Wednesday, November 6, 2013

What Is Success?

What Is Success?

This lecture was delivered at the June’s Special Sunday Service on June 9, 2013.


Thank you very much.  Last month we gave gratitude to our mothers, and this month we will have a chance to be grateful to our fathers.  We all have a father and mother, so by being grateful to our parents, we will be able to be successful in our lives.  The second President of Seicho-No-Ie Rev. Seicho Taniguchi wrote: “Being Grateful to Our Parents Cultivates the Root of Life. You have a father and mother who loved you from the bottom of their hearts and raised you from an early age. When we increasingly call to mind the blessings from our parents, are grateful to those blessings and express them in words, we will feel the worth of living and the joy of being born in this world and life power will well forth vigorously from us” (From Open The Doors Of Your Life vol. 1, page 29).

Parents are those who gave us our lives in this world. Since they are the roots of our lives like a tree’s roots and we, like leaves, won’t be prosperous and healthy when we ignore our roots. We owe our lives to our parents. Therefore, we have to be grateful to and express our gratitude to them. Otherwise, we won’t become happy. We should realize that being alive and being happy is different. Without life we won’t be able to become happy. Therefore, we must be grateful that we are alive now. Without our parents we would not have our lives. Everyone who is here right now is alive. Therefore, we all have to express our sincere appreciation to our parents. Father’s Day is a good chance to do so like Mother’s Day.

The Divine Message of Grand Harmony teaches us that “Those who are grateful to God but cannot be grateful to their parents are against the Divine Will.” Therefore, it is important to be grateful to God for giving us His life, but at the same time we must be grateful to our parents who also gave our lives to us.

My father already passed away, so I need to focus more on expressing my gratitude to my mother in this phenomenal world.  Of course I always read the Holy Sutra to my father every day.  However, in this physical world I can still physically convey my gratitude my mother, so I often write to my mother.  You know, we do not need to spend a lot of money to express our gratitude. The important thing is to express our sincerity

Our success often happens because of our parents, especially our mothers. Recently, I read a book, Remember Who You Are - Life Stories That Inspire the Heart and Mind, by Daisy Wademan. The author studied at Harvard Business School and received an MBA in 2002. While listening to her final class lectures before graduating, she was very moved by her professors’ words. So, she decided to publish these lectures for the general public to enjoy. One of her professor’s lectures described a story of a woman who had selflessly dedicated her entire life to her family, beginning at the age of 14. I believe we can draw many insights about the true meaning of success and how we can achieve success through this story.

Sarah was born on a small farm in a small town in Utah. Her parents owned a small family run farm where she had to spend many hours working as a child. Due to these circumstances, it did not appear that Sarah would have the opportunity for a higher education to better herself as an adult. So, what she achieved in her life was realized by her own talents and hard work. When she started elementary school, she was very fond of reading and would be completely absorbed in reading several books every week. By the time she had reached middle school, she had read all the books in the town library. While she went to school, Sarah also helped on her family farm. She had many talents and skills such as sewing, knitting, patchwork, and so on. She was so smart that she skipped two grades, and she was the valedictorian at her high school graduation ceremony.

When Sarah was 14 years old, she was expected to raise the family’s livestock on her own. This task literally became a “job” that took away precious time that she would normally have spent on homework. She had to carefully watch the cows’ health and milk them twice a day. She collected money to feed them, and negotiated and sold milk to milk processors in town. She did the bookkeeping as well. Soon this business became the most profitable it had ever been. Do you think Sarah profited from this money? She was happy that the extra money was to be used for her three older brothers’ college educations.

If Sarah had followed in her brothers’ footsteps, she could have pursued a successful career as a doctor, lawyer, professor, etc. However, she got married after graduating from high school, devoting herself to her husband and eventually having 8 children. Although she had eight children, she adopted one foster child from the neighborhood and her cousin’s child from South Dakota. She was so good at helping her children with their homework that she did this not only for her children but also for the neighbors’ children. Sarah successfully motivated each child to enjoy learning and to develop strong academic skills.

Before Sarah turned 40, her husband died suddenly of a heart attack. At that time she still had 5 children at home. Although she had many talents, her lack of formal education limited her job choices, and she became a janitor. Due to the low wages, she had to work long hours. However, Sarah did not want to leave her children home alone when she was working. So, she worked odd hours in order to be with her children when they were not in school.

