The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby OregonBuddhist » Fri Sep 21, 2012 6:27 am

Sorry if this has already been covered elsewhere. Maybe this should've been put in my other thread about the positive aspects of SGI. So, I'll understand if this gets deleted, or merged, or whatever....

Anyway, we probably all know that there is nothing more controversial about the SGI practice than the fact that they chant for material outcomes. This is mentioned in the opening of this -- in my opinion, very good -- article about SGI: http://www.sgi-usa.org/newsandevents/ne ... icycle.pdf

I've often heard it said that SGI is "not really Buddhism," and the main reason people say that it isn't is because they chant for material outcomes. But then I found this -- again, very interesting, in my opinion -- article on the Tricycle website: http://www.tricycle.com/special-section ... line-stone This scholar says that chanting for material outcomes has been a part of Buddhism for a long time, it's just that American "Buddhist modernists" don't like people to know about this because it too closely resembles the aspects of Christianity that learned men were trying to get away from in the 20th Century.

I am not a member of SGI. I'm attending a different type of Nichiren temple. But I've noticed that there is a place in the service where we offer prayers that "all people be prosperous." While this isn't as specific as what I'm told SGI members do (make lists of actual outcomes they want), it does have a similar underlying dynamic. So, I'm left wondering why people "bash" SGI so much for this practice, when in fact it is a part of many other Buddhist traditions as well. (Tina Turner, an SGI member, discusses it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs6z9VejQIk She says that, at base, this practice is just about changing your mind and perspective about something, and then you go out and get it for yourself because you've changed your way of thinking about something.)
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Sherlock » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:02 am

This is somewhat related to the Dharma and magic thread in the free-for-all section, you might like to go through that thread as well.

I know little about SGi but rituals for worldly aims have been common in most types of Buddhism for millennia and SGI really should not be criticised for that alone. Now if these worldly rituals become the mainstay of their practice then there is a problem IMO though.
Sherlock
 
Posts: 825
Joined: Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:14 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby OregonBuddhist » Fri Sep 21, 2012 9:00 am

Thanks for the heads-up. I think SGI is vilified for many reasons. I think chanting for worldly outcomes is one of them; I think it sounds "un-Buddhist" to many people. I think that chanting as the focal-point is strange to many Americans because they tend to think of Buddhism as meditative, that is, "quiet." Also, in Nichiren Buddhism there doesn't seem to be much emphasis on something that people tend to love about Buddhism: the idea that all life is suffering. Nichiren Buddhism seems much more optimistic than that. The vilification of SGI probably also has to do with its growth and proselytizing, which I think seems un-Buddhist to many people as well. Anyway, thanks for the heads-up.
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Jikan » Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:29 pm

Sherlock wrote:This is somewhat related to the Dharma and magic thread in the free-for-all section, you might like to go through that thread as well.

I know little about SGi but rituals for worldly aims have been common in most types of Buddhism for millennia and SGI really should not be criticised for that alone. Now if these worldly rituals become the mainstay of their practice then there is a problem IMO though.


I'd like to know if this aspect of practice in SGI departs in a significant way from the Buddhism that Nichiren taught. I have some ideas on this, but I'll defer to those who know better before I open my mouth on it.

back to the magic thread: all traditions have included some kind of practice for worldly purposes such as long life or health ultimately as supports to practice. The question in this instance may be to reflect on whether the whole of practice or the heart of practice is applied for worldly aims, and if worldly aims become the measure of one's spiritual practice as in testimonials like this (summarizing a conversation from elsewhere): "I recited daimoku for a month and I saved enough money for a bass boat! That's the proof of practice for you!" I'd also like to know if this sort of claim is an outlier to SGI practice, or if it is representative of the mainstream.
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5515
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Tatsuo » Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:07 pm

Jikan wrote:I'd like to know if this aspect of practice in SGI departs in a significant way from the Buddhism that Nichiren taught. I have some ideas on this, but I'll defer to those who know better before I open my mouth on it.

Lately I have been reading about the concept of hongaku shiso in which worldly passions were interpreted as enlightenment. This was the mainstream of medieval Tendai and resulted in the use of esoteric ceremonies for individual benefits. Maybe this interpretation of the Soka Gakkai has it's roots in hongaku thought. Is this interpretation of original enlightenment still part of modern Tendai?
    南無阿弥陀佛
    南無妙法蓮華經
    南無観世音菩薩
User avatar
Tatsuo
 
Posts: 176
Joined: Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:50 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Queequeg » Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:35 pm

Jikan wrote:I'd like to know if this aspect of practice in SGI departs in a significant way from the Buddhism that Nichiren taught.


