Being Buddhist

// News | General | Being Buddhist
Email to a friend Plain text Print version // Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font

Kelly Onukwe was raised Cherubim and Seraphim - or the white garment people, as he fondly refers to his parent’s religion- attended Catholic school, and was confirmed in the Anglican Church, before he decided to become a Buddhist.

It was sometime in the winter of 1982 when Mr. Onukwe found Buddhism in a train station in Washington D.C., while he was doing his masters programme. A man walked up to him and asked, “Have you heard of Nam myoho Renghe kyo?” It was strange, but after he asked a few questions, he collected some magazines and they decided to meet two days later at the same station. It was that man who took Mr. Onukwe to the community centre for the first time.

“I was expecting to see people with long beards… something like a Buddhist monastery, but it wasn’t so,” he said. “I saw people in mini skirts, you know, regular people, like you and me.”

Delita Whitfield was 18 years old when she unknowingly attended her first Buddhist function. The British national, who lives in Nigeria, said that she was just having fun at first, but when she got home and actually read the brochures, “something just clicked. I thought ‘I quite believe in this.’”

What are you then?

Being Buddhist in the United States and the United Kingdom though, is quite different from being Buddhist in Nigeria.

For the most part, every Nigerian is Muslim or Christian with a few traditionalists and closet atheists tucked in-between. So when people find out that Mr. Onukwe is Buddhist, the usual response is, “like Hare Krishna?” Hare Krishna, an international Hindu group, has nothing to do with Buddhism, but many Nigerians mix up the two religions.

When Ms. Whitfield came to Nigeria eight years ago, she said she was immediately struck by the fact that everybody seemed to go to church on Sundays- and they inevitably invited her to join them.

“People invite you to church, and I say no, I don’t go to church. Are you a Muslim? I say no. Then what are you then? I’m a Buddhist. Lots of people have never heard of Buddhism and they have the fright of their life,” she said.

Ms. Whitfield, who works with several non-governmental organisations in Nigeria, including WOTCLEF- Women Trafficking and Child Labour Eradication Foundation and NAPTIP- National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons, said many of the people the organisation helped assumed her a Christian.

“They just thought [Buddhism] was something really evil and they were quite surprised by the way that I behaved - not to say that my behaviour is all that - but they said I seemed like a Christian,” she said.

A different Buddhism in Nigeria

Both Ms. Whitfield and Mr. Onukwe are Nichiren Buddhists. Nichiren Buddhism is a sect of the religion that originated in Japan. The central tenet is based on the thought that the Lotus Sutra or teaching of Buddha is the most important of all his teachings. They chant “Nam myoho Renghe kyo”, a summation of the Lotus teaching, during meditation.

“You can sit down for five or ten minutes, or four or five hours, if you so desire, to chant Nam myoho Renghe kyo,” said Mr. Onukwe.

The chant roughly translated, means devotion to the law of cause and effect, which is the one basic ‘commandment’ in Buddhism. “It’s up to you at every moment to think properly about what you’re doing…whatever cause you’ve made, you are bound to get the effect,” he continued.

Buddhism is generally referred to as the fourth largest religion in the world and it was founded by Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, in Northern India between the 6th and 4th century BCE. Despite this, there are actually no exact estimates of how many Buddhist there are worldwide, and even ambitious estimates of 1.6 million are not very large compared to Christianity and Islam’s numbers. In Nigeria, the statistics are even smaller.

Mr. Onukwe is a member of Sokka Gakkai International or SGI, a lay Nichiren Buddhist organisation with its headquarters in Japan. According to his estimates, there are roughly 60 or 70 SGI members in Abuja, and even more Buddhists, but from different sects. They usually meet for two hours on Sundays at member’s houses. Sunday has no special significance, but it was convenient for most people. They chant for a few minutes, and spend the rest of their time discussing life.

However, Ms. Whitfield has noticed that Buddhism is practiced a little bit differently here than abroad. The main reason, according to her, is that everyone comes from a Christian background, and so they still carry the ideas of their previous faith with them, such as the giving of tithes, which is not compulsory in Buddhism.

There also seems to be a lot of emphasis on material things. During the weekly meetings people are asked to think of three things they want, “People want money, they want to be rich, they want a new car and they want xyz,” said Ms. Whitfield. “They firmly just believe in, if something happens, [then] this is a really great faith, but it can happen if you’re a Muslim or a Christian. You wish certain things to happen, they can happen.”

Using wisdom

Religion is a highly sensitive issue in Nigeria, and while Ms. Whitfield is not ashamed of her faith, she is also very cautious. She admitted that at first, she was not very comfortable, when asked to do opening prayers at various functions.

“I was a bit not so comfortable in the public domain…but you’ve got to use wisdom sometimes. Here, in a room full of about 300 people, 40 percent are Muslim and the rest, Christian, and you get up there and you’re trying to say the prayers without saying ‘in Jesus’ name’ and ‘in Allah’s name’,” she said. “You’re very careful in how you say, I’m a Buddhist. People get very sensitive and think you’re against their religion.”

Mr. Onukwe also said he has faced some hostility, but it does not faze him. “I definitely tell them I’m a Buddhist… to be sincere, I don’t fell threatened at all,” he said.

Thankfully, none of the ugly reactions have come from their families. Mr. Onukwe’s parents, who are Cherubim and Seraphim, and his wife, who is born again Christian, were both doubtful about his faith initially. “They saw me as a normal human being, listened to my opinion, saw the way I did things, and felt at ease with it,” he said.

