One Direction

by Rev. Marvin Harada.

In July I had the privilege of speaking for two weeks in Hawaii, mainly at the Buddhist Study Center’s summer session. At the end of the summer session I spoke to some young people at a beach retreat. They were mostly high schools students with a few Jr. High and a few college students as well. I was given about an hour to speak to them about Buddhism.

In an attempt to make it fun and not bore them, I decided to play a game that I sometimes do in our family services with our Dharma School children. As a way of illustrating how Buddhism is not just in books or in our heads but is something all around us in our everyday life, I sometimes play a game in which I challenge the kids to name something, anything, .... a word, an idea, an object, and I have to relate that to Buddhism somehow. It is really interesting seeing what words and things the kids throw out there at me. Over the years, the only time I was totally stumped was when one boy said, “pocket lint.” That one floored me.

At the beach retreat, one young girl said, “One Direction.” I am not really up on young people’s music, but I did know that “One Direction” is the name of a music group, like Boz II Men, or in my era, like the Stylistics or the Temptations. I can’t name any of their songs, but I did know they were a musical group.

“One Direction” is a wonderful concept to reflect on in terms of Buddhism. I gave an answer to her something in the manner that follows.

Without Buddhism, we have no true direction in life. We are lost, but sadly, we don’t even know that we are lost.

For a person who is lost, the hardest thing to admit is that you are really lost. You think you know where you are, or you think you know your way out of the forest, but you really don’t. That is called “delusion” in Buddhism. It is called being in the world of samsara, lost, but not knowing you are lost.

I read somewhere that if you are lost in the forest or desert and attempt to find your way out, that you will end up walking in one huge circle leading back to where you started. This is because every person has one leg that is stronger than the other and that causes us to end up walking in one huge circle.

We men are the worst at admitting we are lost. I don’t know how many times I have been driving somewhere with Gail, and we are looking for a restaurant or business and I tell her I know where it is. I drive around and around, and can’t find it. I know it is right around here somewhere. Gail suggests that I stop and ask for directions. “No, I know where I am. It is right around here somewhere.” Fifteen minutes later we are still lost. I finally pull into a gas station and I tell Gail, “Go in and ask the guy for directions.” Somehow, we men hate to admit we are lost.

If you enter the path of Buddhism, now you have direction in your life. Your life is headed towards truth, towards enlightenment. Even if it is the first step along the path, the moment you consciously decide to follow the path of Buddhism, you are headed in the right direction. Prior to that, can you say that you have had true direction in your life? You might have been headed in the direction of getting rich. Or you might have been headed in the direction of moving up the ladder at work. Or, you might have been headed in the direction of finding happiness in all kinds of ways, doing this and that, but never finding anything really true or fulfilling.

That is why Buddhism can give us the one direction of life out of the world of delusion and samsara.

What a wonderful feeling it is to have direction in life. No matter what challenges life presents you, if you have direction in life, then nothing can hinder you. Failure in business, failure in marriage, ill health, none of those things can truly obstruct a person who has direction in life. For a person who has direction, those negative challenges give even greater meaning to your life. All the more your path in life, your direction in life becomes clearer and clearer. The more challenges you encounter, the more you appreciate the path, the more you appreciate the journey. One who has a true direction of life is never lost. Even in the depths of the forest, in the depths of the wilderness of life’s challenges, you know the way.  You know how to find your way out. Even if it is a long journey, you know where your final destination lies.

Sometimes people might feel like they don’t really need Buddhism or religion, but if Buddhism provides us with the true direction of life, then who is there that doesn’t need that? Who wants to live in delusion, in samsara for their whole life? Who wants to wander about in the forest of life, never knowing the way out?

Buddhism offers us the one direction out of our own delusion, out of our own suffering, and shows us the path to truth and enlightenment.

Namuamidabutsu,

Rev. Marvin Harada