(Photo above courtesy of Allen Hirahara)
Buddhability spoke with college student Allen Hirahara on how chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo helped him identify the root cause of his video game obsession.
Allen Hirahara: It was 3 a.m., and I had gone on another gaming binge, playing for 12 hours straight. When I turned off the console, an overwhelming feeling of emptiness washed over me. Sitting in my pitch-black room, I wondered if I had any purpose in my life beyond this one video game.
Playing for 12 or 13 hours straight wasn’t anything new. My daily routine looked something like, coming home from high school around 3 p.m. and playing video games until 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. without stopping. I wouldn’t even stop to eat sometimes. This went one for about four years.
Maybe it was the accumulation of nights like these but the reality started to sink in. I had no deep friendships, and every night it was just me staring at a computer screen by myself. I really wanted to change that.
I had no deep friendships, and every night it was just me staring at a computer screen by myself. I really wanted to change that.
Buddhability: Is this when you starting chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo?
Allen: Yes, but what happened after chanting wasn’t really what I expected. I figured, if I chant for a couple of weeks, I’ll have my friends back and, overall, everything will feel brighter.
I see now that I simply thought if I played video games less, all my problems would go away. But the truth is, I had never addressed any real-life problems and with chanting they were finally coming to the surface.
After gaming obsessively for so many years, my social skills took a hit. I barely knew how to begin conversations. Even my friends told me I was being weird when I tried to talk about stuff beyond video games. Everyone at my school knew me as being really good at this one game—that was like my identity almost.
Buddhability: That’s a lot of pressure. Were your friendships based on this image of you?
Allen: With chanting, I realized that playing this game was more about me trying to prove to people that I was worth something. Because I was trying to impress people, their opinions controlled my life. I had to be good or else what was I worth.
With chanting, I realized that playing this game was more about me trying to prove to people that I was worth something. Because I was trying to impress people, their opinions controlled my life.
Buddhability: When did you realize you had something else to offer?
Allen: I don’t know actually. I think I just slowly came to realize that video games controlling my life had more to do with how I felt about myself and less about that actual game.
Because I identified the root cause of why I was obsessively playing video games, they no longer controlled me. My chanting became more focused, and I gradually saw that I have a lot more to offer.
I even pursued a music major in college. I wouldn’t say I’m musically talented but I had an interest so I worked at it. I can now sing and even read music theory, so anything’s possible for my life.
Buddhability: That’s deep how with chanting you saw what was really going on. Do you have any parting thoughts?
Allen: Well, I still game now. Kind of how people might go out to the bar for a drink, my friends and I will play. But I don’t obsessively play anymore. In Buddhism we talk about how happiness is inside you, it’s something you can create.
When I was gaming, the problem wasn’t with my friends or the computer. It was how I felt about myself. By chanting regularly, my self-worth has become something I create from within.
When I was gaming, the problem wasn’t with my friends or the computer. It was how I felt about myself. By chanting regularly, my self-worth has become something I create from within. That type of happiness is what I continue to experience today.