Sweep Away Your
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
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
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.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.