Buddhism distinguishes itself from Western religions through its unique approach to human nature. While Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, fundamentally presume that human beings are innately flawed or 'sinful', Buddhism offers a different perspective. In Greek culture, 'sin' represents an arrow so imperfectly constructed that it's incapable of striking the bullseye without divine intervention. This concept has been interpreted and personified as "God", or, as my daughter comically calls it, the "sky-daddy patriarchy."
This notion of inherent flaws gives rise to rules, dogmas, laws, boundaries, and beliefs, all aimed at correcting individuals' behavior and guiding them toward becoming 'good people.' The underlying premise is that if left to our own devices, we cannot be trusted. This gives rise to a culture deeply rooted in fear, a climate that some might label as paranoid, where anyone and everyone becomes a potential threat.
Contrastingly, Buddhism identifies the "three poisons" of greed, hatred, and delusion, originating from survival instincts, as the root of human suffering. Sigmund Freud referred to this instinct as the "Id," the impulsive survialist part of our psyche. As a monk and priest, I interpret this survival instinct as collective ignorance, ego-driven artificial intelligence, a scarcity mindset, or addictive behavior. Our suffering does not arise because we're inherently damaged; it stems from the neglect and disharmony of our ego, our relentless thought generator, with physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual reality.
If you question this perspective, put it to the test. Reflect on your thoughts over a day. How many are positive versus negative? Merely observing the contents of your consciousness could offer invaluable insights, especially as we acknowledge the reality that these processes are not entirely under our control. That said, if our perspective habitually amplifies flaws, dissects everything, and fabricates cases against us like a ruthless attorney, how can we expect lasting happiness? Under the cloud of the Id's warped instinct, such a possibility isn't even on our menu of Being.
Given this, I find "Sherpa" - a guide through the inner landscape of the "Self" - a more fitting description of my role as an ordained Rinzai priest and monk, especially when the "Self" is often hidden beneath a fractured personality constructed by the ego.
My purpose isn't to offer hollow words aimed at "improving" individuals. Instead, I strive to reflect back to people their inherent potential. We are already whole, possessing an identity of Universal Loving Presence, capable of unique and personalized expression if trusted and given space through intentional practice, healthy support, and community.
There's no "new" and "improved" '2.0' version of ourselves. A more honest interpretation is that we are individuals, acknowledging and accepting responsibility for our inherent talents - a by-product of our intrinsic Buddha DNA.
The Hōkyō zanmai, or "Precious Mirror Reflecting our Inherent Completeness," begins with a sentiment that encapsulates this belief:
"You have been complete since before the beginning.
Your Original nature is Universal Loving Presence.
It reflects the Dharma of changeless Reality.
You have It. You are It. Now, please take care of It."
We are all guides in life. True friendship embodies this mutual guidance. We cannot grow in isolation. So, what collective and intentional actions are we taking to encourage each other to manifest Universal Loving Presence through goodwill and the creative spirit? Or are we disregarding our Buddha DNA, lost in pursuing greed, hatred, and delusion, perverting and wasting our talents?
Experience shows that there's no obligation to utilize our inherent talents. Regrettably, many people squander this precious opportunity, prioritizing triviality. So, what will you choose? Will you nourish and indulge the mind's insatiable insecurities, or will you cultivate the Universal Loving Presence within us? True nature and values are not discerned by mere words, but through actions. The choice, ultimately, is yours.
一May Universal Loving Presence Prevail