“The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “The offense of uttering even a single derogatory word against the priests or laity who believe in and preach the Lotus Sutra is even graver than that of abusing Shakyamuni Buddha to his face for an entire kalpa.” (Chapter 10 LS) The Lotus Sutra also states, “[If anyone shall see a person who embraces this sutra and try to expose the faults or evils of that person, he will in the present age be afflicted with white leprosy,] whether what he speaks is the truth or not.” (Chapter 28 LS)
The Fourteen Slanders WND

White leprosy
Vitiligo: Pronounced vit-uh-LIE- go. A condition in which the skin turns white due to the loss of melanocytes.
As the skin gradually loses its color, patch by patch, other people may treat someone with vitiligo like a leper, thinking they have a contagious skin disease. In fact, vitiligo is called “white leprosy” in India. Women with it are often discriminated against in marriage. If they develop vitiligo after marriage, it can be grounds for divorce.

“Information is not just an abstract concept, and it is not just facts or figures, dates and names. It is a concrete property of matter and energy that is quantifiable and measurable…And everything in the universe must obey the laws of information, because everything in the universe is shaped by the information it contains.”
Decoding The Universe, Charles Seife

What Now?

I’ve reached a point in my skeptical Buddhist practice where instead of nodding in approval, or worse nodding in approval after being cajoled to nod in approval, I do not. I guess I have been priming myself these last ten years or so to make myself aware when I have either been lazy in accepting a given notion or actually looking for that which confirms what I already believe or want to believe regardless of a lack of reason or evidence to the contrary.

Print The Legend

Some Christians in this country will point at our national motto IN GOD WE TRUST as proof that our nation was founded upon Christian ideals. After all, it’s been on our coinage since the 1860’s, on our paper money since 1957 and the phrase “under God” was added to the Pledge Of Allegiance that same year mostly as a reaction to conflicts with the threat of worldwide domination from godless communism. The US Supreme Court interprets these references to GOD as losing any contextual significance and is not in conflict with the US Constitution as to not establishing a state church. I wonder how they would feel about the phrase GOD IS GREAT on a nickel?

Ask most devoted Christians about Jesus and they will tell you that they have put their trust and their eternal salvation in his divine hands and that the Holy Bible is the WORD of GOD. Although I doubt that most of them have read the whole bible. And even if they have, they mostly cherry pick out what they agree to believe in. Most Christians have little information about the origins of their religion or it’s relationship to paganism. Nor how much scholarly investigation has cast doubtful shadows over how much of Christian lore is valid or apocryphal. That kind of information really gets in the way of belief.

From the time the man know as Jesus supposedly preach his teachings, was crucified on the cross, came back to life and ascended into heaven, there is a gap of about four decades or more before the gospels, starting with Mark along with the derivative Mathew, Luke and John, were written. A man known as Saul who became Paul had a spiritual revelation where the Lord came to him and commanded him to start spreading the word of Jesus Christ. Except in all the letters of Paul, which is the bases for the Christian religion, he doesn’t mention any of the stories we commonly associate with Jesus: the Virgin Mary, Herod, John The Baptist, wise men, miracles, or anything that Jesus supposedly said. He only speaks of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. And all this writing by Paul depicts Jesus not as a real person, but in a mythical realm. And he’s the link between the disappearance of Jesus and the writing of the gospels, the start of the Christian religion. The compilation of the scriptures of the bible took centuries. And there was plenty of time to add, subtract, adjust and justify what was said, when and by whom. In other words, a whole lot of redaction.

One of my favorite movie westerns is The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. For my money, the story is timeless, and I have seen variations on its’ theme from many cultures. There are also about a zillion lines in it that are quotable, if you know what I mean Pilgrim. Almost at the end of the movie we hear a statement about the truth of an event that changed the lives of everyone. It’s an interesting comment on the human condition regardless of culture:

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”.

The Buddha Wasn’t A Buddhist

It’s not much different with Buddhism as it was with Christianity. But let’s work backwards. I have to admire Nichiren for at least trying to distill what he had to work with. Even if the Kumarajiva translation is the best, it is information orally transmitted  400-450 years after the fact before being written down. Even so, schisms arose as to what was to be written as to meaning even then.

