A Steadfast, Simple Manner
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Learn from Nature
It is often said that planning for the coming year starts on New Year’s Day. If you begin the year by anticipating what sort of year this should be for yourself, you will feel braced for it and prepared for a fresh start in the new year.
Incidentally, even if you make important resolutions on New Year’s Day, after just a few days, you will often forget them in the hustle and bustle of holiday activity. This might be because your mind attaches importance to results, rather than on making a continual effort, and because your mind may not be free and open to taking on new challenges.
Just as we are shown by the following haiku poem by Hakkotsu Hironaka, “Even on New Year’s Day, / The snow must be cleared away,” I think that what we need at this time is to return to the settled state of mind that acts in the appropriate way and does what must be done, regardless of the circumstances. Instead of feeling pressed for time and letting ourselves be run ragged by aiming for efficiency and results, we should behave in a steadfast, simple manner. In doing so, we can lead a lifestyle of kindness and caring. Therein lies true happiness.
No matter what we are doing, if we neither rush nor dawdle but conduct our affairs in an orderly manner, we develop our humanity.
“Slowly, slowly, / The persimmons become dried persimmons” is a poem by Shun Iwasaki that makes us think about our way of life by combining it with the working of nature. Truly mature human sentiments are developed through steadfast daily behavior that does not neglect even minor details.
With January in mind, I think of the delicate amur adonis flowers that are used as New Year’s decorations in Japan. In this essay, I have already cited a few poems, and I will now quote one more, about the amur adonis: “When heaven and earth unite, / A flower of the amur adonis blooms. / May the flowers bloom / No matter how many ages pass by.” The poem by Ninomiya Sontoku (1787–1856) suggests that nature simply marks the passage of time, and when the workings of the truth are in harmony, the flowers bloom of their own accord. Therein lies a lesson for all of us, indicating the importance of leading lives that are steadfast and simple.
Raising Your Aspiration
Unswayed by the successes or failures we may witness, we should calmly and unaffectedly do what is expected of us. If we can conduct our lives in this way, our minds will be tranquil and we can expect to improve ourselves as human beings. However, the reality may be that we find it quite difficult to continue to do even one thing on which we have our hearts set. In the fact that we want to lead our lives in a steadfast, simple manner, we may think of Shakyamuni as one of our role models, but that might lead us to conclude that only those people who possess exceptional talents and abilities can do so.
When Zen master Dogen (1200–1253) was asked about what was important in practicing the Buddha Way, he replied, “No special talent is required in order to study the Buddha Way. When you raise your aspiration and make the effort to learn the Way according to your own ability you definitely will be able to attain the Buddha Dharma.” However, Dogen reminded us that the aspiration for this must be earnest. In other words, it is important that you continually and repeatedly sustain the feeling of pursuing the Way. Even if you have the wholehearted intention to do a certain thing or another, without a firm resolve you probably will not keep to it for very long.
From a different perspective, when you follow your aspiration and turn your full attention to all that is before your eyes, even if your progress may be slow you will definitely achieve results. Furthermore, if you develop your aspiration, you can experience being open-minded so as not to swing between joy and sorrow, which will help lead to a calm, simple lifestyle.
However, as the practice of faith based on one’s aspiration differs from one person to another, it is certainly all right to seek one’s own practice in accordance with one’s own abilities.
For example, it is enough to simply pick up roadside litter, to put into practice the mind of knowing satisfaction, or to perform the three basic practices that I frequently mention—greeting others in the morning, replying positively to a request or inquiry, and maintaining one’s personal possessions with neatness and care. This is one meaning of steadfast practice of the faith, when you are unflaggingly diligent about the things closest to you, and are as prudent as possible about doing them.
Together, let’s make the most of each day so that when this year ends, we will have enjoyed a year full of satisfaction and happiness.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.