Thursday, February 28, 2013

Chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo Works

"What is easily done can be easily undone. To move steadily forward on one’s chosen path, step after step, whether or not others are watching; to meet difficulties with the steady, relentless strength of ceaselessly flowing water—such firmness of purpose, such integrity and perseverance builds a foundation that can never be compromised." 
Daisaku Ikeda

Last night's SGI meeting at my house was amazing, just as amazing as this whole week and whole life has been. 
If you follow this blog you know that I chanted 7 hours on Monday (3 in the morning, 1 after working out, and 3 more at night after I returned from a third meeting about a prospective job). Tuesday I chanted another two hours and Wednesday I went to visit and encourage a member who needed guidance. 

I was chanting for confidence and to do the right thing regarding this prospective job. I chanted to discard the transient and reveal the true of my life and potential, and to have absolute confidence in my life. I chanted to root out the karma of being in the state of hunger (a definite family karma that has been passed down through the generations, and I am determined to STOP this karma now and forever). Hunger is one of the four lower worlds marked by insatiable desire that is never thoroughly quenched. In the unenlightened state it is a cause for deep suffering, in it's exalted state it can be expressed as desire for Kosen Rufu and to guide people to happiness. I chanted to desire most what is BEST for my life. I chanted to only accept this job if it's the absolutely right job for Kosen Rufu. I chanted for America and the strength and wisdom of our leaders. I chanted for kosen Rufu (World Peace) I chanted for my sons and every member and all of the readers of this blog. And I chanted for shakubuku and for at least two people to receive their Gohonzons on Wednesday night at my meeting. 

Right before the meeting I had a moment of anxiety about the outcome of all these job interviews. Then I looked at my email and there were several from readers thanking me for this blog. I realized I just HAVE to trust my life and my prayer. If this job is good for me I will accept it. If not, a better one will come along. I can relax and trust the process of my Daimoku. 

Right before the meeting Aaron, my son in Medical School showed up to surprise me. He makes as many Wednesday nights as he can, but Med School keeps him pretty busy. 

At the meeting Patty received her Gohonzon joyfully, She is full of enthusiasm for this practice, just like I was, and still am. I look forward to posting her experience here. We asked if anyone else wanted to receive a Gohonzon and Aaron said it was time for him to get a large Gohonzon (he's been practicing with a small Omamori since he left for college in 2008). He said he knows he will take on a huge challenge in life. Every day in Med School they are presented with opportunities for doctors to make major differences all over the world. Yesterday he learned of a need for doctors in a certain region of Ghana. This summer he will go to Bolivia. He said he is determined to strengthen his practice and life, and knows the significance of getting a large Gohonzon. And he's very aware he has to OWN his practice. He doesn't chant to make his mother (me) happy. He has to chant for the strength of his own life. Can you imagine how happy this made me? 

Daimoku absolutely works. And you don't just get what you chant for. You get so much more!

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chanting for Happiness - Beaming Like the Sun

Thanks Mojo for posting this Louisiana sunrise on Facebook this morning. 

"Become like the sun. 
If you do so, all darkness will be dispelled. 
No matter what happens, 
live confidently with the conviction that you, yourself are the “sun.” 
Of course, in life there are sunny days and cloudy days. 
But even on cloudy days, the sun is still there. 
Even when you are suffering, 
it is vital that you strive to keep the sun shining brightly in your heart." 
Daisaku Ikeda

I'm about to sit down and chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo for at least an hour, as I do every morning. Maybe more if my voice holds out. Tonight there is a Gohonzon Conferral taking place at my District meeting. I have been chanting for people to receive the Gohonzon with all my heart. Tonight's new member just came to us. She called me and said she'd started practicing on a trip to India and was looking for a meeting. She is full of excitement and unbridled enthusiasm, just like I was when I started practicing (and still am). 
When you are chanting for shakubuku it happens. Some of the members I introduced who are still practicing are people I barely knew, or didn't know at all, when I first told them about the practice. Talking to strangers really works. And, as some of us deeply believe, there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met. 

So don't worry about tempering your enthusiasm. Share your heart. Go for it. Each of us, one by one are creating ripples of happiness in the entire universe. The response of the person is not the most important thing. The VERY first time I heard of chanting I thought "That's the last thing I need." Luckily I heard about chanting two more times in a short period and chose to go to a meeting. What's important is 

Right now I am sitting down to chant for happiness. I am determined to shine and glow with happiness no matter what is going on in my life. No matter what. No, I have not accomplished every single one of my goals, and will always have aspirations, but I can be happy and shine with the light of Daimoku, with the light of the sun,  just as I am, right here, today. 

My power prayer for today:

I chant to praise my life and feel it's absolute perfection at every moment all day long. I chant in appreciation for my ever-growing health. I chant to have the glowing life-condition of the Buddha I am. I chant to appreciate my life just as it is - with all my heart! 
I praise my life for it's strong determination and I chant for everyone who is seeking this practice, everyone who is yearning to be happy, to FIND it right away and begin living a victorious life! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Snow Storm in Chicago...

There are many happy people right now in the Chicago Area...especially the ones who don't have long commutes! 