One of my all time favorite shows was called Connections, by James Burke. In one episode he relates that in England people would be called upon to give their version of situations so as to reach a conclusion about one thing or another. This was all done verbally and the term “a hearing” is derived from the fact that since a select few could read and write during the middle ages, the system of government relied upon the verbal recollection of the populace. It was important to hear what they had to say to get a consensus to form a judgment. Apparently we were much better at it then than we are now because it was a valuable mental tool that was exercised by everyone because of necessity. I can imagine that like in the novel Fahrenheit 451 where in the dystopian future books are burned and individual people memorized them and became the living repository of a certain book, disciples of the Buddha would become a living sutra. The Chinese whisper game, or telephone as it is sometimes called, where each player successively whispers what that player believes he or she heard to the next, is a testament to cumulative error, especially the inaccuracies as rumors or gossip spread, or, more generally, for the unreliability of human recollection.

The very first entry in this blog is a translation of a letter from Nichiren called the Fourteen Slanders. Of course, that is not a title Nichiren gave it but some followers later. In it Nichiren not so much quotes Chapter Ten of the Lotus Sutra, but paraphrases it:

The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states, “If there were a person who spoke only one word to curse the lay persons or monks or nuns who uphold and preach the Lotus Sutra, then his offense would be even graver than that of cursing Shakyamuni Buddha to his face for the space of a kalpa.”


“O Medicine King, should an evil person with unwholesome mind appear before the Buddha, slandering and scolding him constantly for the length of an aeon, his offenses would be relatively light compared to the offenses of a person who speaks even a single evil word reviling one who reads or recites The Dharma Flower Sutra. That person�s offense would be very grave.


“Medicine King, if there should be an evil person who, his mind destitute of goodness, should for the space of a kalpa appear in the presence of the Buddha and constantly curse and revile the Buddha, that person’s offense would still be rather light. But if there were a person who spoke only one evil word to curse or defame the lay persons or monks or nuns who read and recite the Lotus Sutra, then his offense would be very grave.


And in many versions I’ve read sometimes the Buddha refers to the sutra by the title given to it, which is like Nichiren referring to his letters by the names given to them.  Did the Buddha really predict white leprosy to those who call attention to faults, regardless of the egregiousness’ of the fault to followers of the Lotus Sutra? (Hey Bob, I really shouldn’t say anything to you because of the Lotus Sutra curse, but would you mind stop molesting my daughter? Thanks.) I seriously doubt that. But that’s what happens over time and the telephone game: embellishment. And I’ve heard all kinds of interpretations for things as varied as snowflakes. SGI calls it the MYSTIC LAW. Others refer to it as THE WONDERFUL DHARMA. So far as I can tell, only the SGI calls that spot EAGLE PEAK. Everyone else calls it VULTURE PEAK or ROCK. (Positive reenforcement marketing)  Robert Thurman, Columbia University professor and Uma’s papa, has a unique interpretation of our ole friend the one eyed turtle and the floating piece of sandalwood. He’s stated that single celled life created merit by rubbing up against each other eventually creating enough credit to evolve into humans. That deserves a hearty Saturday Night Live News Editorial exclamation “REALLY? REALLY, REALLY?” It’s a statement worthy of than charlatan Deepak Chopra. Does he realize, do any Buddhists realize, how much in common they have with Evangelical Creationists?

I think I’m much more skeptic now than Buddhist. I still chant to enjoy my day regardless because it might be my last. It is more of a list making device and I’ve been doing it so long it’s like knocking on wood, apologies to Pascal. I do not believe in karma just as I do not believe in an external deity. Not enough evidence. I accept the preponderance of evidence for evolution. In the same vain I accept the evidence for causality but not in a metaphysical realm. And the second law of thermodynamics will take care of everything else. Oh and if anyone wants to bring entropy or quantum physics into this discussion to justify a metaphysical belief, please read this blog I’ve been participating in for the last few years before you do:

Biocentrism Demystified: A Response to Deepak Chopra and Robert Lanza’s Notion of a Conscious Universe | Nirmukta

 

“extiger” brought up the ole “zuiho bini” thing in my last blogs’ comment section.

Here’s the official SGI-USA stance from their web site:
SGI-USA: Members’ Resources: Buddhist Concepts: The Precept of Adapting to Local Customs

What they have stated as a course of action would be nice. Unfortunately it turns out to be ironically hypocritical due to the behavior of the leaders and those who follow as dictated by Japan. I’ve actually gotten into an argument with one of those indomitable Japanese Pioneer Women, aka “The Enforcer”, who believes that all other nations that practice the SGI are doing a better job than here in the US because they follow better. In other words, even more like Japan. I invoked the sacred name and said, “Well then maybe that’s why President Ikeda says America is the worlds’ greatest hope for the spread of kosen rufu.” She wasn’t used to being challenged. Her momentary but obvious confliction exposed her cultural antipathy, after which she abruptly changed the topic.

