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Buddhism for Today
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The Key to Harmony

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA Pres. Nichiko NiwanoTreat Each Other with Respect and Courtesy

The Buddhist scriptures teach us that there are seven principles that make the sangha prosper:

  1. they should gather together frequently to listen to the teachings and to discuss them;
  2. they should mingle freely and respect one another;
  3. they should revere the teaching and respect the rules and not change them;
  4. elder and younger members are to treat each other with courtesy;
  5. they should let sincerity and reverence mark their bearing;
  6. they should purify their minds in a quiet place which they should, nevertheless, offer to others before taking it for themselves;
  7. they should love all people, treat visitors cordially, and console the sick with kindness. A [sangha] that follows these rules will never decline.
    (The Teaching of Buddha, Japanese-English Edition [Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, 2009], pp. 45456)

In Buddhism, we call those of the same faith the sangha. This is an Indian word that means believers in Buddhism and their assemblies, and is translated into Japanese as wagoshu (a group in harmony), in other words, friends who are in harmony with and close to one another.

Friends in harmony—if we enlarge the viewpoint a little, then inherently the entire local community is the sangha, and we can interpret the above seven principles as teaching us how to build peace in our daily lives. If we expand our interpretation of the principles to include any discipline that values harmony, cannot they be considered as instructions that teach us to be calm-hearted and live peacefully as a member of a family, a society, and a nation?

For instance, “they should mingle freely and respect one another” and “elder and younger members are to treat each other with courtesy” can be called the fundamentals of living, and “offer to others before taking it for themselves” and “treat visitors cordially, and console the sick with kindness” are in and of themselves practices of consideration for others, rooted in a mind of compassion.

In addition, regarding wago (harmony), the Buddhist scriptures also contain the six principles for harmony in the sangha: first, speak with words of compassion; second, perform deeds of compassion; third, keep the mind of compassion; fourth, share whatever you receive with one another; fifth, keep the pure precepts; sixth, together keep the right views.

These, too, have something important to teach us, so let us consider how to apply these principles to ourselves and how they can bring us into harmony.

Compassion Brings Us into Harmony

There is a story about Shakyamuni, seeing one of the disciples on his sickbed alone in the monastery and without a friend, extending his hand to take care of him. Shakyamuni called out to him, “I will be your friend,” and washing the disciple’s filth covered body, treated and massaged it, had him change into a freshly laundered robe, and even tidied up the room, which gave ease and comfort to the disciple’s body and mind.

From these practices of Shakyamuni’s, we can feel all of the compassionate words, actions, and mind of the aforementioned six principles. Shakyamuni demonstrated the equality of the sangha that shares clothing and practices the teaching together. Furthermore, as this disciple had been leading a self-centered life, such as having never helped his friends in trouble, he had arrived at the personal situation of taking to his sickbed, alone. But Shakyamuni was unswayed by preconceptions and showed him kindness. The result of his actions was that the disciple gave rise to the mind of goodness and the assembly of the disciples turned into a sangha in harmony in the true sense of the word.

Reflecting on this example, we understand that the six principles of harmony, produced by the compassionate heart, are the working of the three karmas of body, mouth, and mind. Compassionate thoughts, when put into practice, create the connections between people’s minds that give off warmth, which in turn build harmony. The “wa” of wago (harmony) also means warmth. In other words, each person’s warm consideration for others leads to harmony in the family, the community, and even in the nation and the world. We are apt to think that the matters of the nation or community at large should be the government’s concern, but as is articulated in the following verse in the Analects of Confucius, “Rectifying yourself and putting your house in good order are also governance,” harmony is something that continues to be born from the minds of each and every one of us.

Well, then, why is harmony so important? Because just as we understand that all things in the universe and in life exist as one great harmonious whole, there is no better, more ideal method of respecting your own and others’ lives than living in harmony.


June 2016
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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