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Cult or Culture (part 13)

April 1, 2012

But before going I told myself…

Okay, I’ll go but I will not chant. I’m not interested in chanting and when the cheerful members scoot in next to me to assist me in chanting   and I knew they would, I would firmly explain to them that I knew all about this Nam Myoho Renge Kyo business, thank you very much.  I was only there to support my friend. Now kindly leave me alone, you misguided nitwits!

Of course I’d put a little better spin on it than that but that would be my intent. As it turned out I arrived before my friend arrived. So I went and sat down, folded my arms across my chest and kept watching the door for his arrival. By the time he arrived, with some other friends, there were no seats left for us all to sit together and I ended up sitting alone. But he thanked me for being there and he seemed to have that special kind of happy to be there that most everyone in the Culture Center Clutch always had.  Oh brother…I sighed.

I saw some familiar faces, but no one I knew by name. Some people looked at me with a don’t I know you from somewhere look, but no one asked. A few people came up to me to welcome me to the center asking if I had been there before or if I came on my own or if someone had invited me.  I leaned in and explained to each one who asked, that I was familiar with the practice and I was an invited guest of my friend who would be receiving his Gohonzon that day, then I smiled a closed mouth smile– all code, for: please leave me alone! Really, please.

I held my ground until the silent prayers. It had been years since I had done or even heard gongyo, but when the sound of the giant bowl bell ringing continuously filled the room, my eyes filled with tears. I remembered that part of gongyo was the silent prayer for deceased relatives. With each strike of the bell the grief from my Mom’s death morphed into something different. I was still sad – maybe even sadder, but in some new way it seemed okay.

In a new main Gohonzon room, in a new millennium, I saw my Mom’s death from a view none of the other faiths I had searched seemed to offer. I felt a painful peacefulness; if there could be such a thing. The sort of religious experience I was hoping to find at my own Gohonzon ceremony years ago; greeted me there at my friend’s ceremony.

Nevertheless, I still did not want to talk to any of the members and I certainly did not want to be one ever again, but the intrigue and the promise of happiness, that I remembered from my first introduction to the bizarre “Buddhist” practice, on the street walking my dog in back 1980, sat down in the empty seat beside me.

Over the next few months as my friend embraced his new “Buddhist” practice I would listen to him talk about how much he was enjoying the chanting and the meetings and the meetings and the chanting – though not always enjoying the many meetings as much as the chanting.

I thought my friend – a smart guy – a really smart guy – had perhaps cracked the code I couldn’t crack at the Culture Center Clutch. So I tried  once again to become a serious “Buddhist” by Culture Center Clutch standards… I Know. I Know….I KNOW!

The irony here, was that the day I told my newly Gohonzoned friend that I had been peeking in an out of the Culture Center Clutch on the sly and was thinking about joining again – there’s where he gave me the look I was expecting him to give me at his ceremony and he told me, “Oh Rouge, I haven’t chanted or been to the Culture Center Clutch in months – those people are nuts, just like you told me!” …TO BE CONTINUED


2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2012 1:16 pm

    I’m totally intrigued… this has so much heart and wit and honesty. I look forward to the next part!

    • rougebuddha permalink
      April 1, 2012 1:31 pm

      Thank you, Denise…stay tuned!

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