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Buddha Blog October 2022

We are one with our environment. Nothing happens in isolation. What we do, think or say affects everyone and everything. The most wonderful part of that is that all our daimoku reaches everyone and everything as well. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is a transcendent power that is activated by the chanting of its name. Imagine how much you have already changed the world with your daimoku and good causes. This is why we are here.

Make supernatural causes. Chant for all of humanity to rise up—not just the people you like. It’s counter-productive to harbor grudges or anger. When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we are embracing existence itself.

Become supernatural. Use your transcendental powers. The Mystic Law protects us as we traipse through the muddy swamp of life on earth—and grow into beautiful lotus flowers.

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In this issue: A touching story about family lost and found, by Patrick Gipson, a great bodhisattva and brilliant hairdresser to the stars… when they’re in Portland. Next, our copy editor Lynette Yetter tells the story of her kosen-rufu mission in Puno, Peru, where she established her own community center, albeit mini-sized. My former chapter leader partner, Jay Lawton, shares his life’s journey: as a private detective, musician, composer orchestra leader and lifelong bodhisattva. Finally, I tell stories about my family: my grandmother Lenore, a dancer who lived to be 108, my grandfather Harry, who won an Oscar, and my dad, Ira, who was the greatest human being in all categories. Featuring Getty photos of Lenore when she was on the Tonight Show in 1996, at age 101. Linda Segall Anable Editor, Horizon Newsletter

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PRESIDENT IKEDA’S GUIDANCE ON DAIMOKU

by Daisaku Ikeda

[date unknown]

If you underestimate the power of daimoku, and use other strategies, you will lose in the end. You can accumulate good fortune only when you fight for kosen-rufu without begrudging your life. Unless your prayers are united, the fight for kosen-rufu cannot gain momentum. No matter what anybody says or does, nothing can defeat the power of daimoku. But, without action, you cannot call it faith.

The Gohonzon can penetrate through everything. The world of faith is very mystic and once you become serious, you can gain one thousand times or ten thousand times more benefits. When you chant abundant daimoku, you have the power to open even the heaviest iron door that stands in your way; that is, you can overcome the most massive obstacles in your life. You can definitely change your negative karma. The world of faith is the place where many of us, all of us, chant powerful daimoku in unity, thus creating power like the force of a huge wind.

There is nothing but daimoku. Daimoku determines everything. Daimoku has more power than one million guidances or one million books on philosophy. Chant abundant daimoku and pray to the Gohonzon. Ask the Gohonzon for whatever you need. Everything will come true as you wished and the path for kosen-rufu will open up in front of you.

Everything depends on how much daimoku you chant. When you chant a lot of daimoku, you will naturally feel you need to study more. When you chant abundant daimoku, your work will become more fulfilling.

There may be times when you will experience great suffering and deep sorrow. There may be nights when tears will not stop flowing. There may also be times when you are terribly hurt. At such times, my heart will be open for you.

I am always here to listen to you. I too will share your tears with you. You don’t need to tell me anything if you are happy. I can tell just by looking at your face. Just tell me about the problems and pains that you have and I will carry half your burden and walk together with you.


CHANGING FAMILY KARMA

by Patrick Gipson

Portland, OR


I started my practice of Nichiren Buddhism in 2000 and received Gohonzon in 2001, introduced to the practice by a co-worker in my hairdresser business. I joined SGI for the same reason many members did – to change my karma for the better.

Despondent over the ending of a seven-year relationship and some financial problems, I chanted abundant daimoku, did gongyo


Right: Patrick with Sake, our friend’s doggie, at a recent toso.


every day, studied, and attended as many meetings as I could. My life condition soon became stronger, my financial situation improved, and I felt happier and more confident.

In my second year of practice, my life took a turn when I reconnected with my family. I’d become estranged from my mother when my stepfather could not accept that I was gay, and that was that. I spent many hours of focused chanting on this situation.


Being able to finally reunite with my mom was a major benefit. She admitted that she had seen great changes in me since I’d been practicing this Buddhism. Chanting enabled me to reestablish our bond of love and support that had been lacking for twenty years.

