Fumiya Tsuta - former coach of the Ikeda High School baseball team, national champions from the island of Shikoku - sent all freshman players out on the field to pull weeds. He then watched them from behind and, apparently with great accuracy, judged each boy's abilities from the way he went about this simple chore. Coach Tsuta could read in the boys' backs the signs of all the discipline and education they had undergone at home and at school. His ingenious evaluation system impressed me afresh with the way in which human nature and the home environment are clearly revealed even in the way we do little things.
For people with religious faith, daily discipline consists in guiding others, who observe and judge from behind. Their discipline consists in discovering, refining, and elevating their own virtues. People trust and naturally congregate around virtuous individuals. Individuals of supreme virtue, such as Shakyamuni and his eminent disciples, have immense power to move and influence human beings. Acquiring such merit is most important in training. Advancing on the path to such merit is a supreme pleasure and happiness.
What I mean here by virtue are the compassion, love, and concern that human beings feel not only for other human beings but for all existence, and which are similar to the process whereby nature creates and nurtures all things. People who ardently desire to create and nurture have this kind of virtue in abundance. People who undertake various disciplines to cultivate that desire accumulate virtue. The effect of such virtue cultivates human beings and makes possible both their accomplishments and the evolution of a warm, creative society.
The Confucian classic Ta-hsueh (Great Learning) includes a statement to the effect that virtue is the trunk and assets are the branches. Often we tend to lose sight of this truth and to mistake the branches for the trunk. For example, assets in the form of capital are considered essential to any business undertaking. People wishing to go into business are willing to borrow to obtain capital, but they must first find lenders. Lenders are unwilling to risk their funds unless they trust in the good faith or virtue of prospective borrowers or of people who are willing to act as their guarantors. In other words, in business, too, assets are the branches emerging from the trunk of virtue.
It requires long years of discipline and many good deeds to acquire virtue. Caring for and loving others to the utmost of one's capacity contribute to the acquisition of virtue. One example of a means of cultivating virtue is participation in Rissho Kosei-kai's program of going without a meal three times each month and donating the money thus saved to a fund for the relief of people suffering from famine in other parts of the world.
Efforts to acquire virtue vitalize and cultivate the individual, bringing an inner light to his or her life. When made repeatedly, compassionately, and unfailingly, such efforts gradually impart virtue. It is my wish that all of us will strive to become people of such great virtue that even viewed from behind, we will be an inspiring example to others.
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Thanks to the increasing use of air conditioning, a great many of the world's people no longer suffer as they once did from heat and cold. Nonetheless, the natural rhythms of heat and cold are highly invigorating and stimulate psychological resilience. For this reason, we should think twice before turning on our air conditioners the minute the weather turns hot or cold. Difficult conditions shape and enrich the mind and serve as steppingstones to further development.
Today simply flicking the television switch produces picture and sound instantly. The microwave oven makes hot meals possible in just minutes. But because of excessive reliance on such conveniences, more and more people find delays or difficulties intolerable. Patience is a virtue we should strive to acquire, both to improve the quality of daily life and to enrich our personality. People without patience are willful, disrupt the general concord, and tend to act on impulse.
We should strive to acquire as many virtues as possible in addition to patience, since the acquisition of virtues not only broadens our horizons but also advances us on the path to the attainment of buddhahood. The list of virtues we should aspire to includes wisdom, courage, moderation, justice, introspection, courtesy, discernment, faith, kindness, honesty, and a sense of responsibility.
Ancient Chinese philosophy calls nature (heaven and earth), in the aspect of creator and nurturer of all things, the Way, or Tao. The analogous aspect of human beings, which is believed to be an inherent trait inspiring us to love and care compassionately for other humans and all existence just as nature nurtures them, is referred to as virtue.
This belief agrees closely with Buddhist teachings. In Buddhism, compassion is considered to be the force nurturing all things. The Buddha's compassion is supremely noble, but similar compassion is innate in all human beings. Buddhist compassion corresponds to Christian love and Confucian jen, or magnanimity, as the source of all virtue.
Improving ourselves constantly for the sake of acquiring the fundamental virtue compassion gives meaning to life. Without letting petty immediate concerns obscure our larger goal and without criticizing others, we should work diligently to acquire the great virtues of nature and the Buddha.
We can begin with small deeds that benefit people close at hand. As such deeds accumulate, seeds of virtue will respond to cultivation and will grow until we become people true to the best in human nature.
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In surveys of the qualities that young unmarried people in Japan look for in the opposite sex, gentleness ranks highest. But the definition of this quality differs according to the sex of the respondent. The gentleness that Japanese men expect of women consists in warm caring and sensitive consideration, whereas the gentleness that Japanese women seek in men is compounded of magnanimity, occasional sternness, and firm convictions. Thus, to be considered a gentle, likable person, one must know the proper way in which to respond to each person one meets, consonant with that person's personality and the situation.
Superficial charm is ephemeral. To be truly likable, one must represent the best that human nature is capable of. Ancient Chinese thought holds that the best that human nature can achieve is found in the mind that both respects that which is lofty and noble in others and is humble in the knowledge of its own shortcomings. This respect and humility must be augmented by a fitting sense of obligation and modesty.
Society is built on obligations. Each of us is not only obliged to all other beings for the strengths they lend but also responsible for acts that support others. We should therefore always be eager to work for others with humility, free of both pride and sloth.
The common Japanese notion that a sense of obligation is incurred only by the young and inexperienced toward the older and experienced, or by children toward their parents, is wrong. Indeed, demanding that others feel grateful for help or favors only provokes resentment. Parents who wish their children to be grateful must ask themselves if they genuinely deserve gratitude. This kind of modesty can inspire a sense of obligation in others. When parents have this modesty, children are naturally grateful.
Respect, humility, and a sense of obligation stimulate introspection and the desire to improve. Buddhism holds that people can progress or regress rapidly through the ten realms of existence, which range from hell to the realm of buddhas. Human beings live up to the best of their capabilities when they constantly examine their thoughts and actions to avoid low levels of existence, such as hell or the realms of hungry spirits and animals.
To Buddhists - for whom respect, humility, and a sense of obligation are fundamental attitudes - magnanimity and constant concern for others' happiness are important. People who realize this pray constantly that the Buddha will protect the happiness even of those who have temporarily isolated themselves from the teachings. Furthermore, these people unconditionally welcome and rejoice with those who have gone astray when they finally return to Buddhism.
Inability to do these things indicates either imperfect faith in humanity or despair of humanity. We must not despair of humanity but must trust in it wholeheartedly. Instead of demanding things of others, we must strive to find ways to be helpful. Believers who think and act in this way are likable and impart to others the wonderful nature of faith.