What does spirituality mean to you?

Some say the following: “To me, spirituality is love. Accepting all people as they are. Instead of resenting them when they cut me off on freeways, I wish them happiness. That’s being spiritual. When I’m not mindful like that, I get trapped into the cycle of hating them and wishing them off the face of the earth. It doesn’t make me feel good.”

How about you? What is spirituality to you?

In the past few decades, we’ve been enjoying material abundance but at the same time, hasn’t it created a void in our hearts?
If you have anything to share about this void, please share with me.

To me, spirituality is acknowledging that void, that something is missing in our material world.

Today’s topic is the real joy of life, to be able to shout out “how glad I am to have been born a human!”

First, we need a special awareness. Let me share with you a story about a granddaughter who upon looking at their family photo album told her grandmother, “Grandma, you used to be so young, I’m surprised.”

Do you have a similar experience of staring at the pictures of your parents when they were quite young and wonder, “Wow, how did that happen?” Children think their parents or grandparents have always been old. It’s so hard for them to conceive of the time when they were young like them.

But an important awareness that is good to have is that life is a journey. For me, 40 years passed like the blink of an eye. We adults sometimes scold our children perhaps because we completely forget our own youth and how immature we were. Sometimes we laugh at the elderlies. Some people try to speak slowly to them and assume that their intelligence is deteriorating.

I once read a poem that says not to scold children; it’s the path we’ve taken.
And don’t look down on the elderlies; it’s the path we’re going to take.

Try visualizing the elderlies when they were young.
Also, try visualizing the youth when they’ll be old.

That’s one secret to have more compassion for the elderlies and less irritation with the youth.

We’re constantly moving forward in time. When today’s journey is over, tomorrow’s journey begins. Sometimes we think about here and now too much but we need a bird’s eye view like an out-of-body experience to see how we’re constantly moving forward in time.

The real joy of living is an intangible asset that anyone can benefit from. Buddha taught that there are 3 types of wealthy people:

  1. Rich in assets
  2. Rich in the body
  3. Rich in mind

Rich in assets means to possess lots of tangible assets such as money, real estate, etc.
Rich in the body means to have good health.
Floods, fires, tsunami, and earthquakes destroy our tangible assets. Therefore, the best kind of wealth is to be rich in the mind: in other words, we need to obtain intangible assets and to do so we need special training.

As a warm-up, let’s read a story from the book Unshakable Spirit by our spiritual teacher Kentetsu Takamori. It’s lesson # 9 titled Know that Anger is Your Enemy. About a Swiss philosopher, who was so even-tempered.

Or from the book Something you forgot along the away:
The poor window frame page 25
Change irritation to appreciation page 42

(Read the story now)

He never left off smiling and bore all undeserved ill-treatment with such grace.
Let’s analyze why he was able to forgive his housekeeper’s negligence. We too might feel lots of irritation but expressing it or bursting into a fit of anger is not good. In other words, if you change your perception, maybe you don’t have to suppress your anger.

People ask us what about disciplining children or employees? They don’t get the work done if you tell them nicely specially in some places in countries where work ethic is not commonplace. If we tolerate their incompetence and do everything for them so we don’t get angry, that’s not good. Right?

The answer is that it’s OK to be firm but we should remember this spiritual practice of exercising patience as an act of generosity that works as an antidote to our anger each time. Don’t we sometimes find ourselves being irritated about something needlessly? It’s important to start reflecting and finding out the cause of our anger within ourselves. It helps us have a paradigm shift.

Also we need to see the big picture, where we’re going in life. Let’s read from the book SOMETHING YOU FORGOT ALONG THE WAY page 56: Gaining a little, losing a lot.

As you know, there are countless good deeds that we can practice but sometimes when we have too many choices, we end up doing nothing. So Buddha deliberately categorized countless good deeds into 6, the first of which is giving and the 3rd is patience.

Let’s read the 2nd half of the story on Swiss philosopher on unchecked anger.

Channeling anger into laughter is wonderful but there are times when anger gets out of control. It can happen to anyone. These passions come from a place deeper than our subconsciousness. We all have them. So sometimes we lose control of them. It’s like if you’re on diet and someone offers you a piece of cake, you might feel, “What the heck! Who cares? It’s just a small piece of cake.” We all have this vulnerability to throw our discipline out the window.

How can we cultivate good habits in ourselves? We need wisdom. Wisdom is the faculty of seeing ahead. People such as the Buddha who has attained the highest level of enlightenment (wisdom) can see ahead and know what brings us happiness and what brings unhappiness. They teach us the Dharma, which are words of wisdom for us to reflect back on our lives and improve ourselves bit by bit.


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