It's been snowing for the past 5 hours and doesn't look like  it plans on stopping. I thought you'd want to see it. 

Chanting for Complete Victory in a Major Decision

Isn't this a cool picture? It's from my friend and Buddhist practitioner Julia, whom I talk about frequently. I think this picture of a head of cauliflower she found in Northern California shows the progression of our lives moving through karma eternally. At the base, the karma is really think and as we gently turn the wheel of our lives from one day to the next, summoning strength through our Daimoku, the karma gets smaller and smaller as our lives spin ever upwards. There is no end to the spinning spiral, although all of us have experienced the lightening, and sometimes total alleviation of karma that used to cause us suffering.  This picture captures it perfectly. Thanks Julia! 

Chanting for Seven Hours on a Full Moon Monday

Whenever I mention a long tozo I have to make it clear that, as a Buddhist you will never be required, or asked to do a long tozo (chanting session). At some point you may decide to chant for a long time, but it will only be because YOU want to do it. When yesterday began, I didn't even realize that I would be chanting for that long a period. 

As many of you know, I have been in the wonderful position of determining my next career path. I was "laid off, made redundant, downsized" right before Christmas. But I wasn't discouraged or downtrodden. The company I was working for downsized 900 people in one day and decided to "teach out" (close once the students graduated) the campuses I represented. With all the causes I make every day, I just KNEW this event was the door to a wonderful new opportunity for me. 

So, I have been networking and am in discussions about a particular job. And I've been chanting abundant Daimoku to make sure that this is the right job for me. Yesterday I woke up early and just began chanting. After three hours I took a break to get ready for my appointment, then I chanted another hour. I had a great meeting with the prospective employer. When I came home "I just felt like chanting" (Thank you Forest Gump ~ remember the running scene?) And I chanted effortlessly for another three hours. I figured, I was that close ~ why not take it all the way. 

I chanted for confidence, and for the job to fit all of the criteria I had already written down. I looked at many of my power prayers from the last two months, and I just poured my heart into my life. I chanted for my District and for YOU, the readers of my blog. I chanted for shakubuku. Lately I've met a lot of people who are interested in receiving their Gohonzons. There is no coincidence about that. I am always chanting to meet people who are ready to hear about this practice. 

So this morning I am clear-headed. I've already chanted 2 hours and will get right back to chanting after I post this. Join me if you'd like. 
I just arranged a Gohonzon Conferral. Nothing makes me happier than helping people get a start with this practice and then helping them achieve their goals and defeat their fundamental darkness and live lives of glorious victory

Questions anyone? 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why obstacles arise, and how to view and defeat them

I received a question from someone who is new to chanting. She wondered why after chanting a few days some obstacles occurred. When the obstacles happened she stopped chanting for a few days. Then she started chanting again, and more less-than-positive things occurred. So she stopped chanting again. And on and on...

I'll bet there are other readers who are familiar with this pattern and who know the answer to this question!

When you chant Daimoku you are reaching into the depth of your life to purify it and create the most beautiful possible life. You are also stirring up the karma that has always been within your life. If you stay with the practice, and chant consistently, you will attain a state of life beyond your wildest dreams. You will have a level of contentment and come to know your purpose in being alive. You will look at your problems as opportunities for greater growth and happiness. But first you have to deepen your understanding of the practice. 

When you chant, you naturally draw from your life the karma that needs to be changed. Otherwise you wouldn't have the chance to change it! If you've studied the Gosho you see that chanting correctly does bring problems into a closer focus so you can change that karma once and for all. 

During my first few years of chanting I took a job with the worst boss ever. Really. He swore at the people who worked for him (the beautiful woman he LIVED with) and was abusive to the whole staff. It was horrible. Instead of lamenting my fate and crying "Chanting is not working!" I saw it as the opportunity to change this karma FOREVER. Every day I chanted a solid hour in the morning that NEVER EVER again would I experience an abusive boss! I chanted for his happiness, and the happiness of everyone involved. At a certain point I was able to stop his abusive ways by speaking up when he was yelling. It took courage. It took daimoku. And I've never had an abusive boss since then. I changed that karma then and there by facing it down and roaring Nam Myoho Renge Kyo like the powerful woman I am!

I understood that this challenge was an opportunity to change my bad karma. And always remember, karma is in your life, but you don't have to think of it as your fault. That karma is there from many lifetimes of living, but feeling guilty about it is just not useful. Feeling responsible for it, and vowing to change it will give you POWER.

Just chant to change the root of the karma of anything that is bothering you. You don't have to figure it out! Just make a vow and determination to end this karma forever. See all that happens to you, both good and bad, as the answer to your prayer and don't stop chanting even for a day. During the difficult times chant even harder and what you've been encountering eventually be gone forever. It does not happen overnight. But it does happen!!!!

THAT is the fortune I talk about.  That happiness can be yours. But don't run scared when bad things happen. No Roar like the powerful lion you are!
"Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?"
In this case sickness can be taken as any kind of suffering. ROAR it out of your life forever!!! 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Maintaining Hope

More and more research supports the fact that those who are optimistic and hopeful are actually happier. 
We can exercise this muscle of hope with our own lives in front of the Gohonzon. 

