How To Get Happiness In Life
Since the end of World War II, Japan has had many leaders with the third qualification – ability. Important government posts have gone to eloquent speakers with exceptional ability and plenty of practical knowledge. In contrast, people with good characters, although they may not have been looked down upon, have been relegated to the wings. Japan has installed leaders who lack inner ethical standards as well as depth of character and thus are unsuited to leadership. Poor leadership, I believe, is one cause of Japan's recent government and business scandals and the root of the moral decay that is infesting Japanese society.
Leaders of scandal-tainted organizations who are interviewed on television rarely exhibit any depth of character when they are called to task for their actions. Instead, they mouth apologetic phrases from a prepared script: "We should never have done it. We'll make sure it doesn't happen again." Their words sound superficial and insincere. Their confusion and their desire to gloss over their mistakes and evade responsibility are clearly evident, but they sadly lack a willingness to confront the problem, accept responsibility, offer an honest explanation, or rectify their mistakes. I can only conclude that these so-called leaders have no guiding philosophy, no standard to distinguish good from evil or right from wrong. If that is how our leaders are choosing to behave, it is not surprising that children have lost their respect for adults.
More than ability or eloquence, leaders need depth of character. They must be humble, introspective, and disciplined; they must have the courage to defend justice and the love to continually refine their souls. They must strive constantly to do what is right as human beings. Ancient Chinese texts urge us to forgo the four troubles: deceit, egotism, self-indulgence, and arrogant pride, and if we aspire to be leaders, we must strive to follow this noble way of life. In other words, aspiring leaders must demonstrate noblesse oblige.
Some may scoff and say that the idea of doing what is right as a human being is childish and suited only for an elementary school morality class. But it is precisely because adults have failed to practice the moral precepts they learned in grade school that society's values have been severely shaken and people's souls have been desolated. How many adults today can confidently teach their children moral values? How many people can present a clear standard or explain ethical principles? How many people can distinguish right from wrong and have the necessary spirit and depth of character to do so? How can we feel anything but ashamed when we look at what we have become?
It isn't hard to know the right thing to do. We just need to reflect on the simple moral guidelines we learned as children – be honest, don't lie or cheat, don't be greedy – reexamine their meanings, and put them into practice.
Six Shojin for Refining the Soul
Of course, it is not only leaders who need to refine and elevate their souls. Every one of us should be working hard to become not just intelligent and capable but also, and most important, righteous. The elevation of the soul is the purpose, the meaning of our lives. Life is nothing other than the process of refining our true nature as human beings.
What does it mean to elevate our souls? Far from being a complicated process for attaining a state of enlightenment or supreme goodness, it simply means striving to make our souls a little more beautiful, a little more advanced, than they were when we were born. As we do this, we learn to control our egos; gain tranquillity, kindness, and consideration for others; and develop an unselfish mind. This process of transforming and beautifying our souls is the ultimate purpose of life.
From the perspective of the universe, our lives constitute nothing more than a fleeting second. This is precisely why we should strive to increase the value of our lives before the final curtain call, as it is within this process that we find both our nobility and the essence of life. We struggle through our temporal existence, which we live only once, experiencing pain, suffering, and anxiety as well as joy and happiness. These experiences – this process – become the grit with which we refine our souls to make them a little nobler each day. If we can accomplish this, our lives will have been well worth living.
Just as there are infinite routes to the top of a mountain, there are many methods for and approaches to refining our souls. From my own experience, I have found that the following six shojin (diligent efforts) can aid us immensely in elevating our souls, and I share them with you here as a guide.
1. Work harder than anyone else, study harder than anyone else, and carry on single-mindedly. If you have enough time to complain, you have enough time to improve yourself, even if only a little.
2. Be humble, not proud. A Chinese proverb warns us that "only the humble will find fortune." Humility attracts happiness and purifies the soul.
3. Reflect every day. Assess your actions and state of mind daily to see if you are thinking only of yourself, if you are being mean or cowardly. Exercise self-control and self-reflection and strive to correct your behavior.
4. Be thankful that you are alive. Believe that you are lucky just to be living and train your heart to be grateful for even the smallest thing.
5. Fill your days with good deeds and selfless conduct. As the Japanese proverb says, "The home that accumulates good deeds will be blessed with unexpected fortune." Do good things, be of service to others, and strive to be considerate in word and deed. Those who accumulate good deeds will receive a good reward.
6. Don't complain or dwell on the negative. Maintain a tranquil mind at all times. Don't worry about the things over which you have no control. It is important to do your very best so that you have no regrets.
I constantly strive to remember and practice these six shojin. They may seem rather ordinary on paper, but it is important to incorporate them slowly but surely into our daily lives. They are meant to be practiced, not just written down, framed, and hung on the wall. To learn more, you can check out How To Get Happiness In Life.