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Pursuing a goal-less practice

March 24, 2017

I come to the realisation that the problem I’m having with my SGI practice at the moment (and in the past) is a lack of faith.

I’ve always approached Buddhism through an intellectual and philosophical standpoint, I was first introduced to Nichiren Buddhism through reading books on the subject, and membership was a requirement so I could complete my study exams.

Now however I’m being confronted by this lack of faith.

As I’ve written in previous blogs, when I first started my Buddhist practice in the Zen tradition, faith wasn’t something that came up, we sat, we chanted, we read books – we weren’t asked to have faith in the brass Buddha statue on the altar, we just sat and developed the concept of being present at that moment in time.

(I personally began to live my life being mindful of the four noble truths and eightfold path)

Nichiren Daishonin himself told his followers to challenge their faith by chanting for actual proof, these days SGI practitioners chant for all kind of things bigger houses, new cars, etc…

This has never sat easy with me, in Zen we try to know how to be satisfied by the realities of our own lives, as they are, to fully appreciate our lives as they are, not how we think they should be, if I’m constantly striving for my life to be something other than what it is, how can I fully appreciate and enjoy my life as it is in this very moment.

Earthly desires are enlightenment, this is a teaching of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, as human beings desires are part of our daily existence, they see the Zen tradition as nihilistic and austere, perhaps they are right, often the suppression of natural desires lead to larger problems later

 

The culture clash when East met West over the last several decades, stories of these famous Roshi’s falling from grace, as the suppressed Eastern monastic model crashed head first to the open and liberal Western culture are plentiful (many Zen lineages have stories of these unfortunate events including my own)

My lack of faith in my SGI practice could indeed stem from my lack of ‘actual proof’ that is chanting for things that have never materialised, talking to leaders about this and becomes a chicken and egg scenario – chanting should come from a place of deep faith, but then without the actual proof how can you develop strong faith?

I’m now beginning to understand that faith, like happiness comes more easily to some people than others.

So I’ve decided to pursue a goal less practice, that is to sit in zazen or chant (or both) without a particular goal in mind, last year with my Zen practice, I wanted to take my vows, and that became the focus and goal of my practice, but for now I will sit for the sake of sitting.

I had a phone call from Mr. M, my SGI chapter leader (whom I really like as a person) on Monday night, he was actually calling to warn me of the (apparently evil) Nichiren Shoshu priesthood who are becoming active in the area, the conversation came around to my practice, and I tried to explain about this lack of faith to him.

Unfortunately I kind of knew what his answer was going to be, before he said it, and that is to chant about it (and to send me some Gosho quotes).

As the old saying goes when you’re only tool is a hammer, all your problems look like nails.

I don’t feel that I can talk to Mr. M, about this at the moment, he has no Buddhist experience outside of the SGI, and probably the only things he knows about Zen are the negative comments in the Gosho, his faith is too strong to be able to approach this problem objectively.

I have approached a local Zen sangha, whom I’ve tried to join before, and they now have space for me at their Doncaster Zendo, so I will start there in April.

So to practice zazen (and) or chanting without a goals or expectations will be my practice for a while.

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