Finding Your Master Teacher
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
In Seeking for the Way
No matter what we set out to do to accomplish, we
always feel more secure if we have instructions or an
example to follow. With nothing to guide us, we do not
know the way forward and can feel lost, like a rudderless
ship at sea.
For the entire length of our lifetime, finding a master
teacher who can serve as an example can be said to be very
important. Zen master Dogen (1200-1253), in his “Points to
Keep in Mind in Practicing the Way,” exhorted, “When you
do not have a truly good teacher, learning is no better than
not learning.” By this he meant that in order to attain the
Buddha Way, we need a masterful teacher. In other words,
we cannot really learn unless we find a master teacher who
can guide us in the right Way.
The reason that Dogen referred to “a truly good teacher”
is that, depending on what kind of person the teacher is,
there is a danger of our being led in the wrong direction.
That is how great a teacher’s influence can be.
Finding a master teacher will inevitably happen if we
make a constant effort to seek the Way. Dogen traveled to
China to find such a mentor, and there he encountered Zen
master Nyojo, who remained his teacher for the rest of his
In those days, travel to China involved risking one’s life
in small boats, which should impress us with Dogen’s ardent
determination to seek the Way.
When Founder Niwano as a young man met the man who
would become his teacher, Mr. Sukenobu Arai, and heard his
lectures on the Lotus Sutra, the vivid, lasting impression was
made on him. That must be because the founder was seeking
the truth that would be able to bring salvation to all
Encountering a New Self
Founder Niwano absorbed the teachings of the Lotus
Sutra directly from his new teacher. Genuinely learning
means to first make one’s self empty; and by receiving
the teaching into one’s empty self, the self undergoes a
transformation. This is to encounter a new self. In this
sense, we can say that Founder Niwano was reborn
through his encounter with Mr. Arai.
To learn well is to follow the teacher’s pattern. The
student begins by imitating the teacher, but of course this
does not mean simply repeating things by rote. What is
important for Rissho Kosei-kai members is not that we
try to copy exactly what the founder said and did, but
instead to make the most of our own potential and
develop our personality in the spirit of the One Vehicle
taught by the founder, and proceed with our lives in
harmony with others.
In November we celebrate the anniversary of the
founder’s birth. For us, remembering the founder as our
masterful teacher means applying his guidance and all
that he taught us in our daily lives.
From “Kosei” October 2008 Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.