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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Deepen Appreciation for the Karmic Connection
between Husband and Wife

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

President Nichiko Niwano

The Meaning of Marriage

In our Members' Vow, we pledge to "bring peace
(the land of tranquil light) to our families, communities, and countries and to the world ",
which expresses the determination of each and
every one of us to bring about world peace by practicing kindness and consideration, which starts
in our own homes.

Over the years, I have talked about family enlightenment and putting family relationships in order. When family members show consideration for each other and the home serves as a place of both physical and mental relaxation, then each family member can be energetic at their work or daily tasks and show kindness and have the ability to be thoughtful toward others.

The husband and wife are the heart of such a family.

However, as the great French novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850) wrote, ". . . of all human sciences that which relates to marriage [is] the least progressive ". Indeed, there are many things that we do not understand about married life, and there are no easy answers as to how to be a better couple or what it means to be the perfect couple. And there certainly seems to be no tried-and-true formula for making up after a couple has had an argument.

In this sense, even I have to admit that my approach to marriage is a work-in-progress, but what I can assert is that being successfully married does include these two basic principles for the partners: Stop being immature and become true adults and Serve as whetstones that polish each other.

Improving Together

Becoming true adults means discerning things for what they are and not getting upset or angry over trifling matters. Adults are able to show kindness toward other people and be broad-minded and accepting of them. Some people share a genuine karmic connection and marry, only to divorce after some minor quarrel. In many such cases, the couple was probably unable to conquer their immaturity before their marriage took place.

While I am on that subject, I cannot offer a general opinion that divorce is either right or wrong, but I do think undertaking it needs to be given very careful consideration if children are involved, so that it does not have lasting psychological effects on them, such as causing the children to feel abandoned.

The second principle I mentioned, serving as whetstones that polish each other, means just what it says—refining each other's heart and mind. When one spouse feels dissatisfied with the other, instead of scolding or becoming angry, he or she should examine his or her own attitude by asking, "What is this situation teaching me?" and refine his or her own heart. Once both partners have come to see that suitably teaching each other their strong points and weak points is part of the role of a spouse, they can turn their frustrations into gratitude.

A Buddhist legend from Burma (now called Myanmar) says, "A married couple must together adopt one teaching that will nurture their hearts and minds ". It is important that husband and wife walk side by side, sharing the same values, and here, "one teaching" can only mean the teachings of the Buddha. Based on the teachings of the Buddha, they polish each other's hearts and minds, and deepen each other's humanity. Throughout their lifetimes, one step at a time, such a couple can become true adults who improve their minds and build happy and harmonious families.

Husband and wife have, just like yin and yang in Chinese philosophy, contrasting qualities that form two halves of a whole, giving rise to the best in each other in turn. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that their opinions sometimes differ, and indeed it is important that they practice accepting such differences, because that in itself is fulfilling the role of serving as a whetstone for each other.

The Japanese Buddhist monk Nichiren (1222–82) said, "A man is a woman's treasure, and a woman is a man's life ". A couple cannot exist without each other, as they are bound together by a wondrous karmic connection. When they realize this, their consideration for one another grows deeper and stronger.

The main point in maintaining a healthy relationship between husband and wife is, as in the phrase "Love each other but don't forget your manners ", to treat each other affectionately and with respect, in other words, to be caring and considerate, and to recognize the value and worth that each possesses.

June 2011
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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