From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

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justsomeguy
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Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:53 pm

From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

Post by justsomeguy »

Hello all!

I've lurked around this forum on and off for the last few years since I joined NST in 2017. Since the time I started practicing, my enthusiasm for the practice has ebbed and flowed. I'd say it's definitely ebbing at this point, but I don't want to let it go entirely without a fair shake. So I post this wondering if anyone has come from a similar background as I and can relate to my internal misgivings about the practice.

I was born and raised in the southern United States, which many of you might know is a Christian hotspot, particularly evangelical. As a young teen I had dropped the holy-roller lifestyle of many of my relatives and became a Catholic because I appreciated the reverence, ceremony and structure of the religion. Despite my desire to make it work, though, I eventually saw through it all and dropped it altogether. I credit being a philosophy major for pushing me to question the things I had been taught, that questioning ultimately resulting in me living the majority of my life as an atheist.

About three years ago though, I felt the need to have some of those old elements back in my life, and as I had always had a respect for Buddhism even as an atheist, I stumbled across Myosenji Temple in D.C. and decided to give it a go. It ticked a lot of the boxes I was looking for: ceremony, reverence, structure, etc. I went strong for a while, but eventually I have to admit, I sensed a lack of depth that eventually I couldn't ignore. The stress is also chant, chant, chant. Got a problem? Chant. Now I know chanting isn't specific to NST, so maybe it's like this in the other Nichiren branches, I don't know. But is that really all there is to it? Deep-seated questions about why we do things this way, or why the temple says this or that require more than "just chant". The majority of publications available about NST are geared at new practitioners and fail to answer less than superficial questions. Questions such as, "How does chanting work," I feel are very fair questions when asking someone to chant for hours a day. We're asked to have faith in the Gohonzon, but to the skeptic coming in from the outside, that means nothing... especially to someone who has escaped the oppression of Christianity and its demands for blind faith. New practitioners need and deserve substance. The monthly magazine, Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, is generally the same theme each cycle: chant as much as you can and refute false religions through shakubuku. How am I supposed to refute anything when I can't answer any serious question about my own religion? It just seems that there is no good material out there that doesn't come across as encouragement of blind acceptance.

My thoughts are a bit jumbled and I'm struggling to articulate my frustration, but please don't take this as an insult to the faith. I'm sure there is something I am just missing, and I genuinely want to figure out what that is. Some might say my skepticism is a hindrance, but skepticism protects one from falling into traps. I can't NOT question the insistence on practice and faith without some sort of "academic" understanding (vs. referring to the Gosho or being told to "chant about it").

Has anyone else faced this, and how did you get around it? Or have you gotten around it? It can't be as superficial as it seems; it has to be me.

~Bobby
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Shotenzenjin
Posts: 240
Joined: Tue Jun 16, 2020 11:23 pm

Re: From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

Post by Shotenzenjin »

justsomeguy wrote: Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:33 pm Hello all!

I've lurked around this forum on and off for the last few years since I joined NST in 2017. Since the time I started practicing, my enthusiasm for the practice has ebbed and flowed. I'd say it's definitely ebbing at this point, but I don't want to let it go entirely without a fair shake. So I post this wondering if anyone has come from a similar background as I and can relate to my internal misgivings about the practice.

I was born and raised in the southern United States, which many of you might know is a Christian hotspot, particularly evangelical. As a young teen I had dropped the holy-roller lifestyle of many of my relatives and became a Catholic because I appreciated the reverence, ceremony and structure of the religion. Despite my desire to make it work, though, I eventually saw through it all and dropped it altogether. I credit being a philosophy major for pushing me to question the things I had been taught, that questioning ultimately resulting in me living the majority of my life as an atheist.

About three years ago though, I felt the need to have some of those old elements back in my life, and as I had always had a respect for Buddhism even as an atheist, I stumbled across Myosenji Temple in D.C. and decided to give it a go. It ticked a lot of the boxes I was looking for: ceremony, reverence, structure, etc. I went strong for a while, but eventually I have to admit, I sensed a lack of depth that eventually I couldn't ignore. The stress is also chant, chant, chant. Got a problem? Chant. Now I know chanting isn't specific to NST, so maybe it's like this in the other Nichiren branches, I don't know. But is that really all there is to it? Deep-seated questions about why we do things this way, or why the temple says this or that require more than "just chant". The majority of publications available about NST are geared at new practitioners and fail to answer less than superficial questions. Questions such as, "How does chanting work," I feel are very fair questions when asking someone to chant for hours a day. We're asked to have faith in the Gohonzon, but to the skeptic coming in from the outside, that means nothing... especially to someone who has escaped the oppression of Christianity and its demands for blind faith. New practitioners need and deserve substance. The monthly magazine, Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, is generally the same theme each cycle: chant as much as you can and refute false religions through shakubuku. How am I supposed to refute anything when I can't answer any serious question about my own religion? It just seems that there is no good material out there that doesn't come across as encouragement of blind acceptance.

