I’ve nabbed the content of this from Ted Penfold. My wife, has told me that she heard this lecture of Dick’s and found it and him some of the most inspiring things in her life. I came across this wonderful piece by chance, looking for some background information on Nikko, the second guy after (Nichiren) in our prayers, and repeat it here so that more people might be similarly inspired.
I’ve corrected some spellings from the original transcript here which I assume were due to OCR transcription errors, mainly. I’ve also added a few links, where appropriate, to external sources (SP)
n.b. Admonitions = Precepts = Warnings. The three terms appear in different places, but essentially mean the same thing (SP)
LECTURE ON THE TWENTY-SIX ADMONITIONS OF NIKKO SHONINby the late SGI UK General Director, Richard Causton
The following lecture by SGI UK General Director, Richard Causton, based on various lectures given by him around the U.K. and overseas during late 1992 and 1993, was inspired by SGI President Ikeda’s guidance on this subject on 24th October 1992. This lecture first appeared as a series of articles in SGI-UK’s monthly magazine, the U.K. Express. (now called Art of Living – SP)
Yes. It’s the first proper bit of recording I’ve done since 1985 and Crawling Chaos. It took a couple of hours fiddling in Reaper, mainly seeing what the bits do.
It’s quite a bit different to the original, I think, done by Colin Vearncombe, who dreamt it up. You can find it on an earlier post here. It’s two mikes on voice and acoustic 12 string guitar. Done in Reaper. You’ll see I quite often hear things differently to other folk…
18/3/2008 – remixed with gongyo bell doubled & downtuned by different amounts! It’s a lot smoother than the first time I mixed it and it has a Sargasso Sea touch!
27/3/2008 – It’s just dawned on me that I must really like the sound-scape effect of controlled echo. This track I’ve managed to keep a good controlling lid on the several different echoes. In Jhonn’s Angel and D.S.S., say, because of time constraints and other factors, the echoes are always just on the point of losing it all the way through.
Jhonn’s Angel for comparative purposes.
( Jhonn’s Angel is best heard really loud because that’s how we mixed it. There wasn’t enough time to check it at different volumes and through different speaker set-ups.)
original from 1987
Phil Collins ruins it! (I thought it was Fatso kicking in there)
The lyrics are pulled straight from Black’s site. The chords I’ve stuck on as they sound best to me. There are quite a few versions out there so this is mine how I currently do it. Anyone who knows me will not be at all surprised that I currently play it as on acoustic 12-string guitar like “Zombie Dance” from my “Crawling Chaos” days. Givvus a while and I’ll release it! There’s a version on Colin’s site which has similar chords, down-tuned a semitone, and with a bass picking out a slightly different path. It’s well different to his original from the 80’s.
This is a Strangely Perfect take on the track, as promised (added 6 March 2008). It’s the first thing I’ve put down since 1985… (Remixed with Gongyo Bell addition 18 March 2008)
I’ve always liked it. It’s been in my head a lot recently, enough to get me to transpose it to paper!
I saw Roger Edwards from Purple Ear today. Roger was a major influence when I started this Buddhism lark and was one of the original SGI people in Somerset. We had a very pleasant day following an invigorating Kosen Rufu Gongyo in Taunton, today being November 18th and 77 years since the Soka Gakkai was founded by Mr Makiguchi. It’s also 63 years since he died – co-incidentally on the same day, today.
Jillian & Roger
We went to my parents-in-law where interesting histories of Accrington were exchanged. Roger has had some compy probs and can’t access his old purple ear stuff, but fortunately (or not, I suppose it depends on your viewpoint!), in 2003 I downloaded everything he had online at the time. So Roger, just for you until you tell me to pull them, here are your tracks. I think that they are all yours as I’ve just uploaded ones with similar dates and sounds. I hear what you say about the North African feel. You should do more like these. I think a trip to Mali like we were talking today would be a great benefit to you.