Here’s a rebuttal of an impression of the SGI paradigm of zuiho bini, and a postulation of what someone else thinks it should be. From Mark Rogow on his FWP blog which expounds that Kempon Hokke contains the correct way to practice:
Kempon Hokke Zuiho Bini versus SGI Zuiho Bini [Zuiho Bini versus Zuiho Bullshit] – Kempon Hokke

And here are two more FWP op eds from Chris Holte on zuhio bini:
More on Zuiho Bini – Holte’s Corner

Zuiho Bini and Islam – Holte’s Corner

Here’s my favorite from a message board :

Another definition of zuiho bini: Not
calling it zuiho bini (unless your Japanese), but rather
what it really is – Adapting Buddhism to local
customs, culture, to the times, etc. Calling it
“Zuiho Bini” can create the allure of something deep,
inscrutable or beyond the grasp of American minds, but it
certainly is not. The English language is quite capable of
handling the concept. And referring to it as ‘zuiho bini’
in America is actually not ‘zuiho bini’ – it is not
adapting the idea for our culture. Therefore real
‘zuiho bini’ requires getting beyond calling it ‘zuiho
bini’ if Buddhism is really going to become mainstream.
in America (which is what ‘zuiho bini’ is about).

Vintery, mintery, cutery, corn,
Apple seed and apple thorn,
Wire, briar, limber lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew East
One flew West
And one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.

Chief Bromden: My pop was real big. He did like he pleased. That’s why everybody worked on him. The last time I seen my father, he was blind and diseased from drinking. And every time he put the bottle to his mouth, he don’t suck out of it, it sucks out of him until he shrunk so wrinkled and yellow even the dogs didn’t know him.
McMurphy: Killed him, huh?
Chief Bromden: I’m not saying they killed him. They just worked on him. The way they’re working on you.

Invisibility
Like what I’d written in another blog about Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (HERDING CATS – Joe Isuzu’s Daily Slander), many important elements in the novel are either hidden from view or invisible. For example, Bromden tries to be as invisible as possible. He has achieved this invisibility by pretending not to understand what is going on around him, so people notice him less and less. Moreover, he imagines a fog surrounding him that hides him and keeps him safe. He keeps both his body and his mind hidden.

The insanity of the institution is foregrounded when a man who asks a simple question is tortured and rendered inhuman. It is a Catch-22: only a sane man would question an irrational system, but the act of questioning means his sanity will inevitably be compromised.
I QUIT
Back in 1981 I LEFT the NSA and practiced solo for almost 20 years. In 2000 I made an earnest decision to reengage with the same organization that had introduced Buddhism or Nichiren Buddhism rather, to me. I lived under the illusion that things had changed and that in some way I could make a difference. The one thing that had changed was that the NSA had gotten better at hiding it’s own version of religious crazy with the bait and switch issues between them and the priesthood. But the SGI is just the priesthood in street cloths.
There’s a joke that if you want to make an atheist out of a Christian, have them study the Bible instead of being told what it means by a third party. I started diligently studying the letters of Nichiren for myself. I read Daisaku Ikeda’s writtings and every time he quoted another philosopher or great thinker from antiquity, I would study their works too in an effort to see why he would quote that particular person. Somewhere along this line of inquiry I began to think critically and ask questions and have terms such as “faith”, “ actual proof’, or “karma” defined in context. This has gone on now for the last 11 years.
I reached several conclusions, which may have been reached by you readers long ago, and they now seem as simple as they are obvious.

All organized religions end up doing things to protect the organization from the members that comprise them.
All organized religions have disgruntled members who become problematic by asking critical questions. This leads to their marginalization, excommunication, and religious reformation.
Specifically speaking, the SGI has become exactly what Masaharu Anesaki said in his 1914 Harvard lecture series that was to become his book, Nichiren The Buddhist Prophet, that which Nichiren was trying to establish. The paradigm is the Catholic Holy See, replete with dogma and control from its center. Any charters or publications professing otherwise, is a blatant lie. There is a new reformation continuing within the SGI with its massive revisionism of its history,  funneling the members to think and believe a revisionists version of the truth.


