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

Studying the Buddha’s Teachings

 

RKINA Pres. Nichiko Niwano

Studying the Dharma Is Part of Daily Life

In chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra, “Skillful Means,” we see the term “study”:

“[T]he Dharma of all buddhas is like this:
Employing thousands of millions of skillful means,
They teach the Dharma in whatever manner is appropriate.
Without sufficient study,
It cannot be fully comprehended.”

The buddhas use many means to expound the teaching appropriately to the people listening, but those “without sufficient study” cannot realize it. Conversely stated, through study, we should be able to realize, by ourselves, whatever lesson is necessary at that time.

Incidentally, the Japanese snowbell tree (Styrax japanicus), which has branches full of white blossoms at this time of year, is the subject of this poem: “A tree overflowing with voices: The snowbell is in full bloom.” While many people see the tree full of blossoms and think it looks beautiful, how refreshing is this sentiment of seeing the tree “overflowing with voices”? Thinking, then, about what these “voices” are telling us, I think they can teach us many things.

That the Buddha teaches the Dharma to each and every one of us in a manner appropriate to the time and circumstances is like the snowbell tree blooming in full glory, producing “voices” that tell some people to realize the principle of impermanence (which states that all things change unceasingly in the cycle of birth and death) while telling other people about the importance of living to the fullest in the present moment.

When we feel the workings of Truth within the natural world and in all sorts of happenings around us and we try to hear the voice of the Buddha therein, we become able to reflect upon our own arrogant or calculating minds, gain the courage to live honestly, and take a new step forward. The repetition of this process is “study.”

Snowbell blooming

Practice of the Faith Is Itself “Study”

The things that happen around us every day are none other than the Dharma, which the Buddha is teaching us by employing “thousands of millions of skillful means.” Anyone who makes the effort to accept this fact can realize this.

However, rather than being merely something by which you gain knowledge, study is, through repetition of the practice, something that helps you make your own life one that aligns with the Buddha’s teaching. For example, let’s say that you are at odds with someone close to you. Before you blame that person, if you instead feel that he or she is teaching you that you have not been considerate enough, then you can make a sincere apology. Similarly, when facing a difficult situation, ask yourself, what is this situation teaching me right now? This leads to practicing a positive outlook and making it part of your way of life.

Even so, we cannot say that our minds are at peace at all times or capable of accepting whatever might happen as a lesson from the Buddha. Sometimes a realization comes quickly to our minds, but other times we are disturbed by doubt and uncertainty.

As members of Rissho Kosei-kai, what turns our doubting minds back toward the Buddha’s teaching are “reciting the sutra” and “guiding others to the faith, supporting our fellow members in the Way, and attending hoza sessions.” These two practices, along with “studying and practicing the Dharma,” are called the three basic practices of the faith. “Reciting the sutra” and “attending hoza sessions” fall within the sphere of study, and therefore we could say that a life firmly rooted in the faith can be summed up with this single word, study.

Turning now to why we study the Dharma, the answer is found in the lines of scripture that precede those cited above:

All I do is teach and transform bodhisattvas
Using the One Vehicle Way.
So none of my disciples are shravakas.

Just as this passage tells us, the bodhisattva spirit resides within us all. In other words, no one should think that things are all right just because he or she alone has happiness. In this sense, another important element of our study is to share the Dharma with other people because we want them to be happy, which brings with it the great joy and happiness of feeling united with others.


From Kosei, June 2019

 


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.


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