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Cult or Culture (part 5)

March 24, 2012

I listened

As for the actual Buddhism part of the night, the only thing I recalled hearing from anyone presiding over the meeting was that Nam Myoho Renge Kyo was Shakyamuni Buddha’s highest teaching. This was news to me, since I didn’t know what any of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings were – neither the highest ones nor the lower ones.

All the cheerful people sitting on the row with Evelyn and I encouraged me to ask questions, but I had no idea what questions to ask… I could have asked anything, from, what the hell are you people actually chanting? …To, why are you chanting it to a big piece of paper inside a big black box? Or, where can I get a big bold bell like the one on stage? Or, who is the man with the glasses in the picture on the wall next to the American flag? Or, why isn’t there a picture of the Buddha anywhere on the premises? I may not have known any of Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings but I certainly knew what his image looked like, when I saw it and I never recalled him to be Japanese or to wear glasses.

Anything I would have asked seemed it would have been rude or mocking and everyone had been so nice to me – I didn’t want to insult anyone by simply not being into what they all seemed to be into. Besides it appeared that everyone was delighted to be there. So it had to be me who didn’t know what I didn’t know. In lieu of asking any of my many internal questions I just sat back and enjoyed the show. It was entertaining. I couldn’t say I would describe it as any kind of spiritual or religious experience, but it was definitely entertaining.

After the meeting was over what I remembered most about the night was how weird it all seemed…the shoes, the giant box thingy with the giant foreign writing I couldn’t read inside of it, the big bell, the burning incense, the beads, and my new appointed friend from the young women’s division.

I thought the people I had met were very nice and very friendly but equally as crazy…fuggin nuts, actually. Even my dear friend Evelyn who I knew was a little different from the start, surely had to be stark raving nuts too, I thought – if she was swallowing this pony show hook line and sinker. And she was. She sincerely believed repeating the words nam myoho renge kyo over and over for hours at a time made her happy, and that it would make me happy too if I continued to do it.

Days later I began to wonder if I was also fuggin nuts, when I wanted to go back again. Not because I had tapped into my happiness but because I just had to go again to see if everything I saw was really everything I saw.

I returned to the Culture Center for many more new members’ meetings. Sometimes Evelyn would go with me and sometimes I would go alone. Everyone. And I do mean everyone, from all the people with titles I met my first night there to the little old Japanese lady working in the Center’s butsadan store, to the miscellaneous strangers who would strike up conversation with when I would exit the Center, all seemed to remember seeing me. Many of them remembered my name and all of them encouraged me to receive my own Gohonzon.

This was another red flag. I figured the Gohonzon must cost a lot of money and that’s got to be the racket – ah ha! There it is. But nope the Gohonzon was free – no charge…okay maybe a tiny processing fee would be charged since the Gohonzon had to travel all the way from Japan. But the fee also included a lovely weekly newspaper chocked full of the “Buddhist” Cultural Center’s community goings on and happenings, happening all over the world. For only a few dollars more I could also get a colorful glossy magazine chocked full of more goings on and happenings and experiences of triumph over hardship and adversity and personal stories about the accolades, accomplishments and honorary degrees the man with the glasses in the picture on the wall near the butsadan received with frequent regularity.

Despite my reservations, and the growing number of the red flags, it did not take very not long before I agreed to receive a Gohonzon anyway. Receiving my own household sized Japanese scroll officially made me a member of the Culture Center – which officially made me a “Buddhist.” The ceremony to bestow my Buddhahood upon me, took place after a 60-mile drive, with a car full of strangers to a secluded Buddhist temple. CRIMSOM FLAG! …TO BE CONTINUED

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. nichiju permalink
    March 25, 2012 12:59 am

    Great read. Well written.

  2. Shawnna permalink
    March 25, 2012 2:12 pm

    You’re leaving me hanging!!!!

    • rougebuddha permalink
      March 25, 2012 3:07 pm

      Thanks nichiju – the story continues.

    • rougebuddha permalink
      March 25, 2012 3:09 pm

      Shawnna!!! I figured no one would read it all at once. Ha! It took a whole 30 years to happen!

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