For the next ten years, before her passing, we had a wonderful loving relationship. Still, it made me sad that she was unable and unwilling to talk about my birth father. Their divorce was a sore subject and so was any talk about my father. I knew he had been very troubled and committed suicide when I was in grade school. I wished my mother would have shared more with me, but she just couldn’t. My practice helped me deal with this reality.

Shortly after my mom’s passing, I was telling this story to my close cousin Judy, who still lived in the Kansas City, Missouri area, our family’s hometown. I told her my father must be buried in the KC vicinity as our grandfather had attended the funeral and he wouldn’t have traveled a far distance. It was a new clue to his resting place.

Unknown to me, cousin Judy checked with Missouri state records and found my father’s burial cemetery. We made a plan to go there during my next visit the following summer.

In my SGI studies, I learned that this practice can not only change my karma, but the karma of current, future and past generations too. Deepening my practice revived my appreciation, empathy and gratitude for life and for all people. I felt I must show my filial gratitude for his part of my current lifetime and make that cause.

Judy and I went on our road trip to Kansas City. When I approached my father’s grave marker, I reflected on how this practice had brought me to this moment. I chanted with joy and gratitude for this opportunity for closure to this mystery. I also performed Gongyo with the prayer that this will change the hellish state that caused him to commit suicide, which he will carry into his next journey and through eternity.

For myself, I feel the gray area of my family life has been illuminated with the golden light of closure, success and victory. This is just one of many examples of how my Buddhist practice has revolutionized my life.


PUNO AND JAY’S ARRANGEMENTS

by Lynette Yetter

Portland, OR

As I copyedited Jay Lawton’s article [coming up next] for this issue of Horizon, it brought back many memories. Years ago, Jay arranged music for a string chamber group to perform at the opening ceremony of a storefront SGI meeting center I established in Puno, Peru near the shore of Lake Titicaca, over 12,000 foot elevation in the Andes.

I was the only SGI member in the city of Puno, but many of my friends had started chanting and studying Buddhism with me and I wanted to connect them to the SGI. We’d been meeting in a tiny adobe room next to the cinderblock room I rented. It was a hybrid—two adobe walls and two cinderblock walls. There was a tiny window, through which I could see the next-door neighbors cooking vats of sheepshead soup that they sold at the marketplace down the hill.

Before I talk about Jay’s music arrangements for the string chamber ensemble at the storefront SGI meeting center, I’m going on a tangent about the sheepshead soup and the Aymara-speaking grandmother who made and sold it. Sometimes my neighbor and I passed on the street. She was a traditionally dressed Indigenous Aymara elder with long grey braids, voluminous skirt, petticoats and a shawl. I was a white gringa who also braided my hair and wore a similar skirt in solidarity with Indigenous women. The first time she saw me, she walked close to me, pinched my skin hard, then darted away laughing. I was so surprised I didn’t know what to do.

The second time we met on the street, and she approached to pinch me, I instead put my hands in prayer position and chanted daimoku to her. The positive energy of this universal language touched her, and she kissed me on the cheek. Since I didn’t speak Aymara, and she didn’t speak Spanish or English, we communicated in other ways. When I was in the marketplace, she’d wave me over and feed me a big bowl of sheepshead soup and refuse payment. Even though I was kind of weirded out by the brains and whatnot floating in my bowl, I ate every last bit, out of gratitude for our friendship.

Now, going back to my cinderblock room, you have a sense of my neighbors, whose dwelling was very close, just outside my window. Lest you imagine we looked at each other through that window, I must point out that we were on a very steep street, and my window was about at the level of their roof about six feet away.

One of the adobe walls of my room was actually part of the adobe house on the lot behind. I could hear these neighbors’ voices coming through the earthen bricks. Their voices, but not their words. So, there was some privacy.

My room had a skylight—a hole in the ceiling covered by a sheet of yellow corrugated plastic. I loved the yellowed sunlight that filtered through and illuminated my rustic pine table where I worked on my laptop. Behind a second adobe wall was a tiny room where I set up my altar, and some chairs and benches for inviting friends to chant with me, so we didn’t have to kneel on the painted cement floor, which was always damp, as the room was built over a natural spring. The ceiling was low. Good thing I’m short!

