Releasing My Arrogance so I can ‘Keep It Real’ with My Buddhist Practice

By Kevin D’Arcy

As a new Nichiren Buddhist, my biggest fear is that I lose this natural connection I feel toward my practice and treat chanting to the Gohonzon like a spiritual slot machine.  I enjoy chanting and I enjoy recognizing I am not a slave to my devilish functions. I have the power to choose to be happy in the midst of living with life’s challenges.
A little while ago, I had a wonderful conversation with the wise and humorous Rollin Binzer.  I was rambling on about how annoyed I am with a good friend who pushes my buttons.  For years, he has had the unique ability to get under my skin. Logically, I understood I was wasting countless hours of mental energy arguing how unjust my friend has been to me and others. I knew that I was raising my blood pressure with anger at my friend, who was during much of this time living his life, oblivious to my all-consuming mental self-abuse.  Nevertheless, I wanted advice on how to deal with this problematic friend.  Rollin quite simply reminded me that EVERYTHING GOES BACK TO CAUSE & EFFECT. You can’t escape it! Make a GOOD CAUSE get a GOOD EFFECT. Make a BAD CAUSE get a BAD EFFECT.
My brain suddenly seized up as I had, as Oprah calls it, “A  LIGHT BULB MOMENT!”  I only have control of my own thoughts. Change my thoughts, change my life.

How arrogant am I to think that somehow MY personal issues were somehow the exception to the rule?  Somehow my friend’s ability to push my buttons was stronger than my own ability to simply choose a different response, ie choose to be happy regardless of what was going on with my friend.  When I really thought about it I felt a bit foolish.
Rollin recommended I chant for my friend’s happiness. I did just that. I decided to chant for my friend’s happiness and for my own happiness.  It was almost ridiculously simple. My thinking shifted. That night, I went out with this same friend to dinner and a movie after spending the afternoon chanting for his happiness as well as my own. It was the most fun I have had in the longest time. Instead of weighing my mind down with anger and negativity, I laughed and allowed myself to see the goodness in my friend.
What I learned from this experience is that for me, part of what it means to take my issues to my Gohonzon to chant for “victory” is learning to let go of my old habitual thinking of myself as somehow “spiritually/mentally broken” or somehow a “victim” in need of others to change for me to be “okay.”  The truth is, that is just my arrogance or fear or devilish functions, keeping me from looking honestly at my life and choosing to allow my Buddha nature to guide my decisions and actions.
This practice is reminding me that I am whole and complete as I am. My life will have challenges but those challenges don’t have to define me and CANNOT define me unless I make that choice.  My challenges are not better or worse than anyone else’s. My challenges, however, are mine to face, so why not face them with strength and a sense of humor?
I am committed to creating my own human revolution and achieving the happy life I never allowed myself to imagine as fully as I have since becoming a Nichiren Buddhist.
This is my personal commitment. What is yours?