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International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Bright and Warm as the Sun

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

The Light That Shines from Wisdom
President Nichiko Niwano
In the Suttanipata, one of the oldest collections of the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, we find these words of his: “Solar by clan, Shakyas by birth. From that lineage I have gone forth.”

This was Shakyamuni’s response when asked about his origins by King Bimbisara, who was deeply impressed by the noble demeanor of the mendicant Shakyamuni.

It is said that at that time the king dismounted from his royal carriage, sat down before Shakyamuni, and happily exchanged greetings. The virtue conveyed by Shakyamuni’s serene and relaxed appearance seemed to emit rays of light that, just as his lineage has suggested, were so bright they lit up the surrounding area as if the sun had come down to the earth.

Of course, this impression was not created merely by his outer appearance. The light was not only a reflection of his sublime exterior, it was the radiance shining from the wisdom that flowed from a mind always alert and clear. This is evident from the following words that Shakyamuni said to the king, who had offered donations of material things: “I did not renounce secular life in order to fulfill physical desires. For from desire comes suffering, while in diligence there is peace and comfort. My mind delights in making every effort to advance spiritually.”

Perceiving well what causes the mind to become tranquil and brings true serenity, Shakyamuni thus used his wisdom to speak pleasantly yet frankly, and so guiding the king to the teaching and leading him to take refuge in the Dharma.

The aura of brightness has great power to attract people. The rays of light that seem released from within shine on others. For us, striving to achieve the brightness of the sun can be called our ideal.

Warmth Born of Compassion

When we speak of the sun, the impression that most of us have is of a provider of warmth. Of course, that may not be the way people in scorching arid desert areas think of it. In Japan, however, the su n does indeed bathe the land in warmth and empowers plants and trees to send forth buds that blossom in the spring—in other words, it provides the spark of life as the source of the necessary energy.

In that regard, the brightness and warmth of the sun are also essential for the lives of human beings.

If we speak in concrete terms of the type of words and deeds that create warmth, we can say that, fir st of all, being open-minded and seeing the goodness in other people is the first step in being warmhearted. Just as the sun causes plants to sprout and grow, being considerate toward others and recognizing their positive qualities, and encouraging their further development through kindness and compassion is to demonstrate our genuine warmth.

Furthermore, sympathizing with others when they are enduring difficult circumstances, and wishing them well and encouraging them to rebuild their lives are examples of our warmheartedness. Ryokan (1758 - 1831), a Zen monk, of Echigo was himself poor and could not support people in difficulty with either money or goods. He was eager to share warm feelings with them at least through kind words, which resulted in the many poems and other writings he left to us. This was an embodiment of his natural kindness and compassion.

Displaying warmheartedness has nothing t o do with gain or loss, or with winning or losing. It arises from the realization that it is all right to lose sometimes. When we adopt the attitude of accepting every type of circumstance and acknowledging its value—just as the sun shines unconditionally upon the entire earth, or just as a mother is devoted lovingly to raising all her children—then we can calmly accept whatever life brings. Our inner natures gain new breadth and we become endowed with feelings of warmth and kindness.

When our eyes are fixed only on practicality and achieving abundant results and we concentrate only on getting ahead of others, losing will then only cause us to suffer. Once we become free of the obsession with competing, however, we can learn the value of failure, come to know what is sufficient, and then we can, on our own, lead lives of cheerful optimism.

Most important for us as members is diligence in becoming like the sun, shining on many other people the light of the wisdom we have gained and the warmth of our compassion.

June 2010
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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