This is a key Buddhist question, especially for Westerners. Why is Buddhism in the West so different from what the East is like? How did the West lose its way?
To be honest, I didn’t really know. It was only when I was in India recently that I realized the connection: Buddhism is so similar to the East that one cannot help but wonder if that’s the key difference between us. It’s like the difference between “the East” and “the West.”
When I see people living their life and giving their all to the world without giving up on anyone else, it’s the same. Even in the Buddhist tradition, people who give all their strength to others sometimes also come up against someone else — usually an old relative or an unkind teacher — who doesn’t give them any respect. It’s like you see people taking a step forward but then stepping back. They step forward, try something new, but then it turns out to be a big failure in their lives because they step too far backward, which becomes a road that is blocked for their entire lives.
It’s similar in Buddhism. As you know, the Buddhist community in Japan has an exceptionally long life span, and is considered a very holy place. People say things like, “The Buddha said so and so — it’s just that he said that for our own good. Let’s try doing a little good for ourselves.” When people do good for others, it doesn’t seem to make sense. Why should we get mad and put on the hat?
In terms of what it means to be in a compassionate frame of mind, I’d say that at the same time it’s true that as a person’s life progresses, it feels like it’s getting better and better. We’re getting more and more capable of living with compassion and caring. But at the same time, as a society we’re getting more and more divided and less and less caring for each other. There’s certainly a connection there.
One of the things I’m learning is that I don’t really understand that, for example, if you know that your friend hates you for no reason other than something physical and they insult your looks or your clothes, it’s kind of like, “What am I doing here? Why am I doing this? What does this say about me that I should still be doing this?” It’s just not going to be helpful. That’s the way it appears to me.
In Japan, a large percentage of
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