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Buddha Blog April, 2023

In this issue: We’re excited to introduce a new columnist: actor, producer, Mom and bodhisattva, LeeAnne Pronitis-Matusek, author of a new regular feature: the Adventures of BuddhaMom!

Good stuff. Read all about it!


BLOGITORIAL by Linda Segall Anable


The world is collectively working out its karma. It’s much like Everything Everywhere All at Once, the Oscar winning film whose title is a perfect synopsis of its plot. Everything affects everything else throughout time and space. Everyone’s thoughts, words and deeds are in the cosmic mix with all other thoughts, words and deeds. This reality can’t be imagined, let alone logically explained. All we can do is keep on keeping on, in all directions, at all times.


This is very exhausting. It would be so much easier if life was linear, if time was real and not a construct to help keep things organized. But life is endlessly complicated and getting more so all the time: alternately beautiful and terrifying, and no one is coming to our rescue.


But wait, actually someone is. It’s us.


Long, long ago in “time,” a gathering of bodhisattvas made a solemn vow to be here, in this world, in this moment, to save humanity from extinction due to its own blinding ignorance. This event was called the “Ceremony in the Air.” (pictured) You are likely one of those souls: the bravest, most capable, most courageous bodhisattvas that eagerly volunteered for this unimaginably difficult assignment. Maybe we’d found that lolling around in Nirvana can get old after a while and we could use a thrilling adventure, which involved the endurance of many difficult lifetimes on this beautiful but troubled planet. Sounds like fun!


As noted in Buddhist teachings, the Ceremony in the Air took place, in part, in the actual air – a detail not to be glossed over, suggesting that before we embarked on this monumental assignment, we lived in a higher realm, beyond the physical.


“Without exception, all these Buddhas, bodhisattvas, great sages [attending the Ceremony in the Air]... dwell in this Gohonzon. The fact that the ceremony takes place in the air signifies that it transcends the framework of time and space.” (The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism). I love transcending time and space.


Physical reality is an illusion, a platform that enables us to confront our karma, and advance spiritually. While earth is a great rehab facility, the course is full of sand traps and open manholes. Modeling the good life, showing others the way by being the way, has seen us wading through every category of sufferings in our efforts to become enlightened – a massively difficult endeavor. Most humans are not that ambitious, find it much easier to remain unenlightened. Living in the lower worlds, however, has its own set of nightmarish tortures and miseries. I’ll take enlightened suffering, thank you very much.

The four universal vows we made declare: “Living beings are numberless: I vow to save them. Earthly desires are countless: I vow to eradicate them. The teachings are endless: I vow to master them. Enlightenment is supreme: I vow to attain it.”

That was the assignment. Now all the bodhisattvas, of all faiths and beliefs, are here doing their own human revolution, by which we live the change, not preach it. Show, don’t tell, as the basic rule of writing goes. By attaining Buddhahood in daily life – we will save humanity and fulfill those vows made at the Ceremony in the Air.

This is my singular focus and ultimate goal. I aim to only make good causes – but not let it interfere with happiness. I believe we should take our lives seriously but have a good time while we’re doing it. Having a high life condition is an enlightened quality. Human revolution can be fun! And there’s such a big payoff.


Like the film, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo could also be defined as everything, everywhere all at once. Every cause we make matters. Every daimoku we chant is still out there. What you do, think and say affects what everyone else everyone does, thinks and says. Amazing that this planet hasn’t blown up by now, from the sheer chaos of everyone, everywhere doing their own thing in the same time-space. You really have to keep a grip on yourself. It’s crazy out there.


The best way I know how to navigate through the chaos is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which puts me in perfect rhythm with the eternal now. That’s my strategy. After all these earthly lifetimes, fighting through the karmic storms that have forged my journey to enlightenment, I’m ready to bask in the glory of victory. Defeat is not an option. I volunteered, I was selected, I’m doing my job.


Can’t wait for the cast party. Maybe it will be in the air.


THE ADVENTURES OF BUDDHAMOM

by LeeAnne Matusek Los Angeles, CA


I am so honored to be on this journey with one of my mentors in Buddhist practice. Linda was one of the women who guided me on my journey when I began chanting 22 years ago.

When I met Linda, I was a working actor, and she guided and encouraged me, as a baby Buddhist, to show actual proof of the power of faith. I’d studied acting B.K. (before kids) and had worked with some of the greats. During that time I was also struggling with fertility issues, and the realization that my biological clock was ticking. My husband and I had no means of affording IVF since my guild’s insurance decided to stop funding IVF procedures just as I’d qualified thanks to my national Lowe’s commercial. We would have to come up with the money ourselves.


