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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko NiwanoFinding Your Master Teacher

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

In Seeking for the Way

No matter what we set out to do to accomplish, we
always feel more secure if we have instructions or an
example to follow. With nothing to guide us, we do not
know the way forward and can feel lost, like a rudderless
ship at sea.

For the entire length of our lifetime, finding a master
teacher who can serve as an example can be said to be very important. Zen master Dogen (1200-1253), in his “Points to Keep in Mind in Practicing the Way,” exhorted, “When you do not have a truly good teacher, learning is no better than not learning.” By this he meant that in order to attain the Buddha Way, we need a masterful teacher. In other words, we cannot really learn unless we find a master teacher who can guide us in the right Way.

The reason that Dogen referred to “a truly good teacher” is that, depending on what kind of person the teacher is, there is a danger of our being led in the wrong direction. That is how great a teacher’s influence can be.

Finding a master teacher will inevitably happen if we make a constant effort to seek the Way. Dogen traveled to China to find such a mentor, and there he encountered Zen master Nyojo, who remained his teacher for the rest of his life.

In those days, travel to China involved risking one’s life in small boats, which should impress us with Dogen’s ardent determination to seek the Way.

When Founder Niwano as a young man met the man who would become his teacher, Mr. Sukenobu Arai, and heard his lectures on the Lotus Sutra, the vivid, lasting impression was
made on him. That must be because the founder was seeking the truth that would be able to bring salvation to all people.

Encountering a New Self

Founder Niwano absorbed the teachings of the Lotus Sutra directly from his new teacher. Genuinely learning means to first make one’s self empty; and by receiving the teaching into one’s empty self, the self undergoes a transformation. This is to encounter a new self. In this
sense, we can say that Founder Niwano was reborn through his encounter with Mr. Arai.

To learn well is to follow the teacher’s pattern. The student begins by imitating the teacher, but of course this does not mean simply repeating things by rote. What is important for Rissho Kosei-kai members is not that we try to copy exactly what the founder said and did, but instead to make the most of our own potential and develop our personality in the spirit of the One Vehicle taught by the founder, and proceed with our lives in harmony with others.

In November we celebrate the anniversary of the founder’s birth. For us, remembering the founder as our masterful teacher means applying his guidance and all that he taught us in our daily lives.

November 2008
From “Kosei” October 2008 Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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