That is Fun.mp3
Words without Walls.mp3
Mimmo, try these or follow the links. (SP, 14 June 2009)
– comment from Mimmo below prompted this particular postscript addition!!
(includes words and translation on source page: http://www.tonidunlap.com/gongyo.htm The audio is a bit droppy.)
(full liturgy; many voices, nice steady pace and a neat video!)
(really fast, full Lotus Sutra; Gongyo is the first half roughly; many voices)
I practice the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin who was a guy living in 13th century Japan.
He is what most people nowadays would call a “good guy” although at the time, because he spoke his mind which then annoyed the ruling classes, he spent most of his life being persecuted in one way or another. Most people associate Buddhism with chanting, bald heads and orange robes. Maybe a bit of martial arts.
My Buddhism is for DAILY LIFE so I just do the chanting and chuck in a few extra words with a bit of ceremony – there are no daft clothes. I exist in the society as it is now, not in some past heaven or future nirvana.
This is a bit of chanting. Fire it up to keep you going while you keep reading. It should make you feel “better”. Switch it off it annoys you; it can be quite distracting while reading. Join in if you feel like it;
but maybe not in a public library… :-)
Do I worship Nichiren and/or the Buddha?
Er, well, no, to both. The first recognized person as a Buddha was “The Buddha” commonly represented as a funny round fat fellow that lots of people worship in quite a large part of the world. He was depicted by Keanu Reeves in the film The Little Buddha quite well, I thought. However, the Buddha, and Nichiren, and everybody else in the world were and are just men.
So I don’t worship them or anybody; that’s plain daft.
This is one representation of Nichiren Daishonin that can be found on the net. It may be a close likeness or a stylized representation. He may have had large earlobes as in this picture and others – but that could be stylized as well, as large earlobes were very fashionable at the time in Japan. This is similar to large round leg calves being fashionable in Henry VIII’sEngland or other physical attributes like big boobs in modern times. The point is that it doesn’t matter what he looked like or what I look like. Nichiren left his writings, many still intact. In ten thousand years this picture (and all the great works of art like Van Gogh and Leonardo, say), and Nichiren’s writings will have rotted away to nothing, consumed by the fungi and bacteria that surround us all at all times. I too will be gone, the atoms of my body incorporated into other things and this website disappeared into a forgotten history.
That’s a bit gloomy. So why is he important?
Nichiren stated at a very early age that he would study and study to find “truth” and a way for all people to be happy. As now globally, then, in 13th century Japan, there were loads of religions and sects , as well as roaming hordes of robbers and warlords, very like England and most of Europe as well at the time. Nichiren spent two decades finding out the real truth about all of the religions (in Japan – most were Buddhism based), eventually coming to the conclusion that the final teachings of the original Buddha were the way to go. He kind of mirrored that aspect of the original Buddha’s life – search, discover, revise and revise again.
In the Lotus Sutra preached during the last eight years of his life, however, the Buddha suddenly regretted and retracted his earlier position and instead taught that persons of the two vehicles can in fact attain Buddha-hood. – Nichiren, “The Opening of the Eyes“
He got a bit stuck for a while on the early (usually called provisional) teachings, but finally, the later ones made most sense so that’s what he promulgated. The early teachings are used by most other forms of Buddhism and usually have some concept of what we in the West call heaven and hell as well as a hierarchical structure and a limited path to enlightenment. Here’s what Nichiren has to say about the early teachings and how they are misunderstood by many different sects.
They declare that in all the ten directions there is only one Buddha, and do not even preach that there is any other Buddha in any of the ten directions. Of the principle that “all sentient beings alike possess the Buddha nature,” they of course say nothing at all. They refuse to acknowledge that even a single person possesses the Buddha nature. – Nichiren, “The Opening of the Eyes“
In a nutshell, the original Buddha and Nichiren’s subsequent developments say:
That all people are equal
…..er… yes. Obviously this means men and women as well, equally. :)
This means that there is nothing special about being a priest, monk, clergyman or whatever. Their function (if any), should be to help people and maintain the proper practices.
