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.