Think about it. 

Have you ever had these sort of thoughts while sitting down to chant? 

"Oh why bother, I'm never going to change this anyway. 
I know this is just one of those things I have to accept, everyone in my family tells me so. 
I know this is not going to make a difference but my leader told me to chant about it. 
Why do these things always happen to me? I wish I could just change...why me?"

If these thoughts are in your mind you can do a quick change of mind BEFORE you chant that will help you get more results. 
Exercise your muscle of hope, faith and appreciation. Before you chant make yourself a list of the things that you appreciate in your life. Find a book or use your journal and put a title at the top of each page:
What I appreciate about my body
What I appreciate about my self
What I appreciate about my friends
What I appreciate about my job
What I appreciate about my country
What I appreciate about my family
What I appreciate about my practice
What I have accomplished recently that makes me proud

And sit and list all that you appreciate. I guarantee that after you do this you will be in a lighter frame of mind. You will see more of the positive in your life. Let yourself feel the appreciation fro your own life. And when you chant, chant in appreciation not complaint. 

Listing your appreciation really works. When my Mom was feeling low I suggested that before she got out of bed every day she list ten things she appreciates in her mind. She told me she started doing that every morning and it helped her rise with a smile and made every day happier. When you change your focus you change your results. 

And when you chant get your complaints out of your mind and replace them with determinations. "I am determined to be the happiest, brightest, most radiant and magnetic person in the world right now, just as I am, right here, TODAY!" 

We had a meeting this week where a woman was so tired of chanting for a husband she decided to chant to be the happiest single person in the world. A week later she met the man she's been married to for 16 years. I am going to get her full experience to share with you along with her picture. 

Go ahead, look on the bright side. It really is a choice and it is up to you! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Question and Answer about changing Friendship Karma

Dear Jamie: 

Hope you are well. 
Tell me can Karma be removed through 
our practice of Nichiren’s Buddhism? 
I am told it can, that’s what I read in your blog 
and hear from others. If that is true, 
why does it surface again?

I don’t make close friends easily 
although I have a large circle of friends
and acquaintances. If I look back all through
my life each time I have become close 
to anyone, after a while they have 
moved on- and we may stay in touch it's 
never the same- It's me who ends up 
miserable. I have tried very hard first 
not to let any one get close but still it 
happens and I am in a state of hell. 
I have chanted a lot that I should not 
be dependent on any one but this 
tendency has been stuck till date.

I have yet again gone through the 
same situation and am so upset that 
its affecting every area of my life. 
I fear loneliness and have no one 
really with whom I can share my joys 
or sorrows. What do I do?

So Lonely

 Dear So Lonely, 
 I totally understand. Thank you for writing. 
Yes, you can definitely change karma 
by chanting. Absolutely. And you can 
change this karma. I did. I used to be in 
so much pain and so lonely. 
So: I made a determination to be the 
kind of person that people would want 
to have as a friend. And I chanted to 
change in any way possible so that I 
could make this happen. A very good 
power prayer is: "I now release any 
resistance to change in my life." 
It really works. I chanted to BE a friend. 
And yes, the karma came around again 
for me many times before it went away. 
And each time I screamed at the Gohonzon 
in my heart chanting "I am DONE with this 
karma of not having friends. I am rooting 
this suffering out immediately. I don't CARE 
how often I feel discouraged I will not lose 
hope. I will WIN! I HAVE to win so that I can 
show actual proof for Kosen Rufu. This 
experience will encourage people!" 

Having a strong practice is the most important 
thing. Chant twice a day. Twice! Go to SGI 
meetings, no matter what. Study President 
Ikeda's guidance and encourage people. 
Use this practice the way it was intended: 
to create your OWN human revolution which 
creates your happiest self. Your happiest self 
will hve the wisdom and skills to draw close 
friends to you. 

You can also use the powerful tool of writing 
out your experience BEFORE it happens, 
and write it in the present it 
and reread it. "I have many satisfying 
relationships, I care about people and 
they care about me. It is easy for me to 
make friends." Even if this is not yet true. 
The declaration is powerful. You can start 
speaking these words too. Don't give up. 
Take action, get out there. My best friend 
is a woman I met in a bead store who helped 
me learn to make jewelry. Go places where 
you will meet people who share your 
interests. I met many friends at networking 
events, then called them and invited them 
to other networking events. I also set lunch 
dates and made friend after friend. 
You are not alone, so many people are 
suffering from this. When you chant, think 
I MUST change this karma so I can help 
other people change this karma. 
I MUST break through  for Kosen Rufu!!! 

And you WILL I know you WILL!!!

All my best, truly my best, 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Doing Shakubuku with our lives! Spreading Happiness

My dear friend and shakubuku Julia posted this on facebook this morning. When I saw it, I literally cried tears of joy. If you had seen her in August of 2010 before she started chanting you would cry tears of joy too. In this picture she is so full of life. She is overflowing with life. She has embraced Nichiren Buddhism in every possible way. She studies so deeply that I learn from her as often as she learns from me. She is my dear zenshishiki (friend in faith).

