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

Letting Your Own Treasure Shine Forth

 

RKINA Pres. Nichiko Niwano

An Era in Which Being Confident Is Difficult

“That’s fine for them, but not for us.” This is the kind of set phrase that parents say when their children ask them to buy something and then make comparisons to other people or other homes. We can also interpret this phrase as expressing, in easily understandable words, that each person is pursuing his or her own unique way of life therefore, there is no need to make comparisons between yourself and others.

However, being jealous of other people, or sometimes feeling inferior to them,may be a natural human sentiment. For many people, these emotions are the springboard for making greater efforts, developing their potential, and improving themselves.

Buddhism teaches us how comparing ourselves to other people can cloud our mind when we look at things. Even if we do feel envious of other people, it is important that we control our emotions so we do not develop excessive desires or pointless enmity.

I think that recently there has been an increase in the number of people who have very little confidence in themselves and have even convinced themselves that their lives are without value. Chapter 4 of the Lotus Sutra, “Faith and Understanding,” contains the parable of the rich elder and his poor son. The poor son who appears in this parable is one such person. The son was living a vagabond life, but he came to be trusted by the rich elder who employed him—so much so that he was put in charge of the storehouses of gold, silver, and other treasures. Even so, the son still thought of himself as unworthy and was unable to shake his servile feelings.

So why are more and more people, like the poor son, unable to be confident? It might be because this is an era in which there is an overabundance of information that stimulates desires. This leads many people to compare themselves with others and surmise economic disparity based on whether they are able to afford many or few things in life.

Bringing Forth Your Buddha-Nature

There is a value system that says that if you are poorer than other people, you must be unhappy and suffering. This value system is, in fact, not definite, but if being poorer than other people is what makes you lose confidence and hope, it is no one other than you yourself who has determined that, based on this value system, you are unhappy. Our lives change according to causes and conditions, and nothing exists in a fixed state. Therefore, if you let yourself suffer from having this label attached to you and end up losing confidence and hope, the life you have received may be wasted.

An inferiority complex and the desire to improve oneself are opposite sides of the same coin. Precisely because there is, at the bottom of your heart, the desire to lead a better life, negative feelings occasionally crop up. However, if you become obsessed with the idea that your own unhappiness is society’s fault or the fault of other people, the inferiority complex that should nourish maturation instead goes no further than becoming fuel for whining, and may not lead to self-improvement.

Returning to the parable of the poor son, when the rich elder’s life was nearing its end, he declared to the people gathered around his bed, “This man is my son, who went missing when he was a small child. All of my wealth and possessions belong to him.” This is the moment when the poor son, who thought himself unworthy, was made aware of his own treasure (his buddha-nature). The rich elder’s words are imbued with the real meaning they convey—that all people are children of the Buddha, and that they are the very buddha-nature that is one and the same as the Buddha. Therefore, they should be confident and let their own treasure (their buddha-nature) shine forth.

Through this parable, the Buddha is telling us that instead of only being satisfied with the joy of becoming aware of your own treasure, if you impart your awareness to someone who is not yet aware of his or her own treasure and continue to have with such a person that make his or her treasure shine forth, your own buddha-nature shines forth even brighter.

Having faith in the Buddha’s teaching and understanding it is the meaning of “faith and understanding.” Therefore, let’s have faith in and understand that everyone has the treasure of buddha-nature, and continue to move forward and lead lives full of confidence.


From Kosei, August 2019

 


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.


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