Unlike many of my colleagues or others who have majored in history before, my intellectual background has been influenced by two major cultures in the world. As a twenty three years old student living in America but originally from Japan, the foundation of my intellectual being was shaped by the Japanese culture and education since the first 18 years of my life and schooling took place in Tokyo Japan. Later I moved to America, California where I have been under taking my degree course, majoring in History.
This does not mean that my intellectual story is different or unique but I have to admit that, it is somehow interesting since many people and many things have played a part in it. From the time I started schooling, I have always had an interest in history. Just like America, Japan is really rich in history which is somehow different from the American one. The curiosity and the thirst to know more about my native country and the world at large formed the basis of my interest in history. In other words, I know why I am pursing history and sometimes I think taking this course of study was inevitable since it has really shaped my life.
It is a well known fact that Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world especially in Japan and from a historical point of view; the religion has come to be identified with the country. It has shaped its culture, economy and political aspects. I am a self confessed Buddhist brought up by Buddhist parents and the whole of my life has been characterized by Buddhist doctrines. My beliefs and how I view life can only be attributed to the religion. As a history major, I believe one of the most interesting topics in history is religion and how it shapes people’s lives.
I have always taken myself as an example, trying to analyze how it has really affected my life and my views about everything. I tend to agree that Buddhism is a philosophy more than religion because it defines lives of those who believe in it. Philosophers have defined the word philosophy as ‘the love of wisdom and Buddhism propagates that. I myself love wisdom and that is why I chose to do history in the first place; just to know almost everything that has shaped this world from the time it came into existence. Another thing I believe in is honesty.
For me it is a very important virtue and has a major role to play in this world in regards to morality. Honesty, according to my understanding and beliefs can only be achieved the moment one is true to himself and to God/gods, depending on whom one worships or believes in. Being true to oneself forms the basis of honesty which will be followed by other forms of honesty for example, being honest to others and to God/gods. Those who are familiar with Buddhism religion will agree that, this view has somehow been influenced by the religion and that is why I began by saying that Buddhism is part of my life.
As a Buddhist, I am supposed to be aware of my thoughts before I do anything. This also applies to actions. Before undertaking any action, one is supposed to be aware of it and to have wisdom and understanding on how to go about it . When all these are combined, they all add up to being true to oneself and that is what I call honesty in other words. This belief has really shaped my life especially in regards to my relationships with others. The moment one adopts this view of honesty, it is very difficult to fall out with anyone since one will always be open-minded.
Being true to oneself will only mean that, you will do what you believe is true and it will be very difficult to be pressurized maybe by the peers into doing something against your will. When it comes to handling others, it will be very easy. For example, if one sees a friend doing something one is not comfortable with and maybe that friend wants you to join him/her, since you are true to yourself, you will be able to express your concerns and at the end of the day, that friend will see that your concern is actually genuine since it is coming from deep within you.
It is not forced, not a pretence or expression of fear but your true self expressed in words. This will actually be felt by another person and it will eventually influence his thinking. I remember mentioning earlier that I am Buddhist and some may question whether I believe in one God or gods. I know in the modern days there are those Buddhists who believe in one God and there are others who do not for they believe in many gods. The question always poses some problems to me especially when it comes to explaining to others, especially my friends.
They have always known the religion that I profess and what it says about the issue of God and gods but they are never sure about my stand. First I have to clarify something, Buddhism is a way of life and that is what makes it different from other religions. It emphasizes so much on how people are supposed to live and as a Buddhist; there is that kind of life that I am supposed to live. There is no mention in my religion that Buddha worshipped or believed in any one God.
That does not mean we are atheists in fact there are so many Buddhists who believe in that one God of the Jews, we call Him, ‘the God of the desert. ’ Personally, I don’t have problems with those Buddhist who profess a kind of God in their lives even though it is not in Buddhism doctrines. Sometimes I tend to think that I will head there someday. Right now, from what I have read and seen, I tend to think that, there is a supernatural power that is in control of the world. I have been skeptical about the issue for a very long time and sometimes I do not want to talk about it.
I have read so much regarding the matter, I have been exposed to so many religions and I have even been following what is happening in this world and to some extent, I think there could be actually a supernatural hand behind it all. Can I be regarded as an atheist then? I leave that judgment to ones discretion but as I said earlier, I am true to myself and what I believe in, but maybe one day I may change my mind; no one knows. I believe that Buddhism is a well organized religion. In fact, it has never been heard before that Buddhists have fought with any religion over religious matters and that is what I love most about the religion.
