“Why do we work?” I am sure that everyone has thought about this at least once in your working lives. Do you work to be happy? To be rich? Or to even receive a high salary and have status? There are different meanings to the term "to work" depending on your lifestyle and situation. In a sense, each of the above meanings are correct since your definition of working will be based on your own experiences and perceptions.
This month, I would like to introduce you to the meaning of the verb "to work" in terms of Buddhism. The word "working" is expressed as "Hataraku" (はたらく) in Japanese and this Japanese term is composed of two compounds: "Hata" (端) and "Raku (楽)." "Hata" means surroundings or the neighborhood, and "Raku" means to make one happy. So, the original meaning of "working" or "hataraku" in Japanese is "to make your neighbors or surrounding happy."
In the midst of our daily stress and anxiety from our jobs, it's quite easy to forget the original Japanese meaning of "working," however, I hope that you can understand that your efforts are helping to support someone. This might not make sense to you amidst your suffering and problems but hopefully, our actions will help to make someone happy.
This is similar to the meaning of the word "compassion" in Buddhism. Compassion can be expressed as "to take away suffering" or "to bring about peace." One thing that I would like to share with you here is that although it is quite common to hear the use of the term “compassion” nowadays; from a Buddhist standpoint, compassion can be represented by the practice of the Bodhisattava who attained Buddhahood but has selected to stay in our human world to save all sentient beings without any sense of calculation or benefit for oneself. However, this is NOT the common understanding that we, ordinary people who have immeasurable desires and self-attachments can attain on our own.
However, we should NOT give up our practice of compassion. It is important that you understand that any kind of work is based on the spirit of compassion. By working, often unconsciously, we are doing something for others to make them happy. At the same time, we are also receiving back from what we are doing for others.
Have respect and confidence in your own work and that of others’ as well, and always live with that feeling of grateful appreciation for all the blessings we have received.
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浄土真宗本願寺派 大見山 超勝寺 衆徒。翻訳家。ハーバード大学 神学部研究員を修了し、帰国。現在は、執筆活動や通訳・翻訳を通して、日本仏教を世界に弘める活動をしています。