Rob Scheps forwarded me this from Jeff Pittson who knew Brecker from an NSA Buddhist temple in New York. This particular form of Buddhism that Brecker was involved in at the end of his life practices a very intense form of chanting, while concentrating on a Japanese scroll called a Gohonzon. Most of you have probably have heard of "Namyo-ho-renge-kyo". Many Jazz musicians have been proponents of this method of spiritual attainment, including Chick Corea, Harold Land, Herbie Hancock, and Wayne Shorter. The rhythmic emphasis of this chant seems to have a special call for musicians.

A little story; Mike told us, the last time he was able to come to a meeting. "I just wanted all of you to know that despite what's happened to me over the last 2 years, I fell happier now than I did before I started chanting. My life has been very chaotic and lately many mysterious things have been falling into place. I can definitely attribute this to my chanting." When he went to do the recording, he had been chanting for about 3-4 weeks and, of the recording session and being weak from bouts with chemo, he said "I can't believe I'm doing this! " and later he confided to me that he felt that he felt that he limped his way through the recording. We should all limp so well!! But later when I asked him, the last time I saw him, " Hey Mike, how the record going?" He replied" You know, I'm thrilled with this record and I'm never thrilled with a record." Actual proof from a man who was heard to say on at least one occasion ,"I have 11 Grammys (now 12) and I think my music sucks! Well, we all know differently, but we also know that Mike was hypercritical of his own playing and I think as he brought out his own Buddha-nature. He started to appreciate himself more and more and be more gentle with himself, and I also think that he definitely attained Buddhahood. He practiced with us exactly 6 months to the day...He received Gohonzon on August 14th and passed on Jan 13th. Pleases convey this to all the members that you know and non-members alike. Sam himself is chanting daily and says that when he does he feels his Dad's presence, as indeed we all do, and always will.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. Just a small correction, it's spelled Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Any reader that wants to chant would break each syllable down into Nam-Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo and give each syllable a beat value. Can't be translated but meaning something like "I devote myself to the Mystic Law of Cause & Effect thru sound & vibration.

Anonymous said...

I like what you wrote here.
Anonymous was right. In addition it's SGI-USA, not NSA.SGI is Soka Gakkai International, the world Buddhist organization which Michael joined 6 months before his passing.
Thanks, Rob Scheps

David Carlos Valdez said...

Everything about this particular form of spiritual practice seems to develop musicality. Even if it had no esoteric effect whatsoever (and I think it does), it would help musicianship just by the practice of intense focus and highly rhythmic chanting. Both my parents practiced this Buddhist method for years and seemed to really benefit from it.

Adam said...

The two camps of this "Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo" thing hate each other vehemently and actually lead their members to chant against the other!

It’s interesting to observe this "Buddhist" fad in the consumer culture of the West. Its standard advocates are as fanatical as any evangelical born-again Christian or folks caught up in any business cult such as Amway, or any neurotic superstition for that matter. I've heard almost all of them talk about "chanting for ___" e.g. to meet sales quotas, money for rent, for their mother to heal from cancer, to get a better grade on a test, better luck in a musical performance, for a crush to reciprocate feelings, etc., etc. like any enthusiastic religious devotee praying for a miracle or offering sacrifices to idols for material blessings.

Chanting, or Mantra Yoga, is an essential meditation technique for understanding the Buddhist message. But you don't do it to get something - be it peace of mind, a bike for Christmas, rain for the crops, or even enlightenment/Buddhahood itself. That's a complete misunderstanding of Buddhism and really has nothing to do with its teachings at all. I’ve even heard “Nam-Myo-Ho” enthusiasts state that their practice is “True Buddhism” – something which anyone who’s actually looked into Eastern philosophy would find utterly laughable.

I have no problem with any person of a particular faith where they pray for this-or-that outcome, or anyone claiming to feel better in this sick/crazy world after chanting "nam-myoho-renge-kyo" or singing rounds of "row, row, row your boat.” But don't call it "Buddhism."

On what the teachings of Buddhism are really about and especially its use of the concept of sound, check out this statement by Alan Watts (especially what he says towards the end):


David Carlos Valdez said...

Thanks Adam,
I was introduced to this sect in the early 80's when there was a huge push to expand American membership. Members were told that every new person they introduced was the equivalent of chanting one million Nam-myoho-renge-kyo's. It takes a long time to chant a million so there was a frenzy to indoctrinate new members. They were persistant too, like Jahova's Witnesses who have managed to cross the threshold into your living room. I was pulled to a meeting by Nito Reyes, an older trumpet player, and Geordie Holbert. We were studying music with Nito so he told us that if we really wanted to play great we had to try this new thing- chanting.
I was very reluctant the whole way.
When we got to the temple, hall really, there were many other bewildered newcomers. We were given the sacred Gohonzen scroll and told
that all good things in life would come to us if we chanted for an hour a day. If we didn't chant our lives would basically suck and we would be betraying the great gift we had just been given, the Gohonzon. The Gohonzen was talked about as if it was a living person
and if we dishonored it then it would struck us down by the laws of cause and effect. When we touched it to move it we had to put something in ours mouths so we wouldn't sully it with our breath.
I felt as if I was being Shanghaied. Shanghai Shakabuku.
I expected to hear about four noble truths or compassion for all living beings or about the importance of detachment. All they were really concerned about seemed to be reaching their personal goals, which they seemed to have all catalouged quite extensively. If anyone of them could pull an unsuspecting friend into the sect then they could reach those goals exponentially faster. It was exactly like a giant pyramid scheme . I'm pretty sure that on those lists of goals they weren't things like be a nicer person, be more generous, be more humble, ect. Maybe the teachings were presented differently back in Japan. Maybe they were brainstorming back there about how to expand in America and someone said,"Americans are greedy motherfuckers, let's appeal to their greed!". I've been told that changes were made since that time and I have to say that I do know people who seem to have grown spiritually by this practice. I am just relating my personal experience with the organization.

Henry Leong said...

From the benefits of relative happiness, we perfect our absolute happiness-Henry Leong


Henry Leong said...