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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Surprises Can Stimulate the Imagination

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA president NiwanoSearching for Meaning in Life

Usually, unless some special event is taking place, we tend to spend one day after another in much the same way. We do not notice change if our lifestyle has fallen into a rut, and I suspect that a great number of things slip by unnoticed while we seem to be looking at them. We say that in this world every day is a new day, and yet while we are inattentive to various changes and do not even notice them, we may be allowing our sensitivity to become dull and losing our powers of imagination and creativity.

When we really think about it, there is much that is mysterious and many things that we do not understand in our surroundings. We might even say that we are surrounded by mysteries. Where did we human beings come from and where do we go? We really do not know even our own selves very well.

Atsome point, most of usstop asking "why" about such mysteries. Perhaps that is why the Japanese novelist Doppo Kunikida (18711908) made one of his characterssay, "What I want is to be surprised. I don't want to know all the secrets of the universe, I want this mysterious universe to fill me with a sense of wonder."

We must notice the mysterious things around us and allow them fill us with thatsense of wonderif we are to break out of a lifestyle of habit. As I have noted before, deep down, we are experiencing life withoutreally understanding it, therefore it is no exaggeration to say that awareness and a sense of wonder spur us to grow as human beings and they heighten our sensitivity. When we see the things before our eyes with feelings that are pure, then even in the midst of our usual daily routine and personal relations we should make some fresh new discovery with a sense of wonder, and surprise.

Start by Being Flexible

Speaking of new discoveries, April is a month of many changes in Japan, and many people will come into contact with a new environment through new classmates or new colleagues at work. For some people, who do not do well in new situations, this can be a season of doldrums. Since I myself was once one such person, I can truly understand how they feel.

I would venture to say, however, that new encounters are the best opportunity from which to discover one's unknown self. People adapt to change because they change themselves by accepting the influence of a different environment and stimulusthat comes with a new situation. Accepting change not only encourages us to live more creatively and to grow as human beings, it also gives us the chance to make important discoveries about life.

Then what should we do in order to discover even small changes in our daily lives and transform each new encounter into personal growth and joy?

One "secret" to doing this is to be flexible. When we are conscious of our difficulty in doing something, we are likely to become fixated upon our feelings of like and dislike, which reflect a narrow set of values, and therefore become rigid.

The founder of Kyoto Women's University, Wariko Kai (18681962), wrote this poem: "It may be just a stone / Or the root of a tree, / But gently flowing down, / And slowly flowing down, / The water flows over them." The flexibility to accept all things that occur before our eyes is the "secret" of turning each encounter into something memorable. Suppose someone close does a household task for us and makes us feel grateful even though we have done nothing by ourselves. When we show our appreciation by clearly expressing our gratitude, we bring fresh air into our relationships with family members and people to whom we are close. By continuing to accumulate the small realizations that come from the expression of gratitude by a flexible mind, we should then arrive at a greater realization about life, being grateful for being caused to live in the here and now.

On April 8, we hold the ceremony celebrating the anniversary of Shakyamuni's birth. Later generations held Shakyamuni in such awe that they said he must have "descended" from a different world. The celebration of his birth therefore began from thissense of wonder. We are people who come from a "different" world, the world of the absolute Truth, in other words, the world of the Tathagata. Therefore, it isimportant that we strive to study that Truth as smoothly as water flows over a stone or a tree root.

April 2013
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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