(Sonni’s note: This is one of the early posts, from February 18. Sometimes the things Jamie writes about will come in several letters. I go through them and find the pieces and put it together into one. Sometimes I’ll add a sentence so you’ll understand. I’ll go back into a post and add something else he wrote about the same thing. Sometimes I have to change the way it is written but I never try to write his spirit out of it. When he gets the chance to read this when he gets out, he’ll be able to see how much his life has affected other people in a positive way. Please leave a reply on a post or two if you like what you read. It only takes a minute and would mean so much. Also, come back and read again. Start at the beginning. Get to know him – and me, too. Thanks)
For the last couple years mom has been telling me about Nichiren Buddhism. At first I didn’t know what to think. Some dudes in here get religion. Mostly it’s Christianity because there is support for that in here. Some years back I got introduced to Islamic teachings. I really tried to understand it. There is usually a group that practices it. Maybe it does help them in here. I don’t know. I gave it a good shot but it wasn’t enough and I drifted away. Mom has practiced Buddhism for a long time. Twenty five years. She didn’t say anything about it for a long time but a couple years ago, when I was going through a really bad time, she started to write to me about it. It made a lot of sense. It made me think of things in a way I hadn’t thought before. She talked to me about happiness, about what it is and what it means. Even though I’m in this place I can still find a place in my head to be happy, sometimes. I know I can change the way I think and what I do, and when I do that it will have an effect on the space around me. It’s about the law of cause and effect.
People say things like, “What goes around comes around”, and Christians say, “You reap what you sow”. It’s all the same thing. But it’s supposed to be everything you say and do. All the good and all the bad. So I look at what I do and think about what would happen if I did something different. Like when someone tries to jumps me. I would defend myself. If I didn’t then other dudes would think they could run over me. But if I could find a way to not fight then I could raise up my level. So what is the best thing to do? Not fighting is not easy. When you want to change something then something else always comes up to challenge that, to make you do the thing you don’t want to do. Buddhism calls it obstacles. It’s the things that make you not be able to change. The things that keep you down. I’m trying to learn to chant. That’s nam myoho renge kyo. (Sonni’s note: translation is – Devotion to the mystic law of cause and effect through sound and vibration. The translation is really much longer but it’ll do for now.)
The time that Megan came to visit last Oct she taught me how to say it. I try to do it at 5:00 AM when there isn’t as much noise. When everyone wakes up they can get pretty loud. I wish I had someone to chant with me. I need to hear it again. There is something else called gongyo. Mom sent me this little book with all these oriental words and a way of spelling it using abc, but it is still spelling out words in another language. She said it didn’t matter if I did it right or wrong as long as I tried as best I could.
I’ve been reading this book, The Wisdom of Modern Life, and I love it. It has guidances for every day of the year. This is the one that was on January 17th, “When you devote yourself to achieving your goal, you will not be bothered by shallow criticism. Nothing important can be accomplished if you allow yourself to be swayed by some trifling matter, always looking over your shoulder and wondering what others are saying or thinking. The key to achievement is to move forward along your chosen path with firm determination.”
This something that Dr Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others? Do not say you will do it “someday”. Do not say that “someone” will do it. You are the one. Now is the time for youth to take full responsibility and courageously pave the way for the people’s triumph.”
There is so much I’ve learned that I never thought about before. I have been so depressed so much at times. But I know now that my life is the effect of all the causes I made in the past. It is no one’s fault but my ownI an here. But I will still have a life when this is over. I will get out of here. I have to make the causes now for the kind of life I want have and what kind of person I’m going to be when I get out. I can decide the parts of me I need to change. It isn’t going to happen just because I wish for it. I need to start now. I can’t wait until later. It’s gonna be hard but I think if I try I’ll be able to do it. I need to see what is important and do it no matter what happens, no matter what gets in the way.
(Sonni’s note: Chanting for these things is praying but it is not the same as those that pray to some entity that is out there somewhere. You don’t chant for something else to fix things in your life. That never works anyway. Change comes from within. Pray to have the wisdom to know what to change. Chant to be happy and chant for the people in your life to be happy. Christianity and Buddhism say a lot of the same things, but are far apart in the reasoning of how to get to the place you want to be. This Buddhism is not what most people think it is. Most think of monks and depriving yourself or they think of the Dalai Lama or Zen or one of many other sects of Buddhism, but it isn’t that. There is just as many types of Buddhism as there are types of Christian sects. I find that this makes sense to me. Here ends your lesson in Nichiren Buddhism. (smile) Do a search on the SGI-USA if you are interested in finding out more.)
Now I feel I have a chance. I do have a life worth living.