Monday, December 5, 2011

Losing faith

Losing faith requires us to find faith. Everyday, I find myself losing faith in myself, in my abilities. My lesser self is constantly challenged by questions of how much longer can I last? How many more times do I have to do this? When can I exercise every aspect of my life, bringing it to fruition?

And yet, the most difficult lens of perception is the one that says that you already do exercise every aspect of your life, as long as you challenge the obstacles in front of you. Overcoming obstacles does not necessarily mean you develop callouses over points of vulnerability, shame, lesser thinking, and apathy. Rather, often these wounds need to be healed not only by the usual means, but also the love and respect for oneself that never existed before. That experience can be truly liberating. Evil karma hurts. But lost faith brings greater pain.

I have more to say about what I've been facing in my academics, but since it's finals season, and I have to go paper topic hunting, I will leave that for the after-semester reflections. So, I leave you with this quote from the gosho. Nichiren states in "The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra",

"Diamonds are so hard that almost no substance will cut them, and yet they can be cut by a sheep’s horn or a turtle’s shell. The limbs of the nyagrodha tree are so stout that the largest birds can perch on them without breaking them, and yet they are vulnerable to the tailorbird, which is so tiny it could almost build its nest on the eyelashes of a mosquito. Here, our evil karma is analogous to the diamond or the nyagrodha tree, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, to the sheep’s horn or the tailorbird. Amber draws dust, and a magnet attracts iron particles; here our evil karma is like the dust or iron, and the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra is like the amber or the magnet. If we consider these [analogies, we can see why] we should always chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo."


Oh and Kuni, DD coffee is the "shit" ain't it?

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Currently, I am drinking a cup of Dunkin Donuts House Blend, with some apple cobbler. Got me thinking, what kind of coffee do you like/drink?

While you're percolating on that (pun intended), here is a song I've been listening to on repeat the last few days.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

losing taste

So last night, I was feeling too lazy to cook, so on my way back home, I picked up a delicious cajun burrito from Boloco (Boston Local Company), a burrito shop local to the Boston area. As the person making my burrito works on my food, he started saying, "Look, a s*ik just walked in" (I am referring to a racial epithet for Mexicans and Mexican-Americans). I hope he didn't use that in front of me, referring to me as a Mexican American, but more troubling was the ease with which he used the term. Though I don't know his racial or ethnic background, he mentioned his "blackness." He continued to use the term s*ik a few more times before I took my burrito home.

Immediately, two things came to mind. First, memories of being called a "Jap" during my elementary and high school years flooded me. Which brings me to what I felt afterwards--disappointment. It's becoming clear to me how difficult it is for people to reveal their greatest self. This notion of a greater self, it rolls off the tongue easier than it takes to move forward with it pragmatically. And yet, as a Nichiren Buddhist, I cannot help but feel that I too possess this potential to be just like him. I hope I never reveal that ignorance in my life. I work strenuously to reveal the devil within, so that I can crush any motivation to turn to that ignorance.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Heritage and heredity

Hi everyone. Sorry I've been way out of the loop on this blog. For the longest time, I had no muse for my musings, a writer's block shackled by a lack of creativity and ingenuity.

I wanted to share something that's been on my mind since starting graduate school at UMass Boston.

I am continuing research in American Indian (Native American) history, and more recent historiography (how historians perceive/write history) focuses much time and energy on the concept of identity. And so, this is today's muse.

The words "heritage" and "heredity" share the same Latin root, hereditat, meaning heir or inheritance. Ostensibly, heritage and heredity are one in the same. In the modern English lexicon, both have a connotation of being backward looking--a perspective of looking into the past--though more so with "heritage." The concept of personal identity is often looked through this lens. Person(s) commonly identify with a lineage based the branches of the family tree. However, there is a danger in this single perspective. The hereditary and genealogical perspective is also forward looking, a perspective of that is to come.

This is both in the literal (genealogical) and contextual sense. Even from the perspective pointed in the past, heredity is not static. The passing of traits is a creative process. Identity is creative in both the past and into the future. For instance, the "Creek" Indian identity of the 1700s is not the same as the "Creek" identity today. The 1700s Creek did not experience the expulsion in the 1830s, nor the intermarriage of white colonists, black slaves (which some Creeks used for plantation labor) and other native Indians. Claudio Saunt, in Black, White, and Indian declares that "Too often, we stand at the crown of a branching family tree and trace our ancestors back to a single trunk of sturdy and supposedly pure stock... A more revealing exercise would place us at the base of the tree and follow the branges of our ancesters back in time as they divide and subdivide, finally encompassing all other forebears... The revelation of a national family tree would dissolve the racial divisions... The revelation might persuade Americans to abandon the idea of race altogether" (Saunt, p. 29). There is a commonplace tendency to demarcate identity through hereditary legacy.

Further complicating this picture is the forward looking perspective of heredity. The current generation passes on traits to future generations, one that cannot be exactly identical both in genealogy, as well as the social construction of reality. The social construction of reality is an ongoing process, just as is the passing of genetic traits. Under this scope, heritage can no longer be treated as a static being, because there is a continuous addition and subtraction, constriction and expansion of heritage as it progresses through time. Identity, then, cannot be treated as static.