I want to relate to you some of her story and how she came to this faith through my life and her strong determination in her own life.

I first met Julia when I was living in San Francisco and my boys were little. She came to stay at our house with her husband Cliff, one of our oldest and dearest friends. She says she will never forget the moment she heard me chanting Daimoku. She could feel the almost primal energy of the chant. We bonded as friends and I attended her miraculous and spiritual Kripalu Yoga classes. She wasn't interested in chanting, but we became friends. Chanting is not a requirement of friendship for me, and I always chant about my friends. But I do, of course, share my experiences and talk about the benefits of my own practice.

I always chant for my life to be an example of the actual proof of this practice...that my life can speak for itself. And I chant for people who are looking for this practice (as I did for so many years) to cross my path.

In 2003 Julia went through an experience that left her depleted, lowered her immune system and left her with chronic illnesses that continued on for many years.

In August of 2010 I was in a transitional period of creating this new life for myself. After many years of chanting about my marriage I decided that it was actually time to move on...but not in the usual way. In this society you only hear "divorce" along with the word "painful". I made the determination that this would be an "Inspiring Divorce" and that each member of my family would be happier because of the divorce. I chanted like this and roared like a lion for the happiness of my husband and my two boys. When I saw Julia in August of 2010 we were successfully making the transition. I was still living in the family house, but we were separated, and we traveled together (me and Paul and our son Ben) to see Julia and Cliff when they were visiting Ohio (their home is in California).

Paul and I became better friends once the separation took effect, and Julia was really impressed with the tender and respectful way Paul and I we all interacted while going through this process. We were joking together and so happy to be seeing Cliff and Julia and have Ben with us (Cliff and Julia are honorary Aunt and Uncle and have known Ben since birth).

When I first saw Julia on this trip she was really suffering. She had physical problems that were really bothering her and her life was drained from her. She looked like a totally different person from the picture above. I suggested we take her to a doctor and that helped a bit. And I chanted for her. I didn't talk much about chanting at all. I let my life speak for itself. My LIFE shakubuku'd her.

One afternoon we were sitting in the park and she was still in pain. She began asking me questions about how Paul and I could possibly be so happy while going through this process...and eventually she started asking questions about chanting. She decided there and then in the park that she wanted to chant, and Ben and I chanted right there, in the park with her. She was really moved that Ben, a teenager, would just chant out in the open with no reservations.

From then on she couldn't get enough of this practice. She has an incredibly seeking mind. She was always an excellent, excellent human being. I loved her from the moment we met. She has a spark and intelligence and warmth that everyone is drawn to. She became a part of the "family" from the moment we met.

When she got back to Ukiah, California we spoke all the time. We got her connected to the wonderful members there (there are members almost everywhere), and she learned Gongyo. Her faith was so sincere and strong that she was actually given an incredible hand-carved Butsudan from her friends who are gifted wood workers. She brought all of her intelligence, thoughtfulness and spirituality to this practice. She dove right in! When I said "Do Gongyo twice a day" she did it. She studied Nichiren Daishonin's Gosho and Daisaku Ikeda's works all the time.

Over the past two and a half years she has become so much more happy in so many ways...mind, body and spirit. Her powers of musicianship have greatly increased. She conducts SGI meetings and introduces others to the practice.

And just look at this picture. It says it all. She is full of life and vitality. She is full of the benefits that practicing Nichiren Buddhism can bring when you fully devote yourself to this practice. Her benefits are too many to list, but include a new, wonderful relationship with family members, and increasing joy and health.

What joy this brings me. There is nothing, NOTHING better. Do shakubuku with all your heart/ Chant to be able to do shakubuku.  That's where it starts.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Chant with Our Whole Being

Editor in Chief, World Tribune, SGI-USA

What is the correct approach to chanting?

Fundamentally, I think it can be said that if after chanting daimoku you feel refreshed and revitalized, then you chanted great daimoku.

In many of his writings, Nichiren Daishonin states that chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the core of his teachings. It seems the Daishonin felt the need to establish first and foremost the act of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo itself in order to guide the people of his time away from misguided practices and beliefs that opposed the original intent of Buddhism. While emphasizing the importance of having faith in the power of the Mystic Law, he appears to forgo addressing any other specific details of exactly how to chant.

What the Daishonin does stress, however, is our attitude—the realization or conviction that we should have when chanting. He writes: “Shakyamuni Buddha who attained enlightenment countless kalpas ago, the Lotus Sutra that leads all people to Buddhahood, and we ordinary human beings are in no way different or separate from one another. To chant Myoho-renge-kyo with this realization is to inherit the ultimate Law of life and death” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, p. 216). He also explains: “You, yourself, are a Thus Come One who is originally enlightened and endowed with the three bodies. You should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with this conviction” (WND, 299–300).

We can discuss the purpose behind the act of chanting from two different levels. On one level, we chant to open our innate Buddhahood, the universal existence and cultivation of which is the ultimate message of the Lotus Sutra and the basis of human happiness. On another level, we can say that we chant to have our specific prayers answered—an intriguing element in the practice of Buddhist faith.

