First, may I extend a warm Happy New Year’s greetings to all of you. As all of our temples and churches reopen to in-person services and activities, I hope that this year will be one in which we reconnect with each other as a Sangha, as fellow Nembutsu travelers on the path. As the pandemic has subsided, in many cases, we are seeing friends and family that we haven’t seen for three years. What a joy it is to see each other in person again.
The theme for our BCA this new year of 2023 will be, “The Benefits of Following the Shin Buddhist Path.” Whether we have been a lifelong Buddhist, or if we are relatively new to Shin Buddhism, there are tremendous benefits to our everyday life that we often don’t talk about enough. We need to share the “why” of Shin Buddhism as well as the “what” of Shin Buddhism.
I would like to discuss this topic in a series of articles this year for the Wheel of Dharma. This month, I would like to discuss the benefit of living “from inside out,” instead of “from outside in.”
Normally, we live our life from “outside in,” meaning that we live our lives pursuing material things external to us, to find what we think will be our “inner happiness.” We think a new car, a bigger home, a higher salary or position, or the perfect spouse, will lead to our inner happiness.
However, even if we are to achieve some of those things, we find that we are not any happier internally. In fact, we might find ourselves even more miserable than when we didn’t have such things. We buy a home, but now we have to maintain it and do the home repairs.
The Shin Buddhist way of life is from the inside out, meaning that one lives fulfilling your deepest aspiration and your sincere wish of life. Every day is meaningful, fulfilling, gratifying, living a life from within. For example, a schoolteacher that lives from outside in lives for the paycheck, for the retirement pension after 30 years of teaching. The teacher that lives from inside out works to fulfill their deepest wish, to teach children, to nurture children, to connect with children.
The Shin Buddhist way of life is a life of self-introspection and self-reflection. From one’s self-introspection, one sees the world around them. It is living from “inside out.”
Shinran Shonin lived a life of deep self-introspection. In his writings, he says that his heart and mind is like “snakes and scorpions,” full of cunning and malice. Such self-introspection leads to his life of humbleness and humility. There is tremendous strength and power in the life of a humble person. Like the willow tree that is able to bend in a strong wind, as opposed to a tall and stiff oak tree, a truly humble person is able to live a dynamic, even powerful life. They influence and affect others by their quiet humility. That is one of the many benefits of the Shin Buddhist life, of following the Shin Buddhist path.