable translation, we even go so far as have them tattooed on our bodies. I know a girl who shares her enlightenment by virtue of displaying a tattoo depicting the Chinese symbol for peace, or so she was told. She doesn’t speak Chinese, has never been to China and knows nothing more about their culture than what can be found at the China Casa buffet downtown. She thinks China is Foo Dogs and goldfish. She thinks her tattoo means peace. But how does she know? It could just as well be the Chinese symbol for “gullible” or “patronizing”, those squiggly lines might mean “jack-0-lantern-teeth”. How does she know???

    While I was growing up, my mom conducted a due diligence search for her spiritual home. By this I mean, we went to churches. Yes, churches, all of them. While she longed for belonging, I stared longingly at my watch. Tick tock tick tock, will this service never end? Apparently I wasn’t missing what she was looking for. One fine Sunday morning, she left me off in a Sunday School class at a church we had never been to before. I made it through the obligatory introductions and waited for the poison cool-aid to be served and my hosts did not disappoint. That week’s lesson consisted of a warning, a very grim warning, that the devil was infiltrating our souls via rock-n-roll music. Just play it backwards, they said, and you can hear the devil talking. To prove their point, one of the roley-poley undersexed ladies in polyester pants played some back asswards music for us. At the time, I was about 10 years old, and not yet a fan of rock-n-roll music but, as she claimed to hear the devil and the little douchspawns around me nodded their heads in agreement, all I head was “retleks retleh”. These brain damaged nit wits clearly have too much time on their hands, I thought. I let my eyes settle on the clock and wondered what Jesus would do to pass the next 45 minutes.

    • “What would Jesus do to pass the next 45 minutes?” Actually that’s a good question and funny as hell. Foo Dogs? Oh I get your rant, I do. I have similar reactions or at least opinions, no probaby reactions.

      I so appreciate this addition to the post. It made it incrementally more bang for the buck so I hope if anyone comes by they hit your comment. By the way, your mother sounds like a trip and you’ve been on a wild ride.

      Thank you for sharing that and for writing it so deliciously.

  4. A tenet of Buddhism is that nothing exists on its own. Things exist because those things are supported by the causes and conditions necessary to their existence. There are reasons that we latch onto assurances of certainty.

    I’ve been trying to put into succinct statement something that I think I see, namely that we can become our own echo chambers. We sometimes turn the form itself into the meaning. Our beliefs prove our beliefs. This of course is delusion – along with greed and hatred, one of the three poisons identified by Buddha.

    I’m starting to think that – statistically – sanity is getting sorta strange.

    • That’s interesting. Nothing exists on its own. Like even a tree? Or does it exist and by our opinion become described subjectively?

      You can see I know nothing of Buddhism. However I do see that we are vessels that give formless thoughts or beliefs shape when they sit in us. And I just had the image of a raft that skims the surface and whose surface holds things without forming a container and I imagined myself a raft hoping for rough water to shake off formless hobos. How funny; because mostly I’m a vacuum sealed container. 🙂

      I think you said this well. As for sanity, it’s probably overrated. But if the sane are fewer than the insane, where majority rules, the sane will be considered awful. Maybe life is a seesaw and balance is stasis and stasis is the enemy of change and change is the force of life and what Buddhist riddle addresses that? Love your commentary. H

      • Nope. Not even a tree. The being we call a tree comes into being because the necessary water, soil, sun and potentiality of a seed come together in a generative way, along with our concept “tree” – some other being is going to see something else. And stasis is just something that we call a slow rate of change. But I think you’re onto something with the formless hobos on your raft. I’m going to have to go away and think about that one. You have a beautiful mind, Hilary. Have I said that before?

      • You are too kind. Now I’m intent on thanking my mind for that and recognizing that I am not my mind. Mmmmmm do I smell a breath of fresh air? Thank you, David.

  5. Thanku for such a beautiful article

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