Sometimes when we look at our friends and acquaintances, we notice things in them that we lack, and become envious.
Everyone sometimes feels, “Why am I always like this? I want to become a different person.” Or, “I want to change the way I think and feel.”
But many people seem unable to change and are troubled by that fact, while many others are resigned to the situation: “This is my inborn character, and I can’t do anything about it.”
But is the way we are now really determined from our birth, and is there no possibility of change for us?
Shakyamuni taught, “There is no fixed, unchanging ‘I’ or self.”
He denied that there was an unchanging, inborn character.
The self is constantly changing.
The self is in fact changing day by day.
Since these daily changes are small, we do not notice them, but after five or ten years it becomes clear just how much we have changed.
For example, many people who at first disliked eating fish have now become fond of it.
And there are former fans of hard rock who now find themselves with very little interest in it.
A man who, in his student days, was not a “morning person,” may become one after taking a job that requires him to rise early each day.
So we see that the self does indeed change.
It is generally said that, “Custom makes the man.”
That is to say, a man’s daily acts become part of him, taking on an unseen power and ultimately making him who he is.
To give a concrete example, we find that people who are often late, lose things, and make mistakes in their work are almost always those who are procrastinators and who rush to do things at the last moment.
Because they swing into action at the last minute, they end by being late and forgetting to bring with them things that are needed.
On the other hand, those who are in the habit of taking action in good time can usually manage to be on time for appointments despite traffic jams and train stoppages.
They act calmly even when busy, so they seldom make mistakes or need to do things over again.
Those around them trust them, feeling that all will be well if things are left to them.
Tardiness and forgetfulness are not inborn traits about which nothing can be done but are, rather, the cumulative result of a person’s habitual actions.
Therefore, by changing our actions from this point on, we can all become persons who are neither tardy nor forgetful.
We can become the sort of person we want to be by becoming aware of personal tics in our ways of thinking, trying to see things from a different point of view, and having contact with ways of thinking different from our own.
It’s like viewing a waterfall: If you see it from far away, it may look like something reasonably solid, like a piece of cloth hanging in space; but if you come closer, you see that the water that is falling flows with tremendous energy and is changing moment by moment.
It is vastly different from what it was a moment ago, and from what it will be a moment from now.
In the same way, it may seem as if there is an “I” that is unchanging since birth, but in fact it goes on changing as we act, day by day.
There is no self that cannot change.
Let’s learn from Shakyamuni Buddha just what kind of acts (sowing of seeds) we ought to do in order to become happy selves.