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Rissho Kosei-kai
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Buddhism for Today
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Allow Me to Help

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA Pres. Nichiko NiwanoWe Live with Boundless Connections

This month’s theme, “Allow Me to Help,” is a familiar phrase for us Rissho Kosei-kai members that we use when we do something for others. Dr. Masahiro Mori (b. 1927), a specialist in robotics who is well known as a devout Buddhist, said “In Buddhism, we express our gratitude when we do something, because there is nothing that we can do solely by our own power” (Imao ikite iku chikara, rokuharamitsu [The Six Perfections, the power to live the present], Kyoiku Hyoronsha, 2009).

For example, people may suppose that they are standing by their own power, but Dr. Mori writes, “In fact, it is thanks to the support from the ground under their feet and the presence of gravity. So instead of supposing that there is only one cause for what they do or that they do something solely by their own power, they should recognize that everything they do is made possible through the power of others.”

Rev. Shundo Aoyama of the Soto sect of Japanese Buddhism wrote about this in easily understood words: “Everything in this world, no matter how small, exists in a state of interrelatedness and they are all connected to each other” (Doro ga aru kara hana ga saku [Because there is mud, the flowers bloom], Gentosha, 2016). This means that all things come into being and perish through the workings of interconnected causes and conditions, in other words, dependent origination. And the expression born of this religious worldview is “allow me to help.”

In this sense, it can be said that this phrase primarily involves our thoughts of gratitude toward the great force at work that continually causes us to live. The feeling is one of “thanks to everything, I am able to help others.”

Furthermore, “allow me to help” can also be used to express humility about your own actions. At such a time, however, it may be the case that a gap occurs between the feelings of the speaker and those of the listener. The person we are talking to may? suppose that our attitude is one of hypocritical courtesy, that is, that we are superficially polite, but have a conceited way of saying things or that we seem humble but are actually demonstrating our ego.

If such a misunderstanding takes place, then in some cases I think it might be better to use the more subjective phrase “I’ll do it,” but because “allow me to help” is a phrase we members of Rissho Kosei-kai frequently use, and because we do feel that “thanks to everything, I am able to do something,” we hope that we can say naturally “allow me to help.”

Being Thankful to the Buddha

We habitually say “allow me to help” without really thinking about it. This is, as I just said, an expression of our feelings that “thanks to everything, I can take this on” and “I am grateful to be able to help.” However, if we forget the “thanks to everything” or the “I am grateful” mindset, then our ego is showing its face and making us think, “I am doing this” or “I will help you.”

In that case, adding “thanks to everything” or “I am grateful” when we say “allow me to help” already shows the sincerity of our feelings. Like the old saying that in everything, the proper form is important, if we repeatedly say the sentence, “thanks to everything, I am grateful that I am able to help,” then the principle of dependent origination will be etched on our hearts, and we will be able to always say those words from the heart. Ideally, in that case, this practice of gratitude, saying “allow me to help,” will be just like the free and unhindered conduct of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and will lead us to happiness and joy without attachments.

However, even though we say “allow me to help” from the heart and we are coming to terms with our thoughts of gratitude to the gods and the buddhas, in some cases that may not necessarily lead directly to joy and happiness. I hear that in the field of caregiving and volunteer work, there are not a few people who must deal with complex emotions. Therefore, it is only natural that some of them may occasionally grumble or complain, saying things like “This is too hard” or “There is no way I will do that.”

Therefore, I think it is important that we people of faith nurture the thought of taking refuge in the Buddha in the course of our daily lives and set our sights on realizing and being grateful for being caused to live by the great force of the universe.


May 2017
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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