Here’s a photo of the door to the adobe room. The streamers are part of an Indigenous celebration and ritual that happens every August. You cleanse the energy of your home by sprinkling drops of alcohol in the corners and the doorway. And you festoon your home with flowers and streamers.

One day I organized a lot of my friends to come chant with me, followed by a hot meal of chicken and potatoes cooked in a bread oven at a bakery a few blocks away. (When they’re done baking bread for the day, they hire out their hot oven.) A group leader flew to our meeting from Lima, a couple of hours away by plane.

The fourteen of us were crowded into the tiny dark and damp adobe room chanting to my Gohonzon. A single lightbulb dangled from the middle of the ceiling. Altar candles shared their illumination. After our meeting and hearty lunch, the visiting leader took a commemorative photo of the fourteen participants back to Lima to share with others. (If I once had a copy of that photo, it has since disappeared in the invisible realm of computer-land.)

I take the “stand alone spirit” seriously, and I also was in contact with then SGI Peru General Director, Carlos Shima, sending him email reports of my shakubuku activities. Eventually I tracked down the name and phone number of a group leader in a town only one hour away by bus, who I introduced to my chanting friends, so he could invite them to his group meetings and get them more connected to the SGI organization.

A dream of mine was to rent the storefront on the same lot as my humble abode, and sooner than I expected, the storefront tenants moved out and the place was available.

My landlord and his family were all chanting with me. And we studied. I’d amassed an impressive library of Spanish-language books I’d bought at SGI centers in Miami, Los Angeles and in Lima, Peru. We had tons of study materials!

My wonderful landlord/friend/chanting buddy supported me turning the storefront into an SGI meeting center. He asked me to choose what color paint to have the walls repainted. Another of my chanting friends was present at the time, and I asked him to choose. He pointed to a warm orange color on the box of incense near the altar. My landlord had a special batch of paint mixed up to just that shade and repainted the room.

A carpenter built more wooden benches for everyone to sit on. And the altar table and butsudan were handcrafted in Puno by a local furniture builder with Peruvian hardwoods, built to my specifications. A local sign painter painted our SGI-Peru sign using the Gakkai colors of blue, yellow and red for the letters, against a rainbow-and-white checkered background, which is the design of the Andean Indigenous flag called a “whipala.” Puno’s population is composed of both Quechua and Aymara peoples.

My landlord told me, that as director of the art institute and music conservatory, he could invite a student string chamber group to perform at our opening ceremony. Could I get him sheet music of SGI songs for them to play?

I emailed a friend in the Arts Division in Los Angeles, requesting sheet music. That friend referred me to… you guessed it. Jay!

Jay blew me away with his support! Not only was he happy to email me sheet music; he offered to arrange each song for this particular group of musicians. He asked me to let him know what instruments they were playing, and what was the ability level of each musician, so he could arrange an interesting part to fit each musician’s capabilities, for each song.

Wow! I was blown away. It was such an unexpected benefit. It was as if I’d gone to a hardware store to buy a hammer and nails, and then the clerk decided to come and build the house for me for free!


The Grand Opening Day finally arrived. My landlord’s 12-year-old daughter Anyela had been polishing her gongyo, as she was the one who powerfully led gongyo for this auspicious event. My chanting friends came from Puno and even from the town of Ilave, an hour-and-a-half bus ride away. Two SGI-Peru national leaders (Julio Asato, who is now the General Director, and the YWD leader whose name I’ve forgotten) flew in from Lima for the weekend to attend the ceremony, and to do some home visits with me, to better connect my chanting friends with the larger organization.

At the ceremony, the string chamber group beautifully played Jay’s arrangements of SGI songs including “Sensei” and “The Waterfall” to everyone’s delight!

And now, fifteen years later, I was fortunate to copyedit Jay’s inspiring article in this edition of Horizon.

Seeds of our interconnected Buddhahood were nourished that day the string ensemble played Jay’s arrangements in a storefront meeting center in Puno, Peru. Those seeds continue to grow in mystical ways we may never know. Thank you, Linda, for the opportunity to copyedit, and thank you Jay for writing about your musical Buddha journey!


