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I BITE MY NAILS
STEVE LANE

 

I bite my nails. It's a bad thing, I know. But it's not easy being good. In truth, it's a field of landmines. Being good, or trying to be, means making judgments: this is right while this is wrong. When doing this we tend to think, I am right and you are wrong. This makes us judgmental, which is wrong. The element of trying creates its own problems. Trying requires willpower, and if we have it we tend to look down on those who lack it. And this again is wrong.

Being successful in our efforts to be good can also put us in the wrong. We can become proud of our achievements, even self-righteous. But then, beating ourselves up about that, or beating ourselves up about how bad we are - both are wrong. It makes one want to give up - and yes, that's wrong too. It's a Catch 22.

It's like my relationship with the nembutsu. I know that saying it as a ritual is wrong; it should be "a spontaneous expression of gratitude". But relying on impulsive outbursts doesn't seem to get enough nembutsu done; it just feels wrong. Yet again, if it is our nembutsu, not Amida's, it is a false good. Which makes it wrong. It's a Catch 22.

Right or wrong, disrespecting others or beating ourselves up… Amida looks beyond these to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas we will become. When we see our muddled, foolish selves from the perspective of infinite compassion and patience the Catch 22 is revoked. If only for a short while. Then I start biting my nails.


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