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Cult or Culture (part 2)

March 21, 2012

My friend who had cautiously stood a few paces away through our whole conversation asked, “What was that all about?” I told her what the woman had told me, while showing her the pamphlet. Her response was, “Girl, that’s crazy. Let’s go!” I thought to myself maybe, but maybe not.

Later that day I read the pamphlet like a novel, savoring everything it said about this mystic law, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Somehow it made so much sense and I wondered why I was just then hearing of it. I showed the pamphlet to my mother and asked if she had heard of this mystic law? She said she had, but only vaguely. She agreed it sounded like an interesting concept, but neither encouraged me nor discouraged me to investigate it further. I placed the pamphlet where my 16-year-old self stored all of my important documents – neatly inside of my Holy Bible. I reread the pamphlet everyday and began ending my daily Christian prayers with the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

After a few years, I still had the pamphlet and still, periodically said the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, whenever I found myself in a jam of some sort or wanted something trivial, like a parking space. I used the words like a magic spell. I never saw any evidence the strange mystical words actually worked, but I could have said the same thing about my daily Christian prayers, so I figured they couldn’t hurt.

Around this same time, my mother met a bubbly, unusual sort of woman at a new hire orientation. The huge meeting room was full to capacity with new hires and there were only two available seats, way in the back of the room, when Mother arrived, 15 minutes early. Mother claimed the first empty seat for herself and claimed the second seat for her oversized tote bag. Moments into the meeting, a tardy and talkative woman arrived. This woman excused herself all the way down the row, to the tote bag’s chair, indicating for Mother to move it so she could sit down. Although somewhat annoyed by her, initially, by the end of the meeting the two were instant friends. They learned they would be working in the same department, and shortly after, Mother learned this woman was a Buddhist who chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. I could barely wait to meet her. I had always wanted to know more about those four little words and I wondered could Mom’s new friend be the same woman I met on the street that day.

When I met her we became instant friends as well. She was not the same woman, who gave me the pamphlet, but it felt as if I had known her all of my life. She was funny, energetic and named Evelyn – same as my Grandmother. I adored her immediately. Evelyn had problems just like everyone else but some how even the bleakest of situations never seemed to bother her. I longed to be like that. I never had been. Pretty much everything bothered me and I made sure everybody knew about it. I had a reputation for having a relatively bad attitude and also had the nerve to think it was actually kind of cute.

Evelyn took me to a new member’s meeting at the Buddhist Culture Center. When I arrived, culture shock met me at the door…TO BE CONTINUED

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