Hardship Turns Into Joy

Recently when I was flying on a long distance international flight I had a stopover in San Francisco on my way to Los Angeles. Most times I get a direct flight to LA, but this time I was unable to get this schedule, so a stop-over in San Francisco was necessary. Of course on an 11 hour flight I prefer to have a direct flight. When I got to San Francisco I just wanted to get on the next flight as soon as I could and get to my destination. Tired, I was eager to get home.

On check-in at San Francisco I was told that I had been given a complimentary upgrade to business class. This was nice, but still my desire was to be at my destination. But that changed when I got on the plane. The business class section was quiet since it was separated from the rest of the plane. Even other passengers boarding for economy seats did not pass through this section, so it was just a few travelers who entered this area. The seat was wide with two large pillows, and a luxurious blanket. As soon as I sat in my seat, a stewardess approached me asking me if I would like a drink. ?Sure…'. Ah, I was already feeling good about this complimentary upgrade. Also, I was in the front row nearest the cockpit and therefore noticed no other passengers coming into business class. It was silent and very comfortable. Shortly after take-off I adjusted the seat's controls, and the seat went back far, and a leg rest came up. I pulled the blanket out from its packaging and threw it over me. It was made of a fabric that was wonderful to the touch. Thoroughly relaxed and enjoying the comforts of this class, I said to myself “I wish this flight was three hours long,” (this flight is just under 1 hour). Immediately a story in You Were Born For A Reason came to my mind. The story is about a boy who takes a long, dark, lonely and difficult journey to school each day, and was often tormented by the weather conditions. He was resentful of the journey and wished the school were closer. Then a pretty girl transferred to his school. She happened to live in the same village and so they both took the journey to school together, and in no time became close friends. One day while returning from school there was a sudden outburst of rain. Having only one umbrella between them, they shared it, both walking close next to each other. The boy, feeling good about being so close to the girl, his attitude changed. Instead of wishing the village being closer, he now wished it to be farther.

This is an example to show 'perfect freedom in a world filled with constraints', to show how our state of mind changes when we are saved by Amida Buddha. “The things that had previously tormented him [the boy]… had not changed, and yet they no longer gave him concern. Once obstacles to the boy's pleasure, they now became part and parcel of it” (page 177). Something that was once a source of hardship becomes a source of joy -- exactly what I had experienced on the flight. Something that I wanted to get over with as soon as possible, I now wanted it to be extended. I had gone from suffering, to enjoying myself.

Wouldn't this be the most wonderful way to go through life? In a world where most endure life, looking for moments of relief from hardship, waiting for the weekend, waiting for holidays, and finally waiting for retirement, our life changes and “the path once hated becomes a delight” (page 176). As Buddha said “life is suffering.” We endure life; try to make it as comfortable as possible, or some even wish it were over with as soon as possible. But such a life turns into a life of joy said Master Shinran. It's hard to imagine, isn't it? But this is the world that is “unnamable, inexplicable, inconceivable”, the world of Amida's salvation. Words can give an idea of the experience, but it must be experienced to be truly understood. As Master Shinran said, “listen and believe without hesitation or delay.”

A life or Death Destiny Decided by Minutes

All over the European news in September and what was described as “an act of extreme savagery” by police was the murder of a British family while they were on holidays in France. Three members of the family were shot dead; two girls of the family were critical. Another person, a French cyclist, was also murdered. The police think that shooter was a professional hit-man. He is believed to have first shot the family, and then the cyclist because they think he might have witnessed the crime.

The person who was first to come across the scene was a British man, who was cycling by. The British cyclist, while unknowingly cycling toward the scene, was passed by the French cyclist who was, only minutes later, shot dead. The British cyclist arrived at the scene just minutes after the carnage, when the suspect had already fled. He was treated for severe shock.

The fate of the French cyclist and the British cyclist were dangerously close but yet the outcomes were drastically different. If the French had been a few minutes slower he might not have arrived on the scene until after the British cyclist, and his life might have been spared. If the British cyclist had been just a few minutes quicker he might have suffered the fate of the French cyclist. Most people would call the British cyclist ?lucky' but in Buddhism there is no such thing. Buddhism teaches about the Law of Cause and Effect, and that our fate is determined by our own deeds.

By Frank Costelloe, U.S.A

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #20 | 2012, Hardship Turns Into Joy

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