If the social environment in which we live is out of balance, we must take the steps necessary to effect change. But we cannot do so simply by focusing our attention on outward manifestations--society cannot be changed in that way.
When the lenses of our glasses fog up and we cannot see clearly, we take out a handkerchief and wipe them. But if that handkerchief is soiled, we just make things worse. So we first have to wash our handkerchiefs, and then we can clean our lenses with them. It is the same when we want to bring about some change in society.
We must not simply criticize society, but rather work hard on refining ourselves, on clearing our vision, on adjusting our way of thinking: then we can forge our own path.
In recalling the Vietnam War, General William Westmoreland noted that although Americans were able to capture territory, they never captured the hearts of the Vietnamese people. As someone astutely said, "Social systems can be nationalized, but people's hearts and minds cannot."
One's decision to participate in an activity is often based on who else is involved rather than on the nature of the activity itself. "If he's going to do it," we think, "so will I. If that person is involved, it can't go wrong."
Toshio Doko (1896-1988), one of Japan's most influential business leaders, promoted a number of administrative reforms. He was neither a government minister nor a legislator, neither a politician nor a bureaucrat, yet his single-minded devotion to reforming government administration inspired many others. "He made us feel that this was something that just had to get done," says Hiroshi Kato, president of the Chiba University, and the chairman of the fourth Committee on Administrative Reform.
Doko and his wife lived frugally, eating little and squandering nothing, and he poured much of his income into the school founded by his mother. He did not even own a television set. Some questioned the leadership of a man who rarely watched the world news on television, but Kato claims that it was Doko's solid integrity that won him the Japanese people's trust and that enabled him to push the government to institute difficult measures.
Clearly, good leadership makes all the difference. And a good leader is, in short, a virtuous leader.
Buddhism for Everyday Life