MY MUSICAL JOURNEY FOR WORLD PEACE

by Jay Lawton

Ventura, CA


I was born into a non-musician family of eight in 1947. Not that we did not listen to and love music but, to my knowledge, no family or extended family member ever played a musical instrument. My most vivid musical memory, when I was ten years old, was listening to a piece of orchestral music – Slaughter on Tenth Avenue – over and over as I almost fell asleep with my head on the phonograph.

Fast forward to August of 1966, amid the hippies and drugs, I went to my first Buddhist meeting (then NSA) in Santa Monica, thanks to my brother Scott who had started chanting several months earlier and was receiving benefits.

Around 1968, I joined the NSA brass band and decided to play the flute, influenced by the wild band called Jethro Tull and its leader Ian Anderson, who played the flute while singing. Also, a small flute was easy to carry while marching in parades, and NSA had lots of parades.

I was not excited about the band and marching music, but I dove into it because it was in support of world peace. I practiced the flute 3 to 4 hours a day, probably driving my mother crazy, but she was happy I was doing something creative besides surfing. I also started lessons with the father of my Buddhist friend, Wayne Roten, whose father was a professional studio musician and played in Henry Mancini’s orchestra on all the reeds. Even though Mr. Roten’s students were already professional players, he was very patient with me, which inspired me to practice more.

In 1969, when NSA started an orchestra, I found the music my life was attracted to, which touched my heart and soul. Classical and orchestral music felt more widely inspirational for the cause of peace and the inspiration of humanity. I also joined the NSA Tribune Jazz band where I was accepted by the better players even though I barely knew what I was doing.

I also picked up the harmonica, influenced by the great blues harp player Paul Butterfield, whose style I emulated. As I had a delivery job at the time, I practiced the harp while driving to stay awake, steering with my left knee. I also played the flute while driving, when I thought it was safe; however, I do not suggest playing any musical instrument while driving. It’s better to chant.


My career as a private investigator began in 1975, which involved more driving. I used any possible time to practice, including finding locations while on surveillance. As being on surveillance involved long periods of time watching my subject’s home, I used the time to practice scales and pieces of music from memory.

On one occasion, in a high crime area in Los Angeles, a gang member threw a large rock through the back window of my BMW, just missing my head. On another surveillance a neighbor had called the police saying a man was holding a silver gun in his car. When they arrived, I showed them my silver flute. They left.

Developing my musicianship with numerous teachers, I started playing at various public and NSA events. Playing professionally wasn’t my goal but I wanted to support music for world peace, as I believe it to be the common language of the human race. In 1976 I married and started a family, while continuing to work as an investigator for a small company. In 1977 and 1978 we had two wonderful girls, Monique and Bridgitta.

Unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last. After getting a divorce in 1994, I started my own investigation company, and planned to support the NSA orchestra which Ikeda Sensi named the America Victory Orchestra in 1991. In 1998 I took on the leadership of the orchestra and worked hard to make it successful. Besides the concerts for peace, I arranged music and performed with other musicians for numerous World Peace Prayer and discussion meetings.

With the great success of my business, in 2000 I was able to purchase a large three-story home in Woodland Hills that had a huge living room for the orchestra to rehearse. Eventually, this house became the orchestra’s home. Starting in 2003 we began having large yearly concerts in conjunction with the Daniel Pearl Music for Peace Foundation, established by Daniel Pearl’s parents after their son, a talented violinist who worked for the Wall Street Journal as a correspondent, was murdered in Pakistan in 2001.

These beautiful concerts took place in the Ikeda World Peace Auditorium in Santa Monica and continued to become bigger and more diverse. The orchestra was Buddhist based, but we invited many college, professional, and amateur players.

As time went on, many of the non-Buddhist players commented that this orchestra was so uniquely different from their previous orchestras. While playing in the SGI orchestra, I also played in the Pierce College music department, and used the opportunity to attract new musicians, and also introduce them to Buddhism. Looking back, I could not have dreamed that my Buddhist practice would bring me such wonderful good fortune over the years. I even had a committee to assist me.

In 2013 we ended our large yearly concerts and started to have smaller concerts with a reduced-sized all-Buddhist orchestra. I retired from my business and sold my home in 2018 and ended my music at Pierce College. Several of the music teachers at the college helped me to continue taking classes beyond the class registration limits. This was due to my helping the younger students.