I was completely victorious, not once but twice! I now have three amazing sons who are my fortune babies – each one a product of my faith; endless hours of chanting that led to the doctors, nurses, herbs, meditation, and my husband’s victory in court where he won a sexual harassment case – and won big time. We had just enough for one IVF cycle and meds, which resulted in Hank! The Gohonzon, the enlightened me that knows better, kept me strong for the battles I was facing.


LeeAnne and firstborn Hank


And here I am again, in what seems to be insurmountable odds of rebooting an acting career that’s been dormant for 20 years, while still pursuing projects as a producer. After breaking down a bit, losing faith a lot and coming full circle, I can tell you: it’s much easier trying to achieve the seemingly impossible with Buddhist faith than without it. How do I do it? I am asked all the time. I am also asked, why are you doing so much? How can you focus?


A wise lady once gave me this guidance: “I don’t care if everyone is telling you: You can’t do it. You aren’t smart enough, or worse, you don’t have the time because you are a mom. Chant. Just start chanting for what you want and go for it!! Somehow, time expands. You have all you need to get done what you need to get done with your practice.” Thanks, Anita Bass Coleman (seen right), one of my other great mentors. Those words ring in my ears every day when I chant.


Start of 2020, I was focused on figuring out the next step of my journey. The plan for me after kids was always to go back to work in some way. Either my personal training business or acting or both. Personal training was my bread and butter that allowed me to take acting jobs and make my own schedule – being in rhythm with myself and my environment which comes with Buddhist practice. I loved training and felt I was making a real contribution to people’s well-being, a role I took seriously.


My re-entry into the working world did not come easily, starting with cracking the books hard in order to pass my personal training certification and nutritional counseling certification as well. I had to push through some major depression and anxiety getting this stuff done. Chanting saved me once again. I cried a lot in front of the Gohonzon. As the Gohonzon represents my higher, enlightened self, it always understood what I was going through and pushed me to victory.


To be completely honest I also prayed a lot. Prayers from my childhood. I have been practicing Buddhism for 22 years but prior to that I hadn’t fully practiced Catholicism since I was 17. I’d left that religion way before the priest controversy was made public, but when it did I felt vindicated for abandoning what I felt was a false religion. But given the upside downness of the world, I thought I could use all the help I could get.


I look back now, a bit of mileage between me and those very scary first few months of the pandemic and I realize I was looking for any life raft to keep me afloat. I had a good childhood and my childhood memories of church were comforting. But I will say that quiet prayer is not for me. I LOVE connecting to my environment with our external chanting of daimoku and gongyo. But on the cosmic level prayer is prayer. It’s our ichinen (intention) that counts.


Like most of us, I was terrified of Covid. I was Zoom room homeschooling my kiddo with multiple disabilities and watching over his twin who was already in online schooling due to his preexisting anxiety and depression. Yeah, I had a lot going on.


Guess what, I thought to myself after I boo-hooed for a bit, EVERYONE has some horror show going on in their lives right now that they are fighting through. Different ways, but we are collectively going through some very tough stuff. Also known as karma. Like the movie Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s all happening now. And we chose to come here and wade into it.


When things are so difficult, faith becomes a necessity. It was hard not to succumb to fear (Sensei said, “Faith is to fear nothing”) because I was processing some heavy things as I tried to adjust to the challenges of the pandemic. But my faith got me through it and gave me the strength and focus to get shit done.

I produced a feature film with a dear friend, a sweet romcom called Along Came Wanda, that was her directorial debut. We had a stellar cast: starring my good friend Max Adler from Glee, Sully and The Flash to name a few of his credits, new friend Isabella Hoffman from Homicide and Suits played my fortune baby’s grandma. And, it was my son Hank’s acting debut! Another great part of this project was that a dear Buddhist friend, Roberta Hanlen, (seen left) saved our asses when the initial actress cast in the role did not pass the chemistry test during a first read. I have always admired Roberta and her work, and now I got to suggest her for a part and get to work with her. Her role was the mystic Davina and she stole the film!


We had to adhere to strict Covid protocols to get our film done. As producers we wanted to keep everyone safe. As is usually the case, our crew and cast became our family for just a brief time but it was precious time as we made magic together, while taking every precaution.

So many conspicuous victories during some of the hardest times in my life.

***

When Linda asked me to write a column for her website I was so flattered. I have admired and enjoyed Linda’s newsletter and her writing for decades. I knew the website was going to be next level for her and I was excited to be part of it. I literally blinked while holding my phone. Kind of a Scooby moment. She said she also thought a regular gig would be good. I asked if she meant a recurring column type of thing on her website. She laughed and said “Yes, I think you have a lot to say.”


I am honored and excited to share my thoughts with you. I got into the entertainment business to entertain people. To make them laugh and think, and maybe escape for a bit into someone else’s life. Maybe we’ll understand each other better.


Once I made someone openly cry when I was acting in a play, and it took all my focus not to return a grateful smile. Got through it, though. I stayed in character, kept the faith. Focus and faith played a big part in that moment and they are vital to my life, my practice and my journey to enlightenment.