All disciples and lay supporters of Nichiren should chant Nam-myoho- renge-kyo with the spirit of many in body but one in mind, transcending all differences among themselves to become as inseparable as fish and the water in which they swim. This spiritual bond is the basis for the universal transmission of the ultimate Law of life and death. Herein lies the true goal of Nichiren’s propagation. When you are so united, even the great desire for widespread propagation can be fulfilled. But if any of Nichiren’s disciples disrupt the unity of many in body but one in mind, they would be like warriors who destroy their own castle from within. – Nichiren, The Heritage of the Ultimate Law of Life
Nichiren especially, was very critical of people in religion or power using one or the other to maintain their power and aggrandise themselves. This was the main reason for his continually being persecuted. Go for it Nichiren!
That everything in the world, every single thing, is temporary.
We exist forever though! This is called our karma. Hey this is great! They stated that we exist in two forms, latent, and the other one, manifest, where we are now, ALIVE! Usually, we try to improve our lives, or change our karma to something better. One way is to sit still and think on it – called meditating. A better way is to chant the words Nam Myoho Renge Kyo as doing this has been found to be a much faster method. Unfortunately, one can only change one’s karma when one is alive like now, reading this. Obviously if you are asleep, unconscious or dead you can’t read these words, you can’t chant and so you can’t change your karma. But hey, that’s enough isn’t it?
That the Buddha nature is within everyone, at all moments
In the same way that good and bad thoughts and deeds exist within a person, he said that the Buddha nature is within every person, continuously. All we need, is to reveal or pull this Buddha nature from within us for all to see, and we will become a Buddha, “poof!“, just like that! This is called 3000 realms in a single moment.
For me, with my science hat on, it is exactly like the quantum theory, particles can appear, “poof!“, just like that! And “plop!”, they’re gone! Or like the Young’s Slit experiment, in 2002, voted “the most beautiful experiment” (I urge you to read this whole article at least twice to understand where I’m coming from, especially the bottom half of the Wikipedia article)…
There is no such thing or place as hell
This is a corollary of the 3000 realms principle. Instead the term Hell is used to describe a life-state that you happen to be in at a particular moment . It is one of many states that you jump into, or out, at any time. More specifically, all states are there continuously but one is manifested more strongly than the other states.
We must chant Daimoku to enhance our life state, and everyone else’s as well.
This Buddha nature within us can be likened to a tarnished jewel. It just needs polishing. Nichiren said the way to polish it was by repetitive chanting of the phrase: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo …………and do you know what? It works! This galloping chanting is called Daimoku.
So how do we get from 13th Century Japanese Nichiren to 21st Century Schizoid Geordie, then?
When Nichiren was getting on, his personal persecution had ceased and he’d actually been accepted into the establishment. He had thousands of followers and half a dozen key associates, called monks. When he died, only one man kept up the true practice as they’d all promised. The remaining five wandered off and set up other Buddhist schools, taking up the old ways of the provisional teachings and lured by self-aggrandizement. For instance, they said that a person would have to live for many lifetimes to be a monk, and only monks could ever be a Buddha and women could NEVER be a Buddha, they’d have to re-incarnate as men first! Well this is plain bollocks, but people are easily led, especially by fine living, consumed by greed – and understandably so. So the practice almost disappeared.
Thus it is very difficult to establish peace in society. One may be letter-perfect in reciting the Lotus Sutra, but it is far more difficult to act as it teaches. – Nichiren, Lessening One’s Karmic Retribution
In the early decades of the 20th Century, a guy called Makiguchi, who was a very forthright yet caring teacher, was looking for something to go along with his teaching, a model for life, perhaps, or maybe just that something extra. Somehow, he came upon the works of Nichiren, and thus he decided to start his organization which he called a
Value Creation Society
Contemporary German print of Charles I beheading
As with Nichiren, many people flocked to him, promising dedication and the like. But the Shinto religion in Japan was all powerful. It said the emperor was a god and should be worshipped as such, a bit like Charles I of England thought, and look what happened to him.
