2013-11 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Leadership By Example

2013-11 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – Leadership By Example

  • Hey, You’re Religious. Why Aren’t You Perfect?
  • We Still Hate Being Wrong
  • How We Become Unintentional Hypocrites
  • The Path is Wherever You Are and Wherever You Go

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(From Resonance, Issue 6, 11/2013) In 1952, Shojushinin, co-founder of Shinnyo-en, expressed many thoughts about what was happening during the period after World War II when Japan, after losing it’s guiding-light Emperor, became severely polarized spiritually. Half of the populace wanted to forget the entirety of the past and just embrace “westernization” while the rest fragmented into what eventually became over 700 newly formed religions, trying to seek meaning to life, and a reason to believe in their own fought-for cultural history.

Shinnyo-en was not spared any judgements during this tumultuous period and encountered its own share of criticism and devaluation by people confused by the sheer nature of having been defeated at battle, and having lost faith in everything their culture and history represented.

With the emergence of so many fragmented religious organizations, she observed that many people stop listening in annoyance when they hear of anything they think might represent a new religion.  Those who expressed enthusiasm about their religious practice and shared it with others often faced a cold reception, criticism, or outright rejection. Curiosity about new things or concepts is often forgotten as youth passes into adulthood bringing mindsets of determination (and self-preservation) about ones’ own perceived values, ideals, and morals.  It’s human nature, and particularly adult nature, to dislike being “wrong.”  That means sometimes irrationally defending your own positions, even if it comes at the expense of harmony.

One reason for these negative reactions towards differing beliefs is that people hold religious practitioners to a higher standard of behavior than others, mistakenly thinking that we receive immediate spiritual disciplinary benefits from walking a path, or that our actions should, by definition, be exemplary. We are scrutinized down to the smallest detail, and should we fall short of those higher standards or our actions contradict what we profess to believe, we soon become the target of far-reaching public criticism.  Notice how “disciple” and “discipline” are interrelated?

Similarly, people may act the part of a religious zealot on some occasions and behave irreligiously at other times, raising doubts about them and their practice in the minds of others. Why would you have reason to trust when witnessing inconsistent and contradictory behavior by someone? It’s simply the ages-old wisdom observing that consistency is borne of actions based upon stated intentions – walk as you talk.

Remember that hypocritical behavior is a sure sign that a person has yet to achieve any true measure of awakening. It is important to reflect continually and deeply on our actions and the manner of our practice.  Are you only consistent of your vow to “Do unto others..” up to when someone cuts you off in traffic, and then you act on your emotions and frustrations instead?  How about speaking of “putting yourself into others shoes” but when it comes time to dealing with bitter conflict, you instead rely on your gut instinct to ‘look out for Number One?”

A farmer who speaks of looking forward to a season of hard work, but doesn’t till the soil, isn’t going to have a magically produced harvest at year’s end.

That being said, we’re still human. And the world around us is still filled with conflict, controversy, opposing opinions. And when opening our minds and hearts towards experiencing truth, the pain that comes from “being wrong” diminishes because you start seeing yourself just standing on a different place on the same soil and seeing things from a different point of view.  Nothing wrong, or false – just different, as is the other person.

And when someone makes a mistake, it’s less powerful to forgive and forget (and feel regretful if the mistake is repeated), than to observe the actions thereafter, whether corrections or continuing mistakes. It’s up to you to decide how you accept or avoid such behavior, and whether you assist in the correction or simply condemn the mistake and feel reinforced by your being “correct.”

In human potential, the concept of self-empowerment comes from embracing the idea that literally no one else can make you feel anything – love, hate, jealousy, sadness, remorse, neglect or determination.  All such feelings come from within yourself. Are you holding others to an ideal based upon your expectations of them? Are they doing the same to you? So how the actions of others affect your behavior, really is up to you.

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