I am Ankur, initiated into this practice of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism for the past one year. Today I am here to share with you my impressions as a BSG (Bharat Soka Gakkai) member and my journey so far in this faith.
Most people adopt their parent’s faith because that is the only one they have been exposed to, but my path has not been so simple. Over the years, I have prayed at more than a dozen religious places, studied several texts across various faiths, religion and practices. I have witnessed drug induced religious awakenings, bizarre practices, rituals and ceremonies of various cults. I have attended gatherings and masses across 20 countries as a student trying to comprehend different cultures and understand what motivates people.
I had embarked on this journey for an in-depth research, comprehension and analysis of “what is the difference between culture and religion.?, “What is the purpose of life?” “Is religion more important or life?” I wanted to fully appreciate what elders meant by “Unity in diversity! There is only one god but it has different names.” However somewhere during this path, I got side-tracked with the current events and media. I have witnessed so many crimes and inhuman acts being justified in the name of religion that I began to doubt religion as the “Path of salvation”. My focus started shifting from the practice to the practitioners. My academic curiosity set me adrift. Rather than focusing on how every religion speaks the same but in different words, I started focusing on how the different religious beliefs, practices and rituals were being twisted for to justify self-serving interest of its gatekeepers.
I was thirsty for more knowledge but clueless of what I was seeking or why I want it. I attended my first BSG meeting a year ago with the same level of skepticism. My first meeting was a disaster. It was hard for me to relate to a scroll written in a foreign language and chant prayers whose words I don’t understand. I was judgmental. My cup was already full with per-conceived notions and there was little anybody could have offered to me at that time.
Nobody promised me any salvation, showed any visions, or falsely raised hopes. There was nothing shining, dazzling or mystical about SGI. It was a very plain, simple and humble gathering. Everybody was equal, everybody was in-charge. Through this faith, I met a few good natured people. It was this warmth and openness of the practitioners of Electronic city chapter than encouraged me come back again and again despite my initial skepticism. But a cup has to be emptied before it can take any more. It took me a whole year.
Last 2 years have been very hard on me both on personal & professional fronts. Rather than buckling under the stress, BSG helped me focus on what I have rather than what I have lost. The chanting and the warm friendly smile of the Buddhist members is often enough to forget the daily conundrum of our busy lives.
Some people with continue to hide behind religion and use it for their selfish means. I might not be any closer today in finding the answers to the questions that I had during my pre-teens but at least today I have the clarity of what are the questions whose answers I seek. Rather than focusing on the actions of others, I try to reflect on my thoughts, actions & words. Today, I have shed most of my biases against the religions practices that I had gathered along the way. Rather than seeking the cause of evil & divergence, I am seeking goodness in others. There is goodness in everyone and this is the Buddha-land.