The rose is beautiful, but its stem has many thorns - this is a fact. One person will say the rose is beautiful, but that it has thorns, stressing the negative. Another person will concede that there are thorns, but will insist on the rose's beauty, emphasizing the positive. When the matter at hand is the ability or other qualities of a human being, the ways in which one accepts someone can be just as various. If one comments, "He does good work and he's a pleasant fellow," and leaves it at that, everyone will be left in congenial spirits. Yet in every society there are faultfinders, who are not content unless they have noted some imperfection and can say something like, "He does good work, but he's overconfident and likes to boast." By dragging others down, such people hope to maintain a sense of superiority. If they could somehow apply the brakes before making critical comments, it would open up an entirely new world.
Near the gate of the temple Nanzen-ji in Kyoto, there once lived an old woman whom everyone called Tearful Granny. Rain or shine, she was always in tears. One day the chief priest asked her, "What could be so sad that it makes you cry all the time?" The old woman replied, "I have two sons, one an umbrella-maker at Sanjo and the other a sandal-maker at Gojo. When it rains, I know people won't want to go out and buy sandals from my first son, and that makes me sad. When the sun comes out, I realize people won't buy umbrellas from my second son, and I grieve over that." The priest said, "How about looking at it the other way around? When it rains, be glad that people will buy lots of umbrellas. When the weather improves, rejoice that your other son's sandal business will prosper." The old woman took his point. "You're right," she said, and from that day on she always smiled and lived happily.
Most people, when they hear this story, laugh at the old woman's foolishness. However, it is not something that can be so easily laughed away, because many people, big or small, think like this. By searching for the seeds of discontent in one's surroundings, one makes oneself unhappy.
Several people are climbing a mountain and become thirsty. There is not much water in the canteen, and when they divide it up, each person gets half a cup. "Why, I only get half a cup," grumbles one. "I'm glad I have at least half a cup to quench my thirst," says another, happily drinking it. It goes without saying which of the two is happier and the kind of person whom others find an agreeable companion.
Life is an accumulation of small happenings. This is precisely why the spiritual habit of looking at a rose and meekly accepting its beauty is of such great importance. Doing this is certainly not very difficult. All that is required is a momentary change of heart. Tearful Granny was able to reorient herself as a result of the priest's simple comment. Blessed today with an abundance of knowledge, we ought to be able to make such a conversion with our own strength through so-called self-awareness.
It goes without saying that this kind of spiritual practice is for our own happiness, but it also manifests great power when we meet and lead other people. If we look at others with a critical eye, our attitude turns caustic and we tend to heap spiteful remarks on them. Others only recoil from one who does this. On the other hand, if we look for others' strong points, we naturally meet them with "smiling faces and loving words" - one of the Buddha's "seven offerings that cost nothing." Our facial expressions become friendlier and we speak considerately. When we treat others this way, they naturally open their hearts. Furthermore, if others recognize their own strong points, they will gain confidence and courage.
It is important, when you are scolding someone, to recognize his or her merits. You might say something like, "You are always so careful; how come you made such a mistake?" Or, "This isn't very good, but recently you've been quite attentive to things." Recognition of the person's good points leaves a deeper impression than a scolding, giving the person greater confidence.
The adventurous skier Yuichiro Miura (b. 1932) took on challenges that defy common sense, such as skiing down the steep slope of Mount Fuji and down the South Col of Mount Everest from an altitude of 8,000 meters. He is said to have been sickly as a child. When he took the physical strength test for entry into high school, it was discovered that he had a heart defect. This discovery, along with frequent absences from elementary school due to illness, led to his failing the examination. Miura was completely disheartened and again took sick. His mother came to him and said, "In the future you're going to be a great person, so for right now it's all right for things to be this way." He took these words to heart and they provided the driving force that made him famous. No one knows what it was in Miura that his mother perceived. Somehow she sensed his special ability and had faith in it.
When you see a rose, accept its beauty with good grace. Generously acknowledge others' good points. If you do so, the circle of happiness that grows around you will spread to encompass others.
Those who only see a rose's thorns throw away the strength to live happily.
Copyright © by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.