I have required of myself to speak to one person a day about the great beneficial power of Nam myoho renge kyo so that I don’t forget it myself. So what better people to dedicate today’s report than the ones I have started out closest to in life, the ones who are tied to me irrevocably by an invisible thread that cannot be broken, no matter how hard one would try.
You are probably all cringing now, thinking, “Why is he bothering me with this again? His organization must be having another massive recruitment campaign.” If I’ve pegged you wrong, then congratulations! You are an independent minded person who eludes predictability.
But all that doesn’t really matter because I am not writing this email to respond to anything you might be thinking. I am writing this email because I have hidden my tortured life from you most of these years (as best I could, at least), and now feel you deserve honest communication from me. But don’t worry, this isn’t going to be about you. It is going to be about me. (although, as you all well know, fortunately, or unfortunately, the two overlap).
In the SGI newspaper, the World Tribune, I came across an article entitled, “The Poetic Heart of Human Possibility”, which described a talk given by Colgate University Professor of English and women’s studies, Sarah Wider at the Ikeda Center for Peace, Learning and Dialogue in Cambridge, Mass. She was discussing her newly published book, “The Art of True Relations”, which is a dialogue between her and SGI Pres. Daisaku Ikeda. The article relates, “Dr. Wider also explored the image of the ‘kitchen table,’ which forms the heart of Joy Harjo’s poem ‘Perhaps the World Ends Here.’ It opens, ‘The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live./The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and will go on.’
“‘Because this table encompasses all of human experience, it too is the site where war has been brought into existence,’ Dr. Wider said. ‘Even our kitchen tables are not exempt, though I invite you to make them so,'”
I don’t have a kitchen table that I sit around at my one-person home these days. This laptop that I am typing this letter at is the centerpiece of my food intake. I pretend to share my food with my 3 stuffed animals so I can feel some semblance of of family after the 3 broken families my karma from the past brought me into in this life. But this is not about blame; it is about acknowledgement and communication of the reality of my life. I turned to Nam myoho renge kyo because I was very lonely and unable to connect with women to have either sexual or meaningful relations. Since chanting Nam myoho renge kyo, that prayer was fulfilled with 3 women who each had their own issues and problems. When it became clear that my wife was suffering from a mental illness, I was so swept up by the fact that I was experiencing a happiness my life had never known that such an issue seemed secondary. After all, I have been the king of mental disorder.
Fortunately, despite several warnings from SGI leaders and Helen’s neighbor before I got married, I received tremendous support from the man who was the central leader in the SGI in New York, David Kasahara, the man who performed our marriage ceremony that you all remember. He was confident that because we were chanting to the Gohonzon, we could overcome anything. And the fact that we didn’t, I am 100% certain in my blood, is not the deficiency of the Gohonzon but of the two of us. At some point, we allowed our negativity to get the upper hand. But because David witnessed in a guidance session back in 1993 how supportive Helen was, he could see the beautiful part of human beings and the love we shared as being more powerful than all the evils. As long as we exercised that love and that belief in ourselves, in our greater power. That greater power is what Nam myoho renge kyo means and what is summoned up from within the life of one who chants it. Our marriage lasted and even thrived until David started fell very ill, from which he eventually died at almost the same time Helen moved out. It was then that it became clear to me that this man never stopped chanting for our happiness together since that day in 1993. It was his prayer and his confidence in the Gohonzon’s power that was keeping us together, not our own.
What has been my biggest dilemma in terms of finding new love is whether I even want to get involved with anyone at this time. I don’t know the answer to this, whether I should continue as a loner, just look for sex, or really look for that amazing love, that one person who I can feel is a true partner, a true companion.
I believe from my prayer that the most important thing at this moment in time is to fix myself. Now I am facing the toughest challenge anyone can face, that most don’t even bother to consider a possibility, that of fixing my lifelong history of broken health, both mental and physical. It is going to require a great deal of vigilance to my enery levels, stamina, exercise, food intake as well as every thought that enters my head. Is this a habitual thought that will continue to lead me to a negative realm or is it positive, value creating thought that will send my life in a new, better direction? I don’t just want to survive. I could be a caterpillar and do that. Then, at least I’d have a life with wings. I should never have given into the fear that I cold never make it as a rock and roll musician. But it’s too late for that adolescent fantasy now. I have a different mission in life.
But the point is that I can change the karma which led me to abandon music, first in classical form, later in popular form, and end up with the miserable, day-to-day life I have now but…. I was going to say “but didn’t need to have”, but as Buddhism teaches, all life has meaning. I have lived among people with hardship so I can empathize with them, so I can show them what one person, afflicted and assaulted by financial and health obstacles big-time can still yet accomplish. But I have to change that course of thinking, of karma, that makes me give up on and abandon myself.
I know this is a lot and I have only three minutes before I have to go back to my prison sentence of a job that is unthinking and unfeeling where I follow orders. I have the uneasy feeling that after having said all this, I have left you as blind to the world of possibilities that are contained within a Nichiren Buddhist practice. Perhaps, living steeped in the dogma with which you were raised, the assumptions about life that your parents held, it may not be possible to see all the connections between things in life and the ineluctability of the law of cause and effect that is Nam myoho renge kyo. So I will try to give you the simple explanation. After college, I kind of dropped out of life and did drugs, as you know. Today, many of those friends I hung out with because I didn’t have all the uneasy feelings I would have around most people when I was around stoned people–today, many of them are dead. But I, despite a severe chronic illness, have managed to stay alive. Perhaps even that won’t explain it.
Alright, let me push my work a little and explain it with another story. For years, I held Dad’s father, A______ up as the one hero of the family because I thought he took responsibility for a bomb that went off and saved his family. But I recently learned, to my deep disappointment, that he had actually been working with a socialist group that hid the bomb in the synagogue but it went off accidentally. I also learned that he punched a cop once in the 1930s, totally shocking me.
I know perhaps to you those who pursue violent paths may be heroes. But if there’s any place to cringe, it is here. The meaning of my sharing the “kitchen table” is to say that the one thing Buddhism and Daisaku Ikeda has impressed me with (because I come from the same stock you do) is that a heart, a hearth full of love, warmth and peace is the most important thing in the world. And yes, the kitchen table, the home, is the place where peace and war potentially begin. I hope I can salvage what is left of the proverbial kitchen table we once ate around and inspire you to think along those lines. If we don’t reach out to each others’ hearts and remove the masks and walls of fear and mistrust, I think we can only expect we are contributing to a downward spiral in this world toward war and destruction. And that will make it worse for A__, for J__ and for A__’s new child. I hope we can make the causes in our hearts to make it a good future for them by being brave with ourselves and being honest with each other.