The Buddhist path, and the Buddhist experience is a very personal one. For example, I have learned that when reading the book You Were Born For A Reason, we need to read it as if it is talking about me. Yet contained among the pages of this book is a teaching that talks about all human beings. Isn’t Buddhism about all human kind and for all human kind? After all, Amida’s Vow is salvation for all people, all sentient beings of the universe. The truth that one person will experience is the truth that all people will experience. All people regardless of wealth or status are struggling in the ocean of suffering. Buddhism is an all-inclusive teaching, without any kind of discrimination. No one is better or worse than another. It is truly a universal teaching.
So how can something so all-encompassing be so individual? Why is it all about me? What makes it so? Buddhism is individual because it is based on the truth of the Law of Cause and Effect and the principle of “own deeds bring one’s own effect.”
To understand this principle, let’s say a student got 70% on a test. He vows to do better next time, so he starts to study harder. In the next test he gets 85%. He is happy with this result because he knows that the effort he put into studying has come back to him in a good way. He will try even harder with the next test because from direct experience he knows that his own cause brought his own effect. ‘Own cause own effect’ is to take responsibility for one’s actions.
Incredible as it is, I have heard people who are in financial debt say, “everyone else is also in debt too, so it’s all right.” The attitude is that “Everyone else does it, so it’s ok.” Such an attitude is not acceptable in Buddhism, I have learned. When push comes to shove and your financial debt is causing your family suffer, will thinking about those other families who are also in debt be of any comfort? Thinking that it’s all right because everyone does it, is not understanding the concept of “my cause brings my effect.” It is not taking responsibility for one’s own life.
In the big scheme of things, when it is time to die and go into the afterlife alone, can we say “everyone else is going to the world of suffering, so it’s ok if I go there too?” Will having family or friends to rely on be of any comfort? The story of The Three Wives from the Zoagon sutra reminds us that such things cannot bring comfort at such a time.
“Long ago there was a wealthy man who lived happily with three wives. He loved Wife #1 the most – sympathizing with her when it was cold and worrying over her when it was hot. He catered to her every wish and never did anything to hurt her feelings.
His love for Wife #2 wasn’t as much, but because he had gone through a lot of trouble, and had even fought with others to win her, he kept her beside him all the time, and enjoyed her.
He visited Wife #3 only when he was lonely and needed comfort from her.
(To Be Continued...)
Frank Costelloe, Los Angeles
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #45 | 2014, It’s My Life, and My Responsibility (Part 1)
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