What finally made me snap? Well, it wasn’t any one thing. The current list of organizational hypocrisies is 11 years long. I get phone calls from people who used to be friends but now are “officially” calling me as a representative of SGI. Below is the last straw and it came in an email. Funny, but it wasn’t even close to being the most egregious one. But it’s my last one because I’m done.


SGI-USA Men’s Division Monthly Suggested Study Material for June 2011
In 2011, the men’s division will continue studying “The New Human Revolution,” challenging ourselves to study one volume each month. In June 2011, we are studying Volume 18. The excerpts below are provided to support the men’s division study and can be used at men’s division meetings. Every man is encouraged to have his own copy of each volume of “The New Human Revolution” which is available at your local SGI-USA bookstore or through the mail order service on the SGI- USA website. Page numbers may vary depending on the edition.
*******************************************
Lion’s Roar
When we acknowledge our limitations and shortcomings and start to make a concentrated effort to overcome them, they begin to shine as strong points. That is the power of faith. Page 7
..Unshakeable conviction is nurtured by experience.
How do we accumulate such experiences? By chanting earnestly and participating wholeheartedly in Soka Gakkai activities as a means to conquer our various problems at work, human relations or related to health, and realizing our hopes and dreams. Page 33
Mr. Toda declared: “You mustn’t be a mob of mindless sheep. However, when the leader of a revolution stands up and issues forth a rallying call, it’s important that those who support him cry out powerfully in agreement.
Let’s Raise Lions! Now is the time to foster genuine lions for kosen-rufu!” Page 41
..A true leader earns trust and respect by forging his or her strengths and abilities.”
The German philosopher Nietzsche said: “If you want to rise high, use your own legs! Do not let yourselves be carried up, do not sit on the backs and heads of strangers!” Page 45
Gratitude for One’s Mentor
True disciples respond immediately to the call of the mentor—when disciples are fully attuned to the heart of their mentor, when the lofty spirit of mentor and disciple is upheld, kosen-rufu will grow into a mighty river that will last for all eternity.
…Fostering capable people happens through life-to-life interactions. If we wish to raise people, we need to give our all and engage them in heartfelt dialogue. Only if we are sincere and enthusiastic can we touch the lives of others. Page 86
A single moment of determination can become the turning point in one’s life. The Daishonin writes, “Ordinary people keep in mind the words ‘earnest resolve’ and thereby become Buddhas’ (WND-I, 1125).
“..We should never do anything by half measures. If we give up midway, we won’t accomplish anything. We should see everything we attempt through to the end; we should carry through with all our endeavors.The person who does so will be victorious. A Buddha is someone who strives ceaselessly forward.” Page 91
“I hope that none of you, no matter what the hardships you may face, will ever allow yourselves to be defeated. Please live out your lives together with me! We are linked by an eternal mission, so let’s engage in a magnificent shared struggle of mentor and disciple!” Page 93
Moving Forward
Rosa Parks, the mother of the American civil rights movement, said: “I have learned that in order to bring about change, one must not be afraid to take the first step, or else it will not be done. I believe that the only failure is failing to try.” Page 176

Even a single drop of water, once it enters the great ocean, embraces the entire world. In the same way, when we dedicate our lives to the Mystic Law and kosen-rufu, we can expand our state of life to encompass the whole universe. We can build an indestructible self that is never defeated by any adversity or hardship. Carrying out such faith is the fundamental way to overcome all manner of misfortune and difficulty. Page 188

Dynamic Strides

..A sincere commitment to faith can transform all adversity into a springboard for fresh advancement

SHIN’ICHI WANTED to communicate to the members that in order to transform great evil into great good and realize kosen-rufu, it was crucial to practice and carry our faith in exact accord with the Buddha’s teachings. Page 249

..Shin’ichi said that the process of deepening one’s faith occurs through life-to-life exchange, or the mystic principle of responsive communion, and stressed that discussion meetings are the venues of such interaction. Page 253

..no life is free from suffering…Unhappiness comes from being defeated by that suffering, losing all hope and succumbing to despair. The only way to avoid that is to build a strong, expansive spirit that cannot be beaten by any hardship…In fact, it is in the very process of challenging our problems that our lives pulse with joy and fulfillment and a great wellspring of happiness rises up within us. The effort to transform ourselves into a strong, dynamic and broad-minded person is called human revolution. Pages 262-263

Questions for Discussion

1. 2. 3.

How can we develop faith which is genuinely courageous? How can we strengthen our shared commitment for kosen-rufu with our mentor? How does a sincere commitment to practicing faith correctly ensure that we can overcome all adversities?