The professor who had originally told this story in a university lecture was speaking about his own mother. Do you think he was proud of his mother when he was young? No, he wasn’t. He said he had helped Sarah with her cleaning job for 8 years until he himself graduated from high school. He confessed in his lecture that at that time he felt ashamed of his mother because of her “lowly” job. For him, her job was totally shameful, and he couldn’t stand it at all. It was extremely humiliating for him when people saw him and his mother cleaning public buildings. The professor recounted an especially embarrassing experience in which he and his mother had to clean the vomit of a drunkard off of a public building floor. He couldn’t find any joy at all in helping his mother who had worked so hard for her family. However, when, as a young boy, he complained and go angry at his mother, his mother plainly said without any emotions, “We have to do this work. This is our job, and this is the way we live.”

Several years after graduating from high school, the professor, as a young man, realized what he had been thinking was wrong. He realized that his mother had sacrificed everything for her family, and that this sacrifice was noble and not shameful. He had not been able to perceive the real nature of his mother, but at that point in his life he suddenly recognized his mother’s greatness.

I was very moved by the professor’s story about his mother Sarah, but I asked myself, “Did Sarah really have a successful life?” On one hand, she missed the opportunity to acquire the education that would have brought an exciting career, respect by the community and financial security. On the other hand, Sarah’s children were able to thrive because of her commitment to her family under exceptionally difficult circumstances. Likewise, her older brothers and their subsequent families benefited from Sarah’s “business skills” as a child. I believe Sara’s life was very successful because I think she had a fulfilling life.

I don’t think she thought she was unhappy and unfortunate. On the contrary, I strongly believe that her life was very valuable. The first reason is that her son, a university professor was very proud of her. How happy it makes parents when they know that their kids are proud of them! The second reason is that Sarah had exceptional parenting and teaching abilities. Obviously, she did not become a doctor or professor, but she excelled as a mother and teacher and quickly found a way to support her children financially even though she did not possess traditional work skills. And even though Sarah had to work long hours to make ends meet, she found a way to be with her children versus forcing them to be on their own. As a result, she successfully drew out her children’s special abilities which led to their success. Sarah probably never imagined, even in her wildest dreams, that one of her sons would become a business professor at one of the most esteemed universities in the U. S.!

I believe that the definition of success is determined by each individual based on his/her values and priorities. However, in general, I think the following 6 points from Rev. Seicho Taniguchi’s book, Shinsokan Is Wonderful, can guide our notion of success. Although Rev. Taniguchi’s points were regarding the benefits of meditation, I believe this advice can also lead us to define in our own minds what success is and to find the path that leads to success. Rev. Taniguchi wrote we have the following benefits when we practice Shinsokan Meditation daily:
1) We can recognize our own potential and ability.
2) We can gain the power of concentration.
3) We can improve our creative power.
4) We can develop our own unique individuality.
5) We can have the courage and power to conquer unhappiness and difficulties.
6) Our minds communicate.

I strongly believe that we will find success by practicing Shinsokan Meditation daily. First and foremost, it is to recognize that we are all children of God and have infinite potential within ourselves. If we do not recognize this, we cannot be successful. This is something I recently experienced. Look at these watercolor paintings. These are my recent paintings.

I hadn’t painted for 33 years since graduating from junior high school. There was no room for painting in my life because I thought I didn’t have any talent for painting or drawing pictures. However, earlier this year a SNI member who has terminal cancer expressed her desire to draw out her inner talent in the same way an artist expresses her inner talent, I volunteered to paint with her. I started painting in the middle of January of this year. Once I started, I realized how joyful it was. Because I hadn’t realized that painting was joyful, I hadn’t painted for 33 years. However, because of the continuous practice of Shinsokan, I had the courage and confidence to try it. I discovered a new joy and realized that I actually have some talent for painting. Most importantly, I was able to connect with and help a SNI member in need.

When we regularly practice Shinsokan, we increase our power of concentration. No matter how we might define success, we must apply incredible focus, or concentration in order to achieve success. In addition to this, concentration enables us to develop our own unique talents and goals. In turn, we are destined to become successful by applying our talents to reach our goals.

Furthermore, when we practice Shinsokan Meditation, we can have the courage and power to conquer what we perceive to be unhappiness and difficulties. We can express our infinite power and perseverance to change our perceptions and to overcome our problems. In fact, we no longer feel the tiredness and painful exhaustion that accompany difficulties because we feel satisfaction. In fact, we will likely feel joy when we recognize that we have surmounted what seemed like an impossible obstacle to our happiness.

Finally, we must know that our success cannot be accomplished by our own individual power. Only when we reach out to help, and be helped by others, will we be able to achieve our goals to become successful. To this end, we must strive to openly communicate and understand the feelings and needs of others. Each human being is connected to all other human beings. We cannot help ourselves without reaching out to and helping others in some way. Thank you very much.

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