Naikan’s Purpose is Spiritual Awakening
The founder of Naikan, Yoshimoto Ishin, was a devout Buddhist who saw Naikan as a spiritual practice. In the 1950s, he had some of this writings translated into English and compiled in a book titled Self-Reflection will Guide You to the Right Way. In this book, Yoshimoto describes the purpose of Naikan as follows:
“To be spiritually awakened from suffering is the aim of it. In other words, trying to get rid of the selfishness in you, to reach the stage to be able to endure whatever difficulties you may have.”
In this passage, we see how Yoshimoto makes a direct correlation between suffering and selfishness. Although current discussions of spirituality in North America rarely mention selfishness, there is no greater obstacle to living a spiritual life than it. At the heart of spirituality is self-transcendence and freedom from self induced suffering. Neither of these is possible when we are seized by an ego that demands people act as we wish, that grow anxious over the future, and that becomes angry when we do not get what we want.
Naikan’s three basis questions —What did I receive from others? What did I give back to them? What troubles and difficulties did I cause others? — are simple. But the consequences of reflecting on them are profound. They can liberate us from the prison of self.
Photo Credit Empty Cage by Hartwig, HKD. Licensed under Creative commons.