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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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President's Message

Life Is a Solemn Matter


RKINA Pres. Nichiko NiwanoLiving Solemnly

This month's theme is "life is a solemn matter" and, to begin with, the life of each and every person. seen at any point during the process of "birth, aging, sickness, and death," is nothing other than a solemn event. Although we are usually unaware of this, we are all leading solemn lives. Therefore, we could say that the key to making life a solemn matter is to clearly know this fact and live with an awareness of this truth.

However, looking up "solemnity" in the dictionary, it says, "a solemn feeling, character, or appearance; serious or awesome quality; and gravity," and were we to always maintain such an air, we would come to feel that we could not possibly live with such stiff formality. This must be why someone said in the most easily understandable terms that "living solemnly means living, from the perspective of impermanence by making the most of the present moment." It is important to live attentively, without wasting a single day, a single hour, or even this single minute or second now before our eyes.

This kind of comprehension creates mental space and, therefore, your emotions become relaxed, calm, and gentle, and you can get along well with the people
around you and enjoy being with them. The accumulation of such time can be called a happy and solemn life.

Zen master Ikkyu (1394-1481) left us a Buddhist poem that reads, "I have no desire / to turn into a buddha /I after I have died; / rather, while I still have life. I must be a good person." As suggested in the poem, by deeply reflecting on the truth that, instead of waiting to become dignified after going to the next world, we are already leading dignified lives right now in this saha world, we should move forward, with certainty, from one day to the next. As I am always saying, because we all possess the buddha-nature, anyone can awaken to the truth. If you accept that "This saha world is already the Land of Tranquil Light," then you will continue to lead your life as a solemn, dignified matter.

Turning On the Switch in Your Mind

IThe educator Yoshio Toi (1912-1991), who composed many excellent Buddhist poems, was the principal of an elementary school. One day he saw the following statement posted in a classroom:

"It has become really cold, / but don't linger / in bed forever. / How about
turning on the switch I in your mind with a 'click' /I and getting up with a 'pop'? /I Just like the 'click' turns on the switch / and the 'pop' makes the lights come on, I let's start every morning with a 'click' and a 'pop. '" (Inochi no oshie [Teachings on life], Kosei Publishing, 1992)

Right now, we are in the coldest time of the year, and while I suppose that for all of us, there is something likely that comes to mind, this "click and a pop" can be useful in many different scenarios. It is fine to try turning on the switch in your mind when up against something you are not very good at doing, and it may also help you to realize the truth in the course of your daily life.

In the morning, when you offer prayers before the Buddhist home altar; when you are leaving the house to go to school, your workplace, or your Dharma center; or when you say "good morning" and exchange greetings with people-why don't you take one such everyday event and make it the opportunity to "turn on the switch in your mind" so that you can "click" on your mind and turn on the electric current of the truth. By doing so, the "lamp of the truth" that inspires you with the sentiment that "all day today, I will be caring toward the people I encounter and I will make good use of my time" comes on and with a "pop" it lights up your mind. Arigato, a Japanese word expressing gratitude, is derived from the word arigatai, which reflects the solemn reality that we are "existing, here and now" and, therefore, it is perfectly suited to turning on the "switch in your mind" in order to deeply reflect on the truth. When we have made this a personal habit, then even if we are not particularly aware of it, our daily lives will naturally become dignified.

Before entering nirvana, Shakyamuni said, "Everything goes on changing. Without slacking, be diligent in the practice." At the Anniversary of Shakyamuni's Entrance into Nirvana, I hope we will direct our thoughts toward the mind of Shakyamuni, who, facing his own death, expounded anew the teaching of impermanence to promote diligent practice.

From Kosei, February 2018


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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