Trip to Japan
I attended an acupuncture seminar in Japan, with my friend Miro from Europe a few years ago.
Having lived in Japan, previously, I had the task of taking him and his friend, Mansoor sightseeing in Tokyo. Naturally, I first took him to a Maid Cafe in Akihabara. The look on his face was priceless.
The picture above is him in the Maid Cafe wearing some fluffy bear ears.
A maid cafe is a kind of theme cafe where the waitress dress like anime-type maids. Everything has a cutesy look, especially the tea, coffee and cake. There is nothing sexual about these places. Families can attend. Maid Cafes attract a lot of otaku – geeky kind of people, who love anime, and some tourists. I think Maid Cafes are cool. I recommend you visit one if you ever go to Japan.
I wrote in more detail about Japanese theme Cafes in this article – Theme cafes in Japan.
Better than Tsuji Fish Market
But Miro also insisted I take him to some proper tourist spots.
We went to the famous road crossing in Shibuya during the Halloween weekend, which was full of thousands of young people dressed up in the craziest costumes.
And we also did some spiritual tourist spots. Miro surprised me by saying he wanted to see a shrine. So we went to the Senso-ji and Asakusa Shrine in Asakusa. The Sky Tree is nearby, so it seemed logical to visit the Sky tree at the same time. The Sky Tree is, the tallest building in Japan. And what an incredible building it is.
Walking to the Sky Tree
From the Asakusa Shrine, there is a mile-long walk to the Sky Tree. Though, it would have been easy to take the train, we walked. Along the way, we traveled down a main road and past a large building.
Outside, on the street, two middle-aged Japanese woman were waiting outside it. As soon as we came close-by, they stopped us and asked us if we were interested in learning more about Buddhism? They invited us in to come inside and look at their Buddhist temple.
Normally, I would have declined and carried on, but Miro is a curious person and immediately said ‘yes’. Miro, had a lot of experience of meditation and qigong practice. He had done it for many years. I did not realise it, but he was really interested in becoming a Buddhist.
Visiting the Buddhist temple
We had to remove our shoes, as is customary and wear some slippers. Inside we were shown to a large prayer hall.
One of the Japanese women explained about Buddhism and talked about such things like karma. She mentioned that how we live, decides our karma and that if we have bad karma, we can return as a bug. Miro, said he did not want to return as a bug.
Miro has eaten a lot of animals. I think maybe he was worried about his karma.
After this talk, we were then asked directly – ‘Would we like to become Buddhists?’
That really surprised me. I did not expect for them to ask us that.
Miro’s friend Mansoor was a Catholic. He wore a large golden crucifix around his neck. I don’t think the Pope even had one that was that big. It was pretty obvious he was a Catholic. He said no.
I told them that I was a Christian (I had been baptised a year earlier) and they didn’t press me.
But Miro said yes immediately. He was really interested. I was surprised.
The ladies were pleased.
As soon as he said yes, the guide led him into an initiation ceremony. He was given a prayer-book which contained a Buddhist mantra. He was instructed to read a specific passage and was given his own beads. He was told to hold them when chanting.
Suddenly a priest came from another room wearing a Buddhist outfit. It was if he had been waiting next door ready for us. He came into the centre of the room and began some kind of ceremonial chant. It was all quite unexpected.
Me and the Mansoor were handed a book and instructed to chant also. Neither of us did. We risked damnation from our own respective religions. Of course, Miro did. The chanting lasted around 5 minutes.
Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo… Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo… Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo… Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo… Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo… Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo… Nam Myo ho Renge Kyo…
Then after the ceremony, Miro was told that he was now a Buddhist and a member of their organisation. We congratulated him. The Japanese women gave him information of its worldwide branches and showed us some pictures of other members. Miro was given the book and instructed to practiced daily mantras and meditation.
We were not asked to give any donation.
And then we left. It was quite an unusual experience to go through. I can’t imagine ever walking down a street in London, or anywhere in England, and some church members inviting me into a church to immediately become a Christian. Except for the Jehovah Witnesses.
That is a pretty efficient conversion process. But what else can you expect from a country that has taken over the automobile and electronic industries.
It is the wonderful thing about Japan. Such things can happen there, and it feels normal.
It was something Miro attracted
Talk about Law of Attraction.
Afterward, Miro, told us that for some time he had been interested in becoming a buddhist. He did not see this occurrence as a coincidence. It was meant to be.
We could easily have missed these people. We could have walked a different path, or taken the train instead, or perhaps they may not have been there at that moment we passed by. But we walked past at exactly the right time.
Miro had got what he wanted. He was now a Buddhist.
A few days later
And then Miro quit being a buddhist a few days later.
He started off quite diligently. He was reading the mantras and doing some chanting by himself in his hotel room. Even when his fried Mansoor jokingly told him, that he would probably give it up after a few days, he ignored him.
I really think Miro was serious. Buddhism could have changed his life. He may have become vegetarian and started writing poetry about love or koans. He might have started to wear sandals. Maybe even cry in public and tell us all of how he had healed his inner child. It would have been joyous.
But it was not meant to be.
He still eats meat and tells everyone that “poets are ***”.
Was it my fault that he quit early?
I am sorry, but I think I may have made him quit early. Or perhaps, I gave him an excuse to quit earlier than he would have done.
I told him about my wife’s family experience with some buddhist priests. There is a lot of money in buddhism. A lot of family ceremonies require the hiring of a buddhist priest in Japan and you have to pay for their services.