Foundation is the most interesting part of the religion as far as I am concerned. Buddha was born in an affluent family but he decided to leave all that to suffer. He manly focused on suffering. The religion is not about God but suffering as a way of life and that God has no solution to suffering. The only thing can bring sufferings to an end is the teachings of Buddha whereby only wisdom and compassion can end one’s problems. I really believe in these concepts which continue to shape my life. Wisdom has always been a driving force behind everything that I do.
The course that I am pursuing is my way of becoming wise especially of the things of his world coupled with other ways for example meditation which is a requirement of my religion. One has to accept everything that comes in the way. That is how I mainly live my life and this has really helped me to come to terms with my problems. The pains that we go through as human beings can only be solved the moment we accept them. Some people have always misunderstood Buddhism as a religion, some of them claiming that we worship a human being. I don’t blame them because they are acting out of ignorance.
Even though we really hold Buddha with high esteem that does not mean that we worship him. In fact I have so much respect for him and this should not be misquoted that I worship him. I have always tried to apply his principles in my life and so far I do not have any complaints. Another thing that interests me about Buddha’s teachings is that, he says that moral and ethical uprightness will end suffering forever. Many will definitely differ on the definition of the phrase ‘morally uprightness’ because the word ‘morally’ is relative depending on one’s culture and background.
However, according to me, being true to oneself constitutes moral uprightness. Sometimes it is argued that ones life is predestined and I find myself asking, since human life is characterized by so much suffering, were we predestined to suffer? If that is so, why then do we have to struggle to improve life? Is there anything like free will? In the course of my study, I have come across so many stories and events that have characterized human beings from the time they came into existence and one thing we can agree on is that life has not been smooth sailing for human beings.
It has always been about diseases, wars and rumors of wars, poverty among others. Sometimes I ask myself, if we use the concept of predestination to explain this, does that mean that we were predestined to go through all these? If we agree on this, then that means we have no control whatsoever and the actions that we carry out are also predestined. Then why does human being try to look for solutions to solve these problems or prevent them from repeating themselves in the future? If we believe that everything is predestined, then nothing matters because it means we are not in control of anything.
I have read about almost all the wars that have characterized the world right from world wars and major civil wars and some countries have justified some of these wars, giving so many reasons. Let’s consider two wars; World War II and the Vietnam War. These two wars have been surrounded by controversies right from the start, and some have argued that, they were not to happen in the first place. The US has been regretting of its decision of going to war with Vietnam for so many years and if we adopt the concept of predestination, it will only mean that, they do not have a reason to regret because everything was predestined.
The war had to happen and they had no control over it. Why then should they blame themselves? Even though the world has been trying to prevent another World War, then its efforts are meaningless because if it is predestined to happen, then no one can prevent it. The concept of predestination will only mean that, we are not answerable for the mistakes that we do and we owe no one an apology. If we believe that everything in the world is pre-designed, then, that means we are just existing to fulfill our purposes in life and not living our lives the way we would want.
So does that mean that free will is at work and not predestination? The more I tend to think about these two concepts, the more I get confused. If we say that free will is at work, then as human beings we are to blame for everything that we go through because the power of making free choices is in our hands. Every thought that we harbor in our heads and every action that we undertake, will be determined by us. Should we blame ourselves for all those wars that took place? Sometimes I tend to think that free will and predestination are both at work.
There are some areas of our lives which have been predestined for example death and birth of children. No one wants to die any day but at one point we will all have to die. When I was young, still in primary school, I wondered what brought about twins. After learning some biology I understood but I used to ask myself why I was not born with a twin sister or brother and the only answer I could think of is predestination. I was destined to be born alone. Where does free will come in then?
I believe that human beings can choose to live their lives the way they want to live, for example, one can choose to be successful or to be a failure, one can choose to pass exams or not, marry or not to marry, have children or not among others. Even though I believe this to some extent, I think that free will and predestination are both at work. I am always left with so many questions regarding the two concepts and thus I agree with those who propose that, free will and predestination are two concepts that can never be understood and are not conclusive enough.
I am well aware of the concept of predestination according to Buddhism religion; that every human being’s destiny is determined by ones personal actions. This means that, one’s thoughts and words will determine what he will become in the future. I do not dispute that; in fact, it forms the foundation of my faith. However, I also believe that human beings have a choice to make when it comes to the actions they decide to carry out. In other words, if one chooses to do wrong actions, that will determine his or her destiny, and that is why I believe that free will and predestination work together.