Furthermore, a man and a woman hasten to be united, like iron particles attracted by a magnet….Although man and wife may love each other, they do not know the nature of their love….Their union is comparable to someone meeting another in a dream, or to travelers meeting each other by chance at the same inn.
— Kukai’s 秘蔵宝鑰 (hizō hōyaku “Precious Key to the Secret Treasury”) translated by Prof. Hakeda in Kukai: Major Works, pg. 164
I encountered this passage by Kūkai, founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, last year while reading the book above (again), it really struck me.
I’ve known my wife now 13+ years. When I met her in college, I was a lonely, nerdy 21 year-old guy who thought Asian women were hot (ok, still do). I literally loved her at first sight, and asked her out the same day. When I first met her, I knew a little Japanese, and had very little exposure to Japanese culture. Our family backgrounds were very different, and our views of the world were pretty different. So, not surprisingly, we had struggles, fights, etc.
Somehow though, when I first started to explore Buddhism about 7 years ago I started to reflect on myself and through this, I realized that I had too often blamed her for problems, and not spent enough time reflecting on my own faults. It was a slow process (literally years, through our time living in Ireland and back) that I have tried to change these habits, resist the reflex to get angry, and more importantly, to shift the emphasis of the relationship from my needs to her welfare.
After reading the passage above it occurred to me that when she does things I like, or does something nice for me, I think “what a great wife.” But when she scolds me, or does something I don’t like, I get angry. But that is a self-centered way to look at things, don’t you think?
The Buddha often spoke about the need to be undisturbed by the ups and downs of life. Otherwise, you remain trapped and suffer along with it. As long as I define a relationship with another person in terms of what I can gain from them, I will always be subject to these ups and downs. However, if I stop to consider the needs of the other person, regardless of the ups and downs, then they will be happier, and I will more peace of mind.
The welfare of my wife and daughter is my welfare.
Namu Amida Butsu