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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Putting One's Mind in Order

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA president NiwanoThe Source of Suffering

The Sutra of the Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching, which records the final words of Shakyamuni, contains this passage: "As people with many desires seek much profit, their sufferings are also many." This certainly rings true for us human beings, who often find ourselves in trouble after we try one thing after another, wanting this and wanting that, and become unable to rein in our desires.

In particular, I feel this most keenly when the change in seasons presents the opportunity to tidy up my things. For example, there are the newspapers and magazines from which I intended to clip articles, but have never gotten around to doing so. Despite that, I am unable to throw them out, and with those materials piling up before me, they give me a new worry. Of course, the underlying feeling is that it would be a shame to let them go to waste, yet to organize my mental space nothing seems to work better than putting my things in order.

When the educator Nobuzo Mori (18961992) visited the study of a man he respected as his lifelong teacher, the only thing he saw in the perfectly organized space was a single book upon the man's desk. By keeping your personal area neat and tidy, and then putting your body and mind in good order, you can concentrate deeply on your studies.

Many people, however, allow their possessions to pile up and are unable to keep them in order. Besides, as the accumulation of unnecessary belongings continues to increase, they become a greater burden to us, both mentally and physically. Such a situation actually becomes the source of bringing suffering upon oneself.

In fact, the following verse of the Sutra of the Buddha's Bequeathed Teaching, from which I quoted earlier, says:

"Those who want to be liberated from suffering should contemplate knowing what is enough. The teaching of knowing what is enough is, namely, the place of riches, happiness, security, and peace."

We human beings are incapable of completely getting rid of our desires. However, when we wholeheartedly strive to know what is enough, our bodies as well as our minds feel lighter.

The Practice of Benefiting Others

In order to set our minds on something and do it, the many wishes filling our thoughts should be condensed into a single one. For us as members of Rissho Kosei-kai, our purpose is to pursue the Way leading to the Buddha's wish, namely, the happiness of others. Therefore, when we are being tossed about by our desires, one method of regaining our mental balance and "knowing what is enough" is to remind ourselves of this wish.

Also, when we are facing complicated problems that seem to have no easy solution, or when we have received a great shock, it is hard to put our thoughts and feelings in order. Upon close examination we will find that in each situation we suffer because things have not turned out as we expected, and when these problems are viewed in the light of such truths as the Dharma of dependent origination, we can clearly see what makes us worry and how to free ourselves from suffering and feel happy.

Becoming attached to or obsessed with some event that is confronting us, however, often clouds our eyes to this truth.

The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings says that it can "make one with attachments give rise to the mind of non-attachment" and "make a miserly one give rise to the mind of generosity."

"Attachments" refers to being obsessed with money and personal possessions, and "miserly" of course refers to being stingy and greedy. To remove these delusions, it is important that, instead of always thinking of ourselves, we make a habit of putting others first and turn our minds toward the practice of how we can benefit others.

"Non-attachment" means being able to rid ourselves of the ties that involve vanity and appearances, and "generosity" of course means being willing to share the things we have for the sake of others. For instance, one small kindness that everyone can undertake is to be sure to close the lid of the toilet so that the next person will feel better about using it. Being mindful every day of the small ways in which we can benefit others and being thoughtful in each of these practices will naturally change the course of our lives toward knowing how much is enough.

Organizing the things around us, and putting our thoughts and feelings in good order, depends only upon our genuine wish to do so

March 2012
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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