Always Respect

To become an awakened being, one must first realize the suffering caused by our ego-centered view of life. The path to overcoming this ego-centered view begins with respect.

The Lotus Sutra has a story about a disciple of Shakyamuni Buddha whose name roughly translates to “Always Respect.” He received this name because his entire practice consisted of bowing down to all beings and saying, “I respect you because you are a buddha.” During the time of the Buddha, the caste system was dominant. To bow down to a nobleman, officer or someone of a higher caste was normal, even expected. To bow down to a beggar, laborer, leper or even a dog was considered madness. However, to Always Respect, his act of bowing was recognition of the equality of all things. No one thing is superior to another. All of life is interrelated; all of life is his teacher. Thru this simple, yet profound, practice he attained enlightenment.

Our founding minister told another story illustrating this idea. As a young man, he traveled to Japan to live at his teacher’s temple. One day, he and his teacher, Rev. Akegarasu, sat in the temple courtyard while Rev. Akegarasu’s grandson played nearby. They heard the child call out,” Old dirty beggar. Old dirty beggar.” Standing at the temple entrance was an old man in torn, dirty clothing. “Grandson, he is not an old dirty beggar,” Rev. Akegarasu admonished. “Yes he is grandfather. Look at him. He is an old dirty beggar,” the child insisted. “No grandson, he is not a dirty beggar, he is a buddha,” Rev. Akegarasu replied. “He is not a buddha, he is an old dirty beggar,” the child continued to insist. “No, he is a buddha,” Rev. Akegarasu explained. “He is here to teach you a lesson. You must study hard, obey your parents and always work to do your best. Otherwise, you may find yourself in a similar situation. He may look like a beggar, but for you he is a buddha.” Rev. Akegarasu then invited the man in and fed him a meal.

How much like Rev. Akegarasu’s grandson are we? We go thru our lives with a sense of superiority based on prejudices and preconceived notions. Our family, our country, our race, our religion is better than the others are. We see bowing down not as an act of respect or gratitude. Rather, we often see it seen as an act of subservience. We see the world as filled with old dirty beggars, not buddhas. The Buddhadharma recognizes this attitude as a primary cause of our suffering. This false view is the result of our human ego, our false belief that unless we are superior, we must be inferior. The Buddhadharma teaches that our suffering will continue as long as we hold this view. As always, the choice is ours. Do we live our lives being like Rev. Akegarasu’s grandson? Or, do we follow the path of Always Respect?

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