Bad Behaviour and Disrespect by Ojasvi Gupta
Growing up in SGI and with parents who practice Buddhism, I was taught early on the importance of speaking kindly to others, having dialogue if I find myself in a conflict with someone, and ensuring no one feels excluded in a group situation, amongst many other things. Over the years as I’ve strengthened my practice in SGI’s youth division, I understand why these considerations are so important. Such actions embody our belief in the deep respect for the dignity of our lives and others’, to make sure each person can feel the immense significance of their lives. I am continuing to learn that fully respecting ourself and others, and life itself, is no easy feat. It requires me to continuously reflect on (1) what drives my thoughts, words, and actions, (2) make a great effort to understand someone else, and (3) determine to believe in the significance of every life experience. In other words, to respect myself and others, I need to continuously work on my human revolution.
As part of one of my recent work rotations, I was seconded to a contractor’s site in a regional area for a few months. I had landed in the middle of a struggling project, tense client/contractor relationships, at a remote location where most people didn’t have support structures of family and friends to go back to after a long and tough day at work. After a few weeks of being there, I had seen people lashing out at one another, speaking disrespectfully in front of and behind each other’s backs, and displaying very negative behaviours, some of which I was on the receiving end of. I felt extremely challenged in this environment. Whenever I voiced my thoughts about how this culture wasn’t appropriate, I was told by some that these were “normal” behaviours in the construction industry, something I should just get used to as things will never change.
There were days where I felt totally disconnected and exhausted being in this environment, and I just wanted to retreat into a shell and disengage with everyone around me.
I found it challenging to be around and speak to one particular colleague. At times they were friendly, at other times they would be quite blunt and rude responding to my questions if they chose to respond at all. There were a few times where they unreasonably expressed anger and disappointment towards me – with no patience to engage in dialogue in that moment. Once, this particular colleague casually asked me for my opinion on a matter, and because my opinion differed to theirs, they rudely remarked that I’m too inexperienced to have an opinion, humiliating me in front of other colleagues. I felt angered by this behaviour and how they could speak to me like this without choosing to have a proper dialogue. This pushed me to chant with greater intensity in front of the Gohonzon. I chanted to cast aside in my mind my colleague’s bad behaviour, and believe in the immense compassionate potential and Buddhahood within them. Whilst reflecting on the situation and chanting, I began to see the situation objectively and understood that a lot of the time when people disrespect others and display bad behaviour, not that this is justified in any way, it is their life crying for help. This behaviour may not even be based on having a personal issue with someone, but instead it is a mere projection of their insecurities and suffering due to a lack of grounding in a solid life philosophy which teaches them how to properly deal with their suffering. Around this time, I attended an SGI meeting in which a leader said: “A person can reject our words but they cannot reject our Daimoku”.
I continued to chant for my colleague’s happiness, and the more I prayed, the more I believed this environment was exactly the place I needed to be in order to strengthen my faith even more: to strengthen my conviction in this practice which stands for the deep respect and dignity of all life. I remembered how Nichiren Daishonin and the three presidents of the SGI have fearlessly faced the ridicule, disrespect and bad behaviour of people and societies, and how Nichiren Daishonin powerfully declared in one Gosho:
“The entire realm of phenomena is no different than the five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo…Because I view things this way, I feel immeasurable delight even though I am now in exile” (The True Aspect of all Phenomena)
I have always been in awe of the incredible wisdom and strength it would have taken Nichiren Daishonin to declare joy in the midst of deep suffering. I reflected that he must have deeply understood the significance of his life, of standing up for the right cause in that moment even if it placed his life in immense danger, because of what it meant for humanity from that moment onwards.
He was enlightened to the fact that everything is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That life is inherently compassionate, and that his life was one with the universe, so he believed whichever situation he found himself in must be aligned with The Strategy of the Lotus Sutra.
This gave me incredible perspective on my situation, and I saw my determination to emanate respect in my workplace as extremely significant. I didn’t take my colleague’s comments or other peoples’ behaviour personally. In fact, I began caring for their lives deeply, striving to believe in their Buddhahood through my thoughts, words, and actions. Something had shifted in my heart as I realised as long as I continue to chant Nam-myohorenge-kyo sincerely, and determine to respect each individual deep in my heart, I don’t need to worry; I will respond to situations in the most value-creating way. Around this time, my company rolled out a mandatory online learning for all employees to complete on “Respect in the Workplace”. I thought this was incredibly mystic! Once we had completed the online learning, a perfect opportunity arose where it was just this particular colleague and I in the room. I took this opportunity to share with my colleague my reflections on the learning and my determinations around respect in not just the workplace, but in every aspect of our lives. I shared how I never want to make anyone feel like their thoughts and ideas are not worthy to listen to, and most importantly that their lives are not significant. I shared that to truly respect others requires us to be courageous and put our ego aside, and I asked for their thoughts. They agreed, and a few hours later commented that they were still thinking about what I said, and apologised if they had ever been rude or blunt with me. I was amazed that we could finally have dialogue in which both of us felt equal. In the coming days, they commented they had really enjoyed having me in the team and even insisted
…this environment was exactly the place I needed to be in order to strengthen my faith…
on paying for my food one morning as we went out for a team breakfast. This colleague taught me to be resilient. I truly believe they are a Buddha as they pushed me closer to my Gohonzon and allowed me to confront the intense struggle within me, which strengthened my conviction in my Buddhist practice even more.
This experience taught me to believe in the deep significance of whatever I am experiencing right now, and how important it is to fill every moment with as much humanity from within me as I can.
My determination is to continue to believe in and chant for the Buddhahood of each person to emerge forth, starting with my own. There is nothing more powerful than a determination which comes forth from deep within our hearts, and when it is armed with abundant Daimoku, I believe we can truly activate the protective functions in our environment which creates opportunities for us to fulfill our determinations. I remember President Ikeda’s words:
“Buddhism’s greatest significance lies in overcoming impasses by chanting Daimoku, attaining a state of absolute happiness and realising the most meaningful of lives. Therefore, whenever you encounter a difficulty, I hope you will view it as a struggle against an impasse, as a battle against obstacles and, resolving that now is the time to win, boldly forge your path in life as you challenge your destiny head on”. (The New Human Revolution Vol 2, Chapter 2)
As I continue experiencing challenges in life, I want to first respond by seriously chanting about my challenges in front of the Gohonzon, and then make a determination deep within my heart. I know then that I am responding to life’s challenges by first and foremost relying on the Strategy of the Lotus Sutra.