I was thinking about buying a lottery ticket this week. The Mega Millions multi-state lottery pay out is estimated at $640 million – the largest in history. So I was thinking about it and then I realized – that is too much money. I know some of you may think there is no such thing as too much money, but there is. Think about it – the lump sum payout is $462 million. In California, where I live, the state and federal taxes will be, say 30% bringing your winnings to $323 million. So let’s assume I am the only winner of the jackpot. I need to pay off the mortgage and any other bills. Then I would pay for my friends cancer treatment and probably pay off his mortgage to help keep his stress down. Then I need would pay off everything in my business. Then I would probably buy another house and sell the one I just paid off. OK, that can all be done with, let’s say $2 million. Then there are the family members who come out of the wood work. I don’t have a big family so that could be another $1 million. So now I spent $3 million and I still have $320 million. Now I would want to feed the hungry, house the homeless and inspire the hopeless. But what if I get caught up in the money and forget about the poor, homeless and hopeless. What if I forget all about Shakyamuni and Nichiren. Everyone says they will give their winnings to charity, but how many actually do that?

It is just too much money. If you worked for 40 years to amass this fortune, you would be prepared, but it’s like over night fame – no one is prepared for all that attention. Then you have to trust that your advisers won’t rip you off. Accountant, financial planner, banker — I have these now, but that’s alot of money.

It is interesting to think of the things that can be done with a huge sum of money, but I’m going to pass on this one. Some good will come of this. This lottery will generate $1.4 billion of which $490 million will support government services in the member states and $210 million will go to retailer commissions. The odds are something like 90 million to 1. I think I’ll wait until the next one. Everyone will be played out and the odds will just be 1 million to 1. Much better.

I noticed that I have two books on my nightstand. One by James Carville and one by Bill O’Reilley. I acquired the Carville book. My parents pushed the O’Reilly book on me. In case you don’t know about these two people, James Carville is a liberal, even progressive Democratic pundit. O’Reilly is a conservative, Fox News talk show host. These guys are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Carville’s book is about politics, the politics of the left. The O’Reilly book is about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

My parents are Republican, Fox News junkies. I am a Democrat who watches some MSNBC sometimes. For Christmas, I donated $48 to The KIND Fund  in my parents’ name. The KIND Fund stands for Kids In Need of Desks. For $48, a desk will be built locally and delivered to a school in Malawi, Africa. The school children have no desks. They sit on a dirt floor for eight hours a day. Two or three kids can use each desk. I don’t think my parents appreciated the thought because the person behind the fund is Lawrence O’Donnell, talk show host from MSNBC.  So they pushed the O’Reilly book on me.

Now, I can’t decide if my own prejudice is involved in this, it probably is, but the Lincoln book was so slow moving and so poorly written and so simply written, that I only read a couple of pages at a time. And we all knew the ending! But it was interesting to read about how different the country was. People were sleeping in the White House trying to get the President’s attention. That changed after the assassination. Can you imagine regular citizens sleeping in the White House? Now I can give the book back and start another book.

I haven’t gotten very far into the Carville book, but now that Lincoln is dead and buried, I can start another book. Hummm, any suggestions?

Today is a beautiful day – warm, sunny, calm – everything you would want from a nice day. I’m in a great mood.

I received an email from a very progressive organization about non-violent demonstrations and how people need to be trained to do this. Here is a line from the message –

To help the 99% movement succeed, we want to kick off the spring by training 100,000 people in nonviolent direct action, in the spirit of Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks

 

Notice it is Gandhi, King and Parks? I’m just saying…

 

In our corner of the SGI, we have been talking about how to spread Buddhism in America. It has been a very open dialog with members speaking their minds. It’s very refreshing. The leaders up the ladder continue to remind us that nothing will happen quickly, which is one of our problems. I suspect any big changes will have to go through Japan. In my opinion, one of the obstacles to the spread of Buddhism in America is Japan and Japanese culture. We have talked about this many times, but what are we practicing? Nichiren Buddhism or Japanese culture? Where does one begin and the other end? Our alters are Japanese. Most of the mid-level leaders are Japanese. The national leaders are Americans who might as well be Japanese. If we want to make this practice accessible to Americans, we’re going to have to step away form Japanese culture, Japanese language and Japanese leaders. That, of course is my opinion. When I brought up dropping all the Japanese jargon and using English words, a woman from my area was flat out against it. She still uses those titles that I never understood – chick-i-butcho, what is that?

But I applaud SGI for even talking about this. The organization has finally figured out that it’s not working. We are losing members. We have a new member in one of our districts. She is so excited and enthusiastic that I’m worried she will burn out. Every time I see my first group leader (who is now an area leader) she tells me about someone who she has reconnected with. A few months ago it was a man that Greg introduced from Nichiren Shu, I think. He is Indian and we used to go to his home and there would be the gohonzon right in the middle of the Hindu alter.

There is another exam this month. I’m done with those. I never study and always pass, so why bother? I’m facilitating this time. At a meeting of mid-level (Chapter, Area & Region) leaders, it was brought up that young people are just not going to get into a “Fill in the bubbles” test. An area leader asked why are we doing this? What is the purpose of a graded exam? Some members study for these tests, but the majority don’t. I enjoy studying Buddhism, but I don’t really enjoy the monthly SGI study because it doesn’t teach anything. I think it’s purpose is to reinforce the same tired concepts over and over. I gave a presentation on the life of the Buddha last month (at Nichiren Shu). I really enjoyed that.

So to summarize – Nice day, good mood, not taking exam and business is getting better, but that is another story.