Right, so what did Nichiren teach?

I think to answer this, you have to look at the broader message he taught, and then understand how worldly benefits fit in.

According to Nichiren - there is one thing going on in all times and all places - the revelation of the Lotus Sutra by the Buddha and progressive awakening by ignorant beings.

The key to understanding this is through the lens of the Tientai/Tendai doctrine of Trichiliocosm in a Single Moment of Mind. I won't go into trying to explain this sprawling concept (if interested, Brook Ziporyn's Evil and/or/as Good includes an excellent, albeit dense, explanation of the concept). I'll just skip to some pithy statements that characterize Nichiren's teachings in the mythological language of the Lotus Sutra -

The Buddha is understood to be timeless/eternal. He has always been in the world, teaching the Lotus Sutra and revealing the True Aspect of Reality to all beings; sometimes he appears as himself, sometimes he appears as others; he is always asking himself, "How do I quickly lead beings to attain the body of the Buddha?" and ever acting on this impulse, he responds to the needs of beings in immeasurable ways. All of us, by virtue of the Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds, are taking part in the revelation of the Lotus Sutra - whether we realize it or not. We are at once awakening ourselves (seeking above; practice for oneself) and awakening others (edify below; practice for others). This is constantly going on in some context at all times. Sometimes you are learning from the Buddha, sometimes you are doing the Buddha's work - and actually, both are happening at all times.

Bob Thurman talks about the Long Tale - at some distant point in the future, each of us will attain full blown Buddhahood, and looking back over the aeons we struggled, we will see that we were enlightened the whole time. Nichiren teaches that rather than waiting for that future vantage point, assume that perspective NOW through the power of pure, sincere faith in your Buddhahood and the Buddhahood of all beings.

Now, based on this Trichiliocosm in a Single Moment of Mind, the Dharmadhatu is considered real (as well as empty, these truths being mutually entailing - see Tientai Inclusive Threefold Truth; See Ng's Tientai and Early Madhyamika). As such, the practice of BuddhaDharma is understood to have real effects in this world. These real effects are both spiritual and material - because all reality is both spiritual and material. Material benefits ARE spiritual benefits, spiritual benefits are material benefits.

It follows that one seeking material benefit based on their devotion to the Lotus Sutra would have their prayers answered. After all, even praying for money is an expedient means that leads to enlightenment. If you don't get your prayers for powerball numbers right, then perhaps what you really need is to question the nature of your prayer and how it accords with reality; perhaps the expectation was a wrong view to begin with and not hitting the lotto was the Buddha's teaching you to direct your practice in another direction... If you do hit it, then "hey hey hey! It works!" This is the "law of fives" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discordianism#Law_of_Fives, the punch line in the case of Nichiren Buddhism being - "Continue your efforts for Buddhahood, and never cease."

That's the way I see it, anyway. Does it Chanting for material benefits really work? Of course it does. As does the law of fives.

I watched for years as my mother, a founding member of Soka Gakkai in the US, counseled people facing real life struggles. There is a reason why no other Buddhist organization has been able to make inroads into such a diverse population - not everyone is a privileged middle class college educated white person. Real people have real problems, not just first world problems http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35kv9g/. I saw people in mentally and physically abusive relationships, with no money and crying kids to take care of grasping for the least hint of hope in life. They didn't need the Buddha to tell them that life is suffering. What they needed was something to hope on and give them the strength to keep forging on in their life.

"Chant for the money to pay the rent."

In practical terms, as meditators know, meditating is a great way to calm the mind. Chanting is particularly effective - especially when the mind is so distracted it would be impossible to count breaths or anything subtle like that. Sometimes people need some time to catch their breath, buy themselves some momentary piece of mind, and just have the smallest sliver of hope to keep going. I saw people faced with incredible odds, take the actions necessary to, for example, make rent - along the lines of the person chanting for a bass boat. Don't underestimate the magnitude of accomplishment in making rent when one is holding on to their place in the world by a thread. Until you've had to counsel someone through a terrible time in their life, or employed it on yourself!, I don't think you can appreciate what a little "law of fives" magic can do.

