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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Rissho Kosei-kai President Nichiko NiwanoSweep Away Your Mind’s “Dust”

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

Improving Further

As the year rapidly approaches its end, temples and shrines all over Japan undertake full-scale cleaning of the premises, and most homes and offices also engage in year-end cleaning, all in preparation for greeting the new year. This year-end cleaning is an established custom that allows us to look back on the past year with gratitude and some self-examination as we prepare to welcome the year about to arrive.

In considering how we have spent the past year, we are reminded of things we need to reflect on, and may tell ourselves, “On that occasion, I shouldn’t have said that,” or “I should have done more at that time” and our feelings tend to retrogress.

The fact that we can engage in such self-examination is proof that we desire to improve ourselves. Therefore, without falling into self-demeaning thoughts that diminish our worth, we should humbly and positively take to heart that the things we need to study have no limit.

Zen Buddhism features the concept of “continuous development beyond buddhahood.” This does not mean that one’s practice is complete after one attains enlightenment, but rather that living creatively is always aimed at improving further. Because there is no final stop on the
road of life where we can say, “This has been good enough,” it is important that we continue to be lifetime learners.

Seeing the Truth

Buddhist history tells the story of Suddhipanthaka, who strove for enlightenment by continuous sweeping of the ground. As a disciple of Shakyamuni, Suddhipanthaka had difficulty memorizing things. So Shakyamuni presented him a broom and ordered him to learn by heart
the verse: “Sweep away the dust. Clear away the dirt.” Suddhipanthaka repeatedly chanted this verse every day as he swept, and finally he came to the great realization that the “dust” was in his heart and the “dirt” in his mind―the dust and dirt are one’s worldly defilements.

In chapter 2 of the Lotus Sutra, “Skillful Means,” we are taught to “remove all attachments,” which means that all of our sufferings develop from being attached to things. The tale of Suddhipanthaka shows us the importance of removing these attachments, in other words,
separating ourselves from quick and easy judgments about people’s intelligence or abilities and using the eye of the Buddha to see the Truth. The Buddha’s judgment is not a comparative viewpoint dividing things into pluses and minuses; rather we can say it is the absolute viewpoint of realizing that we are sustained to lead our lives with nothing in excess and nothing lacking through the perfect working of the One Original Life.

This was also the viewpoint of the Zen master Hakuin who said, “Living beings are intrinsically the Buddha.” We are caused to live by the One Original Life which is the Buddha. Because we cannot free ourselves from our attachments, however, we make comparisons, are in the
habit of putting ourselves down and fail to see the Truth.

In December, we celebrate the anniversary of Shakyamuni’s attainment of buddhahood. Learning from the story of Suddhipanthaka, let us strive diligently to improve our spiritual practice.

December 2008
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.


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