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So many things in this world cannot be clearly defined as either black or white. In fact, most things exist in a vague world of gray. The baseball umpire, for example, does not always know for certain whether a pitched ball that flew by at 140 kilometers per hour was a strike or a ball. Yet he can never say, "I'm just not sure." The same applies to the gyoji who referees a sumo match. When both wrestlers tumble out of the ring simultaneously, he still has to decide who is the winner, he cannot simply say, "I don't know."

Yet even though it is widely acknowledged that the human ability to make such judgments has a limit, the baseball umpire's word is final. And when there is a question about the gyoji's decision in sumo, the judges sitting around the ring help hi reach the correct one. In our daily lives, however, there is no one to guarantee that we will make the right decisions.

The English word crossroads refers to a place where one road intersects another,. Every time we come to such a crossroads, we must decide which path to take. Our ability to choose correctly is vitally important in times of crisis.

When we stand at a crossroads, we invariably are tempted to take the easier route, the way that promises to profit us most. I have always told myself, however that I will never go wrong if I choose the way that seems most difficult.

The easy downhill trek is always followed by a long and tedious climb. One might as well tackle the difficult uphill portion first, knowing that things will become easier later.

Climbing uphill means thinking of others first. It means putting the interests of others before your own and measuring the values of your words and actions by how much they will help awaken the buddha-nature in the people around you.

The way of selflessness is a difficult ascent at first, but it levels out in time to a pleasant boulevard with a satisfying view.

Some people seem to emit the smell of the troubles they have undergone, making them difficult to approach. There are others, however, who have overcome their problems, their buddha-nature shines forth. These are the people with an appealing ambience, with the wisdom to accept the daily routine of life just as it is and to always choose the most human like way in all things.

Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism for Everyday Life

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