How I became a Buddhist….
Many people ask me about my way to Buddhism. How did I start to practice Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism in the Soka Gakkai International (SGI).
Let me tell you….
We are going back to 2002! That year played tough on me right from the start. After eight years of being in a relationship, I suddenly found myself alone. Boyfriend gone, trust gone, a huge void inside of me and yet a loud and clear inner voice that was curious for change!
During those days my inner wisdom, courage and determination became amazingly active, now I would say that my Buddhahood appeared and provided me with huge amounts of courage, optimism and wanderlust. I decided to quit my fixed job as an occupational therapist at a hospital, buy a ticket and take off to South America for one year.
A journey that changed everything
I told my brother about my decision and plans and he spontaneously decided to join me. The coming year turned into an unforgettable trip for both of us. I found work in Quito, Ecuador while he spent three months in the Amazon jungle but the rest of the time we spent pretty much together. We cherished those days, weeks and months and got to know each other in new and fresh ways.
Later, our parents came to visit for four weeks. We hiked and camped in the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia and spent some super quality family time together. A time that we all engraved deeply in our hearts.
At that time, my brother was reading about the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. He was encouraged by a friend in Germany. However, at that time I did not really notice…
Back in Germany, I decided against a return into my profession. I was urging for creativity. I wanted to work with food since I always seemed to end up on farmers markets no matter where I was, my passion for cooking books gave me plenty of inspiration and nice tableware seemed to magically attract me. All that holds true to this day. I was wondering how to bring those parts of me together and discovered that there is a job called food stylist. It was like a revelation – I wanted to work as a food stylist so badly that I picked up the phone and called Karl Newedel in Munich. I somehow convinced him to give me a two-week internship at his studio. That’s how I ended up in Munich in 2003, to find out if food styling works for me. I never left. (And a big shout out to Karl, in the end we worked several years together!)
At the same time, my brother moved to Duesseldorf to find out more about the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin and the Soka Gakkai. He knew that there was a strong Buddhist community with many Japanese members and he wanted to get as much on the inside as possible.
A few months later, he decided to become a member of the Soka Gakkai and receive the Gohonzon, a script role in front of which we do our daily Buddhist practice of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo – what does it mean?
I must have looked a bit silly when I first heard my brother chant. He repeated the sentence Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo on and on and on while looking at the white wall at our parent’s place (yes, it does also work without the script role :- )).
The whole thing seemed weird to me and I could not relate to it at all.
However, I got quite interested in the change that my brother went through during the following months. I watched from afar how he opened up and was intrigued by the courage and trust he used to master difficulties. He just did things very differently than before. No retreat into the snail’s shell but a positive involvement with everything that came his way.
He started to explain me a few things. I listened. When I started to read about the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin I was amazed of how much of this philosophy concurred with my own inner values. I kept on reading and after chanting together with my mother and brother during a family weekend, I was even more curious. The chanting felt unfamiliar but at the same time, it felt like coming home.
The Buddha in daily life – with the Soka Gakkai
Back in Munich, I woke up one morning and heard some people chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. “Now that is impossible” I thought. There were only about 5000 members of the Soka Gakkai at that time in Germany – what are the odds to have a bunch of them in the house where I lived? However, curiosity ruled and I asked my housemates if some of our neighbors were Buddhists?
Answer: ”Sure, up on the fourth floor, don’t you hear the chanting?”
BAM! There I was climbing up the stairs to the fourth floor and rang the bell. “Hi, my name is Tina, I heard you chanting, my brother is also chanting, can I join you guys?”
This is how it started. That simple! I was not really looking for anything during those days and I was not suffering either. I was just curious to find out what’s up with the chanting and the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. And I wanted to find out if the Buddhist practice also works for me.
Since then 14 years have passed and I never stopped chanting, study the philosophy and enjoy the experiences I make thanks to the practice. It is working for me, in fact in such a positive manner I thought was impossible when I started out.
In case you want to know more about the philosophy of Nichiren Daishonin and read something about the Soka Gakkai, check out the official web pages! (Germany: www.sgi-d.org ; USA: www.sgi-usa.org ; UK www.sgi-uk.org)
Or just throw me a line, I would be happy to tell you more, write the email here!