If you have an extremely like me, being a man with a voracious appetite for life, to be anywhere and do anything, and life somehow not wanting to accept that and pushing back hard with the time and chains of poverty, bad luck and illness, with every minute marked out for something and always running over into time marked for something else, or more often, the vast realm of impossibility, poetry and you are simply just not cut out for each.
But, nay, there’s the rub. For the more of life you are in, the better the poetry gets, kind of like never getting the best pictures because how in heaven are you able to reach for that camera or phone when even your two hands (never enough, I think) can barely manage to hold onto the oars and the boat to make it through and you usually end up overturning into the oncoming, never stopping water anyway.
I don’t remember much of what I read or what my teachers said in class as a young student, so naive and ignorant of the true ways of the world, but something I still believe as an immortal and unchangeable truth impressed me when a college professor compared the Roman writers, Ovid and Cicero, saying (most of you probably never heard of Ovid) that Ovid spent most if his time in the library while Cicero was put in life, among people, and of course a competitive reading of both authors is, as they say, history. I suggest you read both authors as I imaginr most of you haven’t.
Yes, poetry, thought and imagination, are always rude interruptions to the very thing which bore them, life itself. But, like our children, neither liking nor accepting the rules and schedules we arbitrarily impose on them, who either eventually subdue us and get their way and their freedom, or are borne down on so hard that we eventually break and turn into our corporate overlords at both ends of our paycheck a willing and submissive servant whose lights have been sufficiently put out to never question authority or peer pressure, poetry will either subdue us into it’s life of art or be snuffed out never to return, at least the idea it gave you. (There goes my blood sugar monitor alarming me and sniffing out this inspiration, like so many others that got lost in dark, invisible energy. Will have to leave off and return.)
I’m back. In 4 minutes, it will be time to wake up the kids and do gongyo. There goes poetry, like a mistress that comes in the night in a dream. I guess the interrupted nature of this piece will serve as an example worth 1,000 words. Besides, I’ll bet most of you are either impatient or already passed me on for someone else. At any rate, I use the time I chant to try to surrender any creative ideas while chanting daimoku (NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO) because NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO, being mystic (myo) is sublime and it makes both my chanting and my writing better so now what you’ve been seeing is my new enchantment.
Could be what appears to be the imminent presence of a new real woman in my life. I wrote the 600 pages of DNC Chairman when I was married, and my wife took care of many of my basic animal needs, so I could take care of my soul’s. I made myself write an hour a day and all day Sundays so I could get a masterpiece out before the 2008 Election. I often sat, from the scheduled, forced nature of it, in front of the computer screen, without a clue, because, as you know, if you’re still with me, poetry or art, does not like being on the clock. Nonetheless, I found with all that time which I don’t have the luxury of these days, that if you do force it, it starts to write itself. Besides, half the time or more, what I had written up to then, inspired me with so many ideas and spirit of what should come next.
At any rate, I’m 6 minutes for wake up and gongyo so
As I approach my final preparations for my jump off the cliff,
The only useful and effective parachute is the Bodhisattva Way.
Be there for and acknowledge the true self of others and they will support you where gravity won’t.
If you like things the way they are now, with teen suicide hugely on the rise, then keep doing what you’ve always been doing without changing anything. Keep to yourself, leaving others to die on the side the road (since they’re going to die anyway, and since you are certain (as people once were that the world was flat) that there’s nothing you can do anyway. But if, on the other hand, you feel it’s so dire that you know you and I must change our ways of living to something drastically different, then please start chanting NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO very vigorously so your eyes can be opened to the much greater potential you and we all have inside to actually make the world we live in a vastly much better place in which all teenagers and other people, younger and older, want to live, to dream big, to achieve meaningful goals, become somebody and be able to say at the end of our lives, “I’m so glad I made that change in my life so I could help so many other people in my world also become much happier and save so many lives who, like me, just wanted to be happy and fulfilled but felt cut down by and helpless in society the cruel and harsh way it is now.
Someone who’s probably dead by now once said that the definition of Insanity is doing things the same way and expecting a different outcome. It makes perfect sense then that most, though fortunately not all people just going about their same daily life day in and day out are severely mentally impaired, no different than the people who are locked up in mental hospitals because they considered a danger to themselves and to others.
Chanting is my only meditation. Life is meditation if you can psyche yourself into it. You gotta not let the things of life shake you. It’s much easier to isolate yourself in a room and meditate. There the only devils are your thoughts. But to live life itself as a meditation–that is infinitely harder. To achieve that which is called in Buddhism samyak samadhi, or the Buddha’s state of non-regression, only chanting Nam myoho renge kyo with powerful determination will work. Then you can sail through life like a calm breeze at all times. It just takes a lot of daily practice.