Ultimately, it is important that we chant with our entire being. This is indicated by a phrase the Daishonin quotes from the verse portion of “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which reads, “single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha, not hesitating even if it costs them their lives” (WND, 389). For us, this translates into an earnest desire to reveal our Buddha nature each time we chant. He states, “As a result of this passage, I have revealed the Buddhahood in my own life” (WND, 389).

Explaining the principle of having our prayers answered through the power of faith underlying our act of chanting, Nichiren Daishonin exhorts: “Muster your faith, and pray to this Gohonzon. Then what is there that cannot be achieved?” (WND, 412). And: “Believe in this mandala with all your heart. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion. What sickness can therefore be an obstacle?” (WND, 412).

From another perspective, Nichiren Daishonin cautions, “A coward cannot have any of his prayers answered” (WND, 1001). In this passage, cowardice can be interpreted as the benighted quality of life that is not rooted in our Buddhahood. In other words, cowardice can be defined in Buddhism as the impure elements in life, which, if allowed to take control of the self, separate us from our Buddha nature or the Mystic Law. Conversely, if we are continuously developing our Buddha nature, taking action with the wisdom we tap through chanting and thus courageous in our life-condition, then we are moving toward and becoming the type of person who can have all their prayers answered.

SGI President Ikeda states: “The more specific and detailed the blueprint we have
in our hearts, the better. The point is to continue vividly painting the target we have and to advance toward that goal single-mindedly. Then, at each instant, the reality of our lives will gradually approach the painting that is our aspiration. “Everything depends on what is in our hearts. Heartfelt prayers will definitely be answered” (Learning from the Gosho, p. 129). In praying to the Gohonzon, we should drop all pretense and just be ourselves, offering sincere prayers for the realization of all our desires. By so doing, we can elevate our life-condition and strengthen our life force to the point where we start sensing what to do about each of our specific goals.

In the final analysis, we should first decide that we are going to win before we chant. This strong determination coupled with our chanting enables us to summon forth the appropriate wisdom to deal with any of the inevitable difficulties we will encounter on the way toward achieving our goals. With this resolution, something positive will start welling up from within our lives through chanting. Worry should not be basis of our prayer, as this can undermine the power of chanting. Rather we should to resolve to win first, so that through each daimoku we chant we are tapping every human quality necessary for our victory.

By chanting such heartfelt daimoku to the Gohonzon, the very core of our lives aligns with the purest life force of the universe, melting away whatever negative effects we may otherwise have to experience due to our karma. “Various sins are just like dewdrops,” wrote the Daishonin. “The ‘sun of wisdom’ (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) is capable of dissolving them all” (Gosho Zenshu, p. 786).

Chanting from the heart solidifies the condition of Buddhahood as the basis of our existence, which is described by the Daishonin as “the unchanging reality which reigns over all of life’s functions” (WND, 832). When Buddhahood is firmly established as the basis of our lives, we gain self-control without being defeated by the five poisons—greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt.

After chanting, we can return to the reality of our daily lives, acting with renewed confidence to touch the lives of other people and reach our goals. As the Daishonin states, “The purpose of the appearance in this world of Shakyamuni Buddha, the lord of teachings, lies in his behavior as a human being” (WND, 852).

Lastly, President Ikeda writes about the meaning of prayer in Buddhism, referring to the concept of a pledge or vow in The New Human Revolution. He says to a pioneer member in Brazil: “Prayer in Nichiren Buddhism means to chant daimoku based on a pledge or vow. At its very core, this vow is to attain kosen-rufu. It means chanting resolutely with the determination: ‘I will attain kosen-rufu in Brazil. Therefore, I will show magnificent actual proof in my work. Please enable me to bring forth my greatest potential.’ This is what our prayer should be like. “It is also important that we establish clear and concrete goals for what we hope to achieve each day and then pray and challenge ourselves to achieve each of them. This earnest determination gives rise to wisdom and resourcefulness, thereby leading to success. In short, to win in life we need determination and prayer, effort and ingenuity. It is misguided to dream of getting rich quick, expecting to encounter a rare stroke of luck or some shrewd moneymaking scheme. This is not faith. It is mere fantasy” (The New Human Revolution, vol. 1, pp. 250–251).

Summary of key points

• Chant with your entire being or with the spirit that “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is like the roar of a lion.”
• Chant with clear and concrete goals.
• Chant with the determination “I will win no matter what.”
• Chant with the vow to help achieve kosen-rufu

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Put Your Life and Happiness First, and all happiness will flow from you!

Have you ever been on your way to an SGI meeting and had something come up that was trying to stop you from attending? Did you give in, or did you make it to the meeting? 

Did you ever sit down to chant and then get pulled away by the endless to-do list in your head? Did you stay or did you go? Did you stay in front of the Gohonzon and chant anyway? Then you WIN in your life! (FYI, I keep a paper and pen at my altar so I can immediately clear my brain when things come up for my to-do list - then I can keep chanting) 

You know there are obstacles that appear in our lives to prevent us from moving forward. We call these "Sansho shima", and when we see them for what they are, we can boldly move forward and create real and lasting happiness. 

