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CHANGING FOR THE BETTER


We can drink water everyday without tiring of it precisely because it is odorless and tasteless. Rice, bread, and potatoes are staple foods precisely because they are plain and simple. Water and rice --ordinary yet essential-- should never be taken for granted. The truth is also mundane, yet integral to our lives, as can be seen in Buddhism's three characteristics of the Dharma:

all things are impermanent, nothing has an ego, and nirvana is quiescence.

When the great tea master Sen no Rikyu (1522-1591) was asked to explain the essence of the Way of Tea, he replied, "Prepare the tea so it is easy to drink; lay the charcoal so that it heats the water; arrange the flowers as they are in the fields; in summer suggest coolness, in winter, warmth; do everything ahead of time; prepare for rain; and give those with whom you find yourself every consideration." seeing the disappointment at such an ordinary reply, Rikyu added, "If you can host a tea gathering without deviating from any of the rules I have just stated, I will become your disciple." Soshitsu Sen, Rikyu's descendant and the present head of the Ura Senke school of tea, noted how difficult it is to devote oneself exclusively to one guest.

It is not as easy as it seems to consider others' needs or to nurture the feeling of putting others' needs first.

The way one lives one's life has nothing to do with making a show of one's originality, bragging boastfully, or performing an action beautifully. For example, when preparing to meet an important guest, what do you do? Many people worry about failing as a host. And once they get caught up in worrying, they imagine things going from bad to worse.


This is true even of veterans in every walk of life. Even great actors can experience such stage fright at the first performance of a new run that seems their hearts will burst--and until the curtain falls they struggle with insecurity. Musei Tokugawa (1894-1971), a master of the art of storytelling, said that it was so for him. It is also said that even famous Kabuki actors trembled in the wings when waiting to go onstage at the premiere of a new show. And it is well known that chanson songstress Fubuki Koshiji (1924-1980) shook so violently while waiting in the wings that her manager would have to first draw a special charm on her back, tell her "Everything's OK, now," and give her a little shove just to get her onstage.


The ability to imagine the future--as well as the dire consequences of failure--is perhaps one of the major things setting us apart from other animals. The deeper our fear of failure, the worse we feel. But there is no guarantee that worrying about something will ensure that all goes well. In fact, the more we worry, the more likely we are to propel ourselves into the very abyss we fear.