My wife’s family had met one priest who drove an expensive Mercedes (foreign cars are a luxury in Japan). He wore an expensive watch and even boasted to them about his car.
Whilst he said all this, my wife and family were silently wondering whether this guy had any idea just what kind of impression he was giving off to other people, Normal people do not usually boast about their wealth in front of people with modest lifestyles and levels of income. He clearly lacked any sense of self-awareness. Yet he was a Buddhist priest!
I did not want to tell Miro this story, as I wanted him and Buddhism to get off to a good start together in a happy marriage. I wanted it to last longer than the honeymoon.
But I couldn’t help myself. I told him about this and he said straightaway –
“Then I am going to quit if this is what it’s like”
So he quit Buddhism.
I felt a bit guilty. Not all Buddhists are like this. This was just one example. Although, there was another occasion when my in-laws had a negative experience with a buddhist funeral company. This organisation seemed focused on milking them for more money when planning a funeral and then ran the funeral in an insensitive hurried way – like a business, instead of a helpful service to help the family get closure.
Of course, it is not the same for all Buddhists. There are many good-hearted Buddhists. The Dalai Lama is internationally renowned for peace. Buddha also. Buddha didn’t care about foreign cars or rolex watches. He was a Prince who actually gave up all his wealth.
Though… it makes me wonder – if these Buddhists are really practicing Buddhism? – Especially non-attachment.
Osho and his Rolls Royce’s
It kind of reminds me of the famous guru, Osho, and his collection of Rolls Royce’s. Osho had 93 Rolls Royce cars.
I think Osho played off his collection as a joke, as though to argue that spiritualism and materialism can go together.
I am not so convinced by this argument. For example, I heard stories about the Sufi Master, Irina Tweedy from one her students called Dorothea, and about her attitude to money. Dorothea was my qigong teacher some years ago.
Non attachment to material possessions
Dorothea told me that Irina Tweedy often received expensive gifts – jewellery, even a fur coat, but that she gave it all away. It meant nothing to her. And in her diary – The Chasm of Fire, we read how Irina’s master instructed her to give away everything she owned – all her money, as part of her training, though it left her destitute.
She also told me that Irina opened her North London home to her students. They would all visit and sit around in her front room. No acres-long ashram. It was all rather modest. And no Rolls Royces.
This is not a post meant to criticise buddhist. I am merely pointing out that when something becomes a religion, it belongs to man, not god. Then it can become like a form of politics or control. The spirit is squeezed out and replaced with customs like an empty shell.
Or worse is that it becomes manipulated like a cult which a guru can use as a vehicle to get richer and have lots and lots of sex.
Actually that doesn’t sound all that bad to me.
In the West we have a rose-tinted view of the Orient and of Buddhism. Just because it is from the East, does not make it infallible.
The same can be said for Christianity or Catholicism or all religions.
They say if you meet Buddha on the road, you must kill him.
Jesus too. Lao Tzu. Ronald Macdonald and Santa Claus all. And especially Colonel Sanders.
Different ways to the same path
I don’t think Miro is wrong to be a Buddhist for a week. I don’t think he is disingenuous. Actually, I think he is wise.
He is seeking his own path. You must find what is right for you. No one’s path is the same as everyone elses.
You must also find what is not right for you. There are many paths and ways. To say that one way is the true way or the only way, is limiting, when there are so many cultures and traditions on this planet.
And hence, it is my belief that all religions should come with a 30 day trial period.you can try them out and if you don’t like it, you can return it and get your money back.
Turning a blind eye
Once you follow a religion, you can become blind. You cannot see any of the contradictions or failings of your own particular religion. You can see every other religion’s weaknesses, but not your own.
Kind of like smelling a fart in an elevator. Your own smells divine. Someone else’s is a diabolical thing. But alas, it is in the nose of the beholder, as all farts are equally noxious.
Take the example of Osho. After building his commune in Wasco County, Oregon, thousands of middle class and educated Americans and Westerners came to live there to practice free sex, worship Osho and meditate.
But then, Osho left the running of his huge commune to a strong minded woman called Ma Anand Sheela, who instigated illegal acts such as voter manipulation of the local elections and poisoning of the local water supply. In the end this ashram needed to be shut down by the state government.
I was really surprised to hear this story. I have read many of Osho’s books and found them to be so useful.
A few years ago, I met an English girl who told me she had grown up on a cult in America in the 1980s. She did not say which one. Her family, who were normal English middle-class people, joined a religious order and actually went to live in America. She told me that it was a very strange life growing up in one. She said that she had an estranged relationship with her mother.
The vehicle is not the goal
A few gurus and spiritual masters have often said the same thing – whatever the system you use, whether it is yoga, meditation, Sufism, these systems are but vehicles to the ultimate goal – of reunion with one.
These systems by and of themselves do not guarantee enlightenment. As Kristamurti said in a lecture, you can practice all of this and never achieve enlightenment.
They are but vehicles. Some of these systems have been refined over many generations to the point that they are effective, albeit laborious methods of dispelling the self, the sense of I, and connecting with one. But they are not necessarily the only way.
We are plonked on this earth is various different corners, in different cultures, histories and customs. We all have things in common. In our respective cultures, there will be a history or custom of our ancestors seeking this union with one. We need only investigate, with an open mind, and we will find evidence that our ancestors practiced sacred medicine.
- Vending Machines in Japan
- Waichi Sugiyama and the Tradition of Blind Acupuncturists in Japan
- Fortune comes in by a merry gate
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