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Cult or Culture (part 7)

March 26, 2012

…meeting I needed to attend.

I attended what I learned was my district meeting. Within a few days I got a call to inform me about attending my district meeting. I told the happy voice on the other end of the phone that I had just gone to my district meeting, only to learn that there was always a district meeting that I would need to attend. Who knew?

The community of chanters was divvied up by location into little parcels of people called districts. The district meetings had a strict format of regimented activities that happened at every meeting. There was the sign-in sheet. You had to sign in because detailed accountings of how many people came to each meeting were carefully recorded. There was of course the group chanting, which I knew by then was formally called daimoku, followed by the group gongyo. Then there was the introduction of the guests – you had to bring a guest. Ok, you didn’t really have to, but doing so meant you were upholding your responsibility to get everyone on the planet to chant the famous four words to the great and powerful Gohonzon. When that happened there would be kosen Rufu aka world peace. Just so you know.

Next there would be the experience – which was always some story told by one of the members about how chanting the famous four words had saved him or her from some diabolical predicament. Then there would be the final guidance – which was words of encouragement, always paraphrased directly from one of the two publications each member was required to subscribe to – given by a senior leader who would be invited to close the meeting. Then there would be the collection of the fees to keep the publication subscriptions current…members would be warned of the possibility of experiencing a World Tribu… lation if they stopped subscribing to the publications. Then there would be the potluck.

Each district would have an unspoken popularity contest to see which district could get the “best” senior leader to come give final guidance at their district’s meeting. The higher up on the Culture Center Clutch food chain, the better the senior leader. I mean who would want a group leader to speak at their meeting if they could get a chapter chief? Secretly, each district wished that the man with the glasses would breeze in from Japan to speak at their district meeting and secretly everyone believed that if they could just get enough shakabukus that their efforts would be rewarded by a surprise visit from the him or maybe he would send a telegram or some other kind of personal recognition as a thank you for being great cogs in the wheel of world peace.

Each segment of the district meeting began and ended with rip roaring applause and cheers, of the hip hip hooray variety Japanese style… “Today we have 1 new member and 2 guests at our meeting!…A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh!…Now we will have an experience from Cindy Rella!…A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh!…Thank you Cindy Rella for that inspiring experience…A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh!”

The more excited you appeared to be meant the more elevated your life condition was. And the more elevated your life condition was meant the more benefits you would experience from chanting the four famous words to the great and powerful Gohonzon.

I never felt the excitement my fellow district members felt and I felt really silly bellowing out a robust course of A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh! A-A-Oh! – Every time anyone so much as belched. And there would be belching because there would always be food – food that the members signed up to bring to each meeting – the potluck. I tasted my first octopus at one meeting. I didn’t like it. I tasted my first steamed gyozas at another meeting and I still order them at restaurants today!

The meetings always felt like pep rallies never like what I imaged the cultivation of a Buddhist faith tradition should feel like. No one ever quoted or even mentioned the Buddha or his teachings at any of the many meetings. But the man with the glasses got top billing at every meeting every time. Each home where the meetings were held had their own photograph of the man with the glasses parked next to their butsadan. But I never noticed any of the homes to have any kind of picture of the actual Buddha anywhere on the premises. I always wanted ask about that, but I never did.

One day I couldn’t stand it anymore and I finally asked the young lady who had been assigned as my go to person way back at the very first meeting I attended, “What are we actually saying when we are saying gongyo?” She told me, “The words tell a long story about the Buddha, but you don’t need to know what the words mean, you just need to say them.” So then I asked, “Well where can I read the long story? I’d really like to read it.” She told me, “The story is in a big book – I think I have one somewhere, I’ll try to find it for you.” She never did. I began asking other members of the Culture Center Clutch if they had ever read the long story in the big book I had been told of or if they knew what the words of gongyo actually meant? Some told me they had read it, most told me they had not but all told me it wasn’t important that I knew what the words meant, it was only important that I continue to say the words…TO BE CONTINUED.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chico permalink
    March 27, 2012 11:30 am

    A religious/spiritual cult is one of the most diabolical kind because it messes you up deep inside and takes years to overcome. I know.

  2. rougebuddha permalink
    March 27, 2012 5:11 pm

    I’ll say! Thank you for commenting, Chico.

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