My Reaction to Death at Diamond Mountain.

Via on Jun 8, 2012
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What is the Symptom and What is the Problem?

Thirty some years ago I began a life in Manhattan.

I don’t remember how we were friendly or even why but a couple of folks dragged me to a mysterious meeting. They said it was a cool group of people who got together to create prosperity or something vaguely like that. Then, suddenly I was shoeless in a spacious, barely furnished living room sitting in a huge circle of undernourished looking folks who reminded me of the macrobiotic crowd from my old Aspen days.

I went just once and I don’t think I continued that friendship as I have no memory of the faces or names of the people who brought me but the bulk of the evening centered on an unforeseen event which was the seemingly ceaseless chanting of “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.” The reason for chanting was money. You could chant in cash. It was a sure thing. There was proof. They said so.

It was my first encounter with what looked to be Buddhism. It didn’t seem too appealing. I can’t pretend I remember any details but I’ll take writer’s license to say that I thought it was a real turd fest.

I had forgotten about that until I read this piece in the New York Times about the Buddhist folks who decided to retreat to huts that looked like crypts and tombs and a couple of them who appeared to have lost their minds and died.

Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, it turned out, is not a chant for money but roughly translates as a chant from the Nichiren Daishonin Buddhist sect as a call to devotion in hopes of attaining happiness and fulfillment. I am no Buddhist scholar so forgive me if this is not accurate.

I guess the folks running that group years ago narrowed the meaning of the chant for their own purposes; probably because they needed money and they believed it worked. I don’t think that sounds reasonable, but someone reading this does and you may or may not be right.

It seems there may have been some tweaking of the chassis of reality within this recent group at Diamond Mountain, and I don’t find it surprising. They were free. They made a choice. Perhaps they narrowed the field to accommodate the vision or desires of the group. It’s nothing new that people stretch or mold what the larger population calls the truth to make all the pieces of their own puzzles fit.

Is it cliché to talk about the surprise of someone who was “such a nice boy, such a sweet girl, from such a good family” going wrong? Sometimes there is no apparent reason; no abuse, no poverty, no divorce, no chemical imbalance or disease, no obvious thing that would point to a person’s reactions. I think reactions before behavior because isn’t our behavior usually a reaction to something, even if it’s not something immediate? What that is may be a result of something we can’t fathom. That’s the crap shoot of humanity. You just don’t know.

      Where did that come from?

     But I raised both of them the exact same way!

Any kid on the playground has seen what happens when one kid becomes a self-proclaimed leader and a break out group follows. But what they see is in the eye of the beholder and there it is.

Now people have joined another cult of their own free will as they have before and will again and things have unsurprisingly gone wrong. Get rid of the cult and you eliminate the symptom of human confusion but not the cause. That cause may just slip in the back door to stir up something else, somewhere else.

If we had genetic markers for harmful behaviors like we do for diseases, we might prevent behavior from surfacing as symptoms. The symptoms are many but they all beg the same question; why and how can we prevent them. There is a common genetic marker for humanity that says there is a pre-existing condition for confusion.

We keep coming up with methods of sobriety and reasonableness to prevent us from doing harm to ourselves and others. They are not infallible. There is a choice not to use any of them, and there is chance that they will be reinterpreted. There is yoga is among them.

~

Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Hilary Lindsay

Hilary Lindsay created the first comprehensive yoga program in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans, choreographed videos for athletes, introduced yoga and meditation to the Nashville public school system and continues to work one on one with private clients including the Nashville Predators. She has been covered by popular magazines and television shows and has worked for a variety of publications as a yoga expert. She authored a chapter in Yoga In America, a book published at the forefront of the discussion among yoga teachers about contemporary yoga in America. Additional writing can be found at www.bitchinyoga.wordpress.com as well as the Journal pages of her yoga site. Hilary teaches classes and workshops in consciousness through movement. Her medium is yoga. Her method is exploring the language of the body in light of the eight limbs. Find her at activeyoga.com.

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18 Responses to “My Reaction to Death at Diamond Mountain.”

  1. Anne Falkowski Anne says:

    Your mind is brilliant. Thanks for the great thought provoking read.

  2. Thaddeus Haas Thaddeus1 says:

    Ah yes, the human condition and its quest for certainty. Thank you for this very nuanced perspective.

