Sunday, August 1, 2010

Aimless Reading: The I's, Part 4.1 (Daisuku Ikeda)

Ikeda, Daisuku
Unlocking the Mysteries
of Birth and Death:
Buddhism in the
Contemporary World

Another relic of Lori's Buddhist period.

I am still thinking about my little search for old acquaintances. These are some of the things I saw on my quest:

1. A friend from middle school holding a plunger over his right shoulder with his right hand, and a bottle of beer in his left, a slightly perplexed look on his face. His wall suggests he'd been recently divorced.

2. A friend from grade school, a former soccer teammate, whose father was an airline pilot that coached one of our teams, The Darth Vaders. His red hair and facial features have not changed at all in thirty years.

3. A girl I had a major crush on in fifth grade dressed like the St. Pauli Girl, holding three large beer steins in each hand. Pictures of her children in a school play. The daughter looks exactly like I remember the mother looking at that same age.

4. A girl I took to the sixth grade dance, sitting in the sunlight with her two kids, looking happy. I remember slow-dancing with her to "Stairway to Heaven." At the point where it changes tempo, I whispered into her ear, "Get ready, it's about to go really fast."

5. The kid who introduced me to marijuana at age twelve looking very clean cut and businesslike in a gray shirt and black tie, now living in New Orleans. How by fourteen he had decided to change his ways and become a jock, and how angry he got the few times I saw him and reminded him of his drug addled past. He had an older brother who was much more of a druggy than he. I wonder what happened to him. One time a bunch of us went out to a wooded area behind the housing development where #3 lived because there was a clearing where someone had hung a rope swing. One by one we swung, until a guy, M., who was with #5 when he introduced me to pot, got on the swing and it snapped, right at its peak height of about 10 feet. He landed on his back and had the wind knocked out of him. He couldn't make a sound and had a terrible look on his face. I think #3 ran to her house to call an ambulance. In the meantime, we tried to make M. comfortable. Out of nowhere, #5 asked, "Does anyone know the lord's prayer?" I remember thinking that was about as dumb a thing to say as I could think at a time like this. Eventually, EMT's arrived, and they had to drive up to the spot in a jeep and carry M. out of the woods in a stretcher strapped to the hood. He wore a neck brace to school for weeks after that.

6. A girl I went to school with from third to eighth grade. Her profile pic is of a recently added, abstract tattoo. An older profile pic shows her with a motorcycle. I remember her crying when our teacher finished reading the last chapter of "Where the Red Fern Grows" and how I made fun of her, despite the fact that I was crying, too, and how the teacher scolded me for being a jerk.

7. A boy who I don't remember at all who posted all the class pages of our grammar school yearbook online. I don't recognize his picture then or now.

8. A boy who all the girls loved in grade school and who now looks like an engorged Jimmy Buffet fan working at a seaside resort gas station for boats. He looked pretty happy, though, I have to admit.

9. A girl who was very quiet and mousey in third grade. I never paid any attention to her then. I remember running into her at a party late in high school. She remembered me very vividly, though I just barely remembered her, partly because she had transformed herself into a lively, social, beautiful teenager. Funny how people change like that. She now seems to be involved in the arts in New Jersey. She recently traveled to Mexico.

10. Another friend from middle school, no profile pic, who seems to live in NYC with a wife and child.

11. Another friend from middle school, smiling slightly, holding a beer. He looks the same as he did then, but slightly heavier and grayer. I remember the way he walked, with the toes of his shoes splayed outward, sort of a slouchy Charlie Chaplin walk. I used to pay attention to the way people walked. I tried to imitate the way all the cool people walked. I was pigeon-toed. Still am, sort of.

12. Another middle school friend, now an academic, in sociology, I think, teaching at Syracuse University. She has two children in the photo. I remember making out and getting to second base with her friend, R., in #12's parent's bed. They were at work. I think #12 was in the other room making out with #1. I can't seem to find R. on Facebook. She was a great kisser.

from Unlocking the Mysteries of Birth and Death: Buddhism in the Contemporary World

In conclusion, we can say that the general aim of Buddhism is the freeing of human beings from the sufferings of birth and death by enabling them to awaken to the unchanging truth, which is their own Buddha nature. An important difference between Daishonin's Buddhism and earlier systems is that, while they showed how people could be brought to enlightenment through the exertion of tremendous effort in terms of doctrinal studies and meditative disciplines, thereby restricting enlightenment to a monastic elite, the teaching sof Nichiren Daishonin provide a way which allows all of us, whatever our ability or circumstances, access to the ultimate truth.

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