Stay tuned for the thrilling adventures of BuddhaMom!

A LIFE FILLED WITH IMMEASURABLE BENEFITS

by Trude Lisagor

Bainbridge Island, WA


“Life can unfold unlimitedly as long as we have a heart of appreciation and an undefeated mind.” (Buddhism Day by Day) Since I first heard this at the beginning of my Buddhist practice, a deep feeling of gratitude has blossomed.


Mike and I ran away from home in June of 1969 at just 17 and 19 years old. We were disillusioned with the “establishment” and Mike, an irresponsible hippie, had been forbidden by my parents to see me. A few months later we attended our first Buddhist meeting in Santa Monica.


We were drawn to the beautiful sound of the chanting and the positive attitude of everyone there, which contrasted with our negative view of the world. The organization’s belief that happiness must come from within our own lives in order for there to be a more peaceful world made sense. So, we began chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo right away.


We had a Buddhist wedding a few months later. What has followed has been a fifty-three-year journey of chanting every day to polish our enlightened natures, overcoming numerous obstacles, and consistently working to improve our relationship and contribute to world peace. The result has been a wonderful life together.


Now that I’m in my 70s, I can really value Sensei’s encouragement in his book, The New Human Revolution, Volume 16, where he writes, “The benefit you are accumulating through your sincere efforts today will come to brilliantly adorn your life in your seventies and eighties. I hope you will regard all the struggles you experience together with your fellow members for kosen-rufu as your greatest honor and continue exerting yourself in earnest with courage and joy.” Mike and I were so fortunate to have encountered Buddhism as teenagers. Some of my many benefits that fill me with appreciation include:


Building a lifelong partnership with Mike against all odds – love triumphed!

• Having two wonderful daughters who cherish their childhoods and consider time spent with Mike and me to be their happy place. This meant changing family karma on both sides which is truly reflective of our Buddhist practice and is a joy that permeates our lives.

• I’m actually grateful for all the challenges I had with my domineering mother (pictured above) . She caused me to chant furiously for years to overcome the hurt and misunderstandings we had. If not for that, how would I have polished my life? And the day before her death, she told me she couldn’t believe how wrong she had been and I was able to tell her how much she had influenced my life.

• Completing college while our daughters were young to fulfill my dream and passion to teach elementary school.

• Having a supportive Buddhist community that has been a source of encouragement when I most need it and has given me so many opportunities to encourage others.

• Challenging my multiple sclerosis (MS) from day one with chanting and, as a result, developing more compassion for myself and others.

• Being able to be the kind of considerate and fun grandparents that neither our daughters nor us experienced.


After going numb from the waist down in 1996 and not knowing if I’d ever walk again, I was able to use my practice and Ikeda Sensei’s guidance to turn the obstacle of a diagnosis of MS into mission. I’ve led a walk MS team for 25 years, raising buckets of money for MS research and services for others like me whose lives have been disrupted even further by the pandemic.

A few of the many life lessons I’ve learned from my mentor, Daisaku Ikeda, are:

• Don’t compare myself to others but rather express my own unique capabilities. In other words, understand that I am truly enough.

• See the Buddha or enlightened nature inside my life and the lives of others.

• Nurture my relationships with dialogue -- especially when I don’t want to!

• Establish and maintain a solid foundation through Buddhist study.

• Share this Buddhism with others in a manner that fits my individual mission and circumstances.

I also chanted for and spoke to my therapist to overcome my mother’s insistence that I wasn’t her “artistic” daughter. I learned how to paint with watercolors and, in recent years, went outside my comfort zone to experiment with abstract images. Over time, my mom loved the notecards Mike made from my art and the paintings I created for her.


Over the fifty-three years we’ve been SGI members, I’ve practiced in three different states and seen thousands of people gain immeasurable benefit from doing this profound practice. If you’ve recently started chanting, you’re beginning an incredible journey in which, to quote the founder of our Buddhism, Nichiren, “Winter never fails to turn into spring.”

And that really makes me grateful!

View Trude’s watercolors at: https://tinyurl.com/2apjh86h.


ALL IS ONE

by Lynette Yetter

Portland, OR


Simultaneity of cause and effect, and the present moment, contains all of the past, present and future. I love that Buddhism sees time as fluid, instead of the ticking clock linear time of Western society I grew up with. The Buddhist perspective helps me go with the flow in our cosmic soup pot of all-is-one-now reality.


A dream gave me insight about the oneness of time. February 9th, 2023, I was in Copacabana, Bolivia staying in a small room with a view of the not-so distant mountains and the ever-changing sky and sun’s light upon the land. As I sat working on my laptop at a small table in my small room, I often looked out a small window to the vast view. One morning I awoke from a dream. The dream was especially vivid.


