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Our world appears to be a chaotic place, but step back to get a better look and you can see an intricate pattern of balance. Earth revolves around the sun in a fixed orbit; the moon likewise revolves around Earth in an orderly fashion. On our planet, plants absorb the carbon dioxide exhaled by animals, while animals breathe the oxygen excluded by plants. Even the smallest disturbance in this balance jeopardizes the continued existence of all humanity.

Of all the numerous eggs produced by the female codfish, only a very few grow to maturity. How sad, you may muse. But suppose all those eggs were to become adult codfish--the oceans would overflow with them! We refer to the laws of nature and the cosmic order to explain the delicate balance that keeps our universe intact. Similar laws and systems of order apply to human society as well.

Society requires order and harmony to function effectively. You can understand how far off the Way someone has strayed if she lives without giving any consideration at all to those around her, or if she always thinks about things using her own set of standards. Yet it seems to be human nature to become selfish and thoughtless the minute we are left to our own devices.

Self-centeredness disrupts balanced relationships and can lead only to self-inflicted wounds. That is why it is so important to practice selflessness and to train ourselves to always think of others first.

It is said that the Buddha is invariably depicted with eyes half-open because he is looking at the external world with half his vision and at his own inner self with the other half. We cannot perceive things as they really are if we contemplate only the external world or only our inner selves. Balance is important. We need to look both inside and outside at the same time. The same is true of our relationships with other people. We achieve balance in human relationships only when our innate, preconditioned self-centeredness gives way to a caring for other people. When we act on this caring, our reward is wonderful, unexpected joy.

In most business enterprises, the start of a new fiscal year is a time for forging new relationships, as new employees are hired and others are transferred to different departments. After a period of two to six months, personal preferences become clear. All would be well if we liked the people we worked with, but the minute we decide we dislike a coworker or boss, each day at the office becomes a chore rather than a joy. Our surrounding world shrinks with every person we come to dislike.

You will not hear the words of others or be able to read their innermost minds if your own heart is tightly closed against everything coming from outside you. People are quick to sense such an attitude and will soon give up on you. "There is no sense talking to that one," they will say. If you are conciliatory and open minded, however, you will be able to listen to others and always interpret their words in the best possible light. Interact with others in good faith and they will in time treat you the same way. The harmony you attain with one person will quickly spread to include others.

Progress, whether in the workplace or in society as a whole, is most quickly achieved when we take the initiative to be kind to others and to help them in any way we can.

When we give of ourselves we can communicate and grow along with others. Sincere communication brightens the workplace and moves us forward, towards our common goals.

It is a pleasure to be given something good to eat. It is an even greater pleasure to have others reward our efforts with wholehearted praise when we prepare good food for them. We delight in brightening the faces of our children and other family members, even if we ourselves must do without to make them happy. The fulfillment we feel when we make others happy is a special kind of joy that never fades. We all find joy in being needed by others, and when others praise us, our need for recognition is fulfilled; that makes us especially happy. The human need to be recognized is the very core of our existence and a clear indication that we cannot live in isolation.

Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism for Everyday Life

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