Seeing the Truth
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Using the Buddha's Yardstick
In August, the O-bon festival (urabon) takes place in
many parts of Japan. The Japanese word urabon is a transliteration
of the Sanskrit ullambana in kanji, a word that means
to be hung upside-down—extreme physical suffering. We
could say that is the state of seeing things upside-down, of
backward thinking, in other words, always interpreting
things in a self-centered way and being convinced that one is
right. The beginning of the urabon festival is found in the
story of Maudgalyayana, who saved his mother from enduring
the suffering of “being hung upside-down” when she
was reborn in a lower realm, or hell, as a result of her karma.
The opposite of seeing things upside-down and thinking
backward is to see them with true regard―seeing the reality
of things, which is looking at them using the Buddha’s yardstick.
Using the Buddha’s yardstick means seeing things in
the light of the Truth that “all things are impermanent” and“all things are without self.” Taking the example of interpersonal
relationships, this means not having any preconceived
ideas. When we have preconceived ideas, we are prevented
from seeing the true original forms of others as well as
ourselves by various delusions as to whether we like or
dislike someone, or whether the person is useful to us or not.
So we suffer from our human relationships not going well.
However, when we look at people using the Buddha’s yardstick,
we realize that all of us are as one, equally being
caused to live by the One Great Life, and we can accept that
all people and all things are embodiments of the Buddha that
is, manifestations of the revered life of the Buddha.
As is written in chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, “The
Eternal Life of the Tathagata”: “How shall I cause all the
living/ To enter the Way supreme/ And speedily accomplish
their buddhahood?” Rather than meaning that ordinary
people should perform religious practices to become
buddhas, this means that we should realize that all of us
together are already accomplishing embodiment of the
The Form of the Buddha in Everything
The Lotus Sutra develops the idea of the real aspect of
all things. A few years ago the Kosei Shimbun
(newspaper) published a waka poem by Zen master
Dogen (1200–51), introduced by Rev. Taido Matsubara,
a Rinzai Zen priest and president of the Buddhist association
Namu no Kai. He commented on the poem as
follows: “When Dogen wrote, ‘The colors of the mountain,
the sounds of the river in the gorge—all of them are
the voice of my Shakyamuni, they are none other than his
very form,’ he was referring to the real aspect of all
things. In Mahayana Buddhism, we revere Shakyamuni
not as a human being, but as the Buddha’s Law-body,
personifying the invisible Dharma Shakyamuni realized.
We respect all things and phenomena in nature as
symbolic expressions of Shakyamuni’s enlightenment.”
Accepting that what we see and what we hear—that
everything is the voice and the form of the Buddha—is
also putting our hands together reverently and worshiping
before all things and phenomena that exist in the
universe. In particular, I think it is wonderful to be able to
see the embodiment of the Buddha in very member of
our immediate family and to put our hands together
reverently before each of them, one by one.
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.