In June of 2019 I was able to move fulltime onto my beautiful sailing yacht, which was located in Ventura Marina. Now in Ventura, I registered at the Ventura Community College in the music department. This school is much smaller and older than Pierce College and I felt very comfortable playing with the young students in the chamber and symphonic classes. I also felt the teachers were very devoted to the students. Being considerably older than, not only the students, but also the teachers, I felt completely accepted and forgot about my age.

For the first three years at the college, I played in my usual chamber and classical venues. Then, in the fall semester of 2021 I saw a jazz band playing at one of the many concerts at the college, and their exciting teacher. I realized I craved more freedom to play this music in addition to the chamber music that I also love. I’d played some blues and rock music at Pierce but had little jazz exposure. So, in the spring semester I joined the jazz band, even though I was not too confident that I was a jazz musician, but loved the musical freedom, the students, and the teacher.

As the class progressed, I started to realize that the teacher was depending on me to play most of the flute solos that I was not used to playing, and I noticed the teacher waving me on to keep playing. I began to feel that I was influencing the younger students to become more confident in their playing. Several asked me if I was a teacher. I also noticed their solos were improving with my influence. I felt such support for the class and the teacher. We played numerous venues around the college, and also in the community.

Interestingly, the students knew me as a flautist with Jethro Tull-type playing but did not know I played harmonica. At one of the first gigs on the campus, I played several harp solos, and the kids went crazy. In a way, I felt somewhat responsible for encouraging these wonderful young students, some of whom were advanced high school students.

Looking back, as I continue to support music and culture for peace, I realize that my practice of Buddhism has guided me to this stage of my life, of which I never could have dreamed.

LIFE AND DEATH CONDITIONS

by Linda Segall Anable January 2005


In my family, it was widely assumed that my grandmother, Lenore Schaeffer, age 108, the nation’s oldest competitive ballroom dancer, who taught Jay Leno to do the cha-cha on the Tonight Show, would outlive all life on earth. However, on December 16th, 2004, with a body that no longer served her, having aced all tasks on her life’s agenda, she finally packed up her dancing shoes and left the arena.

I received the news from her youngest son Lou, who was relieved Lenore hadn’t chosen his birthday, the day before, to pass on. That call was followed by one from my attorney, informing me that the 28-year probate case of my grandfather, Harry Segall, Lenore’s first husband, was at last settled. I’d been working on this legal matter since I became executor of Harry’s estate in 1975.

A brilliant and funny writer, in 1941 Harry won an Oscar for the movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan, based on his Broadway play Heaven Can Wait, about a boxer who is mistakenly sent to heaven but gets to come back to earth in another man’s body. It was remade by Warren Beatty in 1978, and also by Chris Rock in a version called Down to Earth.



While chanting about the irony of Lenore’s passing and Harry’s probate occurring on the same day, I got another call informing me that my father, Lenore and Harry’s son Ira, who is 88 and has moderate Alzheimer’s Disease, had left his house, walked seven blocks in the freezing cold and collapsed in someone’s driveway. He was found by the homeowner and rushed to the hospital, suffering from extreme hypothermia. It took doctors an hour to bring his temperature up to 92 degrees. This occurred at virtually the same time that his mother passed away.

I’d been chanting a lot for my dad’s protection. In this stage of role reversal, my brother Alan and I had discovered how stubborn “children” can be: he refused to have a caretaker, he refused to go to an assisted care facility… case closed, end of story. It took a car accident to get him to stop driving. With no car, we were under the illusion that he was relatively safe in his own home. We were wrong.

I flew to Chicago thinking how like Lenore it was to arrange things so efficiently – me having to come in for two family matters at once. I knew my role would be “central figure” and maintainer of high life conditions. Many wonderful friends were chanting for Ira and I fused that energy with my own daimoku. It occurred to me that Dad was too good of a son to go before his mother, which heightened my appreciation that she lived so long. I kept in mind my favorite guidance from President Ikeda, “Faith is to fear nothing.” I determined to create value, no matter what the situation, confident that I could draw as much power as I needed from 23 years of Buddhist practice.

