Are You Arrogant, Too?

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March 2023 marked our 20th wedding anniversary. On our wedding day, Mika and I went out for dinner together and celebrated this major milestone with joy and happiness. It was a really lovely and enjoyable time.

Ever since our marriage, many members have often said to me, “Sensei, you sure married a nice woman,” or “You’re so lucky to have such a wonderful wife!” Of course, I am always pleased to hear words of praise about my wife. But I can’t understand why no one has ever praised me. Nobody has ever said to my wife, “Mika-san, I am jealous that you have such a good husband!” I find this very embarrassing.

Certainly, when I look back over the past twenty years of our marriage, my wife has helped and supported me countless times. Sometimes we have argued because of our different values or way of thinking, but no matter what we argue about, in the end my wife has always respected my opinion and gone along with me.

But to be truthful, I have to admit I seldom listen to her opinion. Rather, I tend to live with the presumption that I am always right. A stubborn person like me might easily be forsaken by his wife. Instead, Mika has put up with her selfish husband with great patience without abandoning me. When I think about her great patience and tolerance, I have to reflect deeply on my arrogance. At these times, I am very grateful that my wife has not left me in spite of my conceit and lack of humility.

Foolish Beings with “Wrong View”

No matter what kind of person we think we are, we each have a self-serving, conceited side. It is awfully difficult to get rid of such thoughts completely. But if a person is able to fully realize how self-absorbed he is and reflect on his faults honestly, he will try to listen attentively to others’ thoughts and even accept their opinions with respect.

Unfortunately, we foolish beings have an ugly, selfish and conceited side that always insists, “Only I am right,” or “I am the reasonable one.” In Buddhism, this mindset or self-centered way of looking at things is called “Wrong View.”

Wrong View doesn’t refer to the viewpoint of a selfish person. Actually, it refers to the viewpoint of those who would not even recognize their own selfish mind in spite of having one. In other words, if a person can sincerely acknowledge, “My mind is full of the wrong view,” and is able to admit, “I feel ashamed,” then that person no longer has wrong view, nor is he an arrogant person.

Such a person can readily accept that Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow is meant for none other than himself alone because it is the supreme vow established to save all beings suffering from wrong view and arrogance. And this person is also able to say the Nembutsu, “Namo Amida Butsu,” naturally and easily as an expression of his deep gratitude for Amida Buddha’s great compassion. But if someone is unable to see his true self blinded by a mind of wrong view and arrogance, he will never be able to rejoice in accepting Amida Buddha’s great wish that is always directed at him. Therefore, those who cannot even recognize themselves as foolish beings are unable to open their hearts to Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow. For this reason, such a person will never experience Amida Buddha’s great compassion.

In his writing, Shoshin-Ge, Shinran says:

For those who cannot see the truth holding the wrong views and arrogant mind, it is extremely difficult to obediently receive the Nembutsu that embodies Amida Buddha’s Vow and rejoice in it. This is the most difficult of difficulties; nothing surpasses it.

Certainly, when I reflect deeply on my true self, I am an arrogant husband who is unable even to hear the sincere and truthful opinions of the person who is closest to me—my wife—because I always assume that I am right. When I admit this, I cannot help but realize that there is no way that someone like me can simply accept Amida Buddha’s Primal Vow.

Even when I argue with Mika and hurt her feelings, I usually have a “so what!” attitude with unfounded confidence, having thoughts like, “She would never walk out on me over something so trivial” or “She would never leave me.” Such disdainful and selfish assumptions about my wife only make me more arrogant, further encouraging me to have the wrong kind of dependence on Amida Buddha’s unconditional compassion.

The Primal Vow was originally established for the sake of foolish beings because Amida Buddha sees through and knows all about our selfish nature. For Amida Buddha, there is no right or wrong regarding how we should depend on the Primal Vow. But from my perspective, I cannot help but reflect deeply on my arrogance that takes for granted Amida Buddha’s great compassion. The more I listen to the Nembutsu teaching, the more ashamed I am of my foolishness that has resulted in a totally self-centered way of thinking.

Have a Wonderful Wife!

Although Mika and I celebrated our milestone wedding anniversary, I will make a fresh resolve to appreciate her patience and tolerance and to set aside my unyielding self-righteous attitude before she becomes totally disgusted with me. It is clear to me how really fortunate I am to have such a wonderful wife!

Let’s gratefully accept Amida Buddha’s great compassion as the Nembutsu, Namo Amida Butsu. And I sincerely hope that each of us will show our deep gratitude to the person who is closest to us— our husband, wife, parent, or those dear to us—as we reflect deeply upon our daily life using the Nembutsu teaching as our precious lifetime mirror. Then continue to take the path of the Nembutsu as we respect and support one another, and accept and value others’ opinions in the spirit of harmony.

In Gassho,
Rev. Yushi Mukojima