This comes to my final point--global citizenship. Under the assumption that identity would need to be fluid as it changes and recreates itself, the process/progress of global citizenship would need to be equally fluid. Treating it statically would equally undermine the heritage of its past, and its hereditary future.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I was a victim of bullying in elementary school. This is the first time I can remember that I had so much self-loathing in my life. I was only 6 or 7 years old, but it left a recognizable mark on my life. Last week, as I was saturated in thought and self-loathing, I ended my 1.5 hours of daimoku with no resolution and one essential question: when was the first time in my life I can remember harboring self-loathing, self-victimization and doubt in my life? The next day was Saturday, and as I was chanting, I realized that I never accepted and recognized that I was bullied. This denial and forced ignorance would become the seed of my negativity, and disbelief in my own self.

Saturday evening last week, for the first time I recognized that I was a victim, and that I was forgiving towards the aggressor, my next door neighbor and the tough one of the block. I was a victim, but that doesn't mean I still am the victim.

I may have broke once, but never again. I may have given in to my negativity, the "woe is me" yuck of life, but I can chose to grow. Even dead weeds can provide nutrition to future plants. I am at that stage for the first time. Now is the perfect time to give up faith in my self-loathing.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch

Saturday, April 30, 2011


A lot of what I've been experiencing lately is due to grief. I never really understood the power grief can have on people, but it can be an agent for personal change, growth and motivation, or it can activate a lot of negative tendencies, habits and thoughts. Most of  the time, it's both.

Since my grandmother's passing, I've taken stock on life and no longer find joy in constantly running around, because I hold doubts of what I am not accomplishing in my own life. Watching someone in their final moments in life, to have that strength, awakens much in life that, to put it frankly, no one can experience until they are at someone's bedside wishing them on to new journeys beyond this life. In my Buddhist practice, I understand that death is nothing but the starting point of future lives, future existences to help people and overcome suffering. At the same time, those who watch someone as they pass also begin new journeys. But if that journey begins with grief, it is as if beginning travels in the middle of the night. That darkness can motivate you to push farther than before, but the discomfort of the night can also overwhelm.

This trail is a trial. Trials really do define us. In those moments when I am overcome with grief, darkness comes about. Many times, I've been hanging out with my dear friends self-loathing, self-pity and doubt. And when I feel overwhelmed with things to do, especially Gakkai activities it seems, their voices become louder and present. Thanks. True friends indeed (sarcasm intended). I am thankful that I am no longer trying to pursue being at up to 10 meetings a week (with this new direction), because I would surely quit practicing if I continued while struggling with grief. This week, I had 7 straight days of activities, and I found myself back at the dark path of self-loathing and pity last night when I took the night off.

I once wrote that life is meant to be this difficult. And though that is true, grief has also become a motivator. Out of this, I've been able to cry, to share, to open my life up without limits to someone once more and of course also a benefit, to be healthy again. There is one person in particular, an ally whom I want in my corner every day of my life, who in the past 5 months has been ever-supportive, and I cannot thank her enough. She truly has been there, even when I feel like I am beating her with my own self-pity and self-loathing. I truly appreciate anyone who can take time to take the punches of self-pity, doubt and loathing I possess. Megmeg bacalao, you are a treasure. Even as I attempt to support others in faith and practice, you are the one to keep me in check. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

And so, I head into a  weekend chock full of activities, but I know that this grief is meant to unravel life. But sometimes, life unraveling is life revealing what is good. These moments then are nothing more than "casting off the transient and revealing the true."

Friday, April 22, 2011

American Music

With the ever-expansive "indie" scene, and with the birth, and rise of independent labels, for the first time in a long time, I've felt that there have been a string of good years for music. Recently, I am coming across more satisfying music due to the diverse availability of music. If this is a rhythm in pop music history, I hope that this upswing doesn't recede anytime soon.

It was in the 1950s and 1960s that a boom occurred. What I consider the original modern independent labels in America (Atlantic, Motown, etc) brought much change to the music-scape of Post-War America. Motown brought new sounds in soul and R&B, while Atlantic also invested in to Rock n' Roll, Jazz, and Country/Western. Without these efforts, bands and artists would have produced a different era in music. Without Motown, R&B would not be what it is today. Without Atlantic, Jazz, Country and Rock would not be what it is today. Can you imagine a world without the impact of the Temptations, the Supremes, the Jackson 5, Marvin, Stevie, Smokey, Ray, Coltrane, Mingus, Otis, Ben E., among others? And all occurring before the era of record company acquisitions beginning in the late 1960's, until the mid-2000's.

