Exploring some of the ultimate questions that confront humanity, and responding imaginatively to them;
The ups, downs and meaning(s) of life’s journey.
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a song. In the Soka Gakkai tradition we are taught how to sing it. It is a sound and a rhythm and it touches a place inside you. That place we try to reach is the subconscious mind. I believe that it is the highest place and, if you communicate with it, that is when you receive information on what to do. Singing a song can make you cry. Singing a song can make you happy. That’s spirit—the spirit inside of you. If you look up ‘spiritual’ in a dictionary, you will find that it is your nature, it is the person you are. When you walk into a room, a person might say, ‘Oh, she’s got great spirit.’ Or you can walk into a room and someone will say that you don’t have spirit because it’s not visible. You’re kind of off or negative. Meditation and praying change your spirit into something positive. If it is already positive, it makes it better (Miller 2016).
The British rapper, poet and activist, Shauna O’Briain (also known as MC Angel) – who also identifies as lesbian – recounts a history of drug and alcohol abuse before she encountered Soka Gakkai. According to her:
Other than going to discussion meetings, I initially struggled with doing activities and developing a bigger involvement in the SGI. Thanks to the persistent and compassionate support from local members and leaders, I slowly began to do more….I started to take responsibility for my life and I gave up drinking around four years ago. I threw myself into SGI-UK activities within the youth division. Previously I had felt heavy in the mornings, but after SGI-UK activities, alongside other young people, I felt light. I started to realise the fatigue had been caused by deep suffering and that Buddhist activities were transforming my negative tendencies. Through my Buddhist practice I have transformed so much of my life and I have received such care and love. I have felt supported through every challenge and obstacle, while empowered to make healthier choices for my own life (SGI-UK 2017).
According to Soka Gakkai teachings, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to “see, hear, smell and taste more clearly”, while “our sense of touch becomes more sensitive, and we begin to perceive and make judgements about both the physical and abstract world with greater clarity” (SGI-UK 2017: 38). This accords with the Buddhist teaching about the Nine Levels of Perception or Consciousness shared by all living beings.
The first five consciousnesses corresponded to the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The sixth consciousness enables us to make judgements about physical things – for example, recognising that a chair is hard and that we can sit on it, or that an apple is edible. The seventh consciousness is about discerning the abstract and making moral judgements. The eighth consciousness stores our underlying habits, dislikes, likes and other personality traits as an accumulation of our karma. The ninth consciousness is the life-force itself, which Nichiren Buddhists call Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo thus enables us to attain the ninth consciousness and to purify all the other eight consciousnesses.