Jul 282006

We have all read in scientific books, and, indeed, in all romances, the story of the man who has forgotten his name. This man walks about the streets and can see and appreciate everything; only he cannot remember who he is. Well, every man is that man in the story. Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; but thou shalt not know thyself. We are all under the same mental calamity; we have all forgotten our names. We have all forgotten what we really are. All that we call common sense and rationality and practicality and positivism only means that for certain dead levels of our life we forget that we have forgotten. All that we call spirit and art and ecstasy only means that for one awful instant we remember that we forget.

 – G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy)


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  16 Responses to “Remembering That We Have Forgotten”

  1. A real diamond is distinguishable from a synthetic diamond by impurities and flaws. A chunk of coal can become a diamond. It requires great heat and pressure. Sometimes we feel like we are under great pressure and sometimes life subjects us to the heat of decline, disgrace, censure, and suffering. Some might view prosperity, praise, honor, and pleasure as being hot as well. People are often distracted by these conditions from the really important goals in life.

    Nichiren says in “White Horses and White Swans” – “The Spring of Jewels is so called because, in this spring, stones are changed into jewels. In the same way, these five characters can change ordinary human beings into Buddhas.”

    Of course he is referring to the five characters of Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo.

  2. Why is the prefix “Nam’ not in front of Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo, in this case, lowell?

  3. I would agree with you that someone portraying themselves as virtuous is not a virtue. I disagree with you when you say you have no virtues. I believe you most probably do. If we were not ‘flawed’ then virtue would hold no value. Virtue is a moral or ethical excellence in the face of a very virulent world. Being virtuous or virulent is a decision you must make day in and day out all day long.

  4. My pardons, Eretz; as usual, I have over-stated my case, and your are correct. It would have been better said to say that we all have some virtues, and some failures, and that we sometimes do well, and sometimes fail.

  5. Nam is short for Namas or Namu. It is a Sanskrit word that has been used in it’s original form by Chinese culture. People in India commonly say Namas and the person’s name and bow to them with their hands joined in respect, when they greet a friend. It primarily has the meaning of respect with elements of devotion.
    When I chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, I am taking action in relationship to Myoho-renge-kyo. There is a mental cause, and a physical cause made. If we think of Myoho-renge-kyo as the secret identity of reality, then using Nam in conjunction with it makes the pure essence of reality act like a flood of benefit in and around our lives. The environment and our life itself recognize and respond to this pure essence of reality.

    This is what I have experienced and why I continue to praise Myoho-renge-kyo. The five characters are the five elements of spirit (space), air, fire, water, and earth. Myo is the most profound of the elements and when you chant to the Gohonzon it is best to focus on the character of Myo.

    Chanting to the Gohonzon is very similar to the Jewish tradition of worship. In Judaism, the altar of God had the ark of the covenant (a box) which contained the scrolls of the Torah. The priest would unroll a scroll of the Torah and chant (sing) the words while reading them. In Nichiren Shoshu, the lay people are allowed to chant (sing) the words of the scroll (Gohonzon), which is enshrined in a box on the altar.

    Jesus (Yeshua) also chanted (sang) to a scroll of the Torah, and it was likely a part of his religious practice.

  6. Just to stir up the pot a bit…

    If we behave virtuously, simply because we are motivated by our ego with a desire to consider ourselves virtuous… is that virtue?

  7. If we behave virtuously to avoid offending God (if one believes in such a concept), is that true virtue or merely correct actions being done out of fear or a desire not to offend God? Should we judge the motivation of the act, the act itself, or both?

    There is a story told of man who spit on a statue of the Buddha, over and over again, day after day. So pure was his disdain that he gained Enlightenment from it.

  8. I’m going to say yes. If virtue is prescribed as some characteristic, quality, or trait known or felt to be excellent beneficial quality or efficacy in something then the actions of the ego are virtuous even if the ends of the ego are not. Moral practice or action in conformity to the standard of a divine law of the highest good is moral excellence and motivation against inclination is indeed the ends of morality; so the actions are virtuous but the motivation may not be.

  9. To borrow a phrase from the movie “Forest Gump” and rephrase it.

    “Stupid is as stupid does”

    “Virtue is as virtue does”

    EretzIsrael, spiritually speaking: I f God judges the heart (the seat of motivation. the will, affections and desires) and finds this motivation carnal or fleshly. Would that not negate the virtuous act?

    I can understand that if two individuals had the opportunity, say to take advantage of an illegal scheme to make alot of money. One choses not to because it is against his principles, the other choses because they may get caught by the law. Judging by appearance the actions look virtuous, yet the motivation, it seems to me, negates the latter but not the former. “Virtue is as virtue does?”

  10. lostone talked about a person who attained enlightenment by spitting on an image of the Buddha.

    Those who form a negative relationship with Myoho-renge-kyo also attain enlightenment. It is not as direct a path as a positive relationship. Devadatta who fell into hell alive after committing serious crimes against the Buddha, was summoned back to the assembly of those who heard the Lotus Sutra and received a prediction that he would attain enlightenment in the distant future. Then he was returned to hell.

    I formed a negative relationship with Myoho-renge-kyo when I first encountered it. I slandered it and said to myself that it was a useless phrase of words. I became angry at the friend who was saying it when he dealt the cards. He won nearly every hand and easily won the card game. Later I developed bleeding kidneys and glaucoma in my left eye. My middle finger was stepped on during a snow ball fight and broken. I enjoy playing the piano. I had hoped to make a career of it. It was too painful after that to play more than five minutes.

    The next time I encountered Myoho-renge-kyo I was more receptive. I had forgotten the first episode. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and it worked, I was invited over for a party, but when I sobered up I had forgotten about it again.

