While thinking about what to write for my column, my sister sent me a WhatsApp message with a link to an article about Tina Turner’s death.
“Tina Turner, trailblazing 'Queen of Rock 'n' Roll' who dazzled audiences worldwide, dies at 83” the headline read.
I appreciate that Tina was a legendary performer with some fantastic songs, but her music was not what I found remarkable about her; it was her strong, humble, spiritual essence and inspiring life story that traversed the spectrum from devastating abuse and pain to the experience of empowered success, happiness and enduring love with her devoted partner, Erwin Bach.
In December 2005, while staying with a friend in Switzerland, one day she casually mentioned that Tina Turner did not live far from her and that she had seen her on occasion in the grocery. Not being one to be wowed by celebrities, it did not occur to me at the time to go in search of Tina while being in such close proximity.
A few years later, while working on a film project in London, I was with a fellow film maker, trying to get into her office to access equipment for a film workshop we were leading that morning. She had cut new keys for the lock and, for some reason, the key was just spinning and the door could not be opened. Without the camera equipment we could not have had the session.
While my increasingly frustrated friend struggled with the lock, I turned to look at a cork board on the wall behind me. From the multitude of flyers and other forms of notification, one call card jumped out at me. It simply said “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo”.
Immediately I remembered the film about Tina Turner’s life – “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” – which I had seen years before. In one scene, a distressed, suicidal Tina turns up at a friend’s door; the friend welcomes Tina, explains that she has been chanting and asks if she would like to join her. The friend is a Nichiren Buddhist and the mantra she has been chanting is Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, meaning: "Nam" – devotion, "Myo" – mystic, "Ho" – law/teaching (together meaning mystic law, the fundamental life force of the universe), "Renge" – lotus blossom, "Kyo" – sutra.
Having been introduced to the mantra, Tina devoted herself to chanting it daily. When she was alive, she spoke widely about how the Buddhist practice had transformed her, giving her the courage to leave her abusive husband Ike and changing her life for the better.
In Tina’s words: “When I first received the gift of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, it marked the beginning of a new life for me in more ways than I could have imagined. Thanks to the spiritual awakenings I experienced by chanting, I gained the clarity and strength to make countless important changes in my life.”
Recognising the mantra on the call card as the one from the movie, I intuitively said to my friend: “Let’s chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo three times and the door will open.”
We put our hands in prayer position and chanted Nam Myoho Renge Kyo three times together. Immediately after, she turned the key and the door was opened with ease.
Mouths agape, we went in to get the film equipment.
The first workshop participant was an effusive Bosnian woman who bounded in, plonked herself in front of us and said “Hello! I am Geraldina and I’m a Buddhist!”
What synchronicity. Having just had the "NMRK" experience, I said to her 'You mean "Nam Myoho Rengo Kyo?'" “How did you know?” she exclaimed, surprised, and proceeded to regale us with multiple tales of how the chant had worked miracles in her life.
When I think of Tina Turner, "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" comes first to mind. Subsequent to discovering that door-opening mantric "key" through her, I used to think (when she was still alive) that if there was one celebrity I would choose to meet, it would be her – simply to sit and chant with her at her house, if possible. Had I known about the chant and her connection to it when I was in Switzerland that time, I might have been more interested in the fact that she lived "around the corner."
There is a beautiful version of Tina chanting this mantra on the album "Beyond." Google "Sound of the Mystic Law, Beyond – Tina Turner" and hear it on YouTube. Chant with the angels, Tina.