On one of my journeys to Japan for a week’s immersion in the true spirit of Nichiren Buddhism, the senior Soka Gakkai leader who greeted the group of us from Canada told us that we’re spiritual warriors. I loved that idea. But I was far more accustomed to being a spiritual worrier, because my mind’s default programming was fear and dread.
When a friend told me in my early days of faith that I was pessimistic, I retorted, “No I’m not! I’m realistic!”
But happily, Buddhism works. And I’ll tell you a story about that. Because I started praying differently this past week. And I’ve started feeling differently, too, both about life, and myself.
Buddhism isn’t alone in teaching that when we act out of genuine care or regard for other people, we too benefit. I had an online class to present on the Nine Consciousnesses, which is a road map, if you will, of our invisible infrastructure. Instead of using my usual notes and articles collected over the years, I went to Google to see what I might find.
I found a new way of praying.
A little bit about the Nine Consciousnesses: Our karmic energy resides in our Eighth Consciousness. When we make a cause by thinking, saying or doing something, not only is that cause engraved or recorded in our Eighth Consciousness, so is, simultaneously, its latent effect. But we don’t know when that latent effect will become manifest. The Eighth Consciousness has an invisible, constant, waking and sleeping, influence over the conscious mind, on an entirely unconscious level.
Below the Eighth Consciousness, happily for us, lies the Ninth Consciousness, known in Sanskrit as amala, which means “pure.” The Ninth Consciousness is our Buddha consciousness – you could also call it Cosmic consciousness. Not only is it pure, in that it has never been affected or tainted by anything negative you’ve ever thought, said or done, it is also purifying. When you activate it by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, its purifying force flows through every other level of consciousness, and changes it for the better. Which is particularly important when it comes to the all-pervasive influence of the Eighth Consciousness.
Sounds great, but there’s a fly in the spiritual ointment: the Seventh Consciousness.
The Seventh Consciousness corresponds to our thinking, conscious mind. Our personal identity, and therefore our ego, resides here, so you know there’s bound to be some ensuing trouble! This is where we believe in the great illusion of separation – from other people, nature, animals. Therefore it doesn’t matter how we treat them, as it won’t effect us. Wrong. This is also the part of us that fears death because we think of it as extinction, the end of who we are. The truth is that death is the end of a lifetime, not of your life. But try telling that to the ego!
The article I read that helped me so much stated:
“If I am chanting and letting my thoughts race around at the same time, the flow of energy from the Ninth Consciousness is being interfered with by the noise from the Seventh Consciousness. … Strategising, or thinking unnecessarily, blocks the flow.”
Well, that was me. All sorts of fearful, doubtful thoughts vying with one another to interfere. Not to mention a host of totally random thoughts about utterly unrelated matters. A constant chatter coming from my Seventh Consciousness, courtesy of the influence of the Eighth Consciousness.
Later on the anonymous writer of the article commented that Nichiren Daishonin (the 13th-century founder of the Lotus school of Buddhism) wanted us to be single-minded, not “multi-minded.”
Food for thought, indeed. As was the encouragement to concentrate when chanting and praying. That may seem obvious, self-evident, but to a habitually distracted thinker like me, not so. Although I certainly did focus whenever I had a problem – on the problem itself, affirming in my mind, even as I prayed, that it was unsolvable and insurmountable. So I had become, I now realised, an expert interferer with and interrupter of the flow.
I’ve occasionally thought of my mind like a little dog. Very curious, sniffing into anything and everything, peeing where it shouldn’t and generally carrying on however it wished. Time to give that errant mind of mine some beneficial training!
I started chanting in a different way. Now I focus more on the Gohonzon (a sacred scroll in Nichiren Buddhism) really seeing it. I focus on the fact that Buddha consciousness is the foundation of my life and I am stimulating it with my chanting. I focus on the sound of my chanting. I use my mind to hold a rough idea of my desired outcome, as a feeling or a vision. And I trust what I have studied for so many years – that my Buddha consciousness is impacting every aspect of my whole life.
Chanting and praying like this have already made a noticeable difference. Instead of feeling flustered or dumbfounded when someone spoke rather aggressively to me, I was able to hold my own with him. Instead of frequently feeling exhausted, I have more energy. Instead of feeling insecure, I feel quite confident. I seem to have shifted from a paranoid to a pronoid bias.
Pronoid? Yes. A pronoid person believes that Life conspires to do her good. That everything that occurs is the Universe’s design, for a beneficial purpose. Facing the as yet unseen and unknown future, a pronoid person decides that everything will work out for the best.
So it seems I’ve slipped away from paranoia, pronoia’s evil twin, with its heavy load of reasons to be fearful, and instead I now have countless reasons to be cheerful! 😀