Most times we know which choice to make and which road to travel to get to where we want to go. But what about when we aren’t sure how to get where we want to go? What about the choices we easily make, the everyday choices we always make but always end up with a feeling of dissatisfaction, or worse, miserable?
As Buddhists we understand causes and conditions contribute to us being at this very place in this very moment. This is not predestination. Simply put, we are in this place at this moment because of a combination of events, not all in our control, combined with our own choices that preceded this moment.
Although we have no fixed “self” except as a momentary combination of factors, we rely on our self-image, a combination of our experiences, preferences and beliefs to function in this world. My self-image nearly always dictates the choices and decisions I make. I have my biases, my memories, my emotions and my rational for doing and saying what I do.
How I see this “self” of me contributes not only to my choices but also contributes to my dukkha, dissatisfaction. I justify my choices in many ways: I had the facts; I had no time to check out options; or, “others were all doing it.” Most of our decisions are the little everyday ones where we rarely have cause for the “woulda, coulda, shoulda” tape to play over and over again in our heads. Or are they?
Buddha Post begins each issue with an excerpt from the Dhammapada. Many of the Buddha’s teachings do with one’s mind, and through this mind, its actions (kamma), and how it is the chief architect of one’s happiness and suffering in this life. There are two major ways of understanding how the choice we make influences our lives:
“as a wise person, who is heedful enough to make the necessary effort to train their own mind to be a skillful architect; and as a fool, who is heedless and sees no reason to train the mind.”
We have our signpost yet we tend to ignore them. The effort to “train” our minds is not easy so we follow the signposts of the image above, and end up where we started. Are the Buddha’s teachings possible to use as a guide to live a life with less suffering in the 21st
For many, the teachings are the North Star: they point to a path that is rational, logical and repeatable when put to the test and are valid each and every time. Those of us on the path stumble, fall behind and are seduced by ego to give up and return to the world of dukkha. Seduced to judge others, to try to find happiness from external sources, to ask “why me?”
The Shin path of gratitude, of “thank you” instead of “please,” is for us, the everyday ordinary people who do not live a monastic life. It is for us who work, live, raise families and interact all the time with stressful and anxiety provoking situations. The Shin path is easier because of the all-embracing acceptance of “come as you are” teaching of Amida Buddha. It is easier, but it is not easy. The signposts are there, we only need to look.
Namo Amida Butsu.