Tag Archive: Humility


Heirs of Our Actions

What distinguishes humans from other species is our inherent ability to examine our character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and to control our effectiveness. To be effective one must be proactive. Reactive people take a passive stance — they believe that the world is happening to them. “That’s just the way I am.”

Yet sometimes, fate intercedes.

The ‘average joe‘ calls it ‘Karma.’

Thirty years ago, I visited a major shopping mall in Schaumburg, Illinois a few days past Thanksgiving. Being just at the start of the Christmas season, the mall was crowded, and I parked quite a distance from the store.

Walking down a parking row toward the store I came upon an older woman in Cadillac waiting patiently for an owner to enter her vehicle back up and leave. With blinker on, she just started rolling forward when a younger driver in a Honda CRX skidded into the parking space.

Flummoxed, the elderly lady rolled down the window, “Young man. Didn’t you see I was waiting for that spot?”

With a sneering laugh and the flick of his wrist, he waved, “Well, that’s what it’s like to be young and quick.”

He turned and continued walking. Fifteen seconds later, there was such a loud crash that nearby shoppers stopped in their tracks and looked. The young man turned, mouth agape and noticed his Honda CRX was completely smashed.

Running to the Cadillac, he screamed, “What did you do?”

The woman calmly rolled down her window. “Young man,” she lectured with a twist of her finger. “That’s what you do when you’re old and rich.”

For a Buddhist, Karma is the law of moral causation and is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. This belief was prevalent in India before the advent of the Buddha. Nevertheless, it was the Buddha who explained and formulated this doctrine in the complete form in which we have it today.

The Buddha once explained:

All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.”

In our world, proactive people recognize they can choose how to respond to a given stimulus or situation.

Hence, the significance of the Buddha’s statement is that “We are the heirs of our actions.”

I close with the following story.

When a bug crawled across his desk, an adult education teacher gave an impromptu lesson in safety. The teacher had an unusual paperweight: a 40-mm shell he found when hunting. Using opaque reasoning, he assumed the ordinance had to be ‘inert.’

As the bug crawled across his desk, one would presume the teacher would use a flyswatter. Nope. Instead, he lifted his ‘inert’ artillery shell and slammed it onto the insect. 

The impact set-off the primer.

The resulting explosion caused burns and shrapnel lacerations on his hand, forearm, and torso. Fortunately, no one else was hurt. To the teacher’s consolation, the bug was killed.

So, was that an act of God, fate or karma?

How about inheritance?

Humility

As a consultant, I’ve worked in hospitals across the country for years. Every once in a while, I see a physician with a pager. For all the high-tech equipment to use, one thing seems pretty archaic: pagers. Yet, 85 % of hospitals still use pagers.

There are significant reasons hospital staff still use one-way pagers to get in touch. For one important reason is that hospitals can be dead zones for cell service. In some areas, where the walls are built to keep X-rays from penetrating, heavy-duty designs make it hard for a cell phone signal to penetrate exterior walls.

A few days ago, I was sipping coffee in the cafeteria and overheard a physician complaining that the pager’s battery drains too quick.

A person at the adjacent table leaned in and said, “Excuse me, sir.

Yes?” he queried.

Do you need your pager at night? Meaning, are you always on call?

No,” he responded.

Well, you might get better battery life if you place the battery in the freezer. This might slow the discharge rate.

Oh great. Thanks for the tip.”

Visiting Information Technology for a wiring diagram, I saw a pager laying on the table. The pager’s casing was cracked, and the screen had broken.

Pointing to the pager, “Dropped pager, huh?”

Nah,” said the technician. “Some doctor put his pager in the freezer believing it would extend battery life.”

Buddhism emphasizes the importance of service on the Eightfold Path. By serving others, one cultivates compassion and washes away past sins. Particular emphasis is placed upon service to parents, teachers, learned persons, fellow monks when they are sick or need of help, assistance to animals, friends, servants, ascetics, and others.

Fortunately, doctors, while specifically listed still make the list. In the course of assisting the physician, I found ‘humility‘ still exits. Anthony de Mellow highlighted the message.

To a visitor who described himself as a seeker after Truth the Master said, “If what you seek is Truth, there is one thing you must have above all else.

I know. An overwhelming passion for it.”

No. An unremitting readiness to admit you may be wrong.

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