Monday, April 8, 2013

From Dying to Living ~ From Poison to Medicine ~ Experience in Health

Julia Landis

~ This experience is too important to miss. Enjoy!

The Great Repair Shop of the Human Heart. 

"It is the same with a Buddha and an ordinary being. When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror reflecting the essential nature of phenomena [i.e. the Dharma nature] and the true aspect of reality...

...Arouse deep faith and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. ~ Nichiren Daishonin (WND-1 p. 4)

I have been chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and studying the teachings that elucidate the central philosophy of the Lotus Sutra for nearly three years now. What is the key or central element to that philosophy? That each of our lives contains the seeds of Buddhahood and that an exalted state of life is ours as soon as we come to realize, support, and harmonize our lives with this indelible fact. 
Click "read more" below to see the rest of Julia's experience:

When I first began chanting I was dying. Quite literally. Dying. My immune system had completely collapsed after at least a decade of living unbeknownst to myself with an insidious case of Lyme Disease. What was finally bringing me down? A shoe blister. That's right, a shoe blister. It refused to heal, and had begun to replicate itself, a horrifying and burning fractyl of disease, all over my foot. No doctor would even look at me. They would shrug and say, this has to do with your immune system.  No, we can't take a culture. I knew the dispair one feels when physicians, averse to their own impotence, withdraw in projected disdain leaving one utterly alone to face the abyss.

I felt helpless, depressed, angry, and forsaken. My immediate family were mind bogglingly indifferent to my distress and insisted on diminishing it, thinking this was a noble and stoic-making thing to do. That is, until a visit to the midwest, when a good friend and Nichiren Buddhist looked at me and saw what was happening. She saw. And, more importantly responded. She took me to an urgent care center, which did not yield much in the way of result, but the loving kindness that underlay the gesture was not lost on me. Neither was her "life condition." Life condition is the term Nichiren Buddhists use to describe the strength of a person's actual life, their health, resourcefulness, happiness, resilience, cheerfulness and altruism. Even though my friend, Jamie, had just decided to separate from her husband, they were travelling together to meet me, at a centrally located area on Lake Eerie so that we could visit one another while I was "back east" with my in-laws.

I was amazed at the genuine quality of genuine mirth and good will between Jamie and her soon to be ex-husband. Even more amazing was that their college bound son had opted to come along on the trip and was also enjoying the new level of openness between his parents and giving wholehearted support for their decision. It was surreal to me! We laughed, we discussed religious philosophies of many kinds, and tasted wines. And, even though I was deeply uncomfortable physically as my band-aids slid off my wounds in the sweltering Ohio summer heat, we simply enjoyed being one another. Later I would say that Jamie, sensing my disastrous state, "begged me" to try chanting. 

Not so. It was her actual life that spoke to me. Her Life, itself, begged me to give it [life] one last try. I'll never forget the sonorous and rhythmic sense of being swept up in a sound so affirmative of life that it brought joy to my heart against my own deeply depressed sense of an impending and unjust death. The youthful depth and vigor of her son's voice added an ancient sounding low harmonic to our chorus as we gazed out at the unperturbed surface of Lake Eerie waiting for the rest of our party to come back from a hike. That was August of 2010. I made a commitment to chant for three minutes, twice a day, even with little or no real faith in what I was doing. But, through assiduous and unfaltering practice, and then, just as importantly study,  a confidence was born in me. It was a confidence born of actual proof, actual proof that my life was responding. 

I soon worked my way up to chanting a half an hour at a stretch and got in touch with my local chapter of Nichiren Buddhists, who conferred upon me the Gohonzon, or Great Mandala inscribed by Nichiren Daishonin. After coming to my home weekly to support me in learning the practices of "Gongyo," they furnished me, at their own expense, with profound study materials... materials that, after twenty years of Buddhist study represented demystification where I had once found only unnecessary mystification and complexity. Having taught epistemology (theory of knowledge) at the high school level, I was in a uniquely strong position to be able to evaluate Nichiren's philosophical system and appreciate the stunning brilliance and transcendent courage it conveyed. Suddenly there was wind beneath my wings. The quicksand that had been engulfing me began to cure up under my feet, and then, one morning there I was again, moving forward, into life.