The trauma of hypothermia combined with Dad’s age and Alzheimer’s caused a severe setback, but at least he was alive. Had he died in that driveway, it would have haunted me forever—too horrible to contemplate. At least he was protected from that. At the hospital he recognized me, but just barely. Most of the time he slept. But he also refused to eat or drink fluids. He was put on an IV and fastened to the bed with restraints, so he couldn’t yank it out.

My Omamori Gohonzon was with me at all times, and I chanted as much as possible. My best opportunity came when Dad went down for an MRI. As anyone who has had one knows, an MRI sounds like a tank explosion in Krakatoa. So, I volunteered to be the family member to accompany Dad inside. While his brain was magnetically scanned, I massaged his feet and shouted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo at maximum volume for nearly an hour. It felt good, and I expect that someday I’ll be able to hear again.

The day of Lenore’s burial was the coldest, windiest day in recorded history. We figured that she was compensating for all the steamy July 25th birthday parties in Phoenix, when the temperature would match her age. I could almost hear her cackling as we were pelted by 30-mile-an-hour Chicago winds. It was a quick ceremony. Afterwards, at the Shiva, everyone wanted to talk about Ira, a rare instance when he actually upstaged his mother. I told people that it didn’t look good.

Next day, Dad slept almost non-stop, still refusing nourishment. His neurologist, whose own mother died of Alzheimer’s, said that it was doubtful that he’d improve more than 10-20%, provided he recovered from the hypothermia. Alan and I were faced with the choice of letting him gradually slip away, or have a feeding tube inserted, which would keep him alive, possibly in a vegetative state.


Neither option was appealing. While Alan took his 12-year-old son Christmas shopping, I did gongyo next to Dad and chanted an hour. He slept through it but I remember President Ikeda’s guidance that the ears are always open.

Next morning, as we headed to the hospital for a 9 AM meeting with the neurologist, we were no closer to a decision. But when we entered Dad’s room, we saw him sitting up in bed eating a hearty breakfast. It was so shocking, so miraculous, for a moment I thought maybe I was the one with dementia and I was hallucinating. The neurologist looked at me with a Christmas-morning grin on his face. It was for real. Dad had come back to us.

Later that day we transferred him to the assisted care facility where we had a lovely dinner together (maybe he just didn’t care for the hospital food) and I kept making him laugh, which always makes me happy, but especially that day. We took him on a wheelchair tour of his new digs, where there’s a lower level made to look like a street from the early 1900’s: red brick pavement, 1904 cars, soda shop, theatre with old movie posters and a replica of the Pump Room, a hoity-toity Chicago restaurant we used to go to on special occasions—all stimulating nostalgia for seniors.

As there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, I accept that Ira is slowly checking out, but I don’t believe he’s suffering. He often laughs and smiles on his own; his altered reality seems filled with pleasant, long-forgotten memories. I can deal with his inevitable decline as long as he’s happy and to that end I continue to send him mega-doses of daimoku, sometimes imagining it intensified by that MRI machine, since we got such great results from that calamitous session!

I returned home to LA with my father’s most prized possession—Harry’s Oscar—which had been residing in my parents’ home for many years. No one is living there now and like Dad, Oscar needed to relocate. I covered him in bubble wrap and stuck him in a tote bag, hoping to slip quietly through security, but once he passed through X-ray, the inspectors took notice and wanted to see him. They passed him around, causing a brief hold-up in the line.

Back in his California birthplace, Harry’s Oscar is residing on my altar, where I chanted so many hours for my dad’s recovery, a symbol of victory.

***

Update: Ira Segall lived out his life in a nursing home outside of Chicago. Remarkably, his life condition remained high even as his disease progressed into deep dementia, for which I thank the Gohonzon and my fervent daimoku. The last time I saw him, a few months before he passed, he was in a wheelchair. When it was time for his lunch, I thought it a good time to say goodbye.

As I wheeled him into the dining room he said, “Wait, let me walk you to the door.”

“But it’s time to eat your lunch, Dad.”

The moment was heavy. We both knew it was our last meeting. I watched him struggle to think of something meaningful to say. He seemed fully coherent. “Stay happy,” he told me. Greatest guidance I’ve ever received.








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My grandmother Lenore on the Tonight Show, 1996, when she was 101.

She stole the show.




The Horizon

Editor: Linda Segall Anable; Copy editor: Lynette Yetter




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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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