“If you keep your eyes open, you will see the teaching everywhere.” is a Shin Buddhist saying. We are also told that if we listen, we can hear the Name that calls. Really, what does this
We know we don’t always see and we don’t always listen as we live each day. I know I don’t. We tend to have selective vision and hearing. But what happens when we change our surroundings, change our perspective? We tend to notice, to see and hear what is around us. I call this change of perspective a jump start. A jump start that either helps us get on the path, or, stay on the path.
Can this change ease our suffering? Causes and conditions place us right here, right now. Since we don’t live in a monastic setting on top of a mountain, but live right here, in a demanding, crowded world with all its noise and distractions how do we do this? Shin Buddhism offers a path for us, everyday people. It offers a way to view our life by actually walking the path of its teachings and not just as intellectual endeavor. Isn’t that what Buddhism is all about, taking responsibility?
We don’t have to wait for the right time or place to begin. In fact, right now is as good a time as any to, once again, put Buddhism to the test. To test and see if we view our life from a Buddhist perspective our suffering diminishes.
In crowed cities one quickly learns to shut out crowds on subways, to navigate sidewalks by weaving between people, cross streets by judging which corner is going to have the green light. To see the sky you look up between the skyscrapers. To see flowers you look at a flower stand on the sidewalk. To see open vistas you visit cemeteries. Regardless of size, any community is crowded if we close in on ourselves, exclude all but our perspective to “me” and “my problems.”
Then there is a small mountain village that is quiet, maybe with one traffic light. It has wide open spaces where you could see for miles. There are sweet smelling flowers and ripe wild blackberries in the fields and roadsides. There is even a secret swimming hole. At night you see thousands of stars and the Milky Way. It is another world. A world you don’t shut out, but open up to. A world where “me” and “my problems” seem to grow smaller, and smaller. Why?
It could be the feeling of spaciousness that is different from the mundane “every day.” This change gives a reprieve from the limited narrow view of the ‘me’ and ‘mine’ and all the things we need to do, change, become or get done. It removes us away from our habitual limited view allowing us another way to look at life. A way where we are not bombarded with societal cues that make us dissatisfied with, well, almost everything.
We are told we can be better, more beautiful, richer, and smarter and all this can happen if we buy this or sign up for that. Those who sow dissatisfaction are not evil people. They too are caught up in the same cycle. They only give us what want, things that are “needs” driven by what our egos crave. The founder of Revlon, Charles Revson famously said, “In the factory we make cosmetics, in the store we sell hope.” We are the ones who make the choice to purchase the promises that are made, and end up buying illusions. You can say we are all trading in illusions.
When we look out from a mountain or look out to the seas, we see something different. For a moment we may realize the insignificance of “must own that” or “achieve” something we think is critical to our peace of mind and happiness. By removing ourselves from our limited view we can see that most of our suffering is of our own making, our own dissatisfaction. This may be a simple jump start to begin to truly understand that dissatisfaction is fed by attachments to things and concepts we believe will make us happy.
In the end they all fail, don’t they? Coming to this realization sooner rather than later may be as simple as taking a break and changing our perspective. Then we may begin to see the validity of Four Noble Truths and either step onto the path, or continue our journey on it.