My thoughts are a bit jumbled and I'm struggling to articulate my frustration, but please don't take this as an insult to the faith. I'm sure there is something I am just missing, and I genuinely want to figure out what that is. Some might say my skepticism is a hindrance, but skepticism protects one from falling into traps. I can't NOT question the insistence on practice and faith without some sort of "academic" understanding (vs. referring to the Gosho or being told to "chant about it").

Has anyone else faced this, and how did you get around it? Or have you gotten around it? It can't be as superficial as it seems; it has to be me.

~Bobby
Hello justsomeguy
Interesting post and thanks for sharing. My alma mater is Gallaudet in D C. I didnt come from an atheist perspective so can't discuss that too much.

Have you read doctrine and practices of Nichiren shoshu?
Generation's shall pass, our determination shall grow, at the foot of Mount Fuji
Like smoke that reaches far beyond the clouds.--nichimoku shonin. Third high priest of Nichiren Shoshu

Hokekko of true Buddhism https://nstny.org

Introduction to Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism
https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source= ... VKyEQ_cxK9
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

To really have confidence in the Buddhist teachings,
one needs to confront all doubts. Otherwise you are just playing a lying game with yourself.
At the same time, wanting everything to be “logical” is also a kind of trap, in terms of ego and self-grasping. We feel safe when everything is firmly and squarely planted on the ground. In itself, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with wanting things to make sense, all tucked in, no loose ends, no questions unanswered. Everybody likes to be right.

So, when things challenge logic, they challenge ego. Cutting through self-grasping and attachment is a dangerous prospect. You might be wrong. It might be illogical. Delusional. That’s actually really scary stuff, to the ego, anyway. Especially if you take pride in being smart, well educated, intellectually inquisitive. To suddenly toss all that aside and what... surrender to “superstition”? Self grasping says:
Oh no!! I couldn’t do that!

A Pure-Land school practitioner I know, who is very intellectual, very logical, scientific, calls faith and chanting “brilliantly stupid” (its a compliment, not an insult) meaning that it’s so simple, so lacking in “reason and logic” that it chops through ego clinging, cuts through the need to hold on. You just do it, like sky diving.
In some ways, this is not that much different in principle than a zen koan.
...
Be kindness
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justsomeguy
Posts: 50
Joined: Mon Nov 13, 2017 3:53 pm

Re: From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

Post by justsomeguy »

Shotenzenjin wrote: Fri Sep 11, 2020 12:08 am
justsomeguy wrote: Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:33 pm Hello all!

I've lurked around this forum on and off for the last few years since I joined NST in 2017. Since the time I started practicing, my enthusiasm for the practice has ebbed and flowed. I'd say it's definitely ebbing at this point, but I don't want to let it go entirely without a fair shake. So I post this wondering if anyone has come from a similar background as I and can relate to my internal misgivings about the practice.

I was born and raised in the southern United States, which many of you might know is a Christian hotspot, particularly evangelical. As a young teen I had dropped the holy-roller lifestyle of many of my relatives and became a Catholic because I appreciated the reverence, ceremony and structure of the religion. Despite my desire to make it work, though, I eventually saw through it all and dropped it altogether. I credit being a philosophy major for pushing me to question the things I had been taught, that questioning ultimately resulting in me living the majority of my life as an atheist.

About three years ago though, I felt the need to have some of those old elements back in my life, and as I had always had a respect for Buddhism even as an atheist, I stumbled across Myosenji Temple in D.C. and decided to give it a go. It ticked a lot of the boxes I was looking for: ceremony, reverence, structure, etc. I went strong for a while, but eventually I have to admit, I sensed a lack of depth that eventually I couldn't ignore. The stress is also chant, chant, chant. Got a problem? Chant. Now I know chanting isn't specific to NST, so maybe it's like this in the other Nichiren branches, I don't know. But is that really all there is to it? Deep-seated questions about why we do things this way, or why the temple says this or that require more than "just chant". The majority of publications available about NST are geared at new practitioners and fail to answer less than superficial questions. Questions such as, "How does chanting work," I feel are very fair questions when asking someone to chant for hours a day. We're asked to have faith in the Gohonzon, but to the skeptic coming in from the outside, that means nothing... especially to someone who has escaped the oppression of Christianity and its demands for blind faith. New practitioners need and deserve substance. The monthly magazine, Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, is generally the same theme each cycle: chant as much as you can and refute false religions through shakubuku. How am I supposed to refute anything when I can't answer any serious question about my own religion? It just seems that there is no good material out there that doesn't come across as encouragement of blind acceptance.

