I have been meaning to talk about the idea of sincerity in Buddhism and the impact sincere prayer has on actual proof, if any.
I have had a few experiences on the topic, some of which I am going to be sharing now.
At various points in my life, I have found that I was at odds with someone. My relationship with a certain person, be it a member of my family, or a member of the SGI, or someone I would work or study with, would be strained or completely broken. I am an incredibly forgiving person, so it was usually the other person who would decide not to have a positive relationship with me, not the other way round. As I will mention in a post on changing karma, that would also often be connected with my “left-out” karma.
Whatever the reason, I realised that in some way, the relationship with someone caused me to suffer. I don’t want to give specific examples here, because it would mean that I would have to talk ill about some people, but what I found helped very much was to chant about their happiness.
Now, someone here might ask me, how forgiving do you have to be to chant for the happiness of someone who has hurt you / has been unfair to you / has hurt someone you love / is constantly rude to you / (insert your negative thing here)?
How can you actually chant for someone’s happiness when you dislike them at best or even hate them? We are human beings after all, sometimes people hurt us too much.
Here is where sincerity, or in this case lack thereof, makes the difference.
In all these cases, I would eventually start chanting for the person’s happiness. I would usually add this prayer to the end of my Gongyo, where we pray “for peace throughout the world and for the happiness of all humanity”, I would add “especially for xyz”.
Now the big thing: that prayer was deffo not sincere. I have prayed for people that (and I am NOT exaggerating) I wanted dead. Yet, somewhere in my deluded, angry state I realised that the problem was with me, not with the person who had hurt me. Them being bad people was about their karma, my problem was that I suffered about it. Instead of clinging to my pain and my hatred, I decided to take the first step and start chanting about that person’s happiness.
When I started, I wasn’t sincere. I was still angry, hurt, annoyed, sometimes to the point of wanting these people to truly suffer (they had hurt ME, remember?). If anything, my prayer was the exact OPPOSITE of what was in my heart. However, I persisted, and little by little my prayer became more and more sincere.
Also, little by little, my relationship would change, to a point in which I would not suffer anymore and at times completely transform it into something value-creating.
Another experience I’ve done with sincerity and actual proof has been related to my innate laziness and the tendency to begrudge buddhist activities.
One of my responsibilities is Chapter Lilac chief. As such, I keep the chapter’s butsugu and I am responsible for finding the lilacs for the Chapter study. I am also expected to attend the study meeting and lead the lilacs.
I love lilacing. I love helping others and being lilac chief. I’ve been lilacing for ages and being chief does, I can’t hide it, stroke my ego.
That said, this responsibility has proven quite the challenge for me so far. For once, I often am away during chapter meeting. For another, there is shortage of YW in the chapter, therefore potential lilacs. And the biggie: our chapter meetings are ALWAYS on a Friday night.
I’ll let that one sink in.
So, one such Fridays, I had had a rotten week. I really just wanted to go to the pub and get, well, not exactly plastered, but at least pleasurably merry. I wanted to munch on pub grub and talk shop with my colleagues.
Also, the weather was crap.
Instead of the comfort of the local pub, I had to run back home. I slept for half an hour to gather some strength, then put my uniform on and went to the meeting, dragging along the suitcase with the butsugu under pouring rain.
I had no desire to go to that meeting. Not one little bit.
To make matters worse, I was feeling guilty, because, ya know, you are supposed to never begrudge your life and face activities with a great high spirit.
Then, suddenly, as I was picking up the suitcase from a puddle, I decided: sod it.
Yes, I don’t feel like doing this meeting, yes, I’d rather be in the pub with some fish&chips. But point in fact was, I wasn’t. I was there, under pouring rain, tired and fed up, dragging a heavy suitcase, and I was in fact going to the meeting.
That HAD to be enough.
How did the meeting go? I was supposed to have one lilac, instead I had the one lilac, plus two YMD who self appointed themselves as sokas. Also, a MD decided to help out as a guardian. The meeting was awesome, everyone was happy and inspired. Half an hour into the meeting, I decided that one of my YW had to appear. One minute later one of my YW appeared.
And I hit my 20+ people target at chapter meeting.
What’s the point of saying this?
Sometimes we don’t have sincerity in our heart. Sometimes we don’t feel like doing the right thing. But we do it anyway. And that’s what counts. Sometimes, our heart will take a while to come around and start behaving itself, but if we start with putting the right action, the heart will follow.