Change Yourself First

Last year, three Japanese people were awarded the Nobel Physics Prize for inventing the blue light emitting diode. Mr. Shuji Nakamura, a professor at University of California, Santa Barbara, was one of them. I saw a TV program that featured him. I was quite impressed by his way of thinking. Hearing the interview, I was amazed to learn how he deals with American students. He just gives them the objective of the research and leaves them alone. All he does thereafter is praise them. He does nothing but praise them in whatever they do. Then, he says, the students become more and more motivated and eventually accomplish great research.

And furthermore he talked about some of the differences between American students and Asian students. Among them what he most emphasized was that American students are more individualistic. He said that although he would ask his students to do a group project, it often turned out that each student would complete the project on their own.

On the other hand, students from Japan and other Asian countries are very good at dividing the work among the group, and they complete a project in no time. This is why Asian countries are strong in manufacturing.

Both American students and Asian students have their own good points and bad points. Mr. Nakamura examines the character of the students, and based on that he gives guidance. I thought I should follow his example. Incidentally, I think we have a tendency of getting upset or holding grudges against people when they do not behave the way we wish them to. But in Buddhism, anger and grudges are considered bad deeds. Such negative emotions often result in resentment towards the people we deal with, and we end up having a worse relationship with them than what we started with. In times like these, why not try to sympathize with others, acknowledging their unique behavior as their character or habits they have developed since their childhood? If you change yourself, your family members will change and other people will change, too. Now let us read one story from the book Something You Forgot… Along the Way.

When the Zen priest Bankei (1622–93) was still an acolyte, every night he would sit in meditation. One morning after meditating he was resting by a stable when a samurai came along to train his horse. As Bankei looked on idly, it became apparent to him that the horse was out of sorts, and balking at its rider’s commands. The samurai yelled at the animal and beat it.

Bankei shouted, “What do you think you’re doing!” The samurai paid no attention, but only whipped the animal all the harder. Bankei kept on shouting, until finally the samurai dismounted and walked over to him.

“You have been scolding me for some time, I believe,” he said quietly. “If you have something to teach me, I am willing to listen.” His words were exceedingly polite, but it was clear that depending on what kind of answer he received, he might erupt in anger.

Without hesitating, Bankei told him, “It is foolish to blame only the horse for failing to listen to you. The horse has its own reasons. If you want it to listen, you must encourage it to do so. To do that, you must start with yourself. Do you understand?”

This was a humble and intelligent samurai, for he nodded, bowed, and left. Then, with a change of attitude, he remounted his steed. Sure enough, the horse too was now a changed creature, and docilely obeyed his every command.

People constantly blame others for their own faults, and find no peace. The essential thing is to take an honest look at oneself and correct one’s own attitude. Do that, and others will change too. Your home life is guaranteed to be happier.

(Something You Forgot… Along the Way, chapter 64)

Nobu’s View Point Nobuaki Kondo, Buddhist teacher

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #48 | 2015, Change Yourself First

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