Tag Archives: leadership

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.


2013-10 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Breaking Bad (Precepts)

2013-10 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Breaking Bad (Precepts)

  • The Five Precepts (Rules of Engagement)
  • Why Learning from Others Comes First
  • Extending the Awakening Universe

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A precept is a rule of conduct originally developed as standards for monks and nuns to know when their behavior had strayed from following the proper path of conduct. Depending on which text you examine, monks have about 250 precepts and nuns somewhere between 348 to 500 by which they must abide during their practice.  Lay Buddhists (you and me) within the Nirvana Sutra were given eight (8) specific ones to apply in daily life.

  • Refrain from killing.
  • Refrain from stealing.
  • Refrain from sexual misconduct.
  • Refrain from lying.
  • Refrain from becoming intoxicated.

(and 3 more that Shinnyo-en interprets as historical)

  • Refrain from self-adornment.
  • Refrain from song and dance.
  • Refrain from observing song and dance.

Magnificently and often simultaneously, Breaking Bad’s storyline (an AMC series created by Vince Gilligan) manages to violate every single one of them. The same is true of the entire world around us, every single day. But the difference between a fictional TV show and the real world, is that the show is comprised of actors performing scripted lines and not making active decisions to do a certain thing or commit a certain act. And skillful writing ensures that the outcomes of negative behavior does not have automatically positive results, particularly in the overall storyline, lest the audience become bored with predictable endings. But in the real world, people are making decisions, to break a law, or to abide. And we live in this same real world, alongside all the others, whether breaking precepts or not.

A core belief in Buddhism, just as in nature, is that other beings will only follow or emulate those who are successful, as the contrary makes virtually no sense at all. And if you attempt to admonish others without demonstrating the embodiment of success through pursuit of a path of truth, then why would anyone bother to listen to your words?

This concept is paraphrased in a number of different ways:

  • We first learn from others, and then we can step forward to practice on our own.
  •  Only when you put yourself on the right track will others follow after you.
  • Guide the troubled by standing in the same shoes.
  • Learn what we need to learn from others.

And strangely enough, all of these principles were also part of Breaking Bad’s storyline. The gift from the writers was to see that lead characters had no influence until they found their own self-truths and understood why others acted the way they did.  And akin to the way karma works, deaths and destruction did not lead to conclusion – they were only transformations of one person’s life or property to lead to another person’s greater greed and envy.


September and October are months leading up to the year-end period of purification and refreshing the mind and body to prepare for another year’s efforts. The ceremonies within this period (Saisho Homa) are conducted to re-purify entrances to this earthly world for welcoming the revisitation of the spiritual deities and return of Buddhas. As we individuals serve as the “vehicles’ for this visitation in-spirit, we too in the presence of ritual cleansing fires (which bring forth “light” to see the path in front of us) take time to reflect on our conduct in regards to the precepts and examine how our thoughts, actions and speech can be further improved to continue extending a world of harmony and peace around us.


From HH Keishu Shinso this month:


“…It is up to us to reach out and embrace others in the spirit of friendship to make harmony amid diversity a reality that is indestructible like a diamond.

Likewise, to create a world of friendship means to create a way of seeing the world based on friendly relations rather than adversarial ones that are very often filled with difficulties and setbacks. At times, we may encounter a challenging reality beyond our control that prevents us from building friendships. But by drawing on the resources of wisdom and compassion—which is the nature of buddhahood… —we can move forward.”