With Consideration for Others Always in Mind
A Tranquil Time Is the Right Time
The beloved season of enjoying the warmth of hot springs is upon us. Soaking in a tub full of hot water, murmuring to yourself, “Ah, this is heaven”—in such moments, many people feel a calm peacefulness come over them.
When we are enjoying a pleasant time, when our minds are at peace and free, for instance, even when we are soaking in the waters of a hot spring, aren’t we removed from such emotions as worries and grievances? Delusions and attachments come loose and slip away from our minds, nothing is tying us down, and we are peaceful and completely content.
The Chinese character meaning the Buddha is read hotoke in Japanese. One explanation says that the word hotoke is derived from the verb hodokeru, meaning “to be freed from attachments.” Therefore, we could say that if you can manage, even if only for a little while, to be tranquil and without any cares or worries, then you have freed yourself from whatever binds you and have reached the realm of the Buddha.
Incidentally, Buddhist teaching tells us that it is important to “have your mind always turned toward the right direction.” This is “right mindfulness,” the seventh practice of the Eightfold Path that Shakyamuni explained in his first preaching of the Dharma.
However, I think that many people would confess that they don’t really know what “the right direction” is. Simply stated, it is turning your mind toward the Buddha and the Truth, but I suppose that some people still might say that this is a bit difficult to understand. To explain how I understand it in my own terms, as I mentioned earlier, it is “a pleasant time, when your mind is at peace and free from attachments.” I think this is exactly the time when your mind is turned in the right direction.
However, to have your mind always turned toward the right direction, and not merely for a moment or a short while, is a more complicated matter.
Hoping Only to Be Able to Liberate Others
In the Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Wisdom, one of the three sutras comprising the Threefold Lotus Sutra, the question that we really want to ask appears: What should one do if one desires to be, “Ever dwelling in the city of nirvana, / And to be at ease with mind tranquil” (that is, if you wish to be far removed from all doubts and delusions and keep your mind tranquil and steady)? The next lines of verse provide the answer.
“[One] should recite the Great Vehicle sutras / And reflect on the mother of bodhisattvas.” In other words, through our habitual practice of morning and evening sutra recitation, we hope to live our lives, more and more, through the mind of compassion and consideration for others. This is a valuable hint about how to always live joyfully and with our minds at ease. We wouldn’t have expected it, but for us, this is a very familiar practice, isn’t it? Moreover, this is not a command to “be considerate of others,” but an indication of how important it is that we aspire to live with greater consideration for others, which may be easier to accept.
Now and again, I hear someone lamenting that, “I just can’t master being compassionate.” However, it is precisely because that person wishes that he or she could live with more consideration for others or be capable of liberating someone else that he or she is worrying about it. In other words, that person already is mastering the mind of being considerate of others.
Nonetheless, when you find that your mind is agitated by distractions and far from being tranquil, a poem by Hosai Ozaki (1885–1926) may be a good reference.
“Cast away the mind / Of speaking ill of others, / And just peel the beans.” When such emotions as anger or greed seem to be gaining control over your mind, you should throw yourself into whatever task is before you—this is one method of returning to right mindfulness.
Furthermore, some people express right mindfulness as “caring” or “attentiveness.” As Soshitsu Sen XV (b. 1923), former headmaster (iemoto) of the Urasenke school of the Way of Tea, has said, “In serving someone, my only thought is, ‘May you be happy.’” Cast off distractions and concentrate on your own “here and now.” Moreover, while putting aside thoughts of yourself and hoping that other people experience joy and feel happy, your mind focuses on a single thing. This is another form of right mindfulness.
In our discussion of the Eightfold Path, we have already arrived at the crucial practice of right mindfulness. When you make your own mind the mind of joy and ease that comes from being considerate of others, you are truly bringing to life the virtues of practicing “right meditation,” which comes next.