… is about happiness. Speaking of which, before I forget, an article about how people judge other people’s lives all the time, oh geez I do that too, or at least I used to, but it’s really unproductive and will make you miserable.
Uh, back on track. Nichiren Buddhism. I found out about it at Burning Man. Check that; I found out about it years ago, from a guy named Matt in a hostel called the Rambutan in Granada. Then I forgot about it because it wasn’t nearby. Previously, I had dallied briefly with Zen but did not understand it at all (and neither did anyone else). After I returned from Europe, I didn’t follow anything, then I went to a Theravada monastery for a weekend and then meditated for a few months but thought it wasn’t helping, took a break for a few months, and now here I am. Buddhism, take three.
Nichiren Buddhism: outwardly, their big deal is chanting. Twice a day, they chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo repeatedly. Rough translation: Nam is Sanskrit for “I dedicate myself to”, Myoho Renge Kyo is Japanese for “the Lotus Sutra”, or “the law of cause and effect.” The Lotus Sutra was the Buddha’s biggest best teaching, where he laid down the real truth and said “everything up to now has really just been preparation so you were ready to hear this.” So twice a day, you chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and read part of the Lotus Sutra and offer prayers.
But saying “Nichiren Buddhism is about chanting” is like saying “Catholicism is about Mass.” It kind of is, really. But it’s not; the mass/chanting is just the way to practice the religion. What do they believe? Well, for starters, enlightenment is for everyone, everyone has a Buddha-nature, and you don’t even have to go become a monk to find it. It’s a relatively recent Buddhism (700 years old or so) founded (by a guy named Nichiren) in response to strict, elite, arduous Zen.
Chanting is meditation. Don’t get hung up on the difference between sitting + chanting, and just sitting; it’s a way to focus your mind, I guess. But they do emphasize different things; the Theravadans go for “mindfulness”, where you see your thoughts, watch them, and let them go, while the Nichirenites chant to bring out your inner Buddha self. It’s the same, really: your Buddha nature is mindful; if you are mindful, you’ll realize the Buddha is within you.
Another big thought: remember how I mentioned the law of cause and effect? They’re big on that. Any cause you make will come back around. Not in a good or bad way, but it just will. Everything that happens is a result of a lot of choices a lot of people made (and nature and stuff)… which is trivially true. When you make a cause, the effect is set in motion. I have to talk to them more to figure out what exactly they mean by that.
What I like about it: it’s easy. It’s progressive (at the time, it was the first to extend enlightenment to women, for example). It’s populist. No focus on reincarnation. More focus on compassion.
What I don’t like about it: they tend to talk about their founders and their association (the Soka Gakkai International, or “value creating society”) a lot, which seems too worldly to me
Another thing I like about it though: you can kind of pick and choose what you do and don’t believe.
A thing I just had to realize about Buddhism in general (well, religion in general): a ritual is probably useful. No matter what you do, or how little you do it. I found 20-minute meditation hard, so now I just do a couple minutes in the morning and at night. Okay, maybe I won’t transcend my worldly body at this rate, but a little is better than nothing, and I’ll get into a habit.
More compassion! More mindfulness! I am all about these things these days.
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