Smiling Can Create Happiness
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Smiling Is One Form of Diligence
From long ago, the Japanese have said, “Good fortune comes to the cheerful gate.” This means that happiness comes to a family that is always smiling and full of laughter.
I think that a family that can always smile must be happy and, to quote Founder Nikkyo Niwano, as published in the June 2016 issue of Rissho Kosei-kai’s monthly magazine Kosei (“A Record of the Founder’s Dharma Talk”), when he was asked, “What is the secret of your always smiling?” he replied, “It is because I am always ‘naked.’”
When we remove our armor of self-righteousness and stand “naked,” that is, when we become completely honest, we feel comfortable. And then, no matter what the situation, we can keep on smiling. That may be one reason for Founder Niwano’s smile, which made an unforgettable impression on people, whether they were members of Rissho Kosei-kai or from outside of the organization. It became known as “the Niwano smile.”
However, Founder Niwano was a human being, just as we all are. He must sometimes have had sad or painful experiences that made him unable to smile. If my memory is correct, it was in his middle years that he became famous for his smile. In fact, when I look through the photographs of Founder Niwano collected in our family albums, there are almost none of him smiling when he was young.
When I think of the many events in our organization’s history, such as its founding, and the early beginnings of Religions for Peace in which Founder Niwano was actively involved, back then he may not have had much to smile about.
Incidentally, the late Masako Otaki, who held an important position in Rissho Kosei-kai as a board member and shouldered heavy responsibility for Religions for Peace Japan, said in an article in one of Rissho Kosei-kai’s periodicals, “Even when facing difficulties that were hard to accept, Founder Niwano was always willing to receive them with a smile.” And another article about Founder Niwano’s smile reported, “Behind his smile was the practice of holding back sadness, anger, or regret, and redirecting them to a smile.”
For Founder Niwano, putting a smile on his face was one form of diligence, which eventually became redirected to a true smile. From a different perspective, his faith involved changing instantly a painful circumstance into the seed of a smile. Founder Niwano was showing us that therein happiness can be found.
Smiling for Everyone’s Sake
It is said that smiling affects one’s health positively by raising the body temperature and strengthening one’s immune system. Smiling also has a harmonizing effect, allowing friendly relations with everyone around you. If you wear a sour face, people will feel unable to open up with you. But no matter how difficult the circumstances are, if you can accept things with a smile, that is the first step toward creating an area of harmony.
In his famous poem, “Ame ni mo makezu” (Undefeated by the Rain), Kenji Miyazawa (1896–1933), a poet and author of children’s literature, wrote of his hope that “Without desire, / Never angry, / And always smiling quietly— / I want to become / Someone like that.” Miyazawa also wrote, “Until the whole world becomes happy, there is no happiness for the individual.” This is based on the phrase of the Universal Transfer of Merits mentioned in the Lotus Sutra—“So that we, with all living beings, / Together accomplish the Buddha Way”—and is therefore connected to his wish that everyone should become happy.
This is why Miyazawa was always mindful of never being greedy or angry or hating other people. While he hoped for the happiness of everyone, Miyazawa probably naturally came to embody a bodhisattva-like lifestyle of “always smiling quietly.” Smiling is one form of diligence that makes you personally happy, and which at the same time is an act that stems from the wish that everyone be happy.
People who are not Rissho Kosei-kai members often praise us, saying, “Members of your organization all have pleasant smiles.” That is something to be grateful for, of course, and these must be the smiles of bodhisattvas that arise from the spirit of the universal transfer of merits. We might also say that our smiles are inherited from Founder Niwano, the one hundred and tenth anniversary of whose birth we celebrate this month.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.