The Beginnings of Metaphysics and the End of Comparative Religions

24 02 2010

Today will end my introduction to the world of religion.  This blog is supposed to be New Thoughts for a New Age, and my views on the world’s religions, while it might be entertaining to read and fun to write, is hardly an exploration of new ground.  So, with this entry, on SGI Buddhism, I will begin to explore the world of metaphysics.

The word “metaphysics” means “beyond physics”.  Whereas most of the world’s religions are about the interrelationship between the Natural and Supernatural, they only border on the metaphysical. 

Metaphysics is a word which connotes wizards and witchcraft and ghosts and ghouls and, almost without exception, things that make most learned people’s eyes roll.  The truth of metaphysics is that each and every one of us encounters the metaphysical every day. 

In the physical world, there is matter, and there is energy, and there is space.  In fact, matter and energy are the same thing, and space is simply a lack of it.  So, it is a binary thing: either there is matter/energy, or there is not; and, every point of the physical universe is proscribed by that.

But, beyond that, there is life.  Life cannot be explained by simply the existence or non-existence of matter.  A dead body occupies exactly the same amount of space as a live one.  And, not everything which has both matter and energy is alive, otherwise we would have been overrun by photocopiers many years ago.

Furthermore, each of us experiences emotions.  There is love and anger and fear and joy, and while scientists may scan the brain and the body for what is shown when these emotions are felt, my thought is that the activation of various regions of the brain is a reaction to these emotions rather than causing it.

The day I started this blog, my brilliant cousin Judith asked me, “what is love?”.  Love is a metaphysical entity which most of us are privileged to feel at some point in our lives, whether to another person, to an animal, to a thing, or to God.  Love is hardly the only thing in this category.  Each of us, when we meet another person, or animal, or thing, experiences a feeling about it.  This is sometimes called a first impression, and is other times called “chemistry”.  These are reactions that our innermost being experiences when it recognizes another’s innermost being.

Allow me to proffer the following premise: prayer works.  Prayer works whether it is for yourself or someone else; whether it is for someone close by or far away; it works regardless of your religion, or the religion of another person.  Prayer, itself, is a physical act which spawns a metaphysical reaction.

This brings me to SGI Buddhism, or Nichiren Buddhism.  I like to think of the SGI Buddhists as the Galileos of the religious world.  They don’t care what you believe in.  You can believe in Buddha, Jesus, Moses or Mohamed, or you can believe in nothing at all.  But if you chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, a metaphysical process will happen and you will get what you chant for.  The SGI people encourage you to try it.  You don’t have to believe in anything; you don’t even have to believe in the power of those words or the chanting.  Just chant, they say, and try it out.  It is like Galileo walking around with the telescope asking, PLEASE, for people just to LOOK through it.  And, of course, there was no happy ending for Galileo.  Similarly, many people look askance at our SGI friends and colleagues and go on about our lives.  But it *does* work.

I had a friend in Denver, back in the early eighties, who was an SGI person.  She had a Gohanzan, and she burned incense, and she encouraged me, as so many SGI people do, to just try it for a couple of days and just see what happens.  Well, I was off exploring the world’s religions, and I was up for anything, so I tried it, and sure enough it worked.

I thought, perhaps, there was something funky about the words.  Like maybe I was offering some demon my first born child if they delivered on what I was asking for; but, after extensive research, I found that all the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo mean is “I dedicate myself to the Mystic Path”.  It was at this point that I determined that it was not a religion at all, but some kind of cosmic ATM machine, and I walked away from it to other forms of Buddhism, and then to, well, God only knows what.

But sometime about 5 years ago, I ran into a period where, no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to dig myself out of a hole.  As it happened, a couple of friends of my Beloved were SGI people who, to my great and enduring gratitude, gave me hours and hours of their time and we chanted together in front of their Gohanzon.  And, once again, the cosmic ATM machine provided.

I love my friends, and I do not cast aspersions on their beliefs nor on their religion, because they work really hard to build a mythology around their chanting that performs the requirements of an actual religion: to provide a framework of rituals by which one can comfortably live one’s life, and by which one can gracefully accept one’s death.  But, this is hardly a requirement of SGIism.  In fact, there’s an episode of Absolutely Fabulous where Edie mutters something incomprehensible and then bows her head and intones, “and school supplies for Saffron”.  She maintains that she is speaking Buddhist, darling.

SGI walks away from the trappings of other religions, in that it does not construct a God to worship, nor rules to follow.  Anyone can chant, at any time, and they will gain benefit.  In short, they forego all pretenses of forging a bond with a Supernatural entity and go directly for the cosmic forces.

My friend Carrie, when she first started reading my blog said to me, “that’s great and everything, but when are you going to get into the real stuff?”.  Carrie, right now.

And school supplies for Saffron.




One response

25 02 2010

Asa Nisi Masa. Your brain is charming, x

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