September 19, 2011

A Right to the Dharma: An interview with Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin, a Nichiren Shu priest

The current issue of Tricycle features an interview with Myokei Caine-Barrett, Shonin, a Nichiren priest and the resident teacher at Myoken-ji, a temple in Houston, Texas. The daughter of an African American father and a Japanese mother, Myokei Shonin is the first woman of African American and Japanese descent—and the only Western woman—to be ordained as a priest within the worldwide Nichiren Order. (She is also the first female priest in the Nichiren Order of North America.)

From "A Right to the Dharma":

What kind of effect does chanting have on your mind? We consider chanting to be a form of meditation. When you set your intention on chanting correctly, melodically, and as crisply and clearly as possible, you become focused. It quiets the monkey mind and establishes a direct connection to the dharma. I can only guess how it compares to what people experience in silent meditation. The times I have tried silent meditation, it’s been very easy to just pop into this place that I have found through chanting. So I assume it’s the same.

I know when I first heard the chanting, there was something very powerful about it that really appealed to me. It stuck in my head and in my heart. It wasn’t until I started on the path of the priesthood that I finally became aware of why that was so. I was born in Japan and stayed there until I was almost two years old. I must have heard the chant when I was a baby. In the same way, there was a particular smell of incense that just moved me profoundly, and I never knew why. About three years ago, when I was talking to my Japanese aunt, I learned that my family members were actually Nichiren Shu practitioners. We had never discussed it before, and that realization was like coming home.

Read the rest here.


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