Human relations are not built by sharing fame and fortune, nor are they built by sharing similar views and thinking. They are built on empathy and tolerance for each others.
After a couple is married, they need to have empathy for one another daily in order to appreciate each other and sustain their love. In a family, the generation gap between parents and children, seniors and youngsters also require empathy and tolerance to maintain. In society, if those in different professions, in both public and private sectors, are unable to practice empathy, they will not be able to live in harmony. We need empathy in order to work alongside others. When we understand each other better, we can accept, respect, and cherish one another. Empathy trumps fame and fortune, similarity of views and thoughts.
There was once a farm where the pig, sheep, and cow all lived together. One day, the farmer went into the barn and grabbed hold of a pig. It struggled and squealed vigorously. The sheep and cow were annoyed by the racket and scolded, “The master always comes for us, but we never put up a fight or make any noise. We just quietly go with him. This is the first time he came for you. Why are you fighting so hard and making so much noise?”
Upon hearing this, the pig explained, “Cows and sheep, the master comes after you and me for completely different reasons! He only wants your wool and your milk. But when he comes for me, he is after my life!” Being in different situations, the cow and the sheep could not understand the pig’s plight.
Similarly, people have many different positions and circumstances. Unfortunately, most fail to appreciate how others feel. Without empathy, there would be no understanding and tolerance, resulting in disharmony in human relations.
Once, there was a hunter who killed animals daily. He shot them, knifed them, netted them, or speared them, never tiring of his way of life. However, one day, a tribe of wild men caught him and offered him up as a sacrifice to their god. At that moment, as he experienced the fear and pain of imminent death, he realized the suffering he must have been inflicting on the animals he hunted. He finally understood what it was like to be in their position and felt empathy for them.
When we see others down in life, facing setbacks, or suffering in pain, we should not be indifferent, and certainly never take pleasure in their misfortune. When we see others dying, we should feel anguished. It is not simply the fact that they are in pain. One day, it will be out turn to suffer. We should practice empathy and tolerance for others every day, every moment, in our human world.
When children are young, they do not understand filial piety. But when they become parents themselves, they see the need to each their children to respect them. Though we learn from our experiences and mistakes, we should not always wait until we have reason for remorse. We should have empathy for others at all times, in everything we do. We feed our pets so that they do not starve. We water our plants so they do not wither. If we can treat our pets and plants with care, why can’t we treat our families, friends, and fellow citizens with empathy?
Empathy is the Buddha mind. Tolerance is the Buddha mind. The Buddha mind is also compassion, morals, benevolence, and beauty. There is a Buddhist saying, “The mind is the Buddha, and the Buddha is the mind.” Our Buddha mind is the foundation for attaining Buddhahood, is it not?