My thoughts are a bit jumbled and I'm struggling to articulate my frustration, but please don't take this as an insult to the faith. I'm sure there is something I am just missing, and I genuinely want to figure out what that is. Some might say my skepticism is a hindrance, but skepticism protects one from falling into traps. I can't NOT question the insistence on practice and faith without some sort of "academic" understanding (vs. referring to the Gosho or being told to "chant about it").

Has anyone else faced this, and how did you get around it? Or have you gotten around it? It can't be as superficial as it seems; it has to be me.

~Bobby
Hello justsomeguy
Interesting post and thanks for sharing. My alma mater is Gallaudet in D C. I didnt come from an atheist perspective so can't discuss that too much.

Have you read doctrine and practices of Nichiren shoshu?
Hey thanks and thanks for the response. :)

Yeah I have read all that. I've read all the stuff that the temple provides, and I do think they have the best of intentions and they serve their function of instructing the people, but all that is geared toward how to practice. I've definitely gone through the motions, waiting for something to click. I guess, to be more specific, what I look for is external corroboration. Something to tell me "Why" I would believe in in the doctrines and practices that doesn't come from the Temple or the Gosho. Otherwise, it would be like giving someone a Bible and asking them to have faith in it, and when they ask "why", telling them that the Bible says one should.
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Minobu
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Re: From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

Post by Minobu »

I was brought up in a Catholic family with a father who became an atheist ...he bullied me into not believing in god...peer pressure galore..

he got ill , i found this practice and it cured him of leukemia..he had been living on blood transfusions for over two years due to his bone marrow being totally dead...it came back in a few places enough to make him live free of transfusions..

He became a Buddhist and i never knew until i read the Bible about ten years ago...but in Gakki meetings he would always input all these wise sayings i never heard of...later like 30 years later i found out they were all twists on biblical stories lol...

anyway i tried to be a christian about ten years ago and it was impossible even though this really weird thing happened for me to start..

but i respect the teachings..they are all here due to Buddha's Dharmakaya and Turning the the Dharma Wheel.


i've seen you around here...

the ebb and flow ...the ebb and flow...i've had my times with the on and off...hence my even trying out christianity well after this practice and a 5 year stint in immersing myself in Tibetan teachings. thats weird...

nothing wrong with the ebb and flow ...cause i know when you don't practice you still are conditioned to see it in your daily life...you just are not doing gongyo and chanting...but it is still there...you will never escape that.
narhwal90
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Joined: Mon Jan 25, 2016 3:10 am

Re: From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

Post by narhwal90 »

I've had a similar reaction pretty much since day 1 in NSA and stil in SGI 30-some years later. The recommendation was always "chant about it" but there was never a 'click' where everything became obvious- where I suddenly developed the certainty that some seem to have. Even now in discussion meetings various claims of fact are often made with nothing more than anecdotal evidence, at best. Its been like that way so long that I don't wonder about it much anymore. I don't find the SGI pubs very helpful.. lots of stories and vague untestable statements of how it works- lots of "getting into alignment with the universe" kind of stuff- not my sort of thing at all.

That said, I've been doubling down and diversifying my practicefor the last few years and that has changed my perspective a lot. I've also been hanging out with a zen sangha and very much living the same sort of skepticism when people start talking in that maddening zen way. But its not a question of thinking Zen is right and Nichiren is wrong, or even relative effectiveness or merits- but that I find a qualitative aspect of practice is changing more and more. There is development of a day-to-day relevance of the instruction with respect to conduct of mind, awareness of choice rather than being driven by habit or instinct.

I value the Nichiren practice highly in this two-pronged space; he is all about action, make the practice happen- get the changes going and fear nothing. The minute examination and observation of mind that Zen affords reveals habits, attitudes, views- makes established habits of mind into choices. The network of sutras gives clear instruction with respect to ethics and attitude.

Why should someone believe Nichiren? I don't know. 2 yrs ago when I was laid up in hospital from a motorcycle wreck I had his example in mind and a practice that gave me courage through several sweaty painful nights. His practices bring large groups together in fellowship, my SGI peeps were burning up my phone at the time. That kind of outreach in the community is common in SGI, I imagine it is in N.Shoshu also. That was something of a click for me. Its is possible I bring expectations of what a 'click' is or should be, and neglect to observe other sorts of 'clicks' if you will. So I find I have more patience with the SGI methods, I go to discussion meetings and try to participate and offer something relevant rather than trying to get something.
tkp67
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Re: From Atheism to Nichiren Shoshu

Post by tkp67 »

Everything including ignorance, atheism and theism are products of the sentient mind. If they didn't have real consequence there would be no need for the buddha's teachings.

I think it is paramount to challenge one's own perceptions in the regards to one's own atheism and/or theistic views. They are products of the sentient mind (as are the ten realms). Without an intimate understanding of these realms in one's own life how can one hope to understand the mutual possession especially for the sake of liberating others?

I do believe if one can grasp the evil paths this can open the door to understanding the others.
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