Just a week after starting my 2018 abroad with Remote Year, I've become good friends with one of my cohort memebers, Mazen. He and I engaged in a conversation about overcoming pain, loss, and depression. I admire him a lot, and could tell from the very moment we met that he possessed an enlightened perspective on life. He had worked his way through similar hurdles as I have, and his character shows it in a very positive way.
Mazen told me that he attributes a lot of his own healing to his studies of Nichiren Buddhism, and he offered to spread his teachings to me. Of course I took him up on it. So we started the next day with an introduction to chanting.
I had never really considered chanting as a practice before. It just seemed odd to me, as it likely does to most people. I asked him, "why not just meditate instead"? I had been practicing meditation on and off for a year now and found it works decently to make me feel at peace. He told me it's about the impact that's created inside from being vocally proactive. After a few mornings of practice, I understood what he meant.
Especially as a software developer, I spend most of my day without using my voice. I've always been somewhat of a quiet person in life; I've thought my experiences tend to be more cognitive and less outward than others around me. Chanting feels like it promotes our animalistic nature, in the physical vibrational feedback that occurs through our vocal chords. It perhaps reinforces my minds awareness that I'm able to project the stuff inside more outwardly. I've always liked my mornings to be calm and quiet, so I'm interested in the changes it might bring into my life.
I have been practicing every morning since the first time. Just 10 minutes each time, longer if I feel I need it. I recite the words of the Mystic Law, "Nam-myoho-renge-kyo". The thought process during chanting involves wishing other people in my life happiness, especially if they're the cause of my pain. Along with this, I've been reading the works of Daisaku Ikeda (Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace). I find it particularly useful to remind myself of Nichiren Buddhism's "Six Conditions for Happiness" prior to chanting, which I'll share here too:
- Have fulfillment and a purpose to work towards. Fill each day with a sense of accomplishment and avoid aimless wandering or emptiness.
- Possess a profound philosophy and act upon it. For example, praying for others’ happiness (especially if you hate them), working on relationships because they matter, exerting yourself to show warm concern and understanding to others.
- Possess conviction to distinguish good from bad, and never be swayed by temptation or threat even in the highest extreme.
- Live cheerfully and vibrantly, and have the wisdom to conjure positivity in any scenario, while keeping eyes firmly focused on reality. But do not let others take advantage of our good nature.
- Demonstrate courage to overcome anything, and fight for the things you desire.
- Demonstrate tolerance to have warm approachability, and avoid exhausting or intimidating others.
Mazen and I also paid a visit to an SGI center here in Buenos Aires, Argentina (or Soka Gakkai International is the organization that upholds the Nichiren Buddhism practice). I love that they are very firm believers in women equality; they are the ones who established the pink women-only trains for the ladies in Tokyo to ride during evening hours for safety. Consequently, we happen to be in the only other city on earth that has a dedicated SGI Women's Peace building, here in Buenos Aires.
Our new friend Francisco made it truly a delightful experience to visit the SGI center. I am looking forward to exploring the practice more this year.