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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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The Meaning of Being Alive

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA president NiwanoLiving at One with Eternal Life

The Zen master Ikkyu (1394–1481) was well known for his particular style of Zen. An oldman once came to him, asking for a prayer thatwould enable him to live for many more years.

"We follow the practice of never dying," Ikkyu replied. He went on to say, "We learn the Dharma taught by Shakyamuni. For instance, even after this body with which we are born perishes, we can all continue to live as part of eternal life. By believing in and receiving the teaching, once our bodies become one with the Buddha's Dharma-body, which is eternal imperishable truth, death is no longer an issue for us."

The old man quickly become Ikkyu's disciple, and lived out a long happy life. Ikkyu's words elucidate the importance to us human beings of leading lives firmly grounded in the realization that ultimately we are at one with the eternal world, which is absolute and infinite.

Furthermore, as Prince Shotoku (574–622, the promulgator of Japan's Seventeen-Article Constitution) stated, "The real world is false and temporary. Only the Buddha is true." His admonishment informs us of the temporality of this world, which never ceases changing and is filled with delusions, and that only the realm of the Buddha equals truth. Therefore we should, alone and together with others, advance toward the realm of the Buddha.

When we look at things in this manner, we may suppose that life in this world is meaningless, but that is certainly not the case. On the contrary, throughout our lives we can continue to learn through our physical existence about eternal life and what it is like to become one with the world of truth. This lifelong learning is the meaning of being alive. Therein lies the reason that religion exists in the world of human beings.

Wishing for the Peace of All People

Every year on April 8 we celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Shakyamuni. At the time of his birth, Shakyamuni is recorded as having uttered the verse, "I alone am honored in heaven and on earth." Continuing, he said, "I will bring peace of mind to living beings who suffer in this world with so many delusions."

This world, which is described as "all phenomena are characterized by suffering,"certainly is full of people with troubles and af-flictions. There is no person who does notencounter sadness and painful events. In thesame vein, Shakyamuni teaches, "In life, things do not always go the way one thinks theyshould," and goes on to explain that "pain and suffering begin with thinking of doing things as one wishes, but by realizing the truth, you can escape from suffering and live freely." These words of Shakyamuni's may strike some people as rather cold. However, these words describe the essential path to liberation that has brought true peace of mind to countless people.

In other words, for Shakyamuni, the meaning of being alive was to bring tranquillity to all people. That was the case for Shakyamuni, and for us, there is only one thing we must do, through the study of the Dharma—devote ourselves to sharing the truth with many other people and thereby bring them tranquillity.

No matter how great the difficulty that people may be facing, by fully awakening to the truth they definitely will be able to move forward.

By looking deeply into suffering, we candiscover the truth at work. This may seem like a harsh thing to say, but we cannot always lead our lives dependent on other people. In other words, what is essential is that we must each grasp the truth for ourselves.

As I have already noted, the truth, the way things really are, sometimes can be cold and harsh. For a while, this may seem to go hand in hand with the pain in our hearts. When we really gain an awareness of the truth, however, we will understand that it actually encompasses warmth and kindness because it has taught us a valuable lesson.

Realizing the truth means clearly recognizing the nature of reality, which in turn makes us sublimely aware of the wonder of life. This is because, although our physical life is limited, the meaning of being caused to live in the here and now can suddenly spur our hearts to move forward.

April 2012
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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