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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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President's Message

Because We Are Different

 

RKINA Pres. Nichiko Niwano

A Heart That Loves Everyone

Among the poems that Ki no Tsurayuki (872–945) included in The Collection of Japanese Poems of Ancient and Modern Times, the first imperially-sponsored anthology of waka poetry, is his own love poem: “The way of this world, / Like the winds / Blowing across it, / Is to think lovingly / Of someone unseen.”

Reading this as a love poem, it can be understood in its own way. However, someone has proposed that this poem is actually about a truth of which we are hardly aware: that, at the bottom of our hearts, we love and feel goodwill toward all things existing in the world.

In reality, though, we can see that conditions are not as this poem describes. Different ways of thinking and seeing things lead people to argue, show hostility, and cut ties with one another. It even leads countries to fire weapons at each other. Unfortunately, conflict between religions still exists as a real problem—many people suffer and worry because they are unable to accept that other people are different from them, even going so far as to enter into futile fights with them.

In these conditions, one thing we can do is make it our personal norm to acknowledge that other people are different from us and accept those differences simply as differences. To do this, we should first realize that “I, too, have feelings of love for all things in this world and a kind heart.” By doing so, we will start to see the nobleness of the differences between ourselves and others.

The Meaning and Nobleness of Our Differences

We were all born due to different causes and conditions. In addition, as we’ve grown up, we have gone through experiences unique to each of us that have built the character traits that form “me.”

Therefore, it is quite natural that your way of thinking and seeing things, to say nothing of your ethnicity and appearance, is different from other people. To make these differences into a reason to fight with or exclude others is tantamount to denying your own individuality.

In the world of religion, it is natural that, according to their karmic conditions, people take different paths toward liberation. Some people find liberation through the teachings of Christianity and others through the teachings of Islam or Buddhism. People seeking serenity have many teachings to look up to and believe. In order to bring peace of mind to all of the people living here on Earth, different religions and religious denominations have developed specific characteristics that complement each other.

Religions are bound together in their teaching of love and compassion in order to guide people toward peace of mind. Then, when the love and compassion that come from religion work on us and consequently “the love for others and a kind heart” buried within us is unearthed, we cannot stop ourselves from putting it into practice. In terms of Buddhist teaching, this is the bodhisattva way of life.

Sometimes, we suddenly feel the differences between ourselves and others and are unable to be kind to them. When this happens, it is easier to accept these differences if we turn our eyes—which have been looking outward—inward to our own hearts.

When I participate in international conferences and encounter someone with a different opinion, I feel it is splendid that he or she has a way of thinking that I do not. After all, through that difference, I have the opportunity to learn that there is still so much that I myself do not yet know. Instead of loudly insisting upon our own opinions and trying to ram our horns through the shields of each other’s differences, aren’t we all happier when we acknowledge our differences, accept them, get along with each other, and create the harmony that brings us all joy?

To quote from chapter 5 of the Lotus Sutra, “The Parable of the Medicinal Herbs”: “The Dharma taught by the Tathagata is of a single flavor and a single attribute.” Thinking about the goal common to religions as well as the kind heart harbored deep down inside each and every one of us, we are all fellow passengers on spaceship Earth who can say—in the sense that we are promised peace of mind and happiness—that the truth of the universe is of a single flavor and a single attribute. Indeed, we have been entrusted with the mission of proving this to the world.


From Kosei, September 2019

 


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.


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