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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Showing Compassion for Those Who Suffer

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA president NiwanoPraying from the Heart

Many bodhisattvas appear in the Lotus Sutra. Among them, one of the best known is the Bodhisattva Kannon (Guanyin, Regarder of the Cries of the World) who hears the voices of those suffering in the real world and transforms herself into many different forms and shapes in order to liberate them. The phrase "And beholds living beings with compassionate eyes" is found in chapter 25, "The Universal Gateway of the Bodhisattva Kannon." The Kannon who looks upon people with compassionate eyesis one ideal image of humanity, which put into our everyday terms could be expressed as true friendship,sympathy, and empathy.

However, when we face a disaster such as the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, we may have no clue about what we should do and remain frozen in place. What actually happened made us reconsider how we come to terms with a difficulty that we have not experienced firsthand, and how we can get close to the feelings of suffering people and stand by them as a companion as they move forward. It seems that since that day, many people have come to think about what they can do to help, that is, how they can put compassion into practice.

Asis often said, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference. Being cut off from connectionsto other people, being alone and feeling abandoned— that is a condition lacking love or compassion. Thus we could say that being considerate of people who are suffering, never forgetting them, and praying from the heart that their suffering will ease even a little is getting closer to them and putting compassion into practice.

If we can provide assistance in a concrete form, then it isimportant that we continue to do so. However, even though we may not be able to participate in volunteer activities or offer as much financial assistance as we would like, all of us can at least continue our practice of compassion by hoping and Praying from the Heart 2 praying for the happiness of those people who are suffering.

Widening the Circle of Warmth

When people are experiencing some difficulty, we think about what we can do to help them and, within the realm of the possible, we want to lend them a hand. This arisesfrom the mind of consideration for others that everyone possesses or the mind of donation and benefiting others. From another perspective,such practices could also be called repaying our debt of gratitude for being caused to live.

This world is a realm of gratitude for all things supporting us, where numerous encounters form a network of relationships linked together. All living beings are equally caused to live by the blessings they receive from all others. When we think about things in this way, we come to see that acting with consideration for others and sharing with them whatever we have is the least we can do to repay our enormous debt of gratitude for the multitude of blessings we are receiving.

When we think about doing something for other people, we may end up being overanxious concerning it. In that case, we may feel discouraged because our efforts seem inadequate, but if we are to repay our debt of gratitude, then without feeling discouraged we can simply go about doing whatever small things come naturally. After all, we are all brothers and sisters leading lives that are part of the same great life. And since there is, from the beginning, no distinction between oneself and others, all of us are already walking together on the same path.

In reality, the assistance that each of us can offer may be rather minor. However, when we look at things with an eye toward the source of all life, then even though what we can offer may seem negligible, our hearts and minds that pray and hope for the sake of the world and of humanity are thereby connected to a great system of support. Being considerate toward our own families leads to warming the hearts of many people, the emotion passing from one person to another. As can be seen in the ideal of "liberating people and improving society," the spirit in which Rissho Kosei-kai was founded, and just as in the phrase "our families, our communities, and the world" in the Members' Vow, the consideration we show others in our daily lives becomes the starting point for widening the circle of warmth in society.

Such hearts and minds are functioning in this way because of the presence of Kannon, who awakensin usthe heart and mind of compassion. Kannon may be a family member or a friend, or perhaps even someone seen on television. Kannon shows herself to us in many shapes and forms in order to teach us important things. I think that learning compassion and wisdom from what Kannon teaches us is, indeed, walking the Way together.

March 2013
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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