    • It was a whimsical reaction to the article and I thank you for your kind comment. Yes,it was a perspective from a personal memory and just a touch of opinon. :)

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    What you say is very true…you just don't know. This is always the case with everything. The problem with buddhism here in the west is that there is no regard for authority or authentic authority. Buddhism should be a safe refuge. One of the problems is this mixing of unrestrained new age unsupervised unproven methods which are being confused for "buddhism". Its part of the greater idea that ALL paths of spirituality, whatever that is, give you the same ultimate result which is a huge untrue fallacy and gives license to unsupervised inauthentic spiritual instruction. You throw in a little "crazy wisdom" bullshit and everyone thinks there are no rules. By the way, it is much more difficult to hold the vows of vajrayana than it is to uphold the vows of monasticism.

    • Thank you Padma,
      And I just don't know either. At the time I went to that meeting though, I was open to anything and had no basis for opinion. I probably still don't. Also I just chalked it up to youth and experience. Now I just think it interesting that this event becomes public and so does concern and then it will go away until the next thing happens and the buzz begins again. As we become more and more involved in process of discerning our nature on a wider scale, as is happening, I suspect things will shift thought there is always opportunity again for confusion. Makes things interesting and keeps us reaching.

  4. Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

    "Get rid of the cult and you eliminate the symptom of human confusion but not the cause. That cause may just slip in the back door to stir up something else, somewhere else."

    I think you are absolutely right about that; I think that's what Jesus was getting at:

    “When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first.” (Luke 11:24-26)

    • YesuDas,
      What a thoughtful inclusion to this post! Thank you for that kind of spine chilling passage. It make me want to read more of it. What is the solution posed by Jesus? Forgive my ignorance but I was not raised with Christianity! All the best, Hilary

      • Scott Robinson YesuDas says:

        I've heard various yogic teachers advise sadhakas to replace negative or unwanted thoughts with positive ones, like mantra japa, etc. The idea here, I think, is that it's not enough merely to get rid of what plagues us–we have to replace it with something that helps us grow. In other words, treating the symptoms isn't enough. I imagine anyone going through a Twelve-Step program would know exactly what this passage is getting at!

        • Yes, of course that makes sense. Thank you for that.

          • Padma Kadag says:

            And then of course to recognize a negative thought or negative anything and then to "replace' it with something positive really accomplishes nothing if in fact the negative is to continue it's negative existence to go and live and torment elsewhere as the positive has pushed it out of it's abode. How to accomplish the destruction of the negative is the method of buddhism.

          • Thank you for a considered response here. I will say again that I know little of Buddhism.

            This piece was an observation of human behavior. I have known many people who call themselves Buddhists over the years. Some of them might be described as enlightened because they live honest thoughtful lives and all that comes with that is a beautiful reflection on them. Others: not so much.

            But perhaps Buddhism is like yoga in that you follow it's philosophy in attempts to live a certain life and it does not mean one should be judged if they seem to have not been able to live by those principles yet. Then, if Buddhism teaches one ways to irradicate negativity, they have not learned it. Is the teaching so hard to fathom or just to follow?

            I don't know but thank you for sharing your thoughts on this post.

  5. Really? says:

    So, a person with no real knowledge (or seemingly even surface knowledge) of the situation or of Buddhism is publishing a reaction? Why?

    • __MikeG__ says:

      So, only people who follow the rules you just made up are allowed to react to a tragedy? Why?

    • Perhaps you are right in this way; This is not the title I gave the post, nor the picture and I did not include all the links. My reaction to that editorial decision was that this put me in a position of someone more invested and researched than I am. This was not my intention and this is not the nature of my writing. I leave those deeply researched and scholarly works to other wonderful writers here.

      However, though my knowledge of some things may be syphoned from the shallow end of the pool, I can assure you that I am in the deep end over my head in experience of life. Though I am a canary who wants to please you with a song, I am also one who falls over before some smell the poison.

      I suffer from many faults but lack of authenticity is not one of them. I am sorry for the confusion. The editors were doing what they thought best and they do a great job.

      • __MikeG__ says:

        Nothing wrong with EJ using the word "reaction" in the title. And nothing wrong with having a reaction. The mystery hit and run poster exhibited a failure of logic in making the erroneous claim that an in depth knowledge of Buddhism is required to have a reaction to a death in these circumstances.

        • Thanks for having my back Mike. I think what happened is I wrote a reaction piece and yes the word reaction is certainly fair. But I think the perception of authority on Buddhism came with me having a title that seemed to assume anyone would care what I think and then perhaps all the links may have created the same. Anyway, it's easy for me to understand someone's confusion and then again, I know that someone who chooses the moniker of "Really?" is combative anyway and so I'm REALLY not surprised to be challenged.

  6. [...] “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.” (elephantjournal.com) [...]

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