I realized at the very beginning of my practice (28 years ago) that the time I spent chanting actually gave me MORE TIME, because it put me in rhythm with my surroundings. This is the profound nature of chanting. 

When we tap into our essential life force through chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo our lives move in sync with our entire surroundings. 

So I am writing this blog to urge you to put your life first by putting your practice first. 

The power of your life force, and the strength of your practice are one and the same. 

When you put your practice first you put your life first. 

When you put your life first you can create anything you want in your life.  

I live my life to be a walking example of this! Every morning I sit down and put my practice and my life first. 

I go to an SGI meeting every week, and I have the highest life condition of happiness ~ I literally glow. It is not unusual for people, after meeting me, to seek me out to find out what it is about me that creates this glow. That's why it's so easy for me to do shakubuku, (introduce people to this practice) 

My LIFE does shakubuku for me. 
My energy, enthusiasm and vibrancy just shine through. 
They HAVE to shine through because I focus my life on polishing my shiny life every single morning and evening. 

I chant for my bright Buddhahood to sparkle and shine. 

I chant for my friends and district members and blog readers. 

That's where true happiness lies. I put my life first by winning every single morning. 
I don't even use an alarm clock any more. I wake up in time to chant one or two hours, work out, get the picture...all because I put my practice first. I also spend my days helping others become happy. That makes my light glow extra bright! When I know I have helped someone overcome their challenges and learn to put their life first....I know that person has the tools to create the life of their dreams. What could possibly make me happier than that? 
And you know how much I love to hear from the readers of this blog. I love to know your challenges, your successes, your questions...everything. When I get your comments it makes me so happy! 
Let me hear how you have put your life first and claimed your own happiness!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Beating Addiction ~ Al Hogan's Experience

My experience in faith begins 22 years ago in January 1975. After attending my first meeting, I became very active in the organization. I thoroughly enjoyed all phases of activities, and I have many beautiful memories and lasting friendships with SGI members throughout the world. I feel extremely fortunate to have encountered the Gohonzon and received so many opportunities to improve my life by contributing to world peace. My debt of gratitude is immense.
While attending a headquarters men’s division meeting in 1982, I attempted to open up a discussion about my growing use of drugs and my negative lifestyle. I had read SGI President Ikeda’s guidance that detailed three symptoms of men who weaken in faith:
1. Overindulgence in alcohol or use of illegal drugs. 2. Mismanagement of personal finances. 3. Irresponsible relationships with women. I was creating a powerful dossier on all three. My practice had become inconsistent. I
was turning into an arrogant, ego-driven, cocaine-smoking maniac. By 1988, I had successfully turned my life into a living hell. My wife could no longer
depend on me for anything. I became such an abusive monster that we could no longer live together. I became homeless; living in abandoned buildings, sleeping in cardboard boxes and living among the shelter people — going to one center for breakfast, another for lunch and dinner and, finally, another shelter for overnight rest.
On one occasion, I was rushed to the hospital, so full of cocaine that I had suffered a mild heart attack. On another occasion, I was arrested for writing bad checks and spent two nights in jail. On numerous occasions, SGI members extended themselves to help me, but I abused their trust and friendship and that of friends and relatives.
Finally, in 1988, I sought professional help to fight my addiction. In January 1989, I entered my third treatment program. This time, I decided that I must first rebuild my practice. While in rehab, I received many SGI publications and a copy of volume 2 of The Major Writings of Nichiren Daishonin. I searched the pages of the Gosho, desperately looking for passages to affirm that I could again receive benefit by practicing correctly. The following passages from the Gosho “Curing Karmic Disease” (2nd ed., pp. 215–17) answered that question:
[The Nirvana Sutra states:] “Even the offense of slandering this correct teaching [will be eradicated] if one repents and professes faith in the correct teaching.... No teaching other than this correct teaching can save or protect one. For this reason one should take faith in the correct teaching.”...
[The Great Teacher Ching-hsi says,] “It is like the case of a person who falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up from the ground to rise to his feet again. Therefore, even though one may slander the correct teaching, one will eventually be saved from the evil paths.”...
[Bodhisattva Ashvaghosha says,] “I have been my own worst enemy, leading myself to hell.” But Punyayashas admonished him, saying, “Do not behead yourself! Instead, use your brains and your mouth to praise Mahayana teachings.” I rededicated myself to faith, practice and study. During my free time, I chanted Nam-
myoho-renge-kyo for many hours. I also became active in supporting and attending SGI activities in Waukegan District. I made sincere efforts to help other addicts, especially SGI members who were suffering the same miserable hell that I had. I also sought out my
p.1 of 2seniors for guidance and encouragement at every step of the process. I have reestablished many of the relationships that suffered during my years of addiction.
Most significant to me was having my son accept me back in his life. While I was in rehab, he sent one letter, which reads in part:
Dad, what is the matter with you? How do you expect me to feel about you all these years that you have ignored me? I sure hope you don’t expect me to accept you with open arms.... I love it when I hear kids talk about their dads: “My dad bought me a new car.” “My dad is great.” “My dad visits with me on the weekend.” “My dad treats me like crap.” One of these doesn’t sound right. Can you pick out the one I say, Sherlock?
I wonder if you get the message that I have a lot of bad feelings toward you.... Thanks for calling me on those special occasions like my birthday and Christmas. Don’t give me some bull like, “I wasn’t near the phone all day.” I kind of excuse you from not wishing me a Merry Christmas because of your religion. And, yeah, I’m excusing you, my father.
This letter was not written to push us further away. It was to let you know how I feel about you. You’re my dad. I hope you have a chance to act like one.
Love, Al
After several failed attempts to repair this relationship, I sought guidance. Finally, in January 1996, I made a breakthrough. My son and I had our first series of conversations openly sharing our thoughts about each other. Finally, he invited me to attend his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania. On May 21, I escorted my son to the commencement ceremonies. Proud and full of appreciation that poison had turned to medicine, I was finally rebounding from a miserable chapter in my family life.
For the last nine years, I have remained completely drug free. I have advanced steadily at my work. All of my past SGI experiences have contributed to my current employment. As the assistant manager of scholarship and grants for the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, a state agency that administers financial aid programs for Illinois residents seeking education beyond high school, I have been on television and radio numerous times, explaining the financial process and available programs. I produced two agency videos, several satellite and cable broadcasts and one infomercial.
My responsibilities offer me excellent opportunities to assist many families in making their financial decisions for attending college. In addition to my job, I also have kept a part- time job for seven years as a waiter at a local restaurant. For the first time in my adult life, I have maintained not one but two jobs for a seven-year period. To practice this Buddhism correctly is amazing and wonderful.
I recently made three pledges to myself: to remain drug free and attack all unresolved personal issues; to be a model manager; and to raise capable men in Waukegan District. To these ends, I pray that I will somehow repay my debt of gratitude for this wonderful life. 

