I’m from the United Kingdom, where I started practicing Shinnyo Buddhism in 1992. My wife introduced me to the teachings, and I started going to the temple with her. To be honest, I wasn’t that interested in visiting the temple at first, but my wife seemed to have become a better person through her practice of Shinnyo Buddhism, and that motivated me to go, too.
Master Tomoji, one of the founders of Shinnyo-en, taught that gratitude is the first step towards enlightenment. For me, gratitude is the realization that other people are always supporting you. They can be your family, friends, colleagues, or even total strangers. I had such a realization in my workplace towards a colleague with whom I’d had a difficult relationship. At some point I understood that he was only trying to help, and the comments and suggestions he was making, which until that point had always led to friction between us, were his way of trying to make me do my job more effectively. I experienced a moment of insight and finally understood in my heart what this path was supposed to be about. My colleague was not the only person around me trying to be helpful. When you think about it, you’re getting this kind of support all the time, even if you haven’t noticed it.
Once I had this realization, I was able to respond to my colleague’s criticisms and comments much more constructively, and I felt gratitude. His attitude towards me also changed as he came to understand that I felt this way, and when I made comments about what he was doing, he was willing to accept them in turn. The friction in our relationship disappeared, and we developed a friendly, cooperative rapport. So I think good intentions can really bring people together and create harmony.
We all have a tendency to see the glass as half empty, but we can gradually adjust this, and I think it’s precisely when you are thinking positively that your own individuality can emerge and you can really be yourself.
These moments are when you get a little signpost saying, “The path is this way,” or “The path is that way.” That was when I thought, “Okay, if this is where the path leads, this is where I should start going.” Bringing out your buddha nature inspires you to practice more. What happens is that you overcome your anxieties about life and start thinking much more positively. We all have a tendency to see the glass as half empty, but we can gradually adjust this, and I think it’s precisely when you are thinking positively that your own individuality can emerge and you can really be yourself. It becomes much easier than when you are constantly falling prey to negativity.
During a recent ceremony at Shinnyo-en, when I bowed towards Her Holiness, the officiant of the ceremony, I saw in her eyes great strength of purpose and determination, and sensed a profound prayer for everyone to overcome the obstacles they face to find enlightenment. I understood that this is somewhere we can all aim to get to in our lifetimes, because while Her Holiness is, of course, a Buddhist master, she’s also a human being like you and me. We must develop the determination to help other people find their buddha natures, and in so doing, discover our own buddha nature.
…because we’re more focused on other people than on ourselves, happiness becomes a little easier to come by, and life becomes a little bigger as well.
I’ve been asked how I’ve changed since I started practicing Shinnyo Buddhism, and I would say one of the main aspects is that I feel less stuck inside myself. Master Shinjo teaches that we’re trying to build a world of joy, and I think what a “world of joy” means is forming good relationships with other people, connecting with them, and helping them lead more fulfilling lives. Through doing that, we learn to lead more fulfilling lives ourselves. We come to realize that happiness is not just a question of satisfying our own desires or ambitions—though these are always going to remain, and are not always bad things—but because we’re more focused on other people than on ourselves, happiness becomes a little easier to come by, and life becomes a little bigger as well.
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