In Buddhist practice, we need to keep good and right thoughts at all times, and discard thoughts of greed, anger and ignorance. When we have evil thoughts and do evil things, the retribution is rebirth in the wretched realms—animal, hungry ghost, or hells. When we have done good things, such as righteous actions and great deeds, our future will be in the wholesome realms—either human or heavens, or even becoming a virtuous being remembered in history. Therefore, if we do good, good comes back to us. If we do evil, evil comes back to us. The cause and effect is error-free.
How do we become a good person and do good things? Become a right person and do the right things? Become a great person and do great deeds? Here are the principles that lead to good human relationships and activities—”To our elders be respectful; To our juniors be kind; With all humanity be harmonious; In all endeavors be true.” Regardless if we are politicians, farmers, artisans, traders, scholars, soldiers, whatever is our job in the mundane world, or spiritual practice in the transcendental world, if we are able to master these four principles, our life will be one of achievement—if you are a student, you will achieve scholarship; if you are developing your career, you will have career achievements; as a Buddhist practitioner, you will have achievement following the Way.
Respect creates no offense. Reverence creates decency.
A respectful mind can eradicate the habit of arrogance. “To our elders be respectful.” What does “elders” mean? It means our parents, elder siblings, teachers, school principals, and even social groups, company executives, government officials, etc. Those entitled to the status of elders should take care of their subordinates with compassion; those in the status of juniors should serve elders with virtue and respect. This must be achieved through “righteousness.” As “The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch” states, “With righteousness, seniors and juniors mutually care for each other.” The ancients also say, “Do what is right with courage!” With righteousness, people will give rise to minds of empathy, sympathy and compassion.
The Sixth Patriarch said, “Forbearance brings harmony between superior and inferior.” Forbearance is to respect. It’s necessary to both respect and distinguish the different status of individuals with regard to their accomplishments and wisdom. Many people have a misconception that it’s unfair or undemocratic to label different individuals as superior or inferior in some respect. They feel outrage towards a perceived unfairness or bemoan that they themselves are not viewed as good as others.
The Buddha Dharma tells us that everyone has the same intrinsic Buddha nature. Although everyone’s Buddha nature is equal, the equality is in principle, and it has various forms differ in practice. For example, the Buddha has been freed from defilement, sorrow, and fear. His heart is not only bright, but also has great concentration, great compassion, great wisdom, great aspirations, great supernatural powers … and complete myriad virtues. On the other hand, ordinary beings are constantly suffering with afflictions, sorrow, and fear. They cannot escape from the cycle of birth, aging, illness and death, rising up and then plunging down in the sea of samsara. Thus, the Buddha is a great example of nobility and sublimity. He deserves high reverence and esteem. If we cannot be compassionate and wise as Buddha, we should learn from the Buddha by paying homage and following his great example.
Although all beings have a Buddha nature, the wisdom and compassion of their Buddha nature is not fully revealed. This is because of their past karmas. They have delusive thoughts, drowsiness, ignorance and defilements in their mind, so that mental state is called inferior. However, the intrinsic pure nature of their mind is not different from Shakyamuni Buddha’s pure nature. Thus, we should affirm ourselves in principle. Once we understand principle and practice, we will be neither overbearing nor servile. We will realize that “Forbearance brings harmony between superior and inferior.” We won’t degrade and bemoan ourselves. We won’t feel upset when people take the VIP seats but we are to sit at the back. When we reason with our mind, we are able to distinguish and respect the virtues, capabilities, self-cultivation, and moral practice of others. We should respect others; to respect others is a good deed and a merit. Sitting behind is not to be lower at all. Therefore, if we are clear with this principle, then we will definitely follow it well.
All Accomplishments Start with Respect
Confucius said: “A person who loves others will always be loved; a person who respects others will always be respected.” When we respect people, they will also respect us. With respect, we remove arrogance from our heart. It is not easy for ordinary people to detect the problem of arrogance. Some might think they are superior. Or, if they are obviously less capable, they may still think their performance is pretty much the same as others’. Or, if their performance is obviously at the same level as others’, with an obstinate superiority complex they may think they are much better. These problems with arrogance can make it difficult to be successful in one’s career. Actually our true capabilities and competence can be seen by others. There is a saying, “The player sees less clearly than the bystander.” Arrogance is a big obstacle. Even if one is very capable, their supervisor might not dare use them because their arrogance disrupts cooperation and harmony. If Buddhist practitioners have arrogance, it is an obstacle to perfecting practices. Thus, respect towards others should be cultivated in daily life.
The Buddha Dharma tells us that with one respectful action, one karmic hindrance is eliminated; with ten respectful actions, ten karmic hindrances are eradicated. When one karmic hindrance is removed, one blessing and wisdom grow; when ten karmic hindrances are discarded, ten blessings and wisdoms grow. There is no need to wait until afterlife, we can realize blessings and wisdom in this life.
Whether in this mundane world or transcendental world, a respectful mind is very important. When we are at a monastery, we are respectful to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. When we practice respect by bringing it to our family and society, respecting others naturally, our family will be harmonious and society will be peaceful. Defilements and disputes will be diminished. Most people understand this principle, but sometimes they forget it. If we are respectful and act as a decent person, we will be successful in relationships and will reduce many obstacles. When we get along with people and do things without any hindrances, achievements will be certain in this life.