That's why I cannot but think of their influence when I listen to Fitz & the TantrumsAWOLNATIONMumford & Sons and others at all times of the day. In Fitz, there's a modern attempt at an old sound once-discovered in a house in Detroit. In AWOLNATION, there is the exploration of sound and rock found in the halls of New York, and Mumford & Sons takes us back to the spirit of Nashville. All of these efforts are allusions to what I consider the golden era of pop music. The mid-century gave a broad spectrum in the form of popular music, and when the industry turned to acquisition over creativity, that energy, though dormant for 40 years, gave rise to a generation where indie records out-pace any major record company's efforts to contain this indie phenomenon. So, to the musicians coming out today, not found in the Gaga's or Perry's, but in the corners of houses, padded with egg-carton soundproofing, your work always has the potential for a new golden age of pop music.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

reflection on my last post

Am I willing to be lonely if that is my mission of the moment?

Am I willing to sacrifice the comfort of keeping in touch with a group of friends for the sake of one other person's well being?

Am I the one who commits to a decision? If I make a vow, can I live up to it? Can I return quickly if I sway from it?

Why do I continue when I don't know where I'm going?

Why do I do things others ask of me, even if I am on the last threads of patience, effort, energy and compassion?

Do I confuse stress with apathy? When I'm overstressed, do I become apathetic?

Each of these questions, and more are emerging from my writing in my journal. Had I not experienced my grandmother's passing, I would not know the answers to these questions. If I experienced this later, though I may find the same answers, the experiences in between would have been totally different. For that, I've learned much about life. Thank you again, obaachan!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A bittersweet birthday

Kana Uemura - Toire No Kamisama
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Six days ago, my grandmother passed away at the 86 years of age. Going through the spectrum of emotions, I celebrate my birthday today with the bittersweet taste of life's toil. After work, I picked up her ashes with my dad in tow, and we welcomed her home one more time.

My grandmother lived with my parents before my own birth. She came to America in 1967, not knowing a word of English, and possessing a limited education from the times of the Japanese imperialist wars of the 1930s and 1940s. During my life, my grandmother became my second mother, offering comfort and guidance, encouragement and wisdom. Though today may be a bittersweet birthday, my grandma gave me this opportunity to express myself.

I am forever fortunate to be present in the autumn and winter of her life. In these years, she displayed the ever-present challenge of obstacles and strife, and how one directs and defines life's victories. Perplexed by what defines a "unique mission" that only I could fulfill, I returned to Colorado in 2008 intending to forgo chasing my dreams of the moment to support my grandmother.

I came back in September 2008, right when Bear Stearns and Lehmann Brothers collapsed, beginning the market collapse and punctuated the end of good times, and began the largest downturn I will probably experience in my lifetime. My initial intention to return home was to ensure that she saw her final dream come true--watching Eric graduate, signaling that her three grandsons completed Soka University of America. However, when I was in the job hunt, I had amazing opportunities to support my grandmother. My best conversations with her were when we chanted together and when I drove her to the bank, pharmacy or grocery store. I got her hooked on my favorite song when I played it on the car stereo, and she got me to listen to music I never heard. And though in May 2009, with Eric graduating Soka, I could have moved on to chase my own dreams, I realized that I had more to contribute to my grandmother’s life. In order to support her dream come full circle, I needed to do something in return to show appreciation for what she provided before she passed away. I forwent pursuing my dreams once more in order to support her. This entailed that I made a decision for my "mission" - to support my grandmother in the waning years of her life.

2009 and 2010 quickly became the most difficult and taxing years of my life. Many times, I wanted to do something else and begin accomplishing my own dreams. However, every time I tried focusing on something else, her condition would bring me back to my mission. My grandmother suffered a heart attack on September 19, 2009. The doctors gave her only a 20% chance to live through the night. And yet, my grandma rode on that 20% chance, leading to her eventual, though not a complete recovery. 

With her heart function reduced to 35% of normal, she continued to live for 472 days after her heart attack. This feat alone inspires me. Nichiren wrote that, “one day of life is more valuable than all the treasures of the major world system, so first you must muster sincere faith” (WND-1, p. 955). My grandmother then illustrated this purest form of faith in her final 472 days. I had 472 days to find new reasons to love my grandma, 472 days to see her struggles with health, anxiety, depression and negativity. Even in her state towards the end of her battle, I knew that she overcame all that was holding her back. After her heart attack, there were days when she would say that she wished she were dead already, and others when she would say that she feared death. In her final days, I could see that fear and anxiety melt away on her face. That's how I know she passed away victorious.

Preparing for her passing, and now with her physically gone, I felt taxed of energy. But I gained experiences that I was naive to and would continue to be had I not chosen to come back home. Edward R. Murrow noted in 1954 that people "can escape our heritage and our history, but we cannot escape the responsibility of the result" (See It Now, March 9, 1954). Even when I tried to escape my heritage, everything pointed me back to my mission to support my grandmother.

Today is my birthday. But today is also when I welcome my grandmother home. おばあちゃん ありがとう!

I have much more to say about my grandmother, but the greatest thing I can say is that her homecoming now is the best gift I received today.

And to those who’ve reached out since her passing, I cannot thank you enough. I wish she was here to celebrate. But I she gave me her entire life and I carry that as a responsibility and not a burden.