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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko NiwanoFreeing One's Mind

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

The Thing Called Desire

Buddhism has the saying, “The will is a horse, the mind a monkey.” Just as it is difficult to stop a horse from running wild or a monkey from jumping about, so are our defilements difficult to control. Learning of the news incidents that are reported every day, I realize how difficult
it must be to curb the delusions that cause people to suffer and worry.

In chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra, “A Parable,” it is explained that “the cause of all suffering is rooted in desire.” This teaches us that every kind of suffering has, as its primary source, craving, anger, or ignorance. What matters most for us is that when we stop and reflect, we recognize that this is true and steadfastly strive to follow the teaching.

On the one hand, because we have desires we are able to go on living, as an analysis of our instincts will show us.

All living things have the instincts of self-preservation and preservation of their species. Human beings can also be said to be endowed with another instinct, the instinct to achieve happiness by making others happy.

In Rissho Kosei-kai, we practice the teaching of “putting others first,” by means of which we find our own happiness through bringing happiness to others. In other words, by this teaching we are imbued with the instinct to joy by being as one with others.

When Things do not go as Expected

In the Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal Virtue, in a quotation attributed to the Buddha appears this sentence: “[The] organ of thought is like [that of] a monkey, never resting even for a little while.” In other words, the human mind, like a monkey’s interests, is
always hopping around, rarely staying still for very long. Our minds are capricious. Whatever we may be thinking about now, in the next moment we will be thinking of something completely unrelated. We sometimes find ourselves tossed about among desires that arise one after another, causing us suffering. We all imagine it would be a relief if we could take control of a restless, agitated mind and make it do as we wish. Even if we want to do so, however, controlling the mind is not something that can be done easily.

Buddhism teaches us that “all is suffering.” Suffering includes anything that does not go as we might expect, and the concept comes from the Sanskrit dukkha.

Living with Gratitude

What should we do, then? I think that the key to controlling our defilements lies in maintaining a mind that is grateful for being caused to live, which we develop through our practice and study of the teachings of the Buddha. Of course, as long as we are alive we are unlikely to be completely free of defilements. By putting others first and training ourselves in making others happy and experiencing their happiness ourselves, however, our cravings, anger, and ignorance gradually come under control of their own accord. Once we have savored the joy
arising from such a way of living, we become free of our attachments to things and our minds grow peaceful.

When greeting a new year, most people hope to spend the following twelve months with a fresh mental outlook. There can be no greater happiness for human beings than being able to live each day with a smile. So that we can do so, let us live each day with gratitude in our hearts and doing things to ensure the happiness of others.

January 2009
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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