In our everyday lives we usually give thought to work, the way we live, our families, and a variety of other affairs. Something is always coming up that requires our attention, and we might go so far as to say that we are constantly pursued by such things. When we are enmeshed in pressing matters and are occupied only with what happens around us, however, our outlook cannot but become narrower. My desires, my advantage, my feelings, and my activities - no matter what we do, we cannot escape from the self, and our hearts become filled with "me." In human relationships, if everyone asserts this self unhindered, it clashes with others' selves, and there is no end of trouble.
The secret of making a clean sweep of all such troubles is the spirit of humility. To humble oneself means becoming selfless and open-minded. This definition of humility is not regularly found in dictionaries, and it is based on respect for other people. According to Lao-tsu,
The highest good is like water.
Water gives life to the ten thousand things
And does not strive.
It flows in places people avoid
And so is like the Way.
Water is a precious thing that gives moisture to all living things, sustaining grasses, trees, and crops. It never flows against other things, but instead flows into places that most people avoid and stays there in peace. Herein lies the modest spirit. Learning humility means committing oneself to getting along with all people and things, first by seeking out the good in others and greatly valuing it. People who do this are modest.
Stubborn as human beings may seem on the surface, deep inside we nurture tender hearts. If we stubbornly assert ourselves, other people will also grow obstinate. Conversely, if we are willing to take one big step backward and give way, other people will naturally soften. If anything, asserting ourselves is the way of our world, and retreating makes us feel as if we are losing, so it is quite difficult to take that first small step. This is particularly true among young people, because they place such great emphasis on self-assertion. Nevertheless, unless someone is willing to discard the small self in order to attain a greater harmony, the clash of self with self will continue incessantly. Magnanimous people will, at the point of conflict, take a step backward and accept what others have to say. By doing so, they remove all resistance, and nothing remains for the others to collide with.
Those who are capable of great accomplishments always realize the truth that sometimes the best way to win is to lose. The sixteenth-century warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (at one time lord of Chikuzen) was a good example of this. When his lord, Oda Nobunaga, was struck down in the Honno-ji Incident in 1582, Hideyoshi immediately withdrew his troops from the siege of Takamatsu Castle in Bitchu province and crushed Akechi Mitsuhide on the outskirts of Kyoto. Following these events, the various generals loyal to Oda gathered at the castle in Nobunaga's home province. At the evening banquet Shibata Katsuie, the general and governor of Echizen, became drunk and lay down. He said to Hideyoshi, "It seems quite strange when one thinks about the past. When you were just an underling you used to massage my legs and hips, and now you have suddenly risen to the status of lord like me. I'm tired and would like someone to rub the small of my back, but I surely couldn't ask you to do that." The various commanders in the room fell silent, and Sakuma Morimasa, as if to mediate between the two, whispered to Hideyoshi, "If the past cannot be forgotten, why not accede to his request?" Hideyoshi looked down for a moment and finally replied, "If I may be of service." He edged over to Katsuie, massaged his back very carefully, and quietly returned to his seat. At this point Sakuma suddenly turned irritable and said, "Lord of Chikuzen, for a commissioner at the western headquarters, you have behaved disgracefully. Consider the rank conferred on you by our late lord. If it is to be this way, I cannot sit idly by. Come now, I will challenge you." Saying this, he abruptly stood up. Hideyoshi, however, merely responded with a smile. "What you have said is quite true, but this is a time of crisis. If those of the inner circle begin to bicker, the enemy will surely take advantage of it. Rubbing Lord Shibata's back is only a way of being of service to our late lord." Sakuma could do nothing but fall silent. Later it came to light that, out of fear that the realm was falling under Hideyoshi's control, Shibata and Sakuma had conspired to humiliate him, provoke him to a duel, and kill him. In the end Hideyoshi, by yielding amicably, became ruler of the nation.
Many who hear that story may think that in Japan in feudal times it was either kill or be killed. Nowadays, if you always yield, you will come out a loser. However, though times have changed, the same reasoning holds true. Though we occasionally endure loss, it is only a loss in the short run. When seen from a long-term perspective, something fortunate may result from a loss, and everything balances out in the end. Even if we seem to be consistently taking losses, it means that we are constantly serving others, and as a consequence, as our good reputation grows, others will gather around.
In associating with your friends, if you never concede in anything, you will drift apart from each other. In business, if we are never willing to make a concession at any stage of a negotiation, we will never achieve great things. When it appears that the other side has no intention of yielding, we should make a virtue of necessity by giving way. If we do this, the other side will never forget the favor. Eventually it may result in a large order or a long-term business relationship; in other words, we may sow a loss and reap a gain.
Ordinarily, yielding is accompanied by some form of self-sacrifice, either material or spiritual. However, this kind of sacrifice, on a higher level, provides something of inestimable value.
By yielding with a smile and accepting a loss willingly, you achieve spiritual growth.
Copyright © by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.