And when the rent is paid, when the kids are fed, when the immediate danger is passed, when we have been lured out of the burning house with promise of goat carts, horse carts and ox carts, and some of the advantages that enable us to undertake Buddhist practice are secured, then one can start worrying about the True Aspect of Reality and all that stuff the 'elite' Buddhists think is what Buddhism is really about.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Queequeg » Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:47 pm

By the way, in case its not obvious... I'm joking.

But serious.

Serious.

But joking.

Actually I am serious.

Not really.

Really.

Real.

Well. Maybe its an unfunny joke. Maybe its real, but funny.

Life is strange. When you figure it out, in all seriousness, please let us know what to make of it.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:54 am

Queequeg wrote:I watched for years as my mother, a founding member of Soka Gakkai in the US, counseled people facing real life struggles. There is a reason why no other Buddhist organization has been able to make inroads into such a diverse population - not everyone is a privileged middle class college educated white person. Real people have real problems, not just first world problems http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35kv9g/. I saw people in mentally and physically abusive relationships, with no money and crying kids to take care of grasping for the least hint of hope in life. They didn't need the Buddha to tell them that life is suffering. What they needed was something to hope on and give them the strength to keep forging on in their life.

And when the rent is paid, when the kids are fed, when the immediate danger is passed, when we have been lured out of the burning house with promise of goat carts, horse carts and ox carts, and some of the advantages that enable us to undertake Buddhist practice are secured, then one can start worrying about the True Aspect of Reality and all that stuff the 'elite' Buddhists think is what Buddhism is really about.


Wow. :applause: Thank you. Excellent answer.

Again, it's not my goal to start controversy here.... I should preface this by mentioning something anyone can see by clicking on any of my videos (link in signature): I am an American white male. So, I'm not "bashing" white people in what I'm about to write. In fact, I'm really just stating what is common knowledge. It's well known that Buddhism in this country is, for the most part, the domain of the white middle class. And it seems to me that what the American white middle class likes most about Buddhism are the very sophisticated teachings such as "All life is suffering," and the calm, quiet meditations, and, perhaps most to the point for this topic, the white American middle class likes the teaching of "non-attachment." I think that this is where the SGI practice of chanting for material things really irritates the white middle class Buddhist community in the US: Buddhism, so it is said, is about accepting that all life is suffering and practicing non-attachment -- so any Buddhist school that teaches that as a result of their practice one can attain worldly goods is obviously "not Buddhist."

I've mentioned many times in these discussions that I'm "not a member of SGI," but I'm obviously very interested in SGI or else I wouldn't keep asking these questions. One reason I'm interested in SGI is precisely because it is so multi-cultural, as is my own life history. While I'm a "white male," my (step)father (the only father I ever knew) was Mexican American; I spent my childhood living in a Mexican community, and my teen years living in a black community. (My Mexican American stepfather was friends with civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. I'm the little white boy in this advertisment on the Oregon State University website: http://oregondigital.org/cdm4/item_view ... =/cultural ) In short, SGI is the only branch of American Buddhism that seems to mirror my own multi-cultural life experience. I've read that as much as 10% of SGI membership is black, whereas I think in most other American Buddhist schools it's something like 1%.

And I can say that that is an excellent way to put it: many people don't need Buddhism to let them know that "life is suffering." I will say that, for me, I already knew this. And it wasn't until I found SGI/Nichiren Buddhism that I really started to "practice" Buddhism -- because the way it is presented in the American mainstream, it sounds very gloomy. I'm one of those people who doesn't need to be told that all life is suffering. I'm one of the few members of my family to make it to adulthood free of addiction (drug/alcohol); I recently lost half of my family (one to a drug overdose), etc.

It's really interesting when you think about it. This series of articles was recently published on the Tricycle website: http://www.tricycle.com/buddhist-tradit ... n-buddhism The introduction to these articles refers to the way that Buddhism has been presented to an American audience. When you think about it, what this really means is "the way white scholars brought back from Asia aspects of Buddhism that they liked, and the way they presented those aspects of Buddhism to a largely white audience." Contrast this with the article I link to above which claims that SGI came to the US via the Japanese wives of black US males (soldiers) who had been stationed in Japan.

