How is that Buddhism?

By Scott Shaw

I am never one to criticize a person’s religion. I believe, we all believe what we believe, created by an untold number of influences, and that is the way it has always been. Occasionally, however, an individual brings their beliefs to the forefront of our conversation and it forces me to think…

Recently, I was speaking with a young girl I know and she told me that she was, “Getting into Buddhism.” She went on to tell me that one of her family members had continue to suggest that she do so and finally she took the plunge. “Great,” I exclaimed.

Then, she began to tell me about how one of the teachers of her group had told her to define three things that she really wanted and begin to focus on them as she chanted. “Nichiren Shōshū,” I knowingly questioned. “Yes. How did you know that,” she asked. Well, she may not have known, but I am sure all of you know, that I have been walking this path for a long-long time, so my studies and my interactions are pretty vast in the spiritual realms and since my early time on the path forward, Nichiren Shōshū has been around.

Now, I am not going to discuss Nichiren Shōshū in this piece, for their formation, who, and what they are, is documented out there far better that I could ever abbreviate. And, at the core of their teachings is a very profound scripture, The Lotus Sutra. What I will say, however, is that ever since I first encountered this group some forty years ago, their main focus for bringing people into their fold is to promise the obtainment of a person’s desire by chanting this group’s primary mantra, “Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.” This too was the case with my young friend.

One of the most profound and simple teachings that the Buddha taught was, “The cause of suffering is desire.” For me, this is the essence of Buddhism. If we look to the root of any problem we encounter we will easily see that is/was based upon a desire that we had; either for something, someone, to feel a certain way, or to experience life in a specific manner. The questions then arises, “How does any branch of Buddhism teach a path to the obtainment of desire when one of its foundational understanding is that, the cause of suffering is desire?”

Now, I am not saying that their technique does not work. I think we all can agree, the focusing on something and the consciously taking steps to obtaining it is the best way to actualize any desire. But, how is that Buddhism? Buddhism is about the developed lack of desire, not the obtainment of it.

In any case, as always, I let it go. I said nothing and let her walk down her own path, eventually finding her own realizations.

There were a couple of things that were additionally interesting about our conversation, however. She told me that she almost instantly obtained one of her desires. She wanted to play guitar and sing in public and one of her friends had invited her to a coffee house where that type of event took place. Once there, she got up and played.

It made me realize, if all of our desires were that easily obtainable, how easy our life would be. And, this is the thing to keep in mind as we walk down the road to obtaining our desires. If our desires are easily obtainable then, though we may not be free from desire, at least we will not be damned by wishing for things that we will never obtain.

Abstract



This is a chapter from the book, The Abstract Arsenal of Zen and the Psychology of Being: Further Zen Ramblings from the Internet




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