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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
Phone: (323) 262-4430
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The True Way to Liberation

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

President Nichiko NiwanoWhat is Liberation?

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year is a good time to consider
the starting point of our faith, the liberation of
others as well as ourselves.

Generally speaking, when we encounter some
difficulty and feel worried or anxious, we ask the
gods and buddhas for some kind of help, but too
often we seek divine assistance only in times of
trouble. Regarding this matter, in chapter 16 of the
Lotus Sutra, “The Eternal Life of the Tathagata ”,
Shakyamuni says: “Ever making this my thought:
‘How can I make living beings / Obtain entry into
the unsurpassable Way / And quickly accomplish
embodiment as buddhas?’” Here, the meaning of the scripture is that the Buddha always wants to somehow lead everyone to the Way of the Buddha, have everyone quickly reach the realm of the Buddha, and thereby attain true happiness.

Simply put, the Buddha always wishes to liberate us.

Those seeking liberation may think that when their load of suffering is lightened, they are being given encouragement to live. But when we look at things from the perspective of the Buddha, who wishes that we all “quickly accomplish embodiment as buddhas ”, simply seeking relief from suffering is the wrong direction.

The reason that the Rissho Kosei-kai Members’ Vow includes the phrase, “We recognize in Buddhism a true way of liberation ”, is to lead us to understand the meaning as the liberation of others as well as ourselves, and that this is nothing other than what directs us to the basis of faith. Also, “a true way of liberation” is an important part of our members’ vow, demonstrating a distinguishing feature of Rissho Kosei-kai, and the very spirit of the Lotus Sutra.

Toward Living with Gratitude

When we hear the phrase “recognize in Buddhism a true way of liberation ”, it may seem to describe something very difficult, but actually the meaning can be understood by anyone.
When we are aware of the happiness we are already receiving, accept it gratefully and give
thanks for it, our awareness of the bounty of blessings being bestowed upon us is itself a true means to liberation.

We learn the teaching and in the course of practicing it, when the words “thank you” and “it’s all thanks to you” come naturally from our lips, then we are being liberated. Nevertheless, since we human beings are apt to complain or grumble at something the very next day, I think it is important that we make a habit of repeating our study of the teaching.

A Zen monk once said, “Our own hearts are, by nature, the Buddha, and when we realize this, we become buddhas; but when we are deluded, we are still living beings ”. Becoming awakened and delusion are like two sides of the same coin. In other words, the Buddha and a living being are also opposite sides of the same coin, existing as one in a single entity, and once we open our eyes to this fact, then and there we find a way to liberation.

When we are fully aware of this fact, a lifestyle of wanting things—“I want this ”, “I wish I had
that”—changes to a lifestyle of being grateful for all things—“Thank you ”, “It’s all thanks to you”.

Shakyamuni teaches us that “In the world, everything does not happen according to our wishes ”.

Yet he also teaches us that we can exercise control over ourselves. Therefore, even though we can change ourselves, we cannot make others change according to our wishes. Buddhism is, after all, based on the realization of every one of us that we must make ourselves the light, make the Dharma our light.

Happiness and liberation are not far away. We are already receiving so much happiness, we are already being showered with blessings, and when we realize this in our daily lives, we see that these gifts exist in our own hearts and minds.

January 2011
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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The Gift of Life.
The Power to Live.
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