The military, religion and state were as one in Japan, and they foolishly entered the Second World War.
Even their greatest admiral, Yamamoto, knew it was foolish and he said as much when he said after the Pearl Harbour attack (which he planned, ironically), “I’m afraid we have awakened a sleeping giant“. But he knew his duty and stayed the course, eventually being shot down in a aeroplane by a secret American mission sent to assassinate him.
The wartime Japanese government made all religions except Shinto illegal. I mean -REALLY ILLEGAL.
If the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds. – Nichiren, On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime
Makiguchi and one other man refused to change and were locked up in a piss-poor freezing jail in 1943.
That man was called Toda, his appearance, a typical western stereotype of a Japanese man. But as in everything, appearances can be deceptive. Judge a person by their words and actions. Toda had met Makiguchi some years earlier and was part of the Value Creating Society and an educator also. Makiguchi was his mentor.
Toda & Makiguchi
The Nichiren priesthood acquiesced to the government demands, sticking Shinto shrines in the temples and stuff like that. Absolutely appalling behaviour, especially combined with other stuff that I won’t say here. Makiguchi was now over 70, the prison rigours were too much and he died in jail on November 18, 1944, the anniversary of the founding of the Value Creation Society. Toda did not find out for many months that his mentor was dead as they were in solitary confinement as “thought criminals.”
“Nothing is more barbarous than war. Nothing is more cruel. And yet, the war dragged on. Nothing is more pitiful than a nation being swept along by fools.” – Daisaku Ikeda, The Human Revolution (quoting Toda)
Just before war’s end, a week or so before the atomic bombs were dropped, he was released. Physically he was very ill with kidney failure and stuff. Mentally…. Well, he had a little rest and then got stuck in, in a truly remarkable way that few people can really realise how much one man could get so stuck in to anything so completely. With seemingly endless energy, he set off on a journey to promote peace and human revolution, galvanising people across Japan into similar actions.
It was truly one of the greatest endeavours and achievements of human existence, certainly of the 20th century. All subsequent happenings depend on Toda’s initial actions. Remember, no-one forced him to do this.
And he didn’t beat about the bush. He is quoted as saying:
“If you are not serious about achieving kosen-rufu, just quit and get out! We don’t need any cowards here. Tomorrow, just attach a flyer describing the benefits of the Gohonzon to a hundred dogs, and let them loose in Tokyo! I’ll take care of the rest of kosen-rufu myself!” – Toda
In 1951 he had 3000 members when he re-named the organisation Soka Gakkai.
Seven years later when he died there were 750,000+ members. I don’t think a single person in the whole of human history has done so much good in such a short time. And it is good.
This Buddhism promotes peace and equality for all peoples across all of space and time. Nothing less than this earnest desire, followed by action, will do to ensure the survival of a civilised human race.
The essence of what we are is called Karma, and during his time in jail, Toda realised that Buddhism is life itself. By polishing our jewel, our life-force, our Buddhism, is revealed. During our lifetime we can change the essence of what we are, our Karma, to something better. Most people have an idea of good and bad, better and worse. These are the ying and yang of value. Most people want to better themselves, or even BE BETTER…
Better than What?
Better than what you were previously, that’s all. Comparing yourself to other people and stuff like that is garbage. The only relevant comparison for a person, is to compare where and how you are now, to where and how you were yesterday. And that is the only value judgement that anyone should ever make about themselves.
It took me a long time to realise that!
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
I’d better explain this Nam Myoho Renge Kyo thing now
All the words in the phrase are relevant, but maybe the one for me at the moment, with two syllables, is myoho.
