I recently returned from a week in Japan to receive confirmation from our Gomonshu of our Hongwanji for becoming Bishop. This ceremony was postponed for three years because of the pandemic. But since the Hawaii Kyodan recently elected a new Bishop, Rev. Toshiyuki Umitani, we were both invited to receive our confirmation together.
The ceremony was very meaningful and there were lots of dinners and meetings with various Hongwanji and Ryukoku University dignitaries during our stay. We met with Dr. Takashi Irisawa, the president of Ryukoku University, and were given a tour of some of their facilities.
I was very impressed with some of the signage on campus. I am not sure if it is the theme for the university, but throughout the campus, there were various short phrases, one of which was, “Less me, more we.” I thought this was a beautiful, very Buddhistic phrase. So simple, but so well put. “Less me, more we.”
Our modern-day life is perhaps the opposite. It is a life of “More me, less we.” Self-enhancement, self-promotion, self-gratification. If you go to a bookstore, the “self-help books abound.” Self, self, self. More me, less we. Yet this slogan or phrase at Ryukoku University said, “Less me, more we.”
The unawakened, unenlightened self thinks that the way to happiness is to get what you want, to get everything your way. But Buddhism teaches us that this is a delusion, a wrong view of life. First of all, Buddhism teaches us that we will never achieve ultimate happiness this way because the ego self is never satisfied, never gratified completely. We will always seek more, no matter what it is, whether it is money, cars, homes, positions, or status. That is why the path of “More me, less we,” is destined to fail. It is destined to a life of unhappiness, even suffering and anguish.
However, the opposite, “Less me, more we,” leads to a life of fulfillment, an inner, lasting sense of happiness, and even a sense of gratitude. A grateful person doesn’t need more of this or more of that. A grateful person not only feels gratitude for what they have, but feels undeserving of it as well. For such a person, even life itself is a gift.
The “more we” doesn’t just mean people. A sense of “more we” means all of life that surrounds us. It encompasses the plants and animals, the earth and the air, the planets and the stars.
Rev. Gyomay Kubose once wrote a short haiku poem about a simple flower that he noticed growing along the side of the road while walking. Only a person of “less me, more we” would notice such things. A person of “more me, less we” always feels, “Why is there so much traffic? What’s the matter with these crazy drivers these days?” They would rarely notice the wild flowers growing along the road, or the beauty of the stars at night.
Doesn’t the world today need more of such a teaching, “Less me, more we?” What happens when a whole nation lives with a sense of the opposite, “More me, less we?” Doesn’t it lead to wars and conflicts, strife and suffering, for all people? We don’t realize that a life of “More me, less we,” leads to not only the suffering of others, but to ourselves. This is why Buddhism calls it “delusion,” or “ignorance.”
I had a wonderful trip to Japan, despite the heat and humidity. But this simple slogan was one precious thing that I brought back from Japan, more than the Japanese delicacies and sweets that I purchased. It is a wonderful Buddhistic teaching that is easy to remember and to think about in our daily life. I hope that it leads to a life of “less me, more we,” in myself.