Freeing One's Mind
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
The Thing Called Desire
Buddhism has the saying, “The will is a horse, the
mind a monkey.” Just as it is difficult to stop a horse from
running wild or a monkey from jumping about, so are our defilements difficult to control. Learning of the news
incidents that are reported every day, I realize how difficult
it must be to curb the delusions that cause people to
suffer and worry.
In chapter 3 of the Lotus Sutra, “A Parable,” it is
explained that “the cause of all suffering is rooted in
desire.” This teaches us that every kind of suffering has, as
its primary source, craving, anger, or ignorance. What
matters most for us is that when we stop and reflect, we
recognize that this is true and steadfastly strive to follow
On the one hand, because we have desires we are able
to go on living, as an analysis of our instincts will show
All living things have the instincts of self-preservation
and preservation of their species. Human beings can also
be said to be endowed with another instinct, the instinct to
achieve happiness by making others happy.
In Rissho Kosei-kai, we practice the teaching of “putting
others first,” by means of which we find our own
happiness through bringing happiness to others. In other
words, by this teaching we are imbued with the instinct to
joy by being as one with others.
When Things do not go as Expected
In the Sutra of Meditation on the Bodhisattva Universal
Virtue, in a quotation attributed to the Buddha appears
this sentence: “[The] organ of thought is like [that of] a
monkey, never resting even for a little while.” In other
words, the human mind, like a monkey’s interests, is
always hopping around, rarely staying still for very long.
Our minds are capricious. Whatever we may be thinking
about now, in the next moment we will be thinking of
something completely unrelated. We sometimes find
ourselves tossed about among desires that arise one after
another, causing us suffering. We all imagine it would be a relief if we could take control of a restless, agitated mind
and make it do as we wish. Even if we want to do so, however,
controlling the mind is not something that can be
Buddhism teaches us that “all is suffering.” Suffering
includes anything that does not go as we might expect, and
the concept comes from the Sanskrit dukkha.
Living with Gratitude
What should we do, then? I think that the key to
controlling our defilements lies in maintaining a mind that
is grateful for being caused to live, which we develop
through our practice and study of the teachings of the
Buddha. Of course, as long as we are alive we are unlikely
to be completely free of defilements. By putting others
first and training ourselves in making others happy and
experiencing their happiness ourselves, however, our
cravings, anger, and ignorance gradually come under
control of their own accord. Once we have savored the joy
arising from such a way of living, we become free of our
attachments to things and our minds grow peaceful.
When greeting a new year, most people hope to spend
the following twelve months with a fresh mental outlook.
There can be no greater happiness for human beings than
being able to live each day with a smile. So that we can do
so, let us live each day with gratitude in our hearts and
doing things to ensure the happiness of others.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.