In my dream I was standing on a NYC street corner with my friend Nora, who in real life I had practiced with as YWD in San Francisco back in the 1980s. In the dream, I had apparently been visiting Nora in her hometown of NYC. On that street corner, Nora pointed across the street to a large portal in a building, into which lots of people were walking.


“Just follow those people there,” Nora said. “And that will take you to JFK airport.”

I followed the people. We all walked down long corridors and on outdoor boardwalks and got in little motorboats to cross small stretches of water, traveling all together towards JFK airport. At one point everyone paused on a wooden passenger dock on the edge of a busy NYC seaport. Huge cargo ships filled the bay. Standing on the edge of the dock, I peered down into the water. It was crystal clear. Down deep I saw a whale calmly swimming below the noisy bustle of diesel cargo ships above. I felt peaceful seeing the whale. When I lifted my gaze, I saw another whale swimming across the horizon. This whale was super long. It swam with its head and tail underwater, but its long lumpy back above the water. It looked like a mountain range gliding across the sea.


When I woke up and pondered the dream, I realized the lumpy-backed whale looked just like the mountain range I saw out the small window from my writing table in my room in Copacabana, Bolivia. I pondered the dream: the mixture of NYC noise and crowds and polluting cargo ships, contrasting with impossibly crystal clear seawaters in which mighty beings swam with power and grace.


This reflected the reality I was in. Calm in Copacabana, Bolivia on the shores of Lake Titicaca, just 5 km from the Peruvian border. Yet, at that very border, hidden between Bolivian hills in the foreground and the lumpy Peruvian mountain range in the background, Peruvian people were blockading the border crossing in protest of the December 7th arrest of President Castillo. They were demanding his release from jail, for the interim president to step down, and for new presidential elections to be held as soon as possible. Government buildings were burned down at the border. What was my dream telling me?


A few days after the dream, I got an email saying that my book Adela Zamudio: Selected Poetry & Prose, that I translated from Spanish, was a finalist for the prestigious 2023 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation! I was invited to attend the March 2nd Award Ceremony in . . . you got it . . . New York City! Now my dream seemed also to be prophetic.

March 1st I flew into JFK. I had emailed Nora to tell her I was coming to NYC. “I’m in Zimbabwe right now. … Have fun!” Nora replied. And fun I did have. Riding high at the Awards Ceremony in The Town Hall in Times Square. My editor, Michael Favala Goldman, accompanied me. Here’s a photo of us.


We both had rooms at an arty guest house in a Brooklyn brownstone near a subway station. In the shared kitchen I met other guests, super interesting people from all over the world. I invited them all to come to my poetry reading the next evening at The Center for Fiction in Brooklyn. Four came. We had become friends, almost like family. I was one of five poets reading. Three of us were finalists for the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and the other two were poet friends of the organizer who happened to live in NYC. We all had such a great time, we PEN finalists decided to take our show on the virtual road. We invited the other two finalists (one of whom actually won the cash award) and right now all five of us are in the process of scheduling an online panel reading/discussion with Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon!


Looking back into the past, the last time I was in New York, in March 2007, was also to receive an award (Best International Music Video at the Garden State Film Festival). But my joy then was complicated by deep grief. The Film Fest’s Award Dinner was just a week after my mother had died.


Mystically, in March 2023 as I joyfully celebrated being a PEN Award finalist, I also got to heal some of the grief of my mother’s long ago passing. It turned out that one of my favorite artists, Eiko Otake, had an art installation in the Historic Chapel of Greenwood Cemetery in . . . you got it . . . Brooklyn. It wasn’t far from the arty Brooklyn brownstone guesthouse where I was staying. With a new artist friend from the guesthouse, on March 4th we rode the bus to the cemetery. Eiko’s art was mixed media honoring the recent death of her own mother.

I sat on the stone bench, listening to a video of Eiko talking to her deceased mother, who was represented by gravemound shaped crumpled rice paper with her deceased mother’s photograph facing the video screen. I sat and meditated as the video cycled through three times. Each time my heart softened more and more. Hearing Eiko talk to her mom about their lifelong relationship and acknowledging her own failings without judgment, just observation, well, I felt healing flow in my own heart. Healing, embracing my mom’s spirit while simultaneously letting her go. No. These words are too limiting. A profound healing beyond words.


I am grateful for encountering our Buddhist practice where past, present and future are in every moment and we never know when the simultaneous answer to our prayers will show up on the calendar of our lives. Where dreams and waking life are one. Where all is one.


Pictured: Actor Molly Ringwald announcing the finalists and winner for the 2023 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation

Visit Lynette’s website: http://lynetteyetter.com










































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I have been practicing Nichiren Buddhism for 40+ years and making beaded jewelry for 25 years, specializing in Buddhist chanting beads, also known as JUZU.

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