It’s a funny old language is Japanese. It uses ancient Chinese characters but set to the modern Japanese language. The characters originally started out as pictograms meaning simple ideas, but then over time they ended up as meaning something much more. This means that the Japanese and Chinese characters usually have a multitude of meanings – and this isn’t an exception!
These are two of the many meanings for myo and ho:
myo = death = latent existence
ho = life = manifest existence
So when I chant daimoku I’m running through my states of existence, a sonorous metaphore for myself and all around me!
It is said the whole chant thing, called:
Gongyo – should be like a horse galloping through the heavens.
– life – death – life – death – life – death – life – death – life – death – life – death – life – death – life – death – life – death – life – death , without end. That’s what it is.
So there’s no need to worry, which many people do, about the perilous times ahead as we approach our inevitable death. I can state this no clearer than Nichiren, who was very good at this sort of thing and has left us a legacy of priceless writings and quotes. This is probably my favourite and one that is well known:
When deluded, one is called an ordinary being, but when enlightened, one is called a Buddha. This is similar to a tarnished mirror that will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality. Arouse deep faith, and diligently polish your mirror day and night. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. –Nichiren, On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime
The other words Nam, Renge and Kyo help to encapsulate this meaning. One main meaning is this: “Devotion to the Mystic Law of the Lotus Sutra”. The words also hold several key concepts within as well. But we kind of expected that, didn’t we?
So What do You do when You’re doing this chanting?
Yeah right! I look at a scroll.
On April 28, 1253 Nichiren Daishonin stood on a cedar platform in front of loads of religious and political leaders of the time and without fear expounded Nam MyoHo Renge Kyo for the first time.
This pissed them all off something rotten and he was persecuted almost relentlessly for several decades.
Later, in 1272, I reckon he was in serious dread of losing his life, and so that his “secret” would not be lost, he inscribed the essence of the meaning of Diamoku onto a piece of scrolled paper, so that it could be kept, passed around and copied for everyone. This is called the Gohonzon.
Japanese is very symbolic; the written language, decor, customs and the manner of speech. The Gohonzon isn’t excluded from this. Far from it! Down the middle is Nam MyoHo Renge Kyo, like a great big fat totem pole representing yourself and then it’s surrounded by loads of “god” characters – with names a bit like the Roman and Greek gods, only better! These represent all the good and bad forces operating inside and outside ourselves at every single moment.
So I sit in front of the Gohonzon, if it’s there, and chant to become at one with the universe, to better myself, to become happy, for everyone to attain all these things, and much more. It depends. As I said, it is Buddhism for Daily Life. All the paraphernalia isn’t necessary to be a Buddha, be enlightened or even just to feel slightly better. However, it does make it a lot easier!
You chant to it, eh? So you Worship this Gohonzon thing then?
Look! I don’t worship ANYTHING! I do have gratitude for the sheer good fortune to find out about this stuff though. The Gohonzon is a means to an end, a facilitator, a representation of self, a picture of the universe. I’d just like to say this now, once only. Men created gods and idols. Not the other way round. There is no heaven, there is no hell. They were created by men as means of control. True, leading a “good” life is a good thing, but you won’t go to heaven. You may change your Karma unwittingly though! Heaven and hell were invented to intimidate the population into being subservient to the priesthood classes, be they the Abraham originated religions, Shinto, Shamanism or different Buddhisms
So How Does it Work then, this chanting lark?
I can drive my car without understanding the laws of mechanics, combustion, iron ore extraction and smelting, oil refinery operation etc – but the car works for me.
The five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo do not represent the sutra text, nor are they its meaning. They are nothing other than the intent of the entire sutra. So, even though the beginners in Buddhist practice may not understand their significance, by practising these five characters, they will naturally conform to the sutra’s intent.–Nichiren, ON THE FOUR STAGES OF FAITH
That’s all you need to know, a bit like “I think, therefore I am” – apart from cause and effect that is.
