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Cult or Culture (part 4)

March 23, 2012

We began to chant and…

I realized, you didn’t just say the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo once then go on with I your day, as I had done over the years. Oh no. The people there had been chanting it over and over for hours! Next, a kind young looking Japanese woman was placing beads around my fingers. She explained why, but all I could think was that everyone else had beads so I assumed I was supposed to have some beads too. After the meeting I would learn this kind young lady was in the young women’s division of the organization and she would be paired with me since we were close in age. She would be my go to person, not Evelyn the friend who had brought me – but her, for any questions I had about the practice or if I wanted someone to talk to about anything. This was the second red flag – why would I want to talk to her? I didn’t know her, but still I dismissed it as friendliness.

With my palms pressed together and fingers clad in a string of tiny black beads with little white velvety balls on the ends, we continued chanting, and chanting and chanting until the man facing the altar, leading the chant, struck a resounding metal gong sounding bowl bell, which signaled everyone to stop chanting and pull out little rust colored booklets. Enter more culture shock – lengthy Japanese prayers, called Gongyo, came next.  And to think, for years I thought all you had to do was say a hearty Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, once, like an ancient abracadabra and you’d be good to go.

My newfound “friends” patiently guided me word-by-word through the little booklet. An hour or so later I had completed my first slow Gongyo, including offering silent prayers at the end, for the high priests, for personal fulfillment, and for deceased relatives that were offered while the reverberating bell rang continuously one clang at a time. My finishing the prayers seemed to delight the group even more than my arrival had delighted them. People clapped for me and congratulated me and patted my back as if I had won a prize of some kind. This was the next red flag – a red flag I dismissed as a cultural disconnect I just didn’t understand. Maybe it was like a sorority… I mean when you join one all the other Soros are excited and happy for you – it’s nothing sinister it’s just excitement… right?  After the formal prayers (Gongyo) concluded the floor was opened up for questions. That particular “meeting” was designed specifically for newbies like me who didn’t know anything or know much about the practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, and who had not yet joined the organization, by receiving their own miniature version of the giant scroll that lived inside the elaborate black lacquer box. Various guests, as we were called, when we were not being called shakabukus, asked various questions. Each question was answered succinctly with uncomplicated answers. I listened…TO BE CONTINUED

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