Why Were You Not?
There is a famous story of a Rabbi named Zusya. According to the story he is said to have stood before his congregation and said that when he dies he will present himself to the celestial tribunal and they will ask him various ‘why were you not…” questions. Why were you not Moses, because Zusya was not a prophet and Moses was. The questions would go on through various Biblical figures, each time Zusya would point out some what that he differed from those persons. Final he is asked “Zusya why were you not Zusya?” to which he would have no reply.
Each of us has to ask ourselves that very question repeatedly. Why are we not the best we can be? Why do we not do the best we can?
I had a discussion once with a Rabbi, a different one from the above story, and we were talking about obeying commandments. The discussion was on the order of people obeying commandments because they wish for the reward of a certain afterlife. So then the question can become, why not good just for the sake of doing good. Why not life a good life because it is a good thing to do.
In Buddhism we do not believe in some person or thing, which keeps score. We instead base our lives on the belief in cause and effect. But here is something to consider, what if cause and effect isn’t true. Would you still try to do go, even if you knew there was no resulting effect? Would you still do good just for the sake of doing good?
“They are attached to wrong views. They do not know how to do good. They are not taught by a Buddha; therefore, they fall into the evil regions.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter VII)
We have been taught by the Buddha and we can loosen our attachments to wrong views. One such wrong view is the grasping for reward for doing good. Living a life of integrity is a common way of expressing it currently. Simply put it is doing good, being good, thinking good, working good, speaking good and so forth for no other reason than it is a good thing to do. It is a better way to live.
When we act, for instance, out of anger, or any of the lower worlds we are deluded if we think it eases our sufferings. It only increases the suffering we experience, the suffering other experience, the suffering of the environment.
“The living beings in the evil world after your extinction will have less roots of good, more arrogance, more greed for offerings of worldly things, and more roots of evil. It will be difficult to teach them because they will go away from emancipation. But we will patiently read, recite, keep, expound and copy this sutra, and make various offerings to it. We will not spare even our lives in doing all this.” (Lotus Sutra, Chapter XIII)
The story of Zusya comes from an article by Lolly Daskal