    Finally, I was seeking Buddhism, I was out of money, with no job, poor health, and friends who felt sorry for me but didn’t want me around. I had seen Kung Fu on T.V. and wondered why I had never encountered Buddhism. I formed a wish to meet a Buddhist and maybe go live in a monastery in Tibet. Within a week I had met a Buddhist and was chanting to the scroll that depicts the ceremony in the air. All my health problems were cured when I chanted sincerely and with a strong determination (promising to be a Buddhist the rest of my life). My life has improved in many ways since then.

    It may be that the sudden change in health was due to the fact that the causes for poor health were made two years before I chanted about them. If the causes had been made in a previous life, then the effects would have been more permanent. They would have taken longer and been more difficult to change.

  11. Eretz:

    That seems like a reasonable distinction. At least we need some way to be able to speak of the objective effects of our actions, as opposed to our motivations. If by “virtuous” we mean an evaluation of these objective effects, that’s well and good.

    Some teachers, however, would contend that even the objective effects of our actions are deeply colored by our motivations. To save someone’s life, for example, out of selfishness creates certain spiritual influences that continue to resonate in the situation. Or that to try to save the planetary environment for egoic reasons ultimately carries the seeds of further destruction.

    I’m not so sure on that point. But it IS clear to me that truly ego-less action only occurs through grace.

  12. Sometimes even evil can lead to virtue.

    Early in my attempts to be a Buddhist (first year), I chanted for money. After about a week of this I went to a friend’s house to get a chess set back that I had loaned him. I hoped to sell the chess set. When I got there the front door was unlocked. I let myself in and called his name, but there was no answer. Then I saw my chess set on his living room table. I took the chess set and then noticed fifty five dollars under it. I took the money too.

    The next day the friend came to my apartment and asked about the chess set and the money. I had spent the money. I denied taking it. He didn’t believe me. Later that evening, while chanting I lost my voice. On my way downstairs, my hand flew over and hit the bannister. It felt like it was broken. I was stubborn, but after several days of not being able to talk, I realized that I had no choice. I could not continue to try to be a Buddhist without my voice. I went to the friend’s house and told him that I had taken the money. The moment I started to tell him, my voice returned. I paid him back the money as soon as I could. My former friend never chanted and he remained angry with me.

    I learned several valuable lessons. I learned not to chant for money. I also learned that there was more to me than just my ego. My inner self would not allow me to lie and steal. Or in this case steal and lie. So this was the beginning of a more virtuous life for me.

    It is my sincere hope that we will all live with instant karma.

  13. lowell,

    It doesn’t appear to me that the stealing was what lead you to virtuous restraint; it was your virtuous morality. An unrepentant thief would continue to be a thief.

    This brings up yet another question regarding virtue, “Is it virtuous to repent of doing the wrong action only to do the right action you should have done in the beginning?” Is it virtuous to repent and make amends for the wrong we have done or just the right thing to do?



  14. Simultaneity of cause and effect. If everyone experienced the effect very quickly after making the cause, we would learn which causes are good and which are evil. The moral self that took over and made me learn, was not as active until I began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. The friend that did not want to chant even after learning of my experience, was in my opinion reluctant to submit to a force that is powerful enough to bend a person to the good and break their attachment to evil. He was enamored about the wife of another friend and eventually seduced her. His attachment to what he knew was wrong was too great and he could not find the courage to take the correct path.

    Some people do evil because they are urged from within. They have a strong tendency to act in ways that are destructive and harmful and are controlled by their desires.

    Eventually this “instant karma” will become a force so strong that even people who do not embrace it will not be able to avoid it. Even habitual criminals will be bent straight by it and be broken of their bad habits.

  15. lowell,

    You are a very interesting person to converse with. I’m not sure I understand all that you’re attempting to get across; perhaps I need a few lessons in the higher path of Buddhism. I have studied the lower path of Buddha as I understand it and find it compatible with my ideas of God in the Bible.

    In Judaism there are two impulses in man called the yetzer-ra and the yetzer-tov. Ra is the impulse which pushes man to what Christianity calls the carnal side and tov is the impulse which pushes man towards his higher morality which Christians call “the fruit of the Spirit”. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

    Love is the tenderness, sympathetic interest, and benevolence of one for another which leads to joy which is the acquisition or expectation of good by well-being, success, or good fortune or the prospect of possessing what one loves or desires. Peace is a mental or spiritual condition of remarkable freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts and emotions leading to a calmness of mind and heart which leads to patience which is the capacity to endure evil, adversity, or pain with fortitude. Kindness is given in a universal order or inherent tendency in your nature to be benevolent in the face of adversity and be bound to the Kingdom of Ends; to hold sacred the same species God favors. Goodness is a state of moral excellence and is the beneficial element of life and relationships where faithfulness is the ability to readily believe in the declarations and promises of God. Gentleness is the quality of admirable, noble, and distinguished kindness and amiability in a mild and benignly gracious manner begin tender and considerate, and self-control is the control of oneself in restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.

    Jesus said he is the vine and we are the branches; that alone the branches will shrivel and die but when grafted securely into the vine are vitalized and bear much fruit which is the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the faithful.

    God bless,


  16. The sutra of infinite meaning (Shakyamuni) says “Urged from within and induced from without the Buddha dwells in the boundless and awakes to the never before realized law.”

    The same sutra also says “Infinite phenomena proceed from the one law.” Nichiren taught that the law that is referred to is Myoho-renge-kyo. When Buddhists chant it as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo they create this law within and without their lives. Thus they not only benefit but the environment benefits as well. I have perceived this law as pure life force. It is like water and like jelly. Sometimes it behaves more like water. It nourishes the self that urges us to do good. It cleanses our lives and our environment of evil tendencies. I believe that when Father Keith allows the healing energy to flow through him, he is a conduit for Myoho-renge-kyo.

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