In our busy lives of e-mails, cell phones, multitasking, and computer chat rooms, there sometimes seems to be little evidence of thoughtful behavior and common decency. Even to use these terms is to be taken back to another time and place. The etiquette which was once taught in the home and savored as part of the spiritual life is endangered in both arenas.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun is founder of the Fo Guang Shan (Buddha's Light Mountain) Buddhist Order and Buddha's Light International Association. He teaches a brand of Humanistic Buddhism that is down-to-earth and concerned with ethics, interpersonal relationships, courtesy, and conduct that builds character. In Being Good: Buddhist Ethics for Everyday Life and in Living Affinity: Nurturing the Environment, Our Relationships and the Life of the Spirit (a Spirituality & Health Book Award winner), Master Hsing Yun demonstrates a keen ability to examine matters of substance. This paperback contains a treasure-trove of lectures on virtues, maxims on how to deal with difficult people, warnings on things to watch out for in relating to others, mottos for right conduct, and advice for living a full and rich life.
Master Hsing Yun has great respect for courtesy. He writes, "Courtesy is the foundation for handling people and situations. It is the guideline for human relationships and the benchmark for ethical conduct. When we behave courteously, it is easier for us to maintain appropriate and harmonious relationships. Therefore, courtesy is a basic condition in getting along with others, and it must be cultivated from a young age. From our parents and teachers, we learn the proper manners between old and young, senior and junior. Having courtesy, we should always abide by these manners, so as not to err in dealing with people and situations."
Buddhist Humanism is very high on the spiritual practices of compassion, kindness, humility, patience, tolerance, and other selfless virtues. These qualities must be activated each and every day in our interaction with others. For example, all of us at one time or another are bothered by grudges, things that individuals have done in the past that we just cannot forget. Master Hsing Yun notes: "Be forgiving and understanding instead of holding any grudges. We must never allow a grudge to fester and grow inside our mind, because we will only be harming ourselves in the end. The greatest virtue in life is forgiveness. When there is animosity from others, we need to be forgiving and understanding. We should not be calculating and attached to our views. Therefore, we need forgiveness and understanding to overcome animosity and the holding of grudges."
Closely related is the problem of jealousy or envy: "Because some of us cannot bear seeing others do well, such as when we hear our friends getting a promotion or our neighbors being prosperous and wealthy, we come to feel uncomfortable. We may start out feeling rejection and envy, and eventually we will resent them. Actually, when others are doing well, we should not only be happy for them, but we can even take a little pride in their glory. When we are not jealous of what others possess or have accomplished, we will not harbor any bitterness."
Master Heing Yun is convinced that contentment is one of the major keys to living well. He states: "After a meal, the Hakka people in Taiwan will always reply to the question, 'Are you full?' with 'I'm content.' It is important for us to appreciate contentment; otherwise, it will be of no use to us even if we eat gourmet meals every day. When we are content, we are truly happy. Contentment is of prime importance in life because the joy it brings is even better than fame and fortune." This is a lesson that we in the West have to learn: at present our energies our fueled by discontent and we jump through consumerism hoops to reach the grail of something better or different. We would all be wise to heed the author's description of what it takes to be carefree: "Let go of honor and disgrace. Let go of fame and fortune. Let go of gain and loss. Let go of our desires." Read this book, and you will see that there is no spirituality without serious attention to civility and courtesy.