We are all imperfect. To try to pretend to be a perfect, flawless Buddha who is always smiling and compassionate so that others will take up this religion is both unrealistic and incorrect practice as well as a cop-out. Those who see us every day see real us. They see right through the pretense. However, what separates a genuine Buddhist practitioner from others is that a genuine Buddhist practitioner understands that he or she is far from a perfect Buddha yet makes efforts every day to live with greater self-awareness, greater compassion and a genuine self that can communicate in a real and natural way the greatness of Buddhist practice and the infinite reasons taking it up will greatly improve one’s life by seeing the real connections between the reality they experience, the causes they are making and the ways they are interpreting them and thinking about them. Rather than try to be a superior being, I am trying to be a better person than I was or even habitually am being up to this moment and I invite you to join me and see how much together we can accomplish so much more as our individual selves im our individual lives and thereby contribute to improving the world we live in that, if people stay as they are, will result in either nuclear annihilation or climate change annihilation, whichever ticking time bomb goes off first, more likely in our own lifetime than that of the yet unborn.
Some people have many harsh and unrelenting standards which they impose on themselves and others, or worse, only on others, and most of us have one or more of these people in our lives. Such arise from ignorance of our true wonderful nature which can never be dispossesed and the resulting fear of loss of self or possessions, these 3 being the 3 poisons of ignorance, anger and greed, or the fear of death. Because these fears and poisons are innate in all our lives, we incorporate the voices of such people in our heads and hold ourselves and others to harsh standards. If we try to practice or come into contact with people who practice Buddhism (Nichiren, SGI Buddhism, that is), unless we see the true nature of our thinking, we will have inrealstic expectations and often sink, in the face of such pressure, to giving up and finding whatever temporary fix or comfort we can to further mask the pain, an inevitably fruitless and pointless endeavor. So the first step is to recognize and be kinder to ourselves and others while bravely walking the path of Buddhist practice and becoming not a perfect Buddha (which doesn’t exist) but a better Buddha with each day and allow people to see natural growth and change as we continually share these great principles that truly work for anyone courageous enough to really try.
“Nichiren Daishonin states in ‘Letter to Akimoto”, ‘All the Buddhas of the three existences and the ten directions have attained Buddhahood through the seed of the Mystic Law. The Daishonin clarifies that the same principle, not any other special means, equally enables all people to attain enlightenment.
“Now all of us have had this same seed of the Mystic Law planted in our lives. How wonderful! When we exert the powers of faith and practice to tap the powers of the Buddha and the Law inherent in the Gohonzon, we can definitely show proof of having attained Buddhahood in this lifetime. This is a promise made by the original Buddha and absolutely never fails to materialize.
“You must never be deceived by someone who does not embrace the Mystic Law, no matter how extraordinary that person may appear. Both the Great Teacher Dengyo and Nichiren Daishonin state that in the Latter day of the Law, there will be no ‘saints’ or ‘sages’…”
“All of us are ordinary human beings. When ordinary people embrace the Gohonzon completely, we can enjoy our lives from moment to moment just as we are, savoring an inexhaustible taste of Buddhahood. In the eyes of Buddhism, therefore, all of us…dedicated to the cause of kosen-rufu [the wide spread of the Law, i.e. the principles of absolute respect for the dignity and unlimited capability of each person, which will of course lead to peace and save us all–these are my words] are indescribably precious”
These last 3 paragraphs were from “My Dear Friends in America”, p. 72. This is from a speech given by SGI President Daisaku Ikeda. It happens to the very first speech of his I attended (via videoconference) and the very first time I saw him live and heard the sound of his voice. I could hear and sense the outrage in his voice toward those who give sincere people who are trying their best a hard time for “not measuring up” as he clarified what Buddhism really is all about and what religion should always be about, to help us grow to be better people in a human way while strictly embracing and supporting others while never saying or doing things to cut them down and make them feel bad. I can’t iterate this enough.
As long as I’m alive, I will stay young. Whether it’s nurturing the next generation, fighting for equal justice for all or awakening people to the beauty of their lives, I will be totally vibrant and alive. What I was too scared, too sick and too overwhelmed to do for too long, I will be doing 3-fold for a very long time ahead. I dare all you 20-year, 30-year olds, to try to keep up with me.
It is so hard for me to say what is truly in my heart because the language of the world, like the world itself, is very compromising. For this reason, I have the tool of writing which can convey what on-the-spot conversation makes very difficult, less because of the conversation itself than because I get nervous around people of telling them my inner truth because it has been my experience that they never understand so I’ve grown up and grown accustomed to “lying”, embellishing the truth with the common parlance of the day. That is also why reading is very helpful to all people, because it enables them to be exposed to the thoughts of people removed from what has to seem popular and acceptable. Of course, when it comes to best-sellers and money-making, then even literature is not safe from the harm of embellishment or outright distortion. But we try our best anyway.
