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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Human Relationships Are of Many Types

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA president NiwanoRespecting People's Differences

From long, long ago in Japan, we have thought of divine inspiration that causes all things to come into being as the spirit of interconnectedness. All kinds of things were considered to come into existence as a result of the effects of binding and joining. It is wonderful indeed that this way of thinking that originated in ancient Japan is in such close agreement with the principle of dependent origination, the basis of Buddhist teaching, which states that "all things arise through the combination of causes and conditions."

In relationships between people, too, many phenomena arise from the causes and conditions that connect and join them together. There are relationships of addition that become a plus for both parties, relationships of multiplication that produce a synergistic effect, and relationships of subtraction that are like minuses for both parties. Among these three, we usually hope for relationships that are like addition or multiplication, and moreover, I think that, whenever possible, we really want to be friends with people we can get along with or who will usually agree with us.

Even so, we cannot say for certain that a relationship which seems beneficial for us will definitely enrich our lives. And when we always get together with people we already know well, our relationships can end up being monotonous, our conversations and our interests are not broadened, and we lose the opportunity for further development.

When I think of a relationship of multiplication, what comes to mind are a husband and wife. When the two sexes, male and female, are joined as one, the promise of a new life being born from that union arises.

When people are bound together with someone different from themselves, a heightened sense of discovery and creativity develops, and from this emerges a marvelous sense of life. Evidence of this can be seen in Founder Nikkyo Niwano and Cofounder Myoko Naganuma's transcending their differences in gender, age, and background to refine each other's characters to work together to give birth to Rissho Kosei-kai.

Through Shakyamuni's praising and esteeming Devadatta as a good friend—even though Devadatta had gone so far as to try to kill him— Shakyamuni teaches us the attitude of making every situation an opportunity to learn. When we apply this lesson to the human relationships with those closest to us, instead of rejecting the people who drag us down, we can learn to accept them, thus increasing life's possibilities. When such broadmindedness characterizes our interactions with other people, we are able to continue to build human relationships that enrich our lives.

A Broader Mind

There are some important considerations in accepting people who are different from ourselves and making the most of each other's characteristics.

First, we must stand firmly on our own two feet. The basis for doing this is to be a person who possesses self-respect, since people who do not respect themselves are unable, in the truest sense, to respect other people.

Second, we must always maintain an attitude of being truthful and honest. I think it is hardly necessary for me to further explain the importance of this personal trait. To take a familiar example, however, I think many readers know from their own experience that when a husband and wife have a disagreement, there is no solution to repairing the relationship without both parties being sincere and honest.

And third, we should willingly acknowledge that other people are different from us. It is important that we respect others for being different from ourselves without becoming frustrated by insignificant dissimilarities.

Those who are unable to accept someone else's differences should perhaps once again review the path they need to be following. After all, when our undivided attention is focused on reaching our own goals, we hardly notice other people's differences. Rather, at such times we can even turn those differences into the fuel for self-improvement.

Such an attitude is rooted in the broad-minded thinking that understands that "Heaven and earth have the same source, and all existence is as one." I think it would be ideal, in interacting with others, if we could always keep this realization firmly in mind.

As long as we remain broad-minded as we get to know people better, every human relationship will gradually come to demonstrate the unlimited potential it holds, to say nothing of its synergistic effect of multiplication. Even those relationships that we can only think of as a minus—when reflected upon calmly from the perspective of "all things in the universe are attributed to the Wonderful Dharma"—can be transformed into invaluable treasures, and our encounters with such people will enrich our lives.

August 2012
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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