Sincere Members


I went to my monthly women’s meeting last night. The usual suspect were there. I really like these women. I always leave with a smile and a promise to be back next month. I usually talk at these meetings, but last night I listened more. What I noticed was the sincerity of these women. The main topic was “No prayer goes unanswered.” Each person had a personal experience about how their prayer was answered, but not in the way they expected. These were some very personal and in some cases, devastating experiences, but they all could see how their prayers were answered. Their discussion of other religions, philosophy, psychology, literature and art is so refreshing.

In the SGI, we are having a study exam this month. It is an introductory exam with 20 multiple choice questions. The study guide is comprehensive and it should be relatively easy to pass this thing. A few of the women at the meeting said they were not taking it. That started another discussion about study. I think we “encouraged” them to take the exam.

One of the women kept talking about blogging. “you should blog about that.” “Where is there a blog for this stuff?” I kept my mouth shut. I love fwp, but it is definitely not for everyone.



I say “Hello” when I come home. I say “Bye” when I leave. I know you aren’t there, but I have been doing it for so long, I can’t help myself. I checked the front yard this morning when I took the trash cans out. You always came with me and sniffed the yard. I look for you on the couch or the edge of my bed. I leave the last bite of my sandwich for you. I just can’t eat that last bite. I want to leave the door open for you, but then I remember and close it. When I lost Greg, you were there. We all grieved together. You moved from the foot of the bed to my side. When I had meetings at the house, you would greet everyone. I called you my Byakuren dog. You have been sick for almost a year. I fed you special food – I cooked special food for you. You would get better for a few weeks and then get worse. Then I found a new vet. He tried to help you. He was so kind to you. It was too late. Your blood work showed how sick you were. Your strength and love was so special. But then you stopped eating and barely moved. We knew you were very sick. I knew you were staying in this life for us and it was up to me to help you. You started resting in front of the altar. That last day you were so sick, you hadn’t moved out of my room for many hours. Then you heard me go out the front door to do some yard work. I heard the tinkle of your tags on your collar. You tried to go outside. I stopped you and helped you lay down on the rug in the altar room. The vet was coming. I did gongyo with you and finished just as the vet was getting ready. We kept the front door open so you could see the front yard – your favorite. You didn’t want to go. You were so strong, but it was time to let go and finally you did. You have joined that dog pack on Eagle Peak.

The kids are looking for a puppy. I don’t want a puppy. Puppies are so much work – eat, pee, play, chew, poop – I don’t need that.  But I do want a dog. It is different losing you than it was losing Greg. With you, I was there – I was involved. With Greg, it was over before I knew about it. The day after you passed, we went on vacation. I think it was easier that way. We could think about you, but not worry.  We will never forget you. You were the best.

Over the past few months and culminating today, I have had an “experience” suited for any SGI meeting. If you are not an SGI member, here is an outline of the SGI experience:

1. You encounter a problem/challenge/illness

2. You chant your ass off

3. Something happens to rectify the problem/challenge/illness

I have one of those experiences, except I left out one of the steps. Here is my story-

Every month I receive two payments. These payments have been very helpful in these days of financial downturn. My family has learned to live happily on much less. I was notified early this year that one of the payments would be discontinued after June of this year. In March, we decided to take a vacation in October. We set it up and put a down payment on it. I was stressing over how I was going to pay this off with onlyone payment. I was working the budget and knew I would find the funds to pay it off. Here comes July and I receive both payments. Now, I know they are going to figure this out and take the payment back, so I leave it there. And leave it there. And two weeks pass and I decide, what the hell, I’ll use the extra payment to pay off the vacation. If they figure it out, I’ll feign ignorance and pay it back. Then, today, payment day, I was expecting to get two again, but alas, only one comes. The extra payment last month was the cash I needed to pay the vacation. It was my benefit, my reward for all my effort, my mystical effect for some good cause.

The only problem with this is I skipped step 2. I didn’t chant my ass off. In fact I barely chant. When I chant, I get side tracked. Chanting does not relax my mind, it energizes it. Or maybe the relaxation causes clarity. So how do I explain this? Today I am choosing “That’s life!”

In the SGI, we are preached to about faith, practice and study. The problem I see is most folks don’t like to study the writings of Nichiren or Lotus Sutra. Most only read Ikeda’s words. Sometimes they neglect to read Nichiren’s and only read Ikeda’s. Many members choose to concentrate on practice. They sit before their alter and chant, chant, chant. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have any benefit from all this chanting. I can not chant for long periods of time. It has never been my way. Greg was a “practicer.” He would practice drumming for hours at a time. In his early days of practicing Buddhism, he would chant two hours a day. That is not my way. I am just no a practicer. I do not like the analogy of a bank. Chanting is like karmic money in the bank and then when something happens you can use that karmic money to fix it? It seems so childish. Ok, children, we’re going to chant for good things to happen and if bad things happen it’s the Devil of the Sixth Heaven.

And then there is faith. I have spent the last two years coming to grips with my faith. I have read a few books, had a few conversations, read and discussed some of Nichiren’s letters. I realize that I think about Buddhism everyday. I ponder what I have read. I listen and read what others have to say and then think about it and decide what I agree with and what I don’t, and why I agree or don’t. I know that I can overcome any problem/challenge/illness that comes my way. Not because I mindlessly chant, but because I mindfully think. Now, if I started to mindfully chant… what would happen?

PS  For those who say I “stole” the money… there is really no way to send it back. Too many layers, too much red tape, just can’t do it.