Left Turns

Posted by:

G Sakamoto

Do you swerve right just as you make a left turn? Swerving right prevents our rear left tire from ending up on the median strip. Avoids damaging the rim of the wheel and possible damage to the tire. It also avoids getting scolded and/or laughed at. However, when we swerve right we can endanger the driver in the lane to the right of us. It is certainly not our intent but entering the lane to our right can have serious consequences. Is there a better way to make a left turn without endangering ourselves or others?

Often we don’t recognize how our actions might affect the world around us. Rarely do we intend our actions to be harmful. Yet sometimes the results of our actions can hurt ourselves or others. A conversation might start out with the intent of considering a course of action. Different points of view are presented. The differences may evolve into strong opinions that can escalate into arguments.

This is the nature of unenlightened beings. We do not see things. Sometimes the outcome of our inability to see things can be difficulties, other times neutral and sometimes enjoyable. We expect and assume that our actions will work out even though we know that is not always the case. When we question or are questioned by others we can justify our behavior since sometimes things work out. We swerve right when making a left turn and nothing blows up, must be ok.

Legend has it that before Siddhartha Gautama was born his parents consulted Ajita about a dream of Queen Maya. Because of Ajita’s explanation of the dream, King Suddhodana did everything he could to prevent Siddhartha from experiencing difficulties. Perhaps Suddhodana’s concern for his son heightened Siddhartha’s empathy when he eventually encountered the difficulties we share as unenlightened beings.

Suddhodana wanted to protect his son. He wanted his son to be a king like himself or greater. Parents hope their children will live a life better than their own. The best we might do is hope they can be independent and capable of making their way in the world. Yet, the consequences of our actions are uncertain. There are results to our actions. We may need to make corrections. There are results to those corrections that result in other consequences; sometimes expected, sometimes not.

Swerving to the right can tell us that we may be unaware of how our behavior might affect the world around us. Usually, we are unable or unwilling to see that our behavior may result in difficulties for ourselves and others. The Buddhadharma provides the means to cultivate the mind that can see the relationship of behavior and consequence. The mind that begins to address and resolve the difficulties that characterize an unenlightened life. The Eightfold Path represents the practices that cultivate the mind that sees things as they are. That sees the relationship between behavior and consequences.

In Jodo Shinshu, Amida assures us of the eventual resolution of difficulties. Regardless of our abilities or skills we are, as we are, assured of the eventual resolution of difficulties. Difficulties that result from our inability to see things as they are. That assurance allows us to look more openly at ourselves. We are not required to be something else. It is un-necessary to cultivate the practices that would result in a mind that would see things as they are. Trust in Amida’s assurance (shinjin) changes the way I see things. Changes how I experience things. As Amida’s assurance allows me to look more openly at my preferences and prejudices I can begin to soften the boundaries that separate the world up into categories, into likes and dislikes, into preferences and prejudices. Boundaries that separate and provide the opportunity for conflicts, difficulties to arise.

I may not be aware of my driving behavior and other questionable behavior. Yet I am still assured by Amida of the resolution of difficulties. Amida’s assurance allows me to consider the possibility of my poor driving habits and the consequences that can result. That can allow me to think about my behavior. If I am willing to look further I may begin to see wider consequences of my unenlightened behavior. I may discover that although I am limited and inconsistent, I continue to be supported by life that is boundless.