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In September 1997 I took the name Daiwa and became a lay priest at Enpukuji Temple in Kyoto. I had intended to begin my training in June but was diagnosed with stomach cancer just before my start date and had to undergo surgery. On September 7, a little over two months after the operation, I began training alongside the regular priests while continuing to live in the secular world.
Two months later I moved to the priests' temple for a short period to undertake ascetic practice. As I still was recovering from my operation, I found the training quite rigorous, but through it I gained an experience I will never forget. Early in the winter, the priests and I committed ourselves to the practice of takuhatsu: begging for alms. Wearing a simple cotton garment, sandals of braided straw, and a straw hat over my shaved head, I stood with the other priests at the doorway of people's homes and chanted prayers. Takuhatsu was physically very strenuous for someone like me who was unaccustomed to it. My toes, which stuck out over the edge of my sandals, soon were rubbed raw by the pavement, and after only half a day of walking my body felt like an old dishrag.
However, I continued traveling door to door for hours, following the other priests. Finally, at dusk we headed home, and I dragged my aching body back to the temple. On our way the priests and I passed by a park where an elderly woman in coveralls was sweeping. When she caught sight of us, she hurried over, still clutching her broom, and slipped 500 yen into my satchel as if it were the most natural thing to do.
I have never felt such deep emotion or such indescribable bliss as I did at that moment. Without hesitation or any trace of condescension, this woman, who surely was not well off, gave 500 yen to a mere priest in training. The beauty of her spirit was purer and more refreshing than anything I had experienced in my 65 years of life. Through her spontaneous act of compassion I felt touched by divine love. Although very simple, her act was the manifestation of the ultimate human attribute: warmhearted kindness and an ability to put others first. Her spontaneous good deed taught me the essence of altruism.
Altruism in Buddhist terms is compassion; in Christianity, it is called love. To be altruistic simply means dedicating oneself to the service of others and the world. I believe altruism is an indispensable key to living and, for businessmen like me, to running a company. This concept may sound grandiose, but it is actually perfectly rational. Service to others begins with the consideration we give to the people around us: wanting to feed your children good food, wanting to make your spouse smile, wanting to make your parents comfortable after all the worry you caused them when you were growing up. Working so that you can support your family, helping a friend, caring for your parents – these simple acts in the end will contribute to society, the nation, and the world. In that sense, the altruistic act of the woman who handed me alms can be seen as equivalent to the actions of Mother Teresa.
Human beings are born with the desire to serve others and the world. When I hear about the many young people who volunteer their services in areas devastated by natural disasters, I am convinced that altruism is a natural response of the human soul. I am sure many people will agree that we feel the deepest, purest happiness not when we satisfy our egos but when we give to others. Wise people know that when we dedicate ourselves to serving others, we also benefit.
Your Attitude Can Change Hell into Paradise
More than 40 years ago, when Kyocera was still a small company, I told new employees, "Your parents and many other people have helped you get this far in life. Now that you've joined the work, force, it's your turn to contribute. As an adult, you should no longer seek to receive but to give. You must change your viewpoint 180 degrees."
I communicated this message to my new employees because Kyocera was still too small a company to be able to extend adequate social benefits to its workers. Previously, university graduates who had entered our company had complained because they had expected better working conditions than Kyocera was able to offer them. It didn't take me long to realize that people who are dependent on others are always complaining about what they don't have. In response, I told our new employees, "It's true this is a small company and we don't have a proper system or facilities in place yet. But you are the ones who will help this company grow and develop so that in the future we can provide proper benefits."
My words were intended to help my employees see that as initiates of adult society, they needed to completely shift their perspectives and start giving to others. At the time I did not know the word altruism or have a solid philosophy concerning it, but even so I continued to teach Kyocera's young employees about the importance of continually striving to be of service, in whatever small way, to others.
When I entered the priesthood at Enpukuji, a wise priest told me a story that illustrates how important it is to think of others before oneself, to serve others even if doing so entails personal sacrifice. "I've heard that in the next world there is a heaven and a hell," a young Buddhist priest once said to a senior priest. "What is hell like?"
"Well, it's true there's a heaven and a hell," the senior priest answered. "But there isn't really much difference between the two. On the surface, they look much the same. The only difference is the hearts of those who live there." The elder priest went on to explain that in both heaven and hell there is a large cooking pot filled with delicious noodles, but the only utensils provided for eating them are yardlong chopsticks. The inmates of hell all plunge their chopsticks into the pot at once, thinking only of sating their own hunger, and although they manage to grasp the noodles, the chopsticks are too long to bring to their mouths. Frustrated, they try to grab food from one another, and the noodles go flying everywhere. In the end, they starve, tormented by the sight of all that delicious food.
In heaven the conditions are exactly the same, but everyone picks up the noodles with his or her chopsticks and offers them to the person sitting on the opposite side of the table, saying, "Here, you eat first." The other person accepts the food and says, "Thank you, and let me return your kindness." Their beams are content.
The wise priest's story illustrates the fact that although we all live in the same world, our experience of it as heaven or as hell depends on whether we feel warmth and compassion for others. It is for this reason that I repeatedly tell my employees that they need to develop an altruistic mind. Good business requires that our hearts be filled with consideration for others and for the world. If you like this post, please share it with your friends. To learn more, you can check out Free Management Training Courses.
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