Do Not Be Afraid!

Posted by:

K. Ken Fujimoto
I am a link in Amida’s golden chain of love that stretches around the world. I will keep my link bright and strong.
I will be kind and gentle to every living thing and protect all who are weaker than myself.
I will think pure and beautiful thoughts, say pure and beautiful words, and do pure and beautiful deeds.
May every link in Amida’s golden chain of love be bright and strong, and may we all attain perfect peace.

Sometimes people say things that you agree with to a point, but not completely. One may understand what is intended, but that is not what is being said and the way it is phrased may lead to greater misunderstanding and problems than expected. There are many examples of this and most are honest and sincere efforts to be accepting and understanding. However, as honest and sincere an effort it may be, the effect may lead to major issues.
One example of this can be seen in the recurring efforts to modernize the Golden Chain. A point that is raised frequently is that the different items are too difficult to do, so the wording should be changed to, “I will try to keep my link bright and strong…I will try to think pure and beautiful thoughts…,” and so on. As understandable as this may seem, the goal is not to simply try. The goal is to do these things. We may fall short of the goal, but a constant and concerted effort to achieve these goals is what is important. It is not enough to say, “I tried,” or “I tried my best.” Trying is not the goal. As the great Jedi Knight and teacher, Yoda states, “There is no try, just do.” If we were to change the wording of the Golden Chain, there will be people who use this as an excuse and quit after trying, rather than continuing to strive towards the achievement of the goal.
Another statement often heard lately, is that it is okay to make mistakes. Mistakes occur and are often inevitable, but they should not be so simply accepted. They should be avoided. They will often arise and the fear of making mistakes should not deter a person from attempting to do anything, but they should not be encouraged to make mistakes. One can, and should, learn from making mistakes. Sincere and honest attempts that lead to failure or mistakes can be accepted as long as they lead to growth and learning. Making mistakes can be steps to accomplishment and as such, they are acceptable, as long as they are intermediate steps towards ultimate success and not excuses for failure. Failure can be a step towards success, but do we want to encourage failure or do we want to encourage people to not be afraid of failing as long as they can learn and grow from those mistakes made in facing challenges?
We can see that this type of thinking arises from the desire to encourage people to do things and not avoid tasks because of the fear of failure and mistakes. To encourage people to accept challenges and tasks without fear of failure and mistakes is a noble thing to do. But, we should do so without giving them excuses for not being able to accomplish that task or face that challenge the first time. By saying that it is “okay to make mistakes,” isn’t that what we are doing? It might be better to say, “Do not be afraid to make mistakes.” This may seem to be a minor change in wording, but it becomes major one in thinking.
Buddhism uses the imagery of a path for a number of reasons. A path is needed to get to a goal. To get to that goal requires awareness of where one has started and where one is at the present. A mistake or failure is a step on that path. It may be a deviation from the desired course, but to learn from it so that we can proceed is what is important. It should not be an excuse for giving up or continuing to deviate from the desired course, but a step on the long journey ahead.
We do not need excuses to fail. We are good at coming up with excuses on our own. What we do need are more reminders of what our ultimate goals are.
© February 20, 2015