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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Grandmotherly Solicitude

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

Rissho Kosei-Kai President Nichiko NiwanoKindness without Words

While the situation is not limited to our present era, an overabundance of material things seems to be detrimental to the human heart. Especially in recent times, the sad reality is that many people cannot be bothered even where the lives of their own relatives are concerned, let alone those of strangers, which has given rise to a strong trend toward a society in which increasing numbers of people lead solitary lives with little contact with relatives or neighbors.

When I think of what we need in the midst of this trend, someone comes to mind. Ryokan (1758-1831) of Echigo Province (today’s Niigata Prefecture) was descended from a prominent family, yet he renounced home life to become a monk. One day, his younger brother, who had inherited the family estate, asked him to reason with his dissipated son, Umanosuke.

Yet while staying with his younger brother’s family, Ryokan did not give a single lecture to the son, and was finally preparing to depart. The nephew, Umanosuke, must have been secretly relieved that Ryokan had said nothing to him, but as the monk was about to leave, manosuke followed the courteous custom of helping him to fasten his straw sandals. Umanosuke felt something wet drop onto his hand. When he looked up, he could see tears falling from his uncle’s eyes. The day that Ryokan’s tears touched him, Umanosuke was able to bring his reckless behavior under control at last.

Fondness for drinking was distracting the nephew from shouldering his responsibility as the family’s son and heir. Ryokan must have been thinking of how he would feel if he were in the same position—and in this frame of mind of accepting that difficulty as his own, the eardropsof compassion he shed, moved his nephew to experience a change of heart.

Moving on to a different topic, I recall that when I was a young man, I was the director of Rissho Kosei-kai’s Dissemination Department. The first time that I had an overnight study session with many of the ministers who headed Dharma Centers in the Ome Retreat Center in western Tokyo, a telegram was delivered to me. It was from the wife of the mentor who had overseen my education for many years. She was concerned about me and wanted to
encourage me. The telegram read: “Please do your very best!” I remember even now how much strength and inspiration I drew from it. We human beings receive the courage and strength to live in those moments when we know that someone nearby is looking on, that someone is watching over us.

When a mentor generously guides a disciple, very much like a kindly grandmother loving her grandchildren, we call such a warm, kind heart a demonstration of “grandmotherly solicitude.” It is essential in our daily lives that we show this kind of heartfelt consideration toward others, in other words, that we exhibit grandmotherly solicitude.

Mere Single-mindedness

Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra, “The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Kannon,” describes how Kannon takes on a variety of forms in order to guide living beings, and immediately rescues us when we encounter danger if we pray to this bodhisattva.

While we cannot reach the same level of unrestricted freedom as the Bodhisattva Kannon, even we can become people of whom others will say, “I can manage my feeling about suffering just by thinking about that person,” or “I develop peace of mind just by being near that person.”

In the past, when ministers used to come to our house to consult about problems, as suppertime approached Founder Niwano would always say to them, “Come and eat with us.” They all enjoyed having supper together. In fact, they had come about a serious matter, but they went home as if all of the clouds had been cleared away from their minds.

Many of us tend to think of grandmotherly solicitude as intrusive or meddlesome. However, when we see it as just single-mindedly reaching out to others with compassion, and being thoughtful and caring, then by sharing a meal, saying a few words of thanks, or even expressing gratitude wordlessly, grandmotherly solicitude can be soothing and bring
people together.

Members of Rissho Kosei-kai strive to become people whose hearts overflow with such attentive kindness, but while being considerate of others, we also need to keep in mind their emotional state and their individual circumstances.

Our Dharma Centers are meant to serve as oases where people in the neighboring communities can relax physically and find peace of mind. Therefore, each and every one of us as a member of a Dharma Center should take the initiative in becoming a more caring, humane person.

I earnestly pray that such kindheartedness will continue to spread through our local communities, so that there will be fewer tragic events of the kind that have become all too common in today’s society

February 2011
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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