Today I heard a music most most beautiful.
Forgive me if I wax on the poetic side and get a bit dime store novelish, but damn...I had an experience today that totally blew my mind.
So, for the last three months I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism. As I, an obvious neophyte, understand it...Nichiren Buddhism is a school of Buddhist thought that has peace and justice as core values, teaches that enlightenment can be reached in a single lifetime, that all people are welcome regardless of who they are or from whence they come, and that the essence of the law is encapsulated in the title of the Lotus Sutra, the last sutra espoused by Shakyamunia aka “The Buddha,” which is Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo means “I dedicate myself to the cosmic law of cause and effect as expressed through sound.”
And what a helluva sound it is.
Today, David and I went to gongyo (prayer service), which begins with a fast-as-lightning recitation of a portion of the Lotus Sutra. I had the words spelled out for me phonetically, and though I tried my damnedest to keep up I felt like a white boy from Connecticut dropped in the middle of a Puerto Rican family fight. It was not cute. The service continues with a constant chanting of Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo...which I have down just fine. Hell, I've had that down since the first time I saw Tina Turner's biography “What's Love Got to Do with It.” I am still clapping from the scene when she beats the hell out of Ike with that boot.
My name is Tina Turner. I have 35 cents, if you give me a room, I swear I will pay you back.
Sorry...I had a Negro moment.
Anyway, so today, David and I were chanting, and the room was filled with the polyglot poly-hued Rainbow Coalition youth to elder congregation that is the Sokka Gokkai International. Black folks, white folks, Asian folks, Latin@s, queers, and Jews...I have never been to a more diverse, in all senses of the word, room.
About 10 minutes into the chanting, with a very loud and very enthusiastic Japanese girl sitting next to me...basically shouting instead of chanting (love ain't had nothing to do with that mess)...when the most intense thing happened.
The chanting, quite literally, stopped sounding like a group of folks on meth trying to shout Japanese phonetically at the top of their lungs, to an amazing and God-touched choir. In dead seriousness, I grew up in the church...and I grew up with a church choir that makes Kirk Franklin and the Family sound like Ma Jones and the Little Rascals. I have written before that I experience God through music and that my most divine experiences have come during musical experiences, and today...my prayers...my chanting...mixing with the chanting of the other folks in the room took on, truly, a symphonic choral sound.
I am not lying or exaggerating when I say there was a tremendous harmony, baritones, tenors, sopranos, altos, all mixing together...weaving together...without a director, without practice, and without prompting. I have never experienced that before during gongyo, but to experience it today was breathtaking.
The beautiful thing about Buddhism, particularly Nichiren Buddhism, is that it is a religion without a dogma that welcomes all faith paths. In order to be a Nichiren Buddhist and a member of Sokka Gokkai, I don't have to give up my love of Jesus. The fact that through worshiping the Divine in this way and the Divine as it manifests in all creatures takes nothing away from my belief in the mercy, grace, and love of Christ is a true blessing.
And the fact that I came to this understanding, through the gift of music...the only way that I have ever experienced the immediate presence of the Creator, tells me that I have found the right place and a spiritual home.