Anyway, thanks again for the great response. :smile:
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Queequeg » Sat Sep 22, 2012 4:37 pm

If it wasn't for the dead end Mentor-Disciple doctrines and Ikeda worship, I probably would have stuck with SGI despite their continued attachment to Nichiren Shoshu interpretations - as outlandish as Shoshu doctrines seem to me, they are better than the Mentor-Disciple nonsense. I would encourage people to practice with them if I knew who was going to guide their practice - but there are just too many people with very little understanding of Buddhism put into positions of authority who have absolutely no business guiding another's Buddhist training. In many cases, its the blind leading the blind and the best that can be said is the members of these groups flounder around together, rather than by themselves, seeking and trying to learn Buddhadharma through all the organizational nonsense.

With that said, if people want to check it out, they should. It seems to work for a lot of people. I'm just not sure its the best way to learn Buddhism.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby OregonBuddhist » Thu Sep 27, 2012 4:47 am

Thank you for all of the responses. I don't want to flood the board with my own questions, so I'll post this question here, even though it is only quasi-related to the topic at hand: When chanting, does it "matter" if one keeps one's eyes open or not? Thanks.
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Queequeg » Thu Sep 27, 2012 2:13 pm

In my experience, it does not matter. We often practice in front of a mandala. I was taught to focus my gaze on the "myoho" "妙法" characters of the Daimoku, and that's what I do. However, I also chant the Daimoku to myself all the time - walking down the street, laying in bed, brushing my teeth, watching football games I have money riding on... just kidding about the last one. I stopped doing that a long time ago.

I've always thought it would be difficult for people who can't read the characters on the mandala to know what they are looking at. What good is staring at a bunch of calligraphy?

It might be good to understand what one is looking at when looking on the Gohonzon, and understand its symbolic meaning. This would be appropriate for another thread. Then you might find the answer for eye open or closed for yourself.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby DavidTTS » Fri Sep 28, 2012 4:09 pm

Nichiren Daishonin was very clear about all this, writing:
"More valuable than the treasures in a storehouse are the treasures of the body, and the treasures of the heart are the most valuable of all. From the time you read this letter on, strive to accumulate the treasures of the heart!”

In a nutshell:
1. treasures of the storehouse – material wealth, possessions, tangible stuff
2. treasures of the body – health but this also means your skills and reputation, including fame
3. treasures of the heart – Buddha qualities such as courage, wisdom, compassion, joy etc...

Yes, Nichiren Buddhism is different in that chanting to fulfil material desires is regarded as absolutely fine. When Nichiren Buddhism began to expand quickly in the West, the media picked up on this angle and blew it up out of all proportion. I have found that by chanting for 'treasures of the storehouse' I have needed to develop 'treasures of the heart' such as determination, wisdom, courage and so on. As Nichiren says, these are much more important.

During my 27 years of practice, I have also learned that you build a fragile kind of happiness when you make money or fame, rather than Buddhahood, your ‘object of worship’. When you measure your happiness only in hectares and horsepower. When you make money your obsession or your raison d’etre. When you have the illusion that winning the lottery or adulation will definitely make you happy. When you forget that there are miserable people in mansions, from Birmingham to Boston to Brisbane and beyond.

Nichiren writes elsewhere: “Though you may move among the most exalted company of court nobles, your hair done up elegantly like clouds and your sleeves fluttering like eddies of snow, such pleasures, when you stop to consider them, are no more than a dream within a dream. You must come to rest at last under the carpet of weeds at the foot of the hill, and all your jewelled daisies and brocade hangings will mean nothing to you on the road to the afterlife.”

In other words, you can't take it with you. By contrast 'treasures of the heart' can never be destroyed, even by death.

all best, David
DavidTTS
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2012 12:19 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby OregonBuddhist » Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:10 pm

Thank you.

I've heard the term "Desires are enlightenment," but I'm not sure if I should trust that this comes from Nichiren himself. Does anyone know? Thanks.
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby kirtu » Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:28 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:Thank you.

I've heard the term "Desires are enlightenment," but I'm not sure if I should trust that this comes from Nichiren himself. Does anyone know? Thanks.


