When I was young, I was afraid of God. This may have originated from my mom telling me that God was giving me bachi (punishment) for my behaviors when I was little. Any illness or suffering was a bachi from God; fear became the basis of my behavior. This reminds me of many religions today that use God in placing fear in their congregation. They surrogate themselves as God in directing their behaviors (sometimes evil) of their congregation. By placing fear in the minds of their congregation, they limit the spiritual maturity of their members. It is fear that directs their behaviors, suppressing their real thoughts that emerge from their minds. It is like the dictators and despots that restrict free speech and liberty of their people, or the doting parents that restrict the behaviors of their children; they delay or hinder spiritual maturity. Religion using fear often hinders our spiritual maturity; examples include the concept of hell as punishment for disobeying God. It is this fear that initiates behavior that sometimes contradicts the thoughts that are in the minds.
It is because of this freedom of speech and liberty in our country that God blesses our country. We become the field where God guides us to live the joyous life. Sometimes we regress, avoiding God’s guidance, but many times we are given the opportunities to progress spiritually. I use to fear God, but now I love God because instead of believing suffering and inconveniences as punishment, I believe they are guidance from a loving and parental God. Some may have different perspective when viewing the same world, saying that the glass is half empty or half full, dependent on if they believe God is punishing or guiding them.
In the Ofudesaki (Tip of the Writing Brush) God tells us that when sufferings, illnesses, or inconveniences occur in our lives, to calm our minds and ponder. God may be guiding us to remove evil (greed, arrogance, and self love) from our minds. Only when we remove these evils from our minds, will we become spirited, and have a joyous life.