Chanting to transform negative relationships works

Yes, we are all connected.

Suppose we have someone at work we don't get along with...or a family member that is giving us problems. What is the best way to handle this situation as a Buddhist? 

Many of us have proven, time and again, that chanting for that person's happiness changes everything. Chanting for their happiness might not sound like something you want to do, or even feel capable of, but it works every single time, I promise. 

Here are two examples: 

The first time I tried this I hadn't been chanting all that long and I was selling advertising for the Bay Guardian Newspaper. This was before so much of the technology we have now. Ads were placed on the boards by hand, and it was all meticulously done. I sold a lot of advertising. And the person who trafficked my ads in production (I'll call her Katia) was always upset with me for some reason or other. It got to the point that she was really driving me crazy. So I sought guidance from one of my seniors in faith, who said I should chant for Katia's happiness, because my prayer would affect her state of life, and the energy between us would change. 

I'll be honest, I thought it would be really difficult, if not impossible, to truly chant and desire this person's happiness. But the senior in faith told me to "fake it till you make it." In other words, start chanting for Katia's even if I couldn't really put my heart into it. She told me to picture Katia with a big smile on her face, and sooner or later my prayer for her happiness would become sincere. 

This is exactly what happened. Within a very short period of time I found myself earnestly desiring happiness for Katia, and knowing in my heart that my chanting was going to have an effect. 

About a month later, Katia announced that she was getting engaged and moving to Los Angeles. She was happy and so was I!

I realized that through this practice I was actually exercising my muscle of compassion. After that, chanting for anyone I was having problems with came much easier. 

Another example was when I went to work for a larger company here in the Midwest. I could tell, that for no apparent reason, one of the employees really didn't like me, (I'll call her Sharon). She never said anything negative, and I didn't work with her very closely, but I could feel her hair standing on end when she saw me. So I decided to chant for her happiness every day for months. 

Instead of leaving the company like Katia did, Sharon just totally changed her feelings for me and came to love and respect me. She served on several of my committees and spoke very highly of me. She and I put together a Holiday party for the senior staff based on kind words and love. We worked together happily for many years. 

Throughout the years of my practice I have proven over and over that chanting for another person's happiness has a profound effect, and that I can GENERATE compassion by exercising my muscle of faith. 

Is there anyone you have been resenting who you could chant for? 

If you have a positive experience based on this (or any) post please let me know ~ all the readers would like to hear your experiences too. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Living a Life of Strength through Daimoku

"The moment we resolve "I will become healthy!" "I will become strong!" "I will work cheerfully for kosen-rufu!" our lives begin to move in that direction. We have to make up our minds."
 - Daily Encouragement by Daisaku Ikeda

I love that quote from President Ikeda. He is so right. 
When I chant I focus on expanding my life for Kosen Rufu (world peace), and I continually chant to strengthen my life and raise my life condition so that I experience every moment as the Buddha I am.  

On Saturday I was planning to bring some friends to a very far neighborhood in Chicago for a CD release party. As I was returning from lunch with my son, my front right tire hit a pothole in the road that was impossible to see. It was a loud and scary sound. Later when my friends and I were ready to go out my tire was completely flat. 

Since my life condition was so high this didn't ruin my night in the least. I wasn't upset. We took one of my friend's  cars and I drove since I don't mind city driving. We got home very late and had a blast dancing and listening to the band. 