Cause and Effect? But isn’t what you just said a lot like blind faith?
It can be blind faith, if you want it so. If it works then maybe that is all you need. But Shakyamuni and Nichiren understood perfectly the law of cause and effect. This is the proof that Buddhism works. We can make causes, good or bad, and the effects are immediately apparent!
It must be a common observation for everyone, it is for me, that when I’m in a bad mood, my mood affects all around me; from the dog, to people, machines and electronic devices; they all start going weird!
The converse is also true. When I’m happy, everyone else is. If someone really jolly walks in to a party, the mood of the party instantly can become buoyant and elevated. There is an old hippy phrase a bit like “What a bummer. Don’t keep bringing me down, man”. So it’s true. We can be UP or DOWN and the effects can be made by us or upon us.
In other words, we affect our environment in more ways than just the current buzzwords, “climate change”. And our environment affects us as well. However, if we want to feel better, it is not good enough to change our environment, literally, although it’d work for a bit.
– if we hammer our environment, it’ll hammer us back.
The only thing in the whole universe that we can really change, is ourselves. And if someone is having a hard time, we can feel concerned for their welfare, but in the end, it is their hard time. Ultimately, everyone’s life is their own responsibility and my life is my responsibility, and mine alone.
Consider this; you and your partner are breaking up. Each blames the other for the breakup and for feeling bad, a common observation, yes? But the reason you feel bad is within yourself, alone. Earlier, or in different happier circumstances, would you ascribe your happiness to your partner alone? Probably not! So therefore, it’s illogical to ascribe the bad feelings to your partner? It is no good saying “if my partner did or didn’t do this I’d feel better”. That is exerting a bizarre control over someone. No, the only thing you can change is yourself and the only happiness that you should be responsible for, is your own.
Realizing this is being aware of the law of cause and effect and how it can affect your karma, hopefully for the better. You are undergoing what Toda called
and being well capable of revealing your Buddha nature, more often than not!
Ahem! You were going to tell me how you started….
Yeah right! I met someone who did the practice, went to their meetings for many years, observed how their life changed, continued feeling rotten with my life and then decided to give it a go, shit or bust really. This person was doing Kosen Rufu and myself, because you’ve read this far, I too am also doing Kosen Rufu, right now!
Kosen Rufu -“to widely propagate the Buddhism of Nichiren based on Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings in the Lotus Sutra.”
That’s how I started.
Lotus Sutra! That’s that sex thing isn’t it? Fnar! Fnar!
No. That’s the Kama Sutra. … it’s worlds within worlds time again!
Sutra means a thread or rope to hold stuff together but has come to mean the paper(s) or book(s) that were being bound as well. The Lotus Sutra was one of the last things that Shakyamuni talked about, i.e. it’s his later teachings that I mentioned earlier. All the stuff he spouted in his long lifetime (so that’s a lot of stuff!), wasn’t written down for hundreds of years, but was remembered as part of an oral tradition. But then it was written down and bound into a book. This may seem at first glance to be a bit iffy, but it’s been shown that this method of record keeping can be very reliable.
For Instance; At around about the same time as Shakyamuni, but near the Mediterranean, lived Homer of the Iliad and Odyssey fame. His stories were recorded in the same fashion and have been found to be contain histories and observations of remarkably accuracy. The ruins of the ancient city of Troy was found by referring to Homer. The Lotus Sutra is garlanded with the most outlandish prose and people and events are referred to about which we have no other knowledge. However, the style is enough to show us that the intended audience knew exactly what was meant – a bit like the coded references in Shakespeare’s plays. Within these luxurious words lie the truths which I’ve tried to explain above, as best I can with my limited knowledge, of the Nichiren Buddhism that I practice and the SGI organisation that promotes this Buddhism and Peace as a vehicle to make sure that all peoples of the world can realise their full potential.
NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO, NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO, NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO
Who’s in charge then? Who’s the vicar?
Ikeda aged 19
I belong to the SGI, the Soka Gakkai International. After Toda died, his disciple Daisaku Ikeda became the Third President. He officially kicked off the organization in 1975 on the symbolic island of Guam.
Buddhism is full of symbolism, there are no co-incidences.
The whole organization is a lay organization – there are no priests. The original Nichiren Shoshu priests deviated from Nichiren’s teachings many times, most recently when they expelled the SGI members in 1991. Basically they reverted to type with all the old limits to personal growth, nepotism, corruption, etc.
People who have been practising a long time tend to be the leaders – they’ve had more practice at the practice! The organization can be best thought of as an inverted pyramid with the newest members on top, and the whole edifice supported by former President and now honorary chairman Ikeda at the bottom. When he dies, the pyramid will have a broader support.
Following Toda’s death when the membership was 750,000+, Daisaku Ikeda has overseen the membership grow to over 10 million spread across 190 countries instead of Japan alone.
Is There Anything Else You can tell me?
Well heaps actually!
I’ll tell you WHY I started chanting and doing the practice of Nichiren’s Buddhism… It’s because I realized that there were so many reasons why I should be doing it and the only reason I wasn’t was because of stubbornness. Just remember,
Buddhism is full of symbolism, there are no co-incidences.
All my life I’ve had little pointers or clues, if you like, that there was something more to it than first appeared. I pretended not to see. It being life itself. Here are a few:
I’ve always thought I was going to live forever, and more importantly, I’ve always thought that I have lived forever. This I assumed was youthful arrogance; but it wasn’t and isn’t. I have clear recollections of being in my pram before 18 months of age. At this age I can remember that I could understand people perfectly, although I’ve been told I could only say a few words. I can also remember having opinions about people and thinking disparaging thoughts about them, usually the one’s interrupting my sleep in my pram!!! I’m pretty sure that I did not feel a close affinity with my parents, at the time. This arrived later. I remember thinking that stuff (the world and all I could perceive in it), was there for my observation or entertainment, if you like. I sometimes still feel this way. I’ve been told it’s a “syndrome”, or something. Whatever! I’m not dissociated from the world; in fact I empathise too much for my own good.
I’ve always had links to Japan all my life in many ways. As a boy, my father read books and decided he’d like to go to The Coral Sea and places like that. He realized this ambition as a sailor, firstly in the Royal Navy and then on merchant ships. He was a ship’s engineer and had a few medals from the war for each “theatre” he’d been in (war isn’t acting but somehow, the different parts of a big war use this highly inappropriate term):
Normandy, he was at D-day, firstly on the Belfast and later, once the bombardment was finished, transferred to a landing ship where on Juno beach he had to pull injured Canadians from the blood-red sea while bits of Canadians were being blown across the decks of the ship from returning German fire;
Pacific, he was at Okinawa as part of Task Force 57 on HMS Slinger where he witnessed the American fleet being kamikazed. Okinawa is infamous for it’s brutality and sheer loss of life. The Americans landed UNOPPOSED and yet, they still lost 79 ships and 763 aircraft. The US attrition rate from combat stress (battle fatigue) at 48% has NEVER been exceeded in any other conflict. 150,000 civilians died, some by jumping from cliffs, their children in their arms, trying to escape as they’d been (wrongly) told that horrible things would be done to them by the GIs. The scenes on Okinawa were given as one of the prime reasons for dropping the A-bombs on Japan.
After war’s end, my father went to Nagasaki and later told me what he saw. He brought back lots of tourist souvenirs from Japan and the “East” when he fulfilled his ambition to be a merchant sailor in those waters.
One of these is my “box” which has the six views seen here, and which has secret sliding panels. (Unfortunately, my childish ignorance let me leave my box on a sunlit windowsill and sat in condensation which is why the box is faded. It used to glow with colour and shine!)
