2012-September Shinnyo-en Buddhism Monthly Focus Podcast – Truth, Self and Goodness
Learning Oneness With Truth
Selfish Behavior or Why is the World So Cruel (to Me)?
On Being a Good Person
September was the month when the core chant of our sangha was established as “Namu Shinnyo Ichinyo Dai Hatsu-Nehan Kyo.” Namu is an expression of devotion and trust; shinnyo is the truth or purity (Skt. tathata); ichinyo means oneness; and Dai Hatsu-Nehan Kyo is the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, also representing heaven. This mantra expresses the intent to be one with truth through the principles of the Mahaparinirvana (Nirvana) Sutra. By chanting the Sandai, and ingraining its focus into our daily lives and actions, we come to recognize our true selves as described in the Sacred Principles – the verses that we recite as part of our daily chanting:
Like the full moon is pure, one is essentially without tarnish.
Like the full moon is round and perfect, one lacks nothing.
Like the full moon is clear, one is essentially the untarnished Dharma.
Master Shinjo Ito taught that the Sandai was a distillation of the essence of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. The Sandai voices our intention to change our lives and awaken to our true buddha nature by stepping forward with gratitude and joy for the benefit of others. Psychologically, when we incorporate an idea or thought using more than one of our senses, we tend to better remember it. This is a well-known practice of many advanced childhood learning programs, such as Montessori – to impress the idea in the mind, not only by reading it, but by reading it aloud, and preferably accompanying it with a reinforcing action. So, as we chant the words aloud, we also meditate and think about its meaning, and when we put the words into action, we will incorporate it into our lives. In this process, we begin to purify ourselves of the “Three Poisons” of greed, anger, and ignorance.
Almost fifty years ago, Shojushinin said: “I hope that you can become someone whom others point to and say, ‘That’s a really good person!’ When others recognize that you have changed through your practice [of the Shinnyo Teaching] and they want to give it a try themselves, that’s when you’ll know you’ve actually changed.” The core value within Shinnyo-en is to be the example for others through your actions, life and behavior. The human potential movement of the 1970’s and 80’s used to say, “All love flows through your own love for You.” Many people back then interpreted those words to mean an ego-centric interpretation, leading to the “Me” decade. As a student of many years of those same programs, we learned what the larger meaning of self-appreciation and respect embraces. You are part of a greater whole, whether you define that as a society, the human race, or even the universe. Thus as your eyes open wider and can see yourself in those who are around you, and learn to have the same caring and appreciation for others as you would wish for yourself, that same energy and spirit embraces you in return.
The aim of the Sandai is for us to deepen our resolve to walk the Shinnyo Path towards buddhahood—actualizing the full potential of the buddha nature latent within each of us—and helping others to do the same. A first step is to express the warmth and kindness expounded in the Teaching through our words and actions as we work for the good of those around us in our daily lives. Finding true happiness and creating a better world for everyone begins with changing ourselves.
There is one of many interesting anecdotal stories presented in this month’s Nirvana about a situation in dealing with selfish behavior. Our daily lives offer up a wealth of experiences that we
may be tempted to interpret through the lens of the Self, leading us to blame others or recoil at what they say and do. But what if, on every occasion, the message of Truth is actually hidden within? By focusing on grasping the message and learning to gently suppress our instinctual self-centered tendencies, we can feel the silent but sure encouragement extended to us from
the spiritual realm that up to this point may have passed unnoticed.
An office staff member was preparing to depart for another assignment when she overheard someone say, “Oh, she looks like a runaway…” referring to the staff member’s luggage and travel attire. She was angered by the remark throughout her trip, and upon arrival told Shojushinin-sama, our dharma mother, about the incident.
“So how did you deal with it?” asked Shojushinin. The woman responded, “I thought it was so rude to say something like that, and it made me miserable. I tried hard to reflect on what happened, but I just can’t accept it.”
Shojushinin replied, “Well, then, just think of how the word “runaway” is written with the Chinese characters 家出, meaning “home” (家) and “leave” (出). Reverse these characters to read in the opposite order (出家), and you have the word for “entering the priesthood,” which is what you are actually doing. Now then, what is the difference between 家出 (runaway) and 出家 (entering the priesthood)? Running away from home involves all kinds of pain and suffering, while entering the priesthood leads one to the joy of serving the buddha realm. Try to catch the Buddha’s hidden message in what happened to you this morning as you work to become a full-fledged disciple.”
Shojushinin thus gently explained the importance of attempting to interpret daily events in a buddha-centered way. Viewing life’s challenges in a self-centered way leads to frustration and dissatisfaction. The anecdote above illustrates Shojushinin’s teaching of the significance of contemplation outside of a temple environment. At any given time, we should ask ourselves how to see things from a buddha-centered perspective, which is quite similar to Christianity’s “What Would Jesus Do?” principle of action. The philosophy is the same, with both taking a lot of effort to master the practice.
You learn to perceive daily challenges, not with a “why is Life doing this to me?” attitude, but to see each new hurdle or crack-in-the-road as something you are prepared for at that moment in-time, because the world does not change with intent how it deals with you. You are presented with that which you create for yourself. If you are faced with financial difficulty, it may be lack of experience with dealing with money, or stubbornness not to seek out expertise. If people seem challenging personality-wise or emotionally, might you not be inviting and attracting those people through your actions and behavior? It is your actions that will create the harmony amid diversity around you. Similarly, most philosophers do not believe in Fate, as we are able to change our actions at every moment in time. Choosing a different path, may lead you to the same destination, but the experience gained will be different, and in-turn, so different will be your future decision-making.
Applying the concept of karma to embrace all actions, one negative action will offset a positive one. Only through consistent and continued accumulation of positively-focused actions can one actually change the balance of how you experience Life. Which also means, every time you think to yourself, “Why is Life doing this to me? I have been a very good person,” you basically reset your merit counter back to zero and get to start all over again. Similarly, doing something good, but expecting a return, whether a reward, or even recognition for the act, is simply bartering, and also results in a zero net-gain.
Whomever first coined the phrase, “Get over yourself,” was on the right track. But to complete the thought with accuracy and purpose, the entire concept probably should be, “Get over yourself, and do something for someone else without expectation.”