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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko NiwanoLearning and Growing Up Together

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

The Role of Adults

Last year, one of the projects initiated to mark Rissho Kosei-kai’s seventieth anniversary was one titled Youth Development. We have decided to continue it this year as one of our organization’s guiding principles. In every age, helping young
people to develop well and fully is a task that must be undertaken responsibly by adults.

In particular, the early childhood years serve as an important period for building a foundation that lasts throughout the person’s lifetime. We therefore have an important role to play in seeing that small children cultivate their individuality and self-reliance.

Currently, much serious thought is being given to the problem of Japan’s declining birthrate and becoming a society with large numbers of elderly citizens and too few children. One issue that has come to the fore as a result of the declining birthrate is the excessive concern about every aspect of child rearing by young parents, especially mothers. In many cases, these parents do too much for the child, interfering so much they take away the opportunity for the child to think or act on his or her own.

When a mother tries to instruct her child on every little thing, she is nipping in the bud the child’s spontaneity. Some specialists in child development suggest that such an upbringing
is one reason for the increasing number of children who become self-centered and easily lose their temper for little apparent reason.

In past days, families usually had several children, often more, so that parents were very busy back then and could not pay a great deal of special attention to each child. Children played freely by themselves, helped their brothers and sisters around the house, did as much as they could for themselves, and tried not to be an extra burden on their parents.

I think that as long as parents take a firm hand in their most essential duties, they should encourage their child’s independence. It is important for parents to be grateful for their lives as human beings, to gladly give thanks for the blessings so far received, and as far as possible appear happy and smiling before their offspring.

Children are very observant of adults. When growing children see their parents bowing their heads before the gods and the Buddha, they themselves come to revere gods and the
Buddha. When children see adults who are grateful for being sustained in living, they begin to realize the preciousness of their own lives. When growing children see that their parents do
not lose their tempers or complain about life, and keep a happy smiling face, they learn what attitude they should have toward life and think, “I want grow up to be like that.”

Learning from Children

Adults, whether they are parents or not, always assume that they act as teachers to children. It is important, however, never to forget the importance of being able to learn from children.
Children’s words and actions are a mirror that reflects their parents. Of course, no parents are perfect human beings. In order to fulfill our role as affectionate, responsible parents, it is important to understand that we are able to learn from and “grow up” together with our children.

We may desire to learn from holy men and women of the past but these men and women often teach us to learn from young children. The Bible carries many references to children. A
famous example is the words of Jesus in the New Testament:“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles
himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”(Mark 10:15) I think this passage is telling us the importance of accepting the teaching with innocent purity and
the open mind of a small child.

The Zen master Bankei (1622-93) penned this poem: “How sad that the newborn child / Gradually gains knowledge / And grows distant from the Buddha.” Just as the poem warns us, we must be diligent in our practice, not allowing ourselves to become tempted by the kind of worldly knowledge that leads us to become antagonistic and stubborn, but keeping our minds as open and flexible as those of innocent children.

May 2009
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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