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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko NiwanoSeeing the Truth

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

Using the Buddha's Yardstick

In August, the O-bon festival (urabon) takes place in
many parts of Japan. The Japanese word urabon is a transliteration of the Sanskrit ullambana in kanji, a word that means to be hung upside-down—extreme physical suffering. We could say that is the state of seeing things upside-down, of backward thinking, in other words, always interpreting things in a self-centered way and being convinced that one is right. The beginning of the urabon festival is found in the story of Maudgalyayana, who saved his mother from enduring the suffering of “being hung upside-down” when she was reborn in a lower realm, or hell, as a result of her karma.

The opposite of seeing things upside-down and thinking backward is to see them with true regard―seeing the reality of things, which is looking at them using the Buddha’s yardstick.
Using the Buddha’s yardstick means seeing things in the light of the Truth that “all things are impermanent” and“all things are without self.” Taking the example of interpersonal
relationships, this means not having any preconceived ideas. When we have preconceived ideas, we are prevented from seeing the true original forms of others as well as ourselves by various delusions as to whether we like or dislike someone, or whether the person is useful to us or not. So we suffer from our human relationships not going well. However, when we look at people using the Buddha’s yardstick, we realize that all of us are as one, equally being
caused to live by the One Great Life, and we can accept that all people and all things are embodiments of the Buddha that is, manifestations of the revered life of the Buddha.

As is written in chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, “The Eternal Life of the Tathagata”: “How shall I cause all the living/ To enter the Way supreme/ And speedily accomplish their buddhahood?” Rather than meaning that ordinary people should perform religious practices to become
buddhas, this means that we should realize that all of us together are already accomplishing embodiment of the Buddha.

The Form of the Buddha in Everything

The Lotus Sutra develops the idea of the real aspect of all things. A few years ago the Kosei Shimbun (newspaper) published a waka poem by Zen master Dogen (1200–51), introduced by Rev. Taido Matsubara, a Rinzai Zen priest and president of the Buddhist association Namu no Kai. He commented on the poem as follows: “When Dogen wrote, ‘The colors of the mountain,
the sounds of the river in the gorge—all of them are the voice of my Shakyamuni, they are none other than his very form,’ he was referring to the real aspect of all things. In Mahayana Buddhism, we revere Shakyamuni not as a human being, but as the Buddha’s Law-body,
personifying the invisible Dharma Shakyamuni realized. We respect all things and phenomena in nature as symbolic expressions of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment.”

Accepting that what we see and what we hear—that everything is the voice and the form of the Buddha—is also putting our hands together reverently and worshiping before all things and phenomena that exist in the universe. In particular, I think it is wonderful to be able to
see the embodiment of the Buddha in very member of our immediate family and to put our hands together reverently before each of them, one by one.

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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