left biblioblography: NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


A recent post at God4suckers.net brought back an old memory.

I was training with this fellow in my first year of doing Tai Chi (he was Shaolin/Praying Mantis/external stylist), when he dragged me to this meeting. I don't recall if he gave me any back story on it or not: but it's a fairly interesting anecdote.

So he and I end up walking up this stairwell, right off of Alcosta Blvd in San Ramon, and I heard this...chanting. Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - I coulda sworn it was a recording - it was perfectly synchronized, sounding all the world like a deep, powerful droning you'd hear in a monastery. And this was an apartment complex.

Turned out, it was about twenty people. Seated in front of a shrine. No yellow robes: a diverse group.

After they were done, we were welcomed, the usual amenities (no, no vacuous drooling, everyone named 'Albert', none of those cultic trappings and whatnot).

There was a group thing, where individuals were invited to step up, and tell about their experiences with said chant. It's an old memory, so bear with me on this. I'm fairly sure that more than one person stepped up: my clearest memory, was a nice looking Asian woman (T-shirt and jeans), who recounted spinning out in her car on the freeway, and attributing her survival (she appeared to be all in one piece) to the mantra I'd heard on the steps.

So after the testimonials were all said and done, I approached the head of the local group, an attractive older Asian lady (late 30's? Early 40's? It IS hard to tell. Us white folk don't age very well, so it's easier). I asked her if the chant could be called a mantra? I was rewarded with a blank look. I was directed to a large white fellow, approximately my own age (white shirt, tie, short hair), who was the scholar of the group. We had a bit of a natter about it.

The basic story is: it's a sect of Buddhism, Nichiren Buddhism to be exact, a variety of sutra, "The seven characters na-mu-myo--ho--ren-ge-kyo- are written down the centre of the Gohonzon, the mandala venerated by Nichiren Buddhists." I had to look all that up, here.

He and I began discussing Eastern philosophy (again, fairly fuzzy, but I recall getting a number of blank looks, but Johnny Scholar knew what I was talking about). I do recall having some discussions with other folks, too. One fellow, swarthy, bearded, older than myself (I was 29 at the time) was describing how he got a raise (he worked in prosthetics) by using the chant. At some point, I began pointing out the differences between needs and desires. This opened a (small) can of worms: most there denied there was any differential whatsoever.

Let me go into this just a tad, and we'll get back to the story:
Needs = Food, shelter, warmth, basic essentials.
Desires = New car, toys (yepper, grownups too!), books (man, I HATE copping to that one!), prestige, all those material things we use to fill ourselves up.

Anywhoways, at one point, approached by a pair of Asian ladies, who insisted I at least try it out, it would change my life, etc, etc.

We left. I don't recall if I was bemused, bewildered, whatnot.

Odd thing, though:
For a couple of days after that, I'd be doing my Tai Chi form, and I could hear that bloody chant in my head.
I was kind of a New Agey semitheist at the time, so I ascribed it to someone directing energy at me, all that claptrap. Of course, it was subliminal suggestion. Honestly? I think anyone who walked up those stairs would've had that tune (catchy or no) in their heads for a few days. My buddy, who took me there, mentioned that it had happened to him as well.

I think it was a month or two later, that said buddy (who I haven't seen in well over a decade: old Murphy's Law - "Friends come and go, but enemies accumulate.") told me about the 'dark side' of the Sutra worship. Mind you, only hearsay. "Some guy accidentally wrecked his shrine, and in one week, he lost his job, girlfriend, became an alcoholic, and got a venereal disease." I started laughing as I typed that.

Each adherent has their own personal shrine. No harm must come to it (this reminds me of Dion Fortune's Psychic Self Defense book, and yeah, I'm laughin' again, not only 'cause I read the bloody thing, but I believed it at the time), or the worshipper will be in harms way. Obviously.

The deepest impression I got out of the whole experience, was that I attended a spiritual Amway meeting.

See? I am too an EOB (Equal Opportunity Blasphemer).

I'm debating which one to put in my crosshairs for the next time. The Kabbalah? Buddhism? I'm semi-familiar with those as well. So I'll be taking suggestions from the peanut gallery on that one (that's only gentle mockery, troops: so no hard feelings. I love ya all.).

So read. Ponder. Till next post, then.

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HairlessMonkeyDK said...

Too funny!
I liked the part where they wouldn't concede to there being a difference 'tween wants and needs.
Of course they wouldn't admit to such a thing!
I also laughed out loud at the warning about the guy who wrecked his shrine... how the HELL does someone become an alcoholic in ONE WEEK?!? No, way. That takes PRACTICE.

Thanks for tickling me with this post, uncy.
As for another target?
Kabbalah, would be my favourite.
Especially as Diet-Kabbalah seems the current fad for deranged Hollywood celebs, next to Scientology.
Actually, I don't know which is most ridiculous:
Old-school Kabbalah or this new trend.

udonman said...

if i hear Nam Myoho Renge Kyo next thursday in my tai chi class you will know it well reluctant i say go after kabulah the whole spiritual connection to god though a string (guess theo strings attached doesnt apply)

Krystalline Apostate said...

I also laughed out loud at the warning about the guy who wrecked his shrine... how the HELL does someone become an alcoholic in ONE WEEK?!? No, way. That takes PRACTICE.
I'm pretty sure that was what I was told, but it was a long time ago, so...I may have embellished a bit.
Kabbalah, would be my favourite.
if i hear Nam Myoho Renge Kyo next thursday in my tai chi class you will know it
Well, you hear it, you RUN, son, don't walk, outta that class. Advice only.
well reluctant i say go after kabulah the whole spiritual connection to god though a string
Ummm...okay, but I don't recall any 'strings' being attached on that 1 (pun intended).
I was wondering where everyone was. Performancing claims I had 0 visitors today (it's kinda goofy, I'm seeing that now, but whaddya want fer free?) even AFTER you guys posted.

So gimmee a coupla days (or a week) on the Kabballah thingamabob. I got posts almost coming out my ears now, need to give people a chance to read my latest stuff before I bombard 'em.

No, apparently I can't shut up. Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a chain letter chain gang:
Send this message to 10 people within a week or you will DIE!!!!

I agree about the alcoholism in one week-boy was that guy an overachiever.

Uh-oh. My cat just pissed on my shrine...


udonman said...

RA do you mind if I put E.O.B. on a tshirt for my cafe press store

Anonymous said...

That is a great story. i think that you are really on to something. Did you ever think of combining the chanting with your martial art. I am currently experimenting with it my self and I think it helps me to focus on what I am doing.

Katt said...

I am just an average person who started chanting nam myoho renge kyo because, "Yes, I was desperate" and after a few days of -so called- "wasted" time came to my senses or so I thought. Another self help for the unhappy.

I have been having a horrible situation with a certain person for the last 30 years and was sure it would never end. I received a call from this person wanting to resolve the situation. I received a promotion at work after being told a few months ago it was out of the question. Maybe it's coincidence because there certainly hasn't been a Harvard study done on chanting six sounds but I think I am going to continue.