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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
Phone: (323) 262-4430
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Living with Guidelines

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA president NiwanoAsk Yourself, "How Should I Lead my Life?

Happy New Year to everyone! New Year's Day as the day to make one's plans for the beginning year is a widespread custom, and many people start the year by setting personal goals or guidelines for how to conduct their lives.

Since we members of Rissho Kosei-kai are walking the Way that leads to buddhahood, the basis for determining a New Year resolution by us is none other than bodhisattva practice.

Many people seem to think that bodhisattva practice involves something extraordinary, but there is no need to think of itas something difficult. As Founder Nikkyo Niwano often said, "The purpose of our daily activities should be to make those around us feel at ease." It is important that, in the course of our daily lives, we think about how we can show consideration toward others and make them happy, and do what little things we can to help other people out. I think it is necessary for us to set goals or guidelines that best suit us, as we strive to perform such types of bodhisattva practice that are close at hand.

Then, instead of having someone else decide for us or determine for us, we can say that our New Year goals or guidelines are something we must choose for ourselves to answer the essential question, "How should I lead my life?

The Importance of Realization

For us human beings, who are apt to let timeslip by in days lacking any specific purpose, setting goals or guidelines for life takes on great meaning.

Although this next may seem a little off the subject, I believe every life has unlimited possibilities. The level of concentration that people with a clear point of view can focus on achieving something—"This is how I choose to live"—is quite different from that of people who do not have such a viewpoint. After all, when people get together to talk something over, if they are clearly focused on the topic, it usually does not take very long to reach a consensus.

Zen master Dogen (1200–1253), who journeyed from Japan to China, was practicing at a temple there when he saw an old monk, who was wearing no hat, drying mushrooms in the hot midday sun.

"Why don't you ask one of the younger monks or temple assistants to do that for you?" he suggested.

"Because no one else can be me, and perform my practice for me," he replied. Dogen then asked, "Well, why not at least wait until it is cooler to do that?" "Because there is no time like the present," the old monk asserted with an air of finality.

This episode teaches us that we can concentrate straightforwardly on what we wish to accomplish when we have set goals or guidelines for our lives, and are not deflected from our purpose. At the same time, it also teaches us the importance of always being diligent.

I think this shows us that when activities we generally consider insignificant chores fit in with the way of life we have chosen for ourselves and are in harmony with the teaching of the Buddha, then even such activities are examples of bodhisattva practice and demonstrations of diligence. It follows then that instead of devoting all our energy to accomplishing a present goal, we should act in a way that is well suited to our daily lives, performing our tasks from one moment to the next as naturally as breathing. Remembering to always be grateful, not becoming angry over minor matters or complaining, and making the people around us feel at ease. . . . Through the accumulation of moments such as these, we live each day of our lives to the fullest. This is itself a form of practice that fulfills the goals or guidelines shared by everyone who seeks to perfect his or her humanity.

"At this moment, in the place where we are, / Wholehearted devotion to the things right under our feet, / Is to live for eternity." As this poem by Benkyo Shiio (1876- 1971), head priest of Zojoji temple in Tokyo, tells us, being truly alive means to value here and now the things before our very eyes, and thus lead lives rich in the sense of purpose and fulfillment.

January 2012
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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