This morning I went with my friend Sue to Taplow Court. She wanted to show the place to me. She used to teach technical theatre at Guildhall, and is mother to my friend Jake. Taplow Court is a country house out in Berkshire.
It’s huge, next to Cliveden where Nancy Astor held sway. (First female politician, Christian scientist, firebrand.) Former English home to the lords of Orkney and with a host of Grenfells and other loosely familiar aristocratic names, it’s one of those houses with history. There was a Saxon king buried in the backyard. There were probably loads of Saxons here when Normans howled in and made it theirs. It’s in the Domesday book. The Saxon king was enthusiastically hacked out of his eternal rest in the late 1800s by crap archeologists, and taken to the British museum to be taped back together for a slightly different posterity than he had in mind. Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.
In the 1980’s the house went on sale, and was bought speculatively by the growing secular Buddhist society Soka Gakkai International, with Japanese money. They wanted a base in the UK. And man they have made one. It’s astonishingly beautiful, well groomed, and peaceful. Thousands of people per week now come to resonate with positive energy and try to improve themselves and their surroundings. It’s a haven.
SGI is pretty damn good as far as belief structures go. It’s asking the adherents to be the best version of themselves they can be, while actively seeking to improve the world around them. It asks for gentle action, for kindness, for turning poison into medicine. There is no ooglyboogly monsterman that you have to obey, with impressive representatives on earth that need your money. There is no overarching authority figure who you must learn to be submissive to. You don’t chant to an idol. You have a scroll, a series of simple tenets, and a very wise man who currently leads the society. He’s called Daisaku Ikeda, and as a lifelong authority questioner, I’m happy to listen to him. He’s got a way with ideas. He’s very clear, and walks the walk he talks. He’s a good leader, and it’s not about him, even if his drive has made the sect international. He’s kept the sect secular.
So I chanted for a good while, and let my mind wander round the things myself and those around me need fixed. It was “kosen-rufu gongyo” and loads of people were “receiving gohonzon”. So yes, there is still a jargon that has to be understood. But even without a full understanding of what I’m chanting, I like the fact that there are people all over the world at all times chanting the same thing at the same time as me. This sort of thing appeals to me, believing as I do in vibrations and energy. Making pockets of the world vibrate in tune appeals to me.
Directly after chanting, and gathering all this positive energy, I went to lunch with Sue. And someone I didn’t expect walks in…
I keep my heart in a box most of the time. It’s nice and safe in there. But I have a bad habit. Very rarely, with little provocation, I reach into my chest cavity, haul out the whole pumping organ, and schlumpf it onto the table in front of someone I’ve only just met. It’s a ridiculous habit. Nobody wants that pile of oozing pulsing veinage squishily pumping on the table while we get to know each other. My hope, I think, is that someone will swap it for theirs. But it’s always a little early. I’m not really sure why I keep doing it. How are people supposed to react? Shove it back into me? Eat it? Ignore it? People have tried all three and it’s never worked out well. I’m learning to stop doing it. I’ve got friends on my case now. “You like her? Ok, don’t tell her everything about yourself immediately. Try and keep hold of some mystery.”
Someone I didn’t expect walks in. I schlumphed her many years ago. She’s cool with it. We have a cordial lunch next to each other. She’s a friend now. It’s lovely to see her. The past is a long time ago. Argh.
I like Taplow Court and the SGI but dammit cosmic vibrations. That was unexpected.