The next morning I had to figure out what to do with my car. 
When you're "in rhythm" everything just works out beautifully. 

I contacted a couple of people to see if they could help. One of them was my neighbor whom I don't really know well, but he was happy to help. He is new to this area and finds he has a lot of time on the weekends. He put the spare on, and when we were on the way to the tire place I was reminded that I actually had an extra tire in case this one was ruined. I had forgotten all about that extra tire. 

The trip to the tire store was actually fun and we went food shopping at some stores my new neighbor didn't know about and appreciated finding out about. And the tire store ended up charging me NOTHING to install the extra tire I had. All around it was not just a painless experience of having a flat tire. It was an enjoyable one. 

I tell you this story to illustrate that when our lives are strong, when WE are strong, even our obstacles can be something we appreciate and sometimes, even enjoy. At the heart of it all is our life condition, our connection to our Buddha Nature and our connection to our environment. 

Chanting to strengthen or lives and raise our life conditions is so important to our own happiness and the happiness of everyone around us. When we are strong we are unshakable and we are happy. 

Our happiness is contagious. We reach everyone with our happiness.

Strength equals happiness. Chanting to strengthen our lives is always a great thing to do. 

Have a great strong and happy day! 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Bridget from Australia's Inspiring Experience


I've been chanting for  just over 2 years.

I rarely watch tele. So most evenings I chant for an hour at least each evening and when in Sydney went to a meeting once a week. I love reading, so I read the goshos, experiences, blogs etc in my spare time.

I heard at a meeting an experience where the guy was deadlocked. He wanted to be in a musical production and after auditions he was not successful. His guidance from a senior was: 

"How often do you tell yourself your a Buddha?"

He continued to chant, support his group in their endeavors and tell himself every time negativity arose that he is Buddha. He got a call 2 months later that they had decided they need him for the show. Despite being well into rehearsing. He started with them and toured all over Europe.

That experience was really magical so I try to remember everyday I'm Buddha.

Mostly I try to remember that every challenge is teaching me something. So I must try and improve myself and my wisdom then benefit will come. This is not a wish granting machine. I have to keep working on my human revolution.

I determined this year to really work on slander and gossip. To never say a bad thing about anyone be it a celebrity I don't know, my boss, a difficult colleague. I must see the potential Buddha in everyone. When some one speaks to me, to be really present and truly listen to them.

I need to keep looking at myself honestly as that's how I can change and the benefits will come.

War and peace but these are the things that drive me. Creating kosen Rufu in my corner of the world. A ripple 10 meters wide starts with a single stone upon the water. Small things can create big effects.

Plus I have fallen in love with Nichiren! I love his writings I find his compassion and strength inspiring.


Although I've had numerous experiences this is one recent one.

At the start of the year I was made redundant. I chanted to be able to move from Sydney to a beautiful place in the Southern Highlands, 1 hour from Sydney. It's a stunning place of beautiful horse studs, cafes and art galleries. Close enough to still see friends from the city.

Everyone told me it would be hard to find a role similar in pay etc as Sydney and just a reasonable size business to work in would be difficult.

I applied for a role and after been given a 2nd interview and a long lengthy procedure I was unsuccessful they couldn't afford me.

I started doing temp work in Sydney.
However, 1 month into the temp role I was offered a permanent role in sydney, new car, good salary. I thought my southern highlands dream wouldn't come through.

8 months on I for some unknown reason decided to look on the Internet for roles again. The moment I logged into the job site there was a job. Sales manager for an international health food company. Amazing company that had just got distribution with Harrods & amp; Selfridges in the UK and distributors throughout Asia.

How could I interview? Without having to have sick days etc... They called immediately and asked me to come the next Tuesday. I walked into my managers office to ask for an annual leave day but before I could speak he said that the new telemarketers were working their first Saturday, would I come in Saturday and support them, if I did I could have a day off during the week instead. I suggested I do this for a few weeks and he was so pleased. This gave me time off during the week for 2 nd interviews etc.

I was offered the role and after some negotiation I took it. It wasn't the salary of Sydney but great growth potential.

I had 3 weeks to find somewhere to live. No rentals about being Christmas. I chanted one evening to find the right place and also quickly so I didn't need to spend my holidays house hunting.

After I chanted that evening I thought maybe I'll look for share accommodation ~ a good option till I get my own place. There was a great house share with the local yoga teacher. Beautiful large home, gardens, beautifully furnished with little Buddha statues. With the rent reduction I'm no less off financially. Instead of a 1 bedroom flat in Sydney I'm in a 5 bedroom home, two living areas and a kitchen the size of my last living room :)

The work place is great, young, funky, vibrant and I've fitted in quickly.

My housemate has offered her yoga studio to me for my own Buddhist meetings free of charge and is advertising the group in her studio.

Through this Buddhism I came off anxiety medication in 7 months. I didn't even realise I'd stopped taking them. I have had so many sychroncities which have made life flow easier and worked out for the best. My faith has waivered at times but the more proof the more I now know that through the tough times hang on. Something will change at the right time.

I had tried many different things in the past but nothing works quite like Nichiren Buddhism.

Bridgit / Sydney