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Japanese companies routinely reorganize and reassign personnel at the beginning of a new fiscal year, Employees do not always welcome that change; many prefer to stick to the old routines. And it would seem more efficient to allow people to continue doing the tasks with which they are most familiar. Only if a move is a clear promotion is it welcomed; even then some employees insist that they would rather quit than change. Yet without periodic change we become creatures of habit, unable to grow and mature.

The willingness to accept change as an opportunity to grow and find new happiness is what makes for good and happy encounters.

In his book Mittsu Home, Futatsu Shikaru Jinzai Ikusei (Praise Thrice and Scold Twice to Foster Someone's Potential), Sakio Sakagawa sees nothing wrong with temporary transfers and reassignments.

There are people who equate temporary transfers, reassignments, or apparent demotions with exile to remote hardship posts, like Sado or Kofu in the Edo period (1600-1868). But management generally knows what it is doing. It knows who will grow and who will not as a result of such change. Reassignment is one kind of en. What seems a crisis can, if one changes one's perspective, be interpreted as a golden opportunity. Transfers, reassignments, or demotions may mean farewell to a comfortable routine in a familiar setting, but they also mean new challenges and a chance to stand out from the crowd. The company has set the stage, as it were, to allow a try for a comeback. This is what is meant by making the best use of one's en. Reassignments and transfers are unavoidable in the business world. Since that is the case, one should take every opportunity to shine.

Sakagawa has described perfectly the Buddhist injunction to make the most of our en, of the continuity within which we exist. We atrophy when we do not use our physical and mental powers. Few know this better than the astronauts. In zero gravity there is little need for muscle. In space too long, muscles become weak to sustain bones. On returning to Earth, one astronaut nearly dropped the bouquet of flowers he received in welcome, it seemed so heavy. When the first Japanese women in space, Chiaki Mukai, returned to Earth, one of her comments was, "I now know how heavy a piece of paper is." How many of us even think of the weight of a piece of paper? Yet after just two weeks of zero gravity, her muscles had become so weak that even a piece of paper seemed heavy. No amount of rigorous training beforehand can stop the degeneration of muscle.

Hard labor is something we all want to avoid. But if we refuse the occasional burden and insist on doing only easy tasks, we weaken ourselves and make it impossible to develop and mature.

I have enjoyed enlightening conversations with such sports figure as former Yomiuri Giants manager Tetsuhara Kawakami and former Yakult Swallows manager Junzo Sekine, now a baseball commentator. I also learned that the former Nankai Hawks manager Kazuto Tsuruoka has his own philosophy about fostering the growth and development of human resources. I will never forget what I read about him in Keinosuke Kanei's book Hitokoto no Chigai (One word Makes All the Difference). Tsuruoka made a point of visiting the parents of every rookie, even in remote mountain villages. If after a few years that rookie became a first-string player, whenever he made a serious error Tsuruoka would call him into his office. The player might think he was headed back to training camp and enter the room in fear and trepidation, But instead of scolding the player, Tsuruoka would ask, "How's your mother?" This question was so unexpected that some players would burst into tears. The whole point of meeting a player's parents, Tsuruoka said, was to be able to ask that simple but disarming question. What a wonderful example of making the most of one's encounter!

Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism for Everyday Life

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