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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Horse Pucky, Great Literature, Politics and lies

I still consider myself a disciple of the great sage Nichiren, and feel a debt of gratitude to all the disciples of Nichiren who introduced me to the man and his body of work. I learned from Nichiren a lot of important principles, but the most important principles I learned from his critiques of the Buddhism of the time, and from observing how his disciples mangled his teachings. He saw that contemporary Buddhists were lying a lot about Buddhism. So his critiques of Buddhism were based on that awareness.

Like in modern times there were people who treated Buddhist teachings as magic talismen and relied on them as a kind of magic to get through life. And like in modern times there were Buddhist sages who were perfectly happy to offer up steaming piles of Horse-stuff and call it Buddhism. Nichiren even refers to it as such. I learned from some truly great Buddhist teachers and really admired the principle "the disciple exceeds the master" but then found out that most masters don't like that principle. They need someone to wash the floors, clean the bathrooms and keep the swimming pool operating.

Later, I found out that Nichiren had been criticizing esotericism and it's offerings, while teaching many esoteric notions. At that point I realized that he was making a bigger case than "I'm good your bad." His own disciples hadn't figured that out. They were always fighting over which sect of Nichiren's disciples was "Good" and which one was "Bad." Then I began to realize that the best parts of all religions are the steaming piles of fictional narratives known as literature. I started talking about this. I got into trouble for that.

It's called 'esotericism" for a reason. Some folks are allowed to figure it out, but NOBODY is supposed to talk about it. I like Nichiren, had to leave. I retired from Nichiren Buddhism for a while, and realized I liked all the ideas he was criticizing -- once one understands that a lot of the best jewels are buried in horse pucky.

This also taught me to appreciate my Judeo-Christian roots. Understanding the living esotericism in human religion made me understand how people could be burned at the stake for telling the truth. Esotericism is in Christianity. Explicitly in some ideas and concepts. And a whole pile of religious fiction, great literature actually, supports the esoteric element in Christianity too. And it's in Judaism in the form of Kaballa. And in Islam in the form of Sufism. The best parts of religion are highly imaginative, highly figurative, original, fictional, and on a surface level, horse pucky. A lot of folks get caught up in a reaction to the horse pucky. They recoil from taking a story seriously that is about long haired freaks drinking and fighting and yet somehow pure and inviable until someone cuts their hair. The myth repels them to the point where they either go crazy by trying to claim that the whole thing is honest to gosh truth, or by rejecting it all. Great Religious writing is always Horsepucky. It's boring without the stories.

During my transition I ran into a fellow named Cris Roman. He was a leader when I first started practicing Buddhism. He'd been real close to a fellow named George Williams, who was a Japanese by way of Korea, who'd come to America as a young man, determined to create world peace by converting everyone in the country to Nichirenism. I'd fallen in love with George Williams and the unstoppable Ted Osaki when I met them. They'd seemed like Gods to me. And their lectures had thrilled me with the notion that religion could be rational, and modern and not full of Horsepucky. I'd been so thrilled I gave theeir notions of Buddhism 30 dedicated years of my life. I became a NSA member. They called it NSA because for some members it was Nichiren Shoshu of America and for others it was the Nichiren Sokagakkai of America. It took me 20 years to realize that those were two different factions, but since they all were disicples of Nichiren that never really bothered me. Later I found out that both groups had their own horsepucky too, that is why I'm not a member of either group anymore.

But I love them all. Anyway. Soon after I joined Cris Roman departed. I was told he had become a very bad man and went "Taitan" and that all who go "Taitan" were bad men who'd fall into hell and be very miserable the rest of their lives. For a time I believed what I was told.

But Nichiren's critiques led me to investigate what he really was saying beyond the simplistic narrative of "Nichiren Good, Honen evil." Nichiren criticized the heck out of Honen and explained how according to his own teachings he was going to fall into hell as a really bad man. Ironically most Japanese saw him as a saint and his religion is still one of the more popular in Japan. More interestingly, Nichiren's critiques led to his disciples getting sucked into Japanese feudal feuds between rival groups of Japanese and since Nichiren became popular in the big "southern capital" city; Kyoto; Nichiren Disciples from the city and Nembutsu believers from the countryside were often fighting. The infamous Ninja started out as folks "defending Buddhism" from rival sects and the Government, as well as pursuing the family feuds that define Japanese (like British) Feudal History.

As I studied all this I ran into a Princeton Professor named Jacqueline Stone, and her writings opened my eyes to the complexity of Esotericsm. It really is about understanding the Horsepucky, [mythical and esoteric religious literature] and learning about the deeper layers of spiritual life.

Esotericism gets dangerous because it's also in politics. Nichiren got persecuted mainly because he was spilling state secrets about spiritual happiness and personal growth, that were attached to state secrets that pretended that the horse-pucky, the magical narratives, of esotericism had real magic power. Officials would have Shingon (Japanese esotericism) priests recite mantras and prayers to protect the country. Without the magic the officials would have to do more material things to help the people. The Shingon priests needed to eat, so they needed (other people) to believe their magical teachings were magic and not highly figurative teachings meant to help people figure out who they really are. They preferred praying to Gods and selecting a few people to teach to be special. If everyone was special that would mean they weren't so special. Nichiren appreciated Esotericism. He taught it's ideas without hiding the horsepucky. That made him dangerous. It also made him a disciple of Saicho (Tendai) who'd had a similar attitude towards esotericism. The first step to mastering esotericism is to recognize great religious literature is both horsepucky and a vehicle for plucking insights out of the unconscious. I had the same insight about Kaballah a few years later.

Well it turns out that Cris Roman, Jacqueline Stone and some other people I never met had helped out Williams in his "Shakubuku" campaigns to appeal to students at Universities by helping him write some of the literature. The works I so admired that he wrote were the kind of Buddhism that attracted me. Those people helped him write some really good books teaching Buddhism as a modern religion. So I wasn't the only one who benefited from Mr. Williams association, or who had to leave because all this was somewhat heretical from the POV of lay priests and religious priests who need people to believe the religious literature to be literally and magically true in order to keep the dough rolling in. They have to eat too. So I shouldn't fault them. But Nichiren would have. And it's pretty obvious they know better.

Finally, my insight from this is that, in religion or politics, some folks recognize horsepucky for what it is, but hitch themselves to the horses anyway. When you run into a group of people teaching nonsense, and no matter what you say to them you find them coming back to you with rhetorical devices, you are running into folks building a big steaming pile of lies and doing so because they are eating the truth and making too much money and power from the lies to stop themselves. They get angry, not because they don't know it's horsepucky, but because you aren't supposed to catch on, and if you do it represents a threat to their gravy train. That is what many preachers of most major religions do, though they don't have to lie because they are also ministering to the sick and dying and there are ways to treat esoteric ideas as "maybes" and recognize that the truths are within the literature, not the literature itself. And that is what Communists, Libertarians and Movement Republicans are doing to our country right now. You can call a big pile of Horsepucky something else. But it still attracts flies.

1 comment:

  1. Curious if you've ever read "Buddhism in a New Light" by Shin Yatomi. I joined Buddhism for the results, hated NSA, hung in there through the horsepucky somehow, until it transitioned into the beautiful organization it is today. So glad we finally disassociated from priesthood....