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We Can Make Infinite Effort and Progress

The Buddha’s wisdom is the light that brightens our life. If we practice the Buddhist teachings, our daily life will dramatically change.

The seeds that others sow won’t become my crops. That’s precisely why we can make infinite effort and progress. Shakyamuni Buddha teaches us the six good deeds that bring us happiness (Six Paramitas). We have been focusing on the fourth one, “Diligence” (Effort) since last issue.

“Diligence” is making effort as we move toward the light. Buddhism teaches us that each person’s good and bad deeds create our good and bad “fortune.” Any success or achievement a person experiences is the result of their own effort. The more good deeds you do, the more wonderful results come to you, the doer.

There was once a hard worker who was making constant effort. One day his friend asked him,

“Why are you able to keep making such constant effort?”

“That’s because the seeds sown by you won't become my crops,” he answered at once.

If you understand that effort is directly connected to happiness, you can make infinite effort and progress.

Katsu Kaishu’s Tireless Effort

Let’s take a look at an episode in the life of 19th Century statesman Katsu Kaishu. Recognized as exceptional by allies and opponents alike, Katsu was very much a hard worker. He played a very important role in the bloodless surrender of Edo Castle. When he was younger, he got onto a foreign warship and studied in Nagasaki. He acutely realized the necessity for Western military studies and came back to Edo (Tokyo). One day he came across a new book on the Western military at a bookstore. He was delighted, as if he had found gold in the sand. But when he asked the shopkeeper how much the book cost, the answer was fifty ryo (about two million yen today) - far, far too expensive for him.

However, Kaishu thought that missing out on getting this book would be like sailing without a lighthouse. He managed to raise money and rushed to the bookstore again. However, the shopkeeper told him, “It was sold yesterday.” At first Kaishu felt disappointed, but he soon found that the person who had bought the book lived in Yotsuya-Oban-cho. He visited the person at once and pleaded, “Would you please sell it to me?” However, the book owner flatly refused, saying, “I would not have bought it if I was thinking of selling it.” Kaishu thought for a while and then asked him sincerely, “In that case, would you please let me copy it? I swear I will come here every day.” The book owner thought Kaishu was annoying, but he was moved by his great enthusiasm. The owner reluctantly permitted Kaishu to copy the book as long as he came after midnight.

Kaishu was delighted and thanked the owner. He promised to come to the owner’s house after midnight. It was as far as eight kilometers from Kaishu’s house to the book owner’s house. It was a tough journey even for a person who has strong legs. Moreover, he had to study at midnight. However, he continued visiting the owner’s house even during nights of heavy rain, storms, or cold weather. It took him more than two years to finish copying the whole set of eight books.

At first the owner had thought it was troublesome to let Kaishu copy the book. However, as time went by, he came to be impressed by his tireless will. At last he suggested, “Even though we have these books, we have been unable to finish reading them. They should not belong to common people like us. We would like to give you these.” Kaishu expressed his deep gratitude but politely declined the offer, saying, “No, no, you've already let me copy all the books.”

If you know the purpose of life, your focus will be set.

When people have a clear purpose, they will spare no effort to accomplish it. If we come to know the purpose of life through Buddhism, we will know clearly which direction we should head in and we can bravely move toward the light.


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