Well it surely comes from Tendai.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4570
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Jikan » Sat Sep 29, 2012 12:28 am

Kirt is right. Chih-i (Zhiyi) produced a number of radical claims: that evil is, in a sense, precisely good (for instance). It's not an invitation to indulgence, hatred, or stupidity, or passivity for that matter. It means that awakening is to be found in everyday experience, inclusive of the afflictive emotions. Without ignorance, could wisdom ever emerge?
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 5515
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:11 am

Queequeg wrote:In my experience, it does not matter. We often practice in front of a mandala. I was taught to focus my gaze on the "myoho" "妙法" characters of the Daimoku, and that's what I do. However, I also chant the Daimoku to myself all the time - walking down the street, laying in bed, brushing my teeth, watching football games I have money riding on... just kidding about the last one. I stopped doing that a long time ago.

I've always thought it would be difficult for people who can't read the characters on the mandala to know what they are looking at. What good is staring at a bunch of calligraphy?

It might be good to understand what one is looking at when looking on the Gohonzon, and understand its symbolic meaning. This would be appropriate for another thread. Then you might find the answer for eye open or closed for yourself.


Thank you very much for the response. That's a relief. I know, ultimately, that I can chant however I want. I mean, "it's a free country" as they say. But I want to get the full benefit, and I was concerned that maybe my tendency to chant with my eyes closed is preventing me from getting the full benefit.

What prompted this question was that an SGI member posted it on this video of my chanting ... um ... for Courtney Love. It's a long, unusual story (which I tell in the video, for those interested). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7GwTiheAmA
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Sep 29, 2012 9:13 am

Jikan wrote:Kirt is right. Chih-i (Zhiyi) produced a number of radical claims: that evil is, in a sense, precisely good (for instance). It's not an invitation to indulgence, hatred, or stupidity, or passivity for that matter. It means that awakening is to be found in everyday experience, inclusive of the afflictive emotions. Without ignorance, could wisdom ever emerge?


Oh, very interesting. Thank you.
OregonBuddhist
 
Posts: 130
Joined: Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:28 pm
Location: Oregon

Re: The SGI practice of chanting for material outcomes

Postby Queequeg » Sat Sep 29, 2012 8:36 pm

Jikan wrote:Kirt is right. Chih-i (Zhiyi) produced a number of radical claims: that evil is, in a sense, precisely good (for instance)... It means that awakening is to be found in everyday experience, inclusive of the afflictive emotions. Without ignorance, could wisdom ever emerge?


Hi Jikan,

It is more than just that awakening is to be found in everyday experience, at least in the sense that awakening is somehow distinguishable from ignorance; that would be a Provisional Mahayana or Separate View to put it in terms of Zhiyi's 4 Teachings.

In Ziporyn's language, everyday experience as awakening; ignorance as wisdom. Or, quite literally, in traditional Mahayana language, Samsara is Nirvana; Klesas are Bodhi. I think in other forms of Mahayana these statements generate a lot of footnotes to make them conform to widely held conceptions, but from the Tientai perspective, they can stand literally.

From Mo-ho Chih-kuan, Swanson Tr. p. 21-22:

The perfect-and-sudden [method of practicing cessation-and-contemplation] involves taking the true aspects [of reality] as the object from the very beginning. Whatever is made to be the object [of contemplation], it is the Middle; there is nothing that is not truly real. [When one attains the state of contemplation wherein] reality itself (dharmadhatu) is fixed as the object [of contemplation], and thoughts are integrated with reality itself, [then one realizes that] there is not a single color or scent that is not the Middle Way. It is the same for the realm of the individual, the realm of Buddhas, and the world at large. All [phenomena experienced through] the aggregates (skandha) and senses (ayatana) are thusness; therefore there is no [substantial] suffering that needs to be removed. Since ignorance (avidya) and the exhausting dust [of passionate afflictions (kleša)] are indivisible with bodhi-wisdom, there is no origin [of suffering; i.e., craving] to be severed. Since the extreme [dualities] and false [views] are [indivisible with] the Middle and what is right, there is no path to be cultivated. Since [this cyclic world of] samsara is [indivisible with] nirvana, there is no extinguishing [of craving] to be realized. Since suffering and its causes do not exist [substantially], there is no mundane world [to be transcended]; since the path and the extinction [of craving] do not exist [substantially], there is no transcendent world [to be gained]. There is purely the single true aspect [of reality-as-it-is]; there are no separate things outside this true aspect. For things in themselves (dharmata) to be quiescent is called “cessation”; to be quiescent yet ever luminous is called “contemplation.” Though earlier and later [stages] are spoken of, they are neither two nor separate. This is called perfect-and-sudden cessation-and-contemplation.


Radical.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm


Return to Nichiren

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 9 guests

>