Buddhism is the mirror that reflects your true self
Shakyamuni Buddha is considered to be one of the greatest religious figures of the world. The one and only thing he taught in Buddhism was “the path for everyone to attain happiness.” Shakyamuni Buddha said that in essence, Buddhism is the “Mirror of Dharma.” The “Mirror of Dharma” is the mirror that reflects our true image. What exactly does this mean? The key to happiness is to know yourself
When it comes to sports, exams, finding a job, or anything else, if you do not know your true strengths then you cannot expect to succeed. In Sun Tzu's The Art of War, it is written, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”
“Knowing yourself” is such an important first step for excelling at any field.
The maxim “Know thyself” is inscribed in a temple in Greece, the birthplace of philosophy. The question of “Who am I?” is something that humanity has longed to answer for thousands of years.
In order for “me” to be happy, I need to know “myself.” Therefore, if philosophy is pursuing happiness for all humanity, that means it is actually seeking nothing other than what it means to be human.
The Art of War: Military treatise dating from the Spring and Autumn period in ancient China. The work is attributed to Sun Tzu.
Legend has it that the Sphinx in Egypt asked a question to desert travelers: “What creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon, and three in the evening?” If they could not answer the question, the Sphinx would eat them up.
The answer is a human. We start out crawling (four legs), then learn to walk (two legs), and in our later years we have to rely on a cane to support us (three legs). This famous riddle is a serious wake-up call to all of us who are ignorant of ourselves. Right before Shakyamuni Buddha passed away, he said, "I will grant you the mirror of Dharma." This statement expresses that “knowing ourselves” is the key to opening the door to happiness, and that this is what Buddhism is all about. “To study Buddhism means to study yourself.”
You can achieve “true happiness” when you finally come to know your true self through listening to Buddhism.
What does Buddhism teach about the true self?
“Certain though we are
That this one thing above all else
Is what we know the best,
The one thing most unknowable
Is nothing but the self.” We all believe that we know ourselves better than anyone else does. However, the self is too close to us to be able to see it properly. “An eye cannot see itself.” No matter how good your eyesight is, you cannot see your face or eyes just with your own eyes.
What you need in order to see them is a mirror. Shakyamuni Buddha teaches that there are 3 kinds of mirrors which reflect our image. So what are those mirrors?
The mirror of others
The image of the self seen through other people's evaluations
We constantly worry about what other people think of us. How people evaluate us really matters to us. We tend to believe that our happiness depends on how others evaluate us, so day after day we fret about what kind of image the "mirror of others" is reflecting. Nowadays, many people are taking flashy pictures and instantly showing them to their friends using their smartphones. Social media was originally meant to enable people to have fun sharing things with their friends, but now many people have become preoccupied only with how photogenic they are, leading them to become miserable and anxious instead. Since people are also concerned with how many "likes" they get, there are now even services providing "likes" for a fee.
We worry about how wearing the same necktie two days in a row will affect our colleagues' view of us, and we feel compelled to always carry breath mints and deodorant with us.
Of course, it is important to observe how others evaluate you. But do others' evaluations of us really determine our happiness?
“The human tongue
Gives praise today, tomorrow
It finds fault –
Laugh away or weep away,
It is all a tissue of lies."
The Zen monk Ikkyu wrote this verse mocking the way people’s value judgments fluctuate. We call someone “good” when it suits us, and when it does not, we brand the same person “bad.”
“A pig that is praised is still a pig; a lion scorned is a lion yet.”
Other people's ever-changing evaluations cannot possibly determine your true value.
“Even though others say bad things about you, you do not need to worry about such a thing. We are all going to die soon after all.”
Many people feel relieved to hear this advice from Essays in Idleness by Kenko Yoshida. It shows that everyone is worn down and hurt due to dealing with relationships.
“In past, present, and future
there is none whom everyone slanders,
none who is praised by all."
----The Dhammapada, The words of Sakyamuni Buddha
Shakyamuni Buddha taught us that we should not allow ourselves to obsess over the evaluations of others. Instead, he taught that we should take a look at our true self.
The mirror of self The self as seen through self-reflection
There is a famous Japanese publishing firm named "Sanseido". The name of the company means “I reflect on myself three times a day.” Human beings have a moral conscience and based upon this, we reflect on ourselves. However, does that mirror of conscience really reflect our true image?
One day a princess in the legendary Dragon Palace under the sea held up a jewel and told all the fishes, “I will give a prize to anyone who can tell me what color this is.” Each of them named a different color: the black porgy said it was black, the bluefish said it was blue, and the white-fish said it was silver.
Then they asked the princess, “Which one is right?” She replied, “The jewel has no color of its own. It is transparent, and simply reflects each of your colors.”
It is impossible for us to see anything if not through the lens of our own opinions and emotions. That is because we cannot take off our conceit-tinted glasses for as long as we live. Since we are so in love with ourselves, we are unable to see ourselves as we are. Love is blind. We are unable to see ourselves in a bad light. Shakyamuni Buddha says that our conceit is a pair of tinted glasses that we can never take off.
In this way, we cannot view ourselves correctly. So just how can we come to know our true image? Shakyamuni Buddha answers that we must listen to Buddhism. Since Buddhism is the Mirror of Dharma, if you listen to Buddhism seriously, you will gain clear awareness of your true image.