As if by a kind of magic, or "myoho" as we call it, my environment began to manifest the helpful qualities of Buddhahood: the right medical care became available to me in my local community. The right tests were ordered; the unresponsive medical insurance I had previously held to be grossly inadequate (through my husband's work) began to cover procedures because of results garnered from the right tests; Correct treatments ensued: physical therapy, antibiotic treatment and herbal protocols, many of which I had become empowered to research on the internet and apply to my own condition. I began to find I could summon up great determination to keep going, to bust through every obstacle that presented itself and to begin to relish the challenge of my situation. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, my life condition had begun to rise. I now knew the first stirrings of faith, the pure faith in the heart of a Buddhist experiencing the first sense of her own Buddhahood, and how that elemental force within my own life was bringing forth all the conditions necessary for not only my recovery, but because of the need for recovery in the first place, my own enlightenment.

In The Vimalata Sutra, the "Inquiring about Illness" [5th] chapter, when asked the cause of his illness, Vimalakirti replies (to Bodhisattva Manjushri) "Because all living beings are sick, therefore I am sick." This is a well known passage that succinctly reveals the fundamental bodhisattva spirit of sharing others' suffering as one's own.

Vimalakirti goes on to say that bodhisattvas choose to be born among living beings who are afflicted by delusion and to share in the sufferings of birth and death in order to instruct and guide those living beings to enlightenment. Moreover, bodhisattvas are never overwhelmed or swayed by suffering, because they have established a strong state of enlightenment (the fundamental and universally innate world of Buddhahood) within. (On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime, Ikeda)

I had long been a warrior for healing before I, myself became sick. A transpersonal psychotherapist, yoga instructor and Zen Hospice volunteer, I had taken, consciously, a widely available version of the Bodhisattva vow, which I had misunderstood as a vow to save all living beings from suffering, forsaking my own personal enlightenment, until this eternal task was complete. Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and studying the Daishonin's (Nichiren's) Buddhism had taught me the mad, mad and dangerous foolishness of this false imposter-vow... for it is our very Buddhahood that makes such an undertaking possible. It is by bringing forth our own Buddhahood that we become capable of saving living beings. It is only after attaining a measure of sincere enlightenment that one senses the immeasurable strength of one's own eternal life force and realizes that the sufferings of this world are, in fact, Nirvana; and that, therefore, the return to the world again and again might quite possibly become joyous... Not the endless painful austerity described by other schools of Buddhism. It is only once we have forged the profound life state of Buddhahood that we become largely indifferent to the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death. We gradually, day by day, obstacle by obstacle, hour by hour of chanting, realize that there is no need to negative-ize the process of life and death, death and life. It becomes what it always has been: a sincere adventure filled with challenge and victory.

 My illness, my deluded, incorrect understandings of Buddhism and erroneous practices were now fuel for my human revolution and my quest to save others: I was now able to manifest enlightenment --unquestionably --right before the very eyes of everyone who had known me "before" and that would exert an explosively positive transformative influence, at least potentially,  on everyone in my world.

The very weaknesses and cracks in my understanding of Buddhism and the nature of healing were being repaired with the unsurpassed gold of the Lotus Sutra, whose title, (Myoho Renge Kyo!) proclaims the simultaneous nature of the cause and the effect of enlightenment: an absolutely pure and bafflingly swift demonstration of the capacity of a Buddha from within my own life. 

As our living mentor, Daisaku Ikeda states,
"Death will come to each of us some day. 
We can die having fought hard for our
beliefs and convictions, 
or we can die having failed to do so. 
Since the reality of death is the same in either case, 
isn't it far better that we set out on our journey 
toward the next existence in high spirits 
and with a bright smile on our faces -- 
knowing that in everything we did, 
we did the very best we could,
thrilling with the sense 
"That was truly an interesting life."
from SGI-USA
"For Today and Tomorrow"

"Arouse deep faith and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo." 
~ Nichiren Daishonin (WND-1 p. 4)

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