Updated: Nov 20, 2020
A little over a year ago, climate change activist Greta Thunberg wrote, “When haters go after your looks and differences, it means they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Asperger’s and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And — given the right circumstances — being different is a superpower.”
I look at the world around me today and I could not agree more that right now we need something different. We need a change. And not only in how we treat our planet, our home, but in just about every aspect of our lives. For too long as a society we have been driven by selfishness, ignorance, and hate and it has eroded us to where we are now.
While this may seem like an onerous task and a bleak outlook, from the Jodo Shinshu perspective, this sort of scenario is exactly what we needed to wake up and do the right thing.
The most clichéd way of putting it might be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. From a less popular standpoint but still clichéd in the Jodo Shinshu circles, it is like ice melting into water: the more the ice, the more the water.
Our failure to address our inadequacies has been built up so large over time that we are now in a position not to just see the holes in our society but exasperated enough to demand something better. When I say demand, I do not mean to pass the buck to someone else. More than one issue has been perpetuated with that kind of thinking. I mean that we must demand it of ourselves. Perhaps if we were all Buddha, we could connect all the dots and recognize what we would have to do to create a better world. But alas, we are human and the only thing we are barely even capable of changing is our own actions.
Are we holding ourselves accountable for our choices, whether it is our activity or our indifference? Are we educating ourselves or making excuses for distracting ourselves from the suffering around us? Are we holding the people who represent us in leadership positions in every community we belong to or blindly following?
These questions are difficult, and the answers are not absolute. But by asking them, we are finally stepping into the light. Amida Buddha exists as Infinite Wisdom and Compassion. For too long have we been living ignorant and apathetic. To be on this new path will be unusual and, honestly, quite arduous. It is tiresome to learn something new and stumbling along the way can be discouraging. However, I have faith in the people around me and I have faith in the future. Oftentimes, people have equated Shinjin to faith to much debate. Perhaps some of this faith is the Shinjin directed to me by Amida Buddha.
But recently I have interpreted another aspect of the Shinjin that may not have been so deeply discussed; that a requisite facet of Shinjin is dedication. No matter what faculties a person may have, all people are capable of being dedicated to something. Sometimes, it becomes their superpower. In my own experience, the people who I am convinced have Shinjin are undoubtedly the most dedicated.
So, I ask of you, reader of this article, dedicate yourself to a less selfish, more compassionate world. In the face of unfavorable circumstances, reject the idea that life must be this way, deny the lazy tendency to lean toward the status quo and create something unfamiliar. Doubt the way you think and question your elected officials. Push yourself to uncomfortable situations that will move the needle towards understanding and kindness. And if you are already doing so, keep on going. Obviously, if we were able to see a payoff, that would be ideal, but it will be slow and if we cannot witness the end, do not give up.
I will close with one of my favorite proverbs: “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
Because of the greed in our society, right now we are sitting in the scorching sun. I’ll ask one final question: We may not be old, but what trees are you planting?