Mean Man

Posted by:

G Sakamoto

The other day as I was driving to work I saw a man running along the sidewalk. He turned back to the oncoming traffic waving frantically. Behind me I could see a bus on its approach to the stop up ahead. The man still had half a block in front him. He would not make it. As the bus crossed the intersection it slowed down and opened its doors for the out-of-breath man.

With all the difficult things we hear about in the news sometimes its good to be reminded of the kindness in the world. Ignoring difficulties will not make it go away. Seeing kindness can balance how we experience the world.

There is a man who comes to the office every once in a while. He asks for help. Usually for a few dollars and something to eat. Whenever he comes I usually lead him outside and have our conversation there. I sometimes end up giving him a couple of dollars and offering him something from the breakroom. I listened to him explain his circumstances and when he asked for some money I said I could give him some fruits. He asked again for even a couple of dollars, I offered him some fruit again. Eventually he gave up and walked down the sidewalk. As he left he turned and said the worst thing, I think he could think of, “You’re mean. I’m sorry for you. Something’s wrong with your head.” He was right.

A couple of days later a man greeted me as I passed him on my way to picked up some take out food. He’s often there in the evenings, sitting up against the building, trying to stay out of the light foot traffic. He never asks for anything, but he has a small sign next to his belongings. As I paid for the take out I put some money in my pocket to give to the man outside. I picked up my order and went out the door. As I passed the man he was looking down. I continued walking.

“Maddened beyond control by blind passions, we do things we should not and say things we should not and think things we should not. But if a person is deceitful in his relations with others doing what he should not and saying what he should not because he thinks it will not hinder his birth, then it is not an instance of being maddened by passion. Since he purposely does these things, they are simply misdeeds that should never have been done.” CWS, p547, Lamp for the Latter Ages

I wish I could say I’ve always done the right thing. That I’ve been generous and kind, comforting when needed. Sorrily that’s not the case. Sure, I sometimes do kind things. But sometimes I don’t. I need to keep working at it. I have to try to be more like the bus driver.

The difficulties I cause for myself and others result from my preferences, my likes and dislikes. My foolish mind that cannot engage things simply as they are. The practices of the Dharma cultivate the mind that is freed from prejudice. The mind that simply sees things as there are. There’s no something other than what is. Something secret or mysterious. Things simply are and my preferences distorts how I experience and engage the world. The Dharma corrects how I experience the world. If I am able to follow the instructions of the Dharma I am changed. I am transformed. My preferences and prejudices are set aside and things are simply as they are, as they have always been.

“If we had the feeling of dancing with joy and wished to go to the Pure Land quickly, we might wonder if we weren’t free of blind passions.” CWS, p666, A Record in Lament of Divergences

If I had the skill and ability I could follow the instructions of the Dharma. The Eightfold Path, the fourth of the Four Noble Truths, represents the practices that cultivates the mind freed from prejudices. If I think of the Eightfold path otherwise, I may be led to think that I am capable of cultivating the mind that sees things as they are. That I am able to address and resolve, through practice, the difficulties I cause and experience.

Abandoning the Eightfold Path does not mean we give up caring behavior. That would “simply be misdeeds that should never have been done.” We should always try to do what we can to address the difficulties we experience. Abandoning the Eightfold Path acknowledging my inability to follow the instructions of the Dharma and cultivate the mind free of prejudice. Abandoning the Eightfold Path releases this foolish mind from the possibility of cultivating the mind that sees things as they are. The mind that is free of prejudice.

Whether we abandon the practices of the Eightfold Path or not, Amida assures all beings of the eventual resolution of difficulties. Amida’s assurance promises something in the future but that assurance can change how we experience the world now. Amida’s absolute assurance provides me with the opportunity to look at my prejudices and preferences. To acknowledge how my preferences results in difficulties for myself and others. I can begin to soften the boundaries that separate. Affirming the humanity we all share.