Editor’s Note: Samuel Autman, a journalism student at the University of Missouri in Columbia, was once a student chapter leader in a growing sect of Buddhism known as Nichiren Shoshu American. Nichiren, which emphasizes world peace, boasts a membership of 17 million world-wide with half a million in America.
I’m Samuel Autman, a 22-year-old native of St. Louis. I want to share how the true and living God delivered me from Buddhism.
I had searched high and low for the “perfect teaching,” until finally I discovered a group of Buddhists who seemed happy. This sect believed that by chanting a specific phrase everyday, humans can experience true happiness. I attended one of their meetings and discovered that they were average people who chanted this single phrase rhythmically. The leaders told me to not believe in the chanting, only to try it and see what kind of results I got. I was instructed to make a list of things and chant to see if it worked. This was the measure they used to test the validity of any teaching.
Amazingly, I started receiving an incredible amount of material gain. I began to chant everyday and waited excitingly to see what kind of results I would get. I chanted for two years before I became a Buddhist. I joined the group in 1985 and got an altar, prayer beads, incense, and candles. I also received a ‘gohonzon,’ a scroll written in Sanskrit, which was my object of worship. The leaders told me that my gohonzon was a “driver’s license” to my own destiny, and that the power was in writing the chant on it.
Immediately after transferring to the University of Missouri I started a Nichiren Shoshu American chapter. I cultivated a membership of 20 students by going out on campus and encouraging people to chant so they could become happy.
Ultimately these chanters hope to attain world peace through individual happiness. I had gained a car, money, and jobs, supposedly from chanting. But I had no peace. I seemed confident, happy, and on top of things. But I would wake up at night screaming for help, and no one ever knew.
Meanwhile, I kept running into born-again Christians. When I spent my summer in Birmingham, Alabama, I met a Christian college student who said that she was praying for me. I hated her. When I returned to school, I met another Christian, Jim. He and I had two classes together so we decided to work on a project. I had no idea he was a Christian.
One night I called Jim and he answered, “Maranatha Christian Church, this is Jim.” My first response was to hang up. This must be a mistake – Jim is a nice guy. How could he be involved in that! I figured I’d study with him anyway just for laughs. He couldn’t do anything to me … all he could do was pray. What good would that do?
We completed our projects at the Maranatha house and I was impressed by the gentleness of the Christian young people there. Jim began to witness to me about holy living and walking with Jesus. Something happened inside of me. Jim spoke with such conviction and sincerity, and he never made me uncomfortable with harsh words. He later told me that he had been praying for me, and I became painfully aware that I was worshipping a false god.
I skipped an international Nichiren conference to attend a Maranatha church service that Sunday. I was impressed by the college students praising God! I felt convicted by the Holy Spirit and confessed Jesus as my Lord. Immediately after the service, I burned my altar, the false god, and about $200 worth of Buddhist literature.
When the Buddhist leaders heard that I had became a born-again Christian instead of going to the conference, they were furious. I had been taught that the gohonzon was the epitome of life and if I burned it, my life would be gone. Within that same month, the regional directors drove to the campus to visit me and to encourage me to continue my chanting. However, I’ve continued to walk with God.
I wrote a letter to all of the leaders telling them about my conversion and the deception of Buddhism. I’m now writing a tract in hopes that other students won’t fall into the deception that I once was in. I am free to serve the true and living God. He that the Son sets free is free indeed!