Tuesday, December 09, 2008

It seems that life follows a certain pattern. There was a time in my life when everyone was getting married. There were weddings to attend every couple of months. Then people started having babies. Some couples split, others didn’t. And in between all this, some people died. Now, it seems, that there are more people dying.

My uncle, Geoff, died yesterday while undergoing an operation. I didn’t know Geoff that well, we were never close and I feel for my cousins and my aunt who have to go through this.

In May this year, I attended the memorial service held for a friend named Hiro, who I knew through the SGI. He died of pneumonia in Japan.

I believe in reincarnation, but that still doesn’t take away grief. Grief, I have learned, is a process that is ongoing. We grieve for ourselves. When I spoke to my aunt yesterday, I realize how great the void is in those left behind.

I know that Uncle Geoff was unwell for quite a long time. I also know from my cousins that he was talking about being too tired to carry on and that he wanted to go “home, to my mountain.” For Geoff, dying was something he wanted. For his family, having him around was what they wanted.

It brings to mind my father’s passing. He too was ill for a long time. My thoughts have remained unchanged: even though it’s sad that Dad’s not here and I miss him, I know that he is no longer in pain. In fact, it hurt more to see him weak and in pain than the grief of losing him. At the time of his death, though, the shock of losing him was too strong to see it that way.

Goodbye, Uncle Geoff. Rest well.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Why I Have Left the SGI
(and started my own religion)

The SGI (Soka Gakkai International) is the lay organization for the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonen. I started practicing this Buddhism in 2004 and received my Gohonzon (a holy scroll that represents your life) in 2005.

Initially, I believed I had found where I belonged, but gradually, and especially since coming to SA and joining SGI SA, I realised that the organisation ain't really that organised. I began to grow very disillusioned with the organization altogether, and several events culminated and allowed me to make the decision to break ties completely.

I am not faulting the practice of Buddhism – Nichiren Daishonen’s or anyone else’s. It’s not the practice of Buddhism I have left behind: it’s the SGI.

In points, and no particular order, here are my reasons:

For a practice that is supposed to be about tolerance, I have seen a great deal of judgement delivered. One of the Buddhists in SGI-SA is also a Sangoma (witch doctor). He was brave enough to get up and tell everyone how chanting had enhanced his work as a Sangoma. Later, two leaders of the SGI were whispering about how taken aback they were about this guy being so open. According to them, he should not have even mentioned it. I was asked to write an article about this guy for the fledgling Buddhist magazine and was instructed by one of the same leaders, quite strictly, not to mention the “Sangoma thing”. This same person, when I mentioned I was a healer, asked if I had permission (!!!!) from the SGI to do that, as she knew about a woman in the UK who worked with crystals who had to get permission from SGI-UK to do so. Hmm. The organization likes to talk about “absolute freedom”, but clearly it doesn’t live it. I see auras, communicate with the dead, channel paintings and do Reiki healing. I could see myself heading the same way as the Buddhist-Sangoma.

I am openly gay and while I didn’t encounter any homophobia with the UK groups, I have in South Africa. I was waiting in line for a cup of tea at the end of a meeting, chatting to one of the ladies behind me. She was bemoaning the fact that she just couldn’t find the right man. I joked that perhaps she should be looking for the right woman. We both cracked up and laughed about this. The man in front of us, also a leader in the SGI, turned around and with venom spat out: “You people with your agendas. You come in and take our women from us. What’s the matter with you? Why can’t you just leave our women alone? Why do you always have to push your agenda in everyone’s faces?” He looked so angry, I was certain he would have hit me, if he had the chance. His tirade went on, saying pretty much the same thing in several different ways. Not cool. Another member in Singapore has told me that because she was gay, she was being ostracized by her family – all of whom are practicing Nichiren Buddhists with the SGI.

The SGI discourages investigation into other schools of Buddhism. Nichiren Buddhism is promoted as the ONLY path. So is Christianity.I like to think for myself and explore. If people are telling me not to look into other schools of Buddhism, I want to know why, and telling me that “those schools are wrong” isn’t a good enough reason. The SGI also discourages silent meditation. Again, the ONLY path is to chant. Stuff that – I have gained a lot of insight from silent meditation as well as chanting.

The SGI is infatuated with its lay leader, Daisaku Ikeda. Maybe I just didn’t get the lesson of mentor/disciple, but from working with Demartini’s Quantum Collapse Process, I know that I am no greater or lesser than another person. Yes, he has written great works and is a great leader, however, I am not going to view him as some kind of Buddhist Jesus. Nichiren’s Buddhism tells us we are ALL Buddhas. We all have Buddhahood. Then this man is no more enlightened than anyone else – we are both Buddhas.

Talking about everyone being Buddhas… We are told we are all Buddhas, but when we begin to think for ourselves and move away from the SGI, investigate other faiths and practices or meditate silently, you are labeled arrogant and ignorant.

I engaged in SGI activities. When my schedule no longer permitted me to be as involved, I was given a series of phone calls and emails, bordering on guilt trips in order to get me to come back. The organization didn’t like NO as an answer. Even after leaving, I have been pursued with a cult-like enthusiasm to return.

Finally, I don’t need to have permission to do what I do, nor is it necessary to apologise for who I am. No one has the right to tell me how my spiritual life should be structured or what I must believe.

So I have started my own religion. I call it Hectic Eclectic and I embrace all things and nothing. In fact, I do a lot of embracing. I’ve named myself the Huru Guru and I am basking in my own glory.

I am much happier calling my own shots.

Monday, December 01, 2008

… Finally, After 7 Months.

Sheesh. No blog for seven months? Really? The time has flown. I cannot believe it’s been that long. Now that I have a little borrowed internet access for the month of December, I am finally able to do a little update.

It’s been a year and four months since my return to South Africa. I feel settled now. Settled, acclimatised and accustomed to the fact that getting things done out here takes a bit longer than it did in the UK.

I’ve watched the jacarandas bloom. Been here for the birth of two babies. Offered my shoulder to my cousin when she split from her boyfriend and shared drinks with her when they got back together. This stuff – the grit of life – this is what I missed while I was away.

What a year so far. I did not choose a relaxing and uneventful life this time around. While I knew Madelein for a little while, we started dating in February. By June, after a whirlwind romance, we got married at the Department of Home Affairs. We were planning a spiritual ceremony for early next year, but finances have forced us to put that on hold. I am so blessed to be living in a country where one’s sexual orientation is protected by the constitution.

In July I moved out of my sister’s house, into our own little garden flat. This weekend just gone, we moved all the way back into my sister’s house. She’s off to work in Middelburg for two years and preferred to rent the family house out to… well… family.

My cousin Jackie and her husband David are expecting their first child and about a month ago, they immigrated to Australia. It was a blessing to get the chance to get to know her, because the last time I saw her she was ten years old. So weird coming back and she’s a young woman.

Painted a grand total of six paintings so far. Not done much else creatively. Bit of a novel. Bit of a short story. Couple of poems.

I’ve seen an Egyptian Sun Healer and I’ve left the practice of Nichiren Buddhism as promoted by Soka Gakkai International. I am slowly coming out of a spiritual crisis that began in late July.

I’ve lost a total of four kilograms, with more on the way. I feel renewed. This is home, and this is where my energy began. While I miss the friends I left behind in the UK, I am glad to be around the friends and family I have here.

In the universe there is always balance.