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

Living Free and Unhindered

 

RKINA Pres. Nichiko Niwano

The True Meaning of Being Free and Unhindered

Many people think that if they could live free and unhindered lives, they would be very happy. Seen from a different perspective, these people are expressing how much restriction and dissatisfaction we feel in our daily lives.

In a sense, though, this dissatisfaction is natural. We think of freedom as being able to do as we wish, and when we run into a reality that does not meet our expectations, we become dissatisfied, displeased, and irritated. We suffer, which in turn makes us think that we are being hindered. One might think that by trying to be free we are actually bringing hindrance upon ourselves, but actually, the moment when we feel hindered is an opportunity to make our lifestyle into one that reflects the true meaning of being free and unhindered.

In Buddhism, the total disappearance of attachments to desire and the mind’s insistence on doing as it pleases is said to be “enjoyment”—the state of mind that has no attachments to anything and is considered to be free and unhindered. This is the realm of feeling relaxed and at ease, without cares or sorrow.

The Bodhisattva Regarder of the Sounds of the World is sometimes called Kanjizai Bosatsu (Bodhisattva Unhindered Regarder) in Japan, and the word “unhindered” in this version of her name signifies her power and action to liberate suffering people at will when she hears them cry out for her. In other words, the true meaning of being free and unhindered is found in a lifestyle of being considerate of others while aiming to improve yourself together with other people.

This Threefold World Is Your Domain

This passage appears in chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra, “A Parable”: “I am a father to these living beings. I must pluck them out of such suffering and hardship and give them the joy of the immeasurable, boundless Buddha wisdom so that they may enjoy it.” This passage means that, to we living beings (who often think we are hindered and hope to avoid suffering) the Buddha gives the “joy of wisdom”—that is, he conveys to us a way of living that is truly free and unhindered. But what exactly is this joy of wisdom?

To give you an example, imagine that right now, before your very eyes, there are two donuts. They have been given to you. However, there are three other people around you who are just as hungry as you are.

To quote from the scripture, “All of the causes of suffering / Are rooted in greed and desire.” The feeling of wanting to eat the donuts yourself (greed), as well as the feelings of resentment and jealousy (hatred) from those who did not receive them are both forms of suffering. Therefore, you might say that asking the Buddha to present you all with a sufficient amount of donuts is the joy of wisdom. This is not the case, however, as the joy of wisdom actually means becoming capable of accepting the suffering of insufficiency as joy and happiness that leads to the improvement of yourself and others.

Returning to the idea of freedom, we could say that we are given the freedom to positively accept the difficult things that happen. Even when we are suffering, we can transform that suffering into happiness by fully accepting it, savoring a small happiness before our eyes, and sharing our joy with other people. I think this is a way of life that is truly free and unhindered.

“A Parable” also contains these lines of verse: “Now this threefold world / Is all my domain,” meaning, “This world and the universe are mine.” We might not presume to think such things about ourselves, but each and every one of us has received a unique, precious life, as one part of nature, in harmony with everything. In other words, the entire universe is one with you; it is entirely yours. These lines of verse are a message from the Buddha, who is assuring us that as long as we understand this truth, we will always be able to take action full of wisdom and compassion—and this is what the Buddha wants us to do.

In keeping with this idea, there is one thing I would like to ask. What will you do with the two donuts mentioned earlier?


From Kosei, July 2019

 


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.


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