The top shows a stylized volcano with some houses, temples a bridge and a boat with a fisherman in it. Nichiren was the son of a fisherman and the Nichiren Shoshu temple is near Mt Fuji.
The bottom shows a lotus flower in a pond. The lotus flower is Renge from Nam MyoHo Renge Kyo and the prime sutra is called, the Lotus Sutra. The lotus is symbolically so important as it is a plant that flowers and seeds at the same time, and also it is very beautiful yet rises from the muddiest and smelliest of ponds. Renge also means “cause and effect”, but I guess that’s to be expected because of the wealth of symbolism around the subject.
Passchendaele – Tyne Cott Cemetery
Passchendaele – Tyne Cott Cemetery
All my life I’ve had a fascination and hatred with war and the inhumanity that one person or people can inflict on others. I’ve visited many battle sites and cemeteries. I don’t really know why. I don’t know anyone there.
The largest commonwealth cemetery is called Tyne Cott because that was the Geordie-fied nickname for the area given to it by the large numbers of Geordies who were there and ended up in it; so it means a lot to me.
Tyne Cott Blockhouse
(See this contemporary photo of a blockhouse hosted at http://www.ww1battlefields.co.uk, now down at the bottom of my cemetery picture).
They fought in the Battle of Passchendaele, whose mispronounced soldiers’ name (Passion Dale) says much about the whole war and it’s after effects. The before and after aerial picture of this battle is almost exactly like that from Nagasaki above. As a child aged about six I remember being comforted by my gran (who’d made shells during that war, some of which probably made some holes in the Passchendaele pictures) as I’d recently seen something on the TV that shocked me very much.
“Nothing is more barbarous than war. Nothing is more cruel. And yet, the war dragged on. Nothing is more pitiful than a nation being swept along by fools.” – Daisaku Ikeda, The Human Revolution (quoting Toda)
It was the First World War and I couldn’t believe why so may people did what they did. It was a film that I saw where every man in the forward moving line was dropped – this still troubles me now to think of it. It wasn’t people acting in a play in a theatre.
Passchendaele – Tyne Cott Cemetery: unsigned message left for Lance Corporal Henry John Martin
While at TyneCot, this really moved me so I took a picture. When you are there, it’s very hard to take pictures as they never look like what you remember about the vastness of the place. For me, this speaks volumes.
That is why this Buddhism is so good; it’s trying to stop this insanity and there really are people who think like me, Toda for instance.
I’ve visited Trets over the last two New Year’s, and returning from this year’s (2007), I drove through The Somme. Any British person of a certain age knows exactly what those two words mean. In my mind I can still see a teeny little British cemetery on the left, going up a bit of a hill west of the autoroute. It’s in the middle of a field and is so isolated, I don’t think many people visit, why would they. But I will go; soon – as I offer prayers for those forgotten people in that forgotten field every day. The men were told to walk through fields of wheat, heavily populated with poppies, against enfiladed concentrations of machine guns.
The blood and gore from thousands of men went everywhere, splattered over the (sometimes) still standing wheat- that’s why the poppy is the remembrance day symbol. The last Black Adder said it perfectly, chaps.
Trets contains another co-incidence for me. The Provence flag. It’s virtually identical to the Northumberland flag. Also, as a baby, I was christened in St Peter’s, Monkwearmouth where Bede lived and worked and described the Northumberland flag as one of the oldest designs in the country. Bede’s History was biased about this and many other things, being written by a man of his time and people, and on the winning (Angle) side etc.. However, although I am not Christian, I do feel a great connectedness to history and the land where I live, in a way that many other people do not. In fact, I think I was born old. It was an accident of geography that the church in which I was christened is one of the oldest in Britain – it just happened to be the closest at the time, in what is now a pretty run-down part of town (there are needles and stuff in the church grounds now – I visited it last year). Once it was a beacon of European civilisation containing the only library north of Avignon.
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