Hate and blaming others for our personal problems—immigrants, refugees and people of other religions, is endemic in many societies. The us/them dichotomy is a simple but misleading way to look at the human and social environment in which we live. Others really aren’t the cause of our suffering or lack of success in most cases. More often, the root of our problems lies within. After looking within for solutions, the next step in making our lives better is engaging with and helping others. Consider these words from SGI leader Daisaku Ikeda and our take on them.
“People around us reflect the state of our own lives. The environment that we are in, whether favorable or not, is the product of our own life. When we fail to understand this, we tend to blame others for our troubles.”
How is this so? The law of causality—so common to scientists, physicists and others, establishes that events or results stem from causes. Similarly, the circumstances we find ourselves experiencing are reflective of causes we have made—whether intentionally or inadvertently. For example, overeating can lead to indigestion. Stepping off a curb while busy texting could be fatal. It’s not the food or the driver that strikes us that’s the problem. It’s more complicated assessing from where our job or family relationship problems come, but the principle is the same.
“Whatever our ethnicity, whatever our religion, we all have families we love; there is a future we all want to protect. And no human being can escape the eternal rhythms of life: birth, aging, sickness, death. When we are grounded in this most fundamental perspective of the commonality of our lives, we can rise above any differences and without fail achieve empathy and dialogue.”
Complicated as life may be, as Ikeda says, we can rise above differences and “achieve empathy and dialogue.” Why is this important? Consider this perspective from Ikeda:
“What our society today needs more than anything is the spirit of empathy—the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are facing hardship and suffering, to understand and share what they are going through. When the spirit of compassion becomes the bedrock of society, and is embodied by society’s leaders, the future will be bright with hope.”
While we may have our own difficulties, only the briefest attention to the news reveals how much hardship and suffering others are facing—in many instances, far worse than our own. How can the spirit of compassion become the bedrock of society, embodied by a society’s leader? It begins with empathy, as noted above. It grows through self-reflection followed by action to relieve the suffering of others—compassion.
But what if those leaders not only lack concern, but fall into the us/them dichotomy and blame immigrants, refugees or persons of minority religions for a nation’s problems? Here is what Ikeda says about that, in a sense.
“In the fight between justice and evil, taking a neutral stance and being indifferent is the same as siding with evil.”
So there are times that require action such as speaking out, engaging in dialogue with elected officials, friends or family. But political solutions—such as voting out a leader, take time. Revealing one’s own compassion while engaging others also takes time. But in the long run, the future will become “bright with hope” not so much through political action as much as dialogue with others to awaken compassion and empathy to fight injustice.
Consider these remarks by Ikeda as well:
“Buddhism teaches, “If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way.” Please be confident that the higher your flame of altruistic action burns, the more its light will suffuse your life with happiness. Those who possess an altruistic spirit are the happiest people of all.”
So even during the darkest days of injustice or evil, your altruistic action will offer hope, happiness and a brighter future.