Phillip and Jason just ordered some nyonya kuih and roti canai in an Indian restaurant. They were reminiscing on the past, shared memories and questioning about the real purpose of all the activities that they were involved in, what was the main goal of it. Seldom did they ponder deeply before, other than the simple answers that ‘participating in activities bring good fortune.’
Phillip: In the past, majority of our meetings were about planning and operations. When meeting a member, I ask them how they are, out of habit or courtesy, and within two minutes, I’ll be delegating tasks, who to contact, or getting the person to agree to take up leadership responsibilities to fill up the holes in the org chart. I got deadlines, kpi.
Honestly, there is little genuine concern for the person. I mean, I do, but I can’t. No time. It was like working perpetually for an event management company. Overwhelmed by operational stuff.
But now, I feel different. When meeting a member, though less frequently, we’ve the luxury of time, LUXURY indeed, real conversation. Discuss matters thoroughly, share problems and get to understand the current challenges. I’m more connected. This wouldn’t be possible if I am always rushing for deadlines like before.
It’s the bond of comradeship we’re building. We can’t have that bond if we only know people superficially and interested in getting the people to get the job done. Meetings and organising stuff without this cultivating this bond, I feel, is a sheer waste of time and energy. And money.
Jason: Good point. Big event is like a giant vacuum, sucking up lots of time, effort and money of members? Should we really be doing this? Are we creating value? Soka means value creation, right? Are we neglecting the basic human ties that we should be focusing as this is the fundamental practice of compassion in Nichiren’s Buddhism?
Big events are about marketing. Opening the door, allowing others to see what this Buddhism is about. If you want to propagate this Buddhism, you got to do marketing, right? So, it does serve a purpose.
On the individual level, big events provide opportunities to people to come together. Working together, discussing, sharing, and helping out one another, all these develop our friendship. Studies have shown that the single most important factor to building friendship is proximity. Not like-mindedness, common interest nor personality similarities.
And the formula to kosen-rufu starts with friendship. That’s step one. Step two is developing trust. What you do in your dialogue with members now is step two. It does not mean that step one is useless. Perhaps, we can draw the analogy of preparatory teachings and essential teachings. Meaningful dialogue is impossible without first establishing friendship and trust.
In a nutshell, not wasted. Nothing is wasted. But focusing on big events alone would be futile. Like digging a hole but never putting the plant into it.
Phillip: But I am not a leader. I feel a little awkward calling up people. Also, afraid may land them in trouble. You know what I mean? Photographs, facebook, these ridiculous behavior controlling leaders who has got nothing better to do.
Jason: No need care about the status of not being a leader. A leader is defined as one who leads others towards happiness. That’s the true meaning of a leader. If one takes actions to engage another, build ties of friendship and share their joys and sufferings, this is the behavior of a Bodhisattva, a leader. A leader is not a position in any organization. To feel proud simply because one has high position is delusional. Many top leaders are strutting around with a sense of self-importance but didn’t lift a finger to work for the happiness of others. These are not leaders in the true sense.
Still recall what we learnt about the meaning of a priest? The Teacher of the Law (Fatt Si) is one who protect the Law and propagate the Law, not one who has no hair and wear a grand white suit, white socks and slippers. It’s the action that counts, not the title or position. Positions are nothing. It is only important for those who need it to cover their internal weaknesses or failures.
These members are friends of yours. They are people, they are individuals. Not some property that is owned by any organization. And if you can encourage them, lead and guide them to understand Buddhism better, then, how wrong can it be?
Also, always keep in mind this gosho phrase – the heart is what matters most. When we reach out, we are acting with genuine concern for another fellow human being, in our heart, right? That’s all that matters. Put all other petty concerns aside. Pettiness are for small people. They are no more than dust before the wind.
Phillip: The heart is what matters most! I love it!! Cheers! (with two glasses of Mountain Dew).