Ms. Whitfield, who grew up in what she described as a very liberal household, said there was never any issue.

“I wasn’t doing anything out of the norm really, so to them, it was just my belief, and they just let it go. I’ve had no real objection from family or close friends in that sense,” she said.

Both say that Buddhism has changed their lives. For Ms. Whitfield, her faith is one of the forces that drive her passion for humanitarian work, the other being her parents. However, she was also pointed out that goodness is not specific to any religion. “These are the tenets of the Buddhist religion and you agree with it and you live your life accordingly. I think it’s the same as being a Muslim or a Christian. It’s just many people don’t follow through,” she said.

“I do this,” she puts her hands together and bows her head, “you may go ‘hallelujah’, and the other one may be bowing. It’s all the same at the end of the day and it doesn’t really matter. It’s just what you believe in and how you live your life.”

Tagged : No tags for this article

Headlines Newsview all

T.B. Joshua’s Prophecy Comes to Light as North Korea Fires Rocket

By lee seungA recent 'prophecy' by T.B. Joshua concerning North Korea appears to be one to be taken seriously after they launched a long-range rocket ...

President Buhari replies Fayose - 'My trips are not frivolous'

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that contrary to the claims by critics of his incessant foreign trips, none of the trips he had made so ...

Borno state residents flee as Boko Haram attack villages

Residents of Mairi and Malari have begun fleeing to Borno State capital, Maiduguri as Boko Haram insurgents laid siege to their villages. The insurgents were said ...

Shocking Revelation As Governor Wike Is Accused Of Corruption

The Peoples Coalition Against Corruption, an anti-graft group, has urged the federal government and anti-corruption agencies to investigate Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state. According to ... Full story

Boko Haram Is Technically Defeated - President Buhari Insists

Buhari has reiterated his success against the Boko Haram sect despite fatal attacks orchestrated by the sect that has killed several civilians in the north-eastern ... Full story

EXCLUSIVE: Buratai’s Full Control Of Army Pruned As CDS Takes Over Boko Haram War

There is disquiet in the nation’s Army following recent changes in strategies in the battle to flush out the dreaded Boko Haram terrorists. Consequently, the Boko ... Full story

Obasanjo Prostrates Before Ooni Of Ife

In a dramatic move which shocked many. former president, Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed support for the move by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi ... Full story

CCT Trial: Pressure Mounts On Saraki To Step Down...See Details

Embattled Bukola Saraki's political opponents have urged him to vacate the office of the Senate Presidency and focus on his trial at the Code of ... Full story

Buhari Speaks On The Negative Image Of Nigerians Abroad

The president is concerned about the nefarious activities of Nigerians in diaspora which has effected the outlook of the country and making travelings cumbersome.  President Muhammadu ... Full story

Ekitigate Exposed Jonathan - Read How

Following the stunning revelation made by Temitope Aluko, the secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ekiti state, and the alleged role played former ... Full story

Presidency Attacked Over Achievement Claims

A pro-democracy group, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) has dismissed claims by senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, Mallam Garba ... Full story

Comment on: Being Buddhist

Rate this article

2.00

Breaking News

The Kiss, Brides 3 Outfits, Lovely Cake And More About Ebuka Obi-Uchendu's Exquisite Wedding (Photos)

It was indeed a star-studded exquisite wedding as ?Cynthia & Ebuka Obi-Uchendu's finally walked down the aisle, yesterday February 6, 2016 in Abuja. There are some ...

Is Chidinma Ekile Still Looking For Her Johnny? (Photos)

Chidinma Ekile, famously known as Miss Kedike, is one of the hottest and most sought after spinsters in the Nigeria music industry.The Capital Hill singer ...

Style Inspiration: Lovely Ladies At Ebuka Obi- Uchendu's Wedding (Photos)

Toke Makinwa, Dolapo Oni, Lala Akindoju, Hazel Chiejina,Debola Williams, Chidinma Ekile and a host of other ladies looked stunning at the Ebuka- Obi Uchendu's Wedding ...

Tuface Idibia Gets Award From Son (Photo)

The simple fact that ?2face Idibia, now officially known as 2Baba, has seven children from three different women doesn't deter him from being a good ...

Access Lagos City Marathon is a Tourist strategy for Lagos state… Commissioner of Sport

Today, history was made. The first of its kind, Access Bank Lagos City Marathon which took at the National stadium Surulere and making its stop ...

MUSIC PLAGIARISM AND MUSIC CREATION

Whether by sheer coincidence, inspiration or plain theft, several hit songs sound alike, so it is not unusual that you can listen to a song ...

Omotola Jalade Get’s First Birthday Gift and Cake in Ghana

Nollywood actress, Omotola Jalade Ekehinde, will be a year older tomorrow February 7th, 2016, and she has began getting gifts and cake while on set ...

Actress, Lizzy Gold Onuwaje Robbed in Delta State

Nollywood actress, Lizzy Gold Onuwaje, is seriously not happy with the high rate of robbery incidents in the country as she was recently robbed while ...

Toyin Aimakhu Replies to Prostitution Allegation

Gradually turning Nigeria’s Lady Gaga, Yoruba actress, Toyin Aimakhu, is ready to serve anyone who talks wrongly at her just the way it’s hot after ...

Bride Treks to Church Due to Lagos City Marathon (Photo)

Wow, today has indeed been a very busy one especially with the just concluded Lagos City Marathon which had thousands of participants in attendance.Definitely, such ...