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What the funi (foo-knee)? by Lynette Yetter

Growing up in the U.S. I absorbed Western thought without question. It was just what it was. Neat tidy categories where everything stayed put. Even if I felt differently, I figured it was just me – I don’t fit into a neat, tidy category. But when I encountered Nichiren Buddhism, and the power of overcoming obstacles and realizing dreams by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, based on faith, study and practice, I was thrilled to learn about the Buddhist concept of funi!

Funi: Two, but not two.

Two things can appear to be separate, like a person and their environment (esho funi), or like one’s mind and body (shiki shin funi), but really, they are one (two but not two). We’re totally seeing this in how Western categorical thinking has failed us with the resulting climate crisis.

For example, dividing things into categories got a big boost hundreds of years ago when French philosopher Rene Descartes sat down to ponder everything, and decided that separating things into categories was a good idea. (Oh, if only he had had the opportunity to read Chinese Buddhist philosopher Tien Tai’s Great Concentration and Insight, like Nichiren, the founder of this Buddhism that I practice did; what a different world we would all be living in now, embracing the complexity of our oneness and mutual Buddha nature.) Nature, the environment, Descartes believed, was a thing separate from human life. To understand it, to utilize it, one must kill it and dissect it. Check the weather report of record-breaking temperatures and storms and droughts and wildfires and you can see where industrialized Western society’s blind belief in Descartes’ divisive categories such as “self” as separate from “environment” has gotten us.

Funi can help lift our spirits, especially in these depressing times. Consider these Buddhist “funi” ways of looking at the world, which explain the oneness of ourselves and the environment.

According to 13th-Century Japanese Buddhist reformer Nichiren Daishonin, we are the microcosm of the macrocosm, of the entire universe: past, present and future. Even astronomers agree that our bodies and all of Earth is composed of stardust. Daisaku Ikeda, honorary president of the lay Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai, notes that science is getting closer and closer to seeing life from the Buddhist perspective. Like Nichiren writes in his essay On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime, the only difference between a common mortal and a Buddha is that the common mortal forgot they are a Buddha. What is a Buddha? Buddha is life itself, as Soka Gakkai co-founder Josei Toda realized in his deep study of the Lotus Sutra while imprisoned as a thought criminal in WWII Japan (for refusing to say the emperor was the divine ruler of them all). Nichiren writes that “myo” (in the Buddhist mantra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) means the mystical nature of life that is in everything—even the minutest particle of dust.

So, even though the world can look like a catalog of separate categories to Western eyes, in reality we are not separate—we are one. Funi. Two, but not two. One.

The next time you’re feeling blue, try this and see what happens. Look at something. Preferably something you really like. It could even be the tiniest bit of soil in your organic veggie bed. Then open your mind and heart to the realization that whatever you are looking at is really not separate from you, not “other.” You are one. Expand your field of vision in your imagination until you see the entire limitless universe and realize that is you. Your greater self. All is one. And the ripples you make with your thoughts, words and deeds affect everything, because everything is one. The microcosm is the macrocosm and vice versa. When I chant the mantra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while pondering the concept of funi, everything shifts. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. My thoughts, words and deeds grow wiser and more loving as I make mistakes, fall down, learn, and get up again and again.

Nothing is impossible. That’s another jail-cell realization of Josei Toda.

When we chant Nam-myoho-renge-ko with this realization of funi, even though it looks like reality is composed of millions of divisive warring categories, Nichiren assures us we will attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. And like a perfect mirror, our environment will reflect our ever-increasing collective enlightenment.

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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