I said to you “when I find ‘the secret’…”, but was that really “the secret”? And what did I mean anyway? And what did you think I meant? I suspect you thought I meant the secret to longevity. I meant the secret of love. But the real secret is the thing I mentioned in the course of conversation, not even thinking to speak of it in the right context, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. First, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo contains the key to unlocking all the other secrets to the mystery of life, of living well and happily. The chant unlocks within all people the ability they already have to attain supreme happiness in this life. Without it, we are fettered by chains and ties of karma. Karma is the collection of all the actions we have committed, positive and negative, since time without beginning, over countless lifetimes. While we are fundamentally free and therefore literally unfettered by anything, the reality as it is for all people in this world is that cause and effect is real, so that if the amount of causes is sufficient enough, it is like a heavy weight that a single human being cannot move no matter how hard he tries. So we end up bound and fettered by the accumulation of countless causes we have made in the past, positive and negative, such that we can’t overturn that karma and make different causes in this lifetime unless we have something very powerful like a lifting crane strong enough to lift that huge weight of causes we’ve made. It is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo which is that lifting crane strong enough of overturn the negative causes we’ve made in lifetime after lifetime, the karmic pattern we’ve tied ourselves up in by the causes we’ve made, so that we can make different causes starting this moment. For example, some people are born into this life to live a short life, and they live short lives lifetime after lifetime, while there are other people who have made good karmic causes that cause them to be born in each subsequent life with longevity. They do not need to chant to change their karma unless they hate years of being old. That is a different kind of negative karma, the kind where you get so sick and tired of tying your shoes, of hearing the same bad jokes told generation after generation, only in different form, of hearing the same bad love songs on the radio, only different as the style changes from decade to decade, until they get so fed up they just get sick so they can be released from this world. But it is not for long, for soon they find themselves repeating the same cycle in another life.
The same is true of love. Some have made causes such that they live their entire lives pining away for love yet nothing they do is able to change that karma whereas others spend their lives filled with love, yet still others live lifetime after lifetime in bad relationships suffocating eternity away wishing they could break free from the husband or wife they can’t stand yet unable to find any relief, even though they may go through ten marriages in each of their umpteen billions of lives. As you said, there is nothing you can do about it. That is your fate and you have to live with it. EXCEPT. EXCEPT if you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the secret and I have already found it. I am not old yet. Will I get old? Of course some day unless I die first. It is not longevity I want so much as love. I am one of those destined by my own past causes to suffer my lives alone. But now, as I was trying to tell you, that I have found Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I am changing that karma so I can enjoy love and companionship throughout my lives from this moment into the future. Already, I have won through my blood, sweat and toil, a wonderful marriage. Sure this marriage had problems, but I have so many wonderful memories with H____ that revolutionized my experience of living and changed my destiny forever. So even though it is tough now finding fulfillment of this change of destiny and my old karma, with tremendous and powerful angry venomous force, is fighting back with a vengeance, I will win and not stop fighting till I do. That is why I push myself up the stairs and down the street. I am sure I burn less calories in total than you do carrying Tutsie, though you seem to have a wonderful even-keel way that you do it. Which is a lesson I can learn from you and a help to helping me change my karma with more appreciation and acceptance.
But as for the secret, I have found it. The point is I am changing eons-long karma, something nobody does. Unless they chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. I felt I had to not leave our conversation as it was but clarify why I understand. Please feel free to respond as you understand.
P.S. The bottom line for people, for life and for Buddhism is happiness. It is not longevity, not prosperity, not being loved. They are important but only insofar as they support ourselves to be happy. Buddhism, that is the Buddhism of Nichiren and the SGI, not other kinds, teaches that we already possess within us happiness; the work is in bringing it out so we can enjoy and savor it, just like billions of dollars worth of gold could be buried in the ground but it will be useless unless we do the work of finding it and bringing it out. It is for this purpose that the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo so we can naturally become aware of the happiness inside and not look for it on the outside. It is so that we can not have to resign ourselves to the limited happiness we are born with but fight to make full use of the unlimited reservoir of happiness that each human being contains as much as we all contain blood, a liver, a heart, two hands, two legs, two eyes….you get my drift. Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of the Buddhism of Nam-myoho-renge-=kyo stated, “We ordinary people can see neither our own eyelashes, which are so close, nor the heavens in the distance” (The Writings of Nichiren, vol I, p1137), and in this way explains why it is hard to see the happiness that already exists within each of us without exception. And SGI President Daisaku Ikeda states, “The fundamental causes of the emotions of happiness and suffering we experience are not something outside us, but exist ultimately in our hearts. The pain of hell and the limitless joy of Buddhahood (happiness) are nowhere but within the depths of our own lives” (The Teachings for Victory). He also states, “In early Buddhist scriptures, one of the many honorable titles by which Shakyamuni Buddha was known ws the ‘Happy One’” (ibid.)
“We ourselves embody happiness. No one can take that happiness away. No one can destroy it…..With the most powerful life force, one can stand surrounded by good fortune and dwell at ease in a beautiful ‘magnificent palace’ of happiness. Such happiness is not self-centered. Rather, it is an inexhaustible happiness, happiness that can embrace both oneself and others.” This is the secret I should have told you before, but part of what I said was true. By knowing this secret, I know that I don’t have to resign myself to fate but I can forge with undefeated determination the destiny I intend to create for myself in the future, always free, always increasingly happy, with such beautiful branches as longevity, youth that fades slowly and love deeper than the ocean.