While I was going through a recent rough patch, a dear cousin in Kentucky who happened to be a Nichiren Buddhist declared, “I’m going to find you a local chanting group!”
Okay, I thought. Whatever that means.
So as time goes by she contacts me with a local SGI member (This is the group featured in a past blog post, A Word on Diversity ) . I got to know this incredibly warm, happy group and on August 8th I officially joined. So technically I am a Buddhist, but Buddhism allows me to retain my eclectic spirituality!
When one joins SGI, one of items they receive is a little booklet in which one keeps count of Daimoku. That’s the term for the phrase Nichiren Buddhists chant ( nam myoho renge kyo, just FYI). I had always been kind of lazy about performing any spiritual devotions, and Nichiren Buddhists typically chant Gongyo twice a day.
The above photo is of the little calendar booklet (and my GORGEOUS purple prayer beads!). Every circle represents 15 minutes of daimoku. I counted 30 hours represented on each page, and began my count on August 9th.
Seated before my Gohonzon, I happily chanted. I diligently recorded my progress, until on August 30th, something occurred to me; 30 circles must represent a month’s worth of daimoku, and since I got a late start, there was no way I was gonna be able to complete 30 hours in August!
I CAN DO IT! I told myself. Thanks to Storm, who around 3am demands that her bowl be filled (gotta love the furry alarm clocks!), I was up bright and early on the 31st. I knew we had plans to attend a pig roast at a friend’s home that afternoon, so I figured I would chant during the 30 minute drive to and from, and maybe mutter a few daimokus under my breath while I was there.
But I had 12.75 hours to complete!
So that morning I chanted, taking little breaks, sipping water. I’d been told “all chanting counts,” so I’d continue chanting as I went about my morning, timing my efforts on the handy-dandy SGI app. I texted Kathy, my sponsor, about my self-induced challenge.
Nam myoho renge kyo…nam myoho renge kyo…
By the time Dave got up at 10am, I had completed about 3 hours.
As we drove to our friends’ home, I had shaved off another 30 minutes.
9.25 hours to go!
The pig roast was fun, the food was good and our hosts were gracious. While Dave and I sat beneath a canopy letting our meal digest, I muttered daimoku under my breath for a good 45 minutes. Already starting to feel punchy, I expressed my doubts to Kathy.
Nam myoho renge kyo…nam myoho renge kyo….
I was exhausted by the time we got home around 3pm, but with Kathy’s encouragement, I was determined to complete my mission. When a hot flash struck, I spritzed myself with my battery-powered spray bottle fan.
Dave kept reminding me, “Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it.” But I was enjoying it. I figured I’d finish sometime around 8pm.
While Dave headed upstairs to recuperate from our outing, I bravely set forth to continue with my chanting. I chanted while conducting a 3-way text session with 2 Red Hat sisters and shared my progress via text with my SGI sponsor.
As the afternoon turned into evening, my mind wandered. As often happens when I chant, creativity floods my thoughts and I came up with a cool idea for my Red Hats chapter. But most of the time I tried to focus on the health and happiness of my friends and family.
I only stopped to quickly eat a banana and prepare for bed so after I finished I’d be ready to hit the hay.
Around 6 Dave came downstairs wanting to watch his NASCAR race so I respectfully closed the Gohonzon, grabbed my beads and set up my very un-kosher ‘cyber Gohonzon ‘ on my iPad
. With frequent glances at the clock, I felt my throat grow slightly scratchy and my voice a bit raspy as I headed for the home stretch.
Due to the short breaks, It was 8:10 or thereabouts when I completed this arduous but rewarding task. Upon completion, I felt a bit punchy but as Dave and I sat on the porch serenaded by cicadas, I felt my whole body vibrate in an unexpected way. It could just be from the rigorous and prolonged vocalizations, I thought. But I wonder could it just be a side effect of the repetition ? Would I get the same effect if I’d chanted ‘popcorn popcorn popcorn ‘ for 12.75 hours?But could it also be a side effect of something more etheric?
All I know is, I’m glad I set the goal for myself and I felt great afterwards. Take from my experiment what you will, but I found it to be a happily rewarding challenge.