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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Difficult Economic Times

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

President NiwanoAccepting Our Situation

The global economic downturn, said by experts to be the worst in a century, has had a direct influence on Japan’s deteriorating economic situation. As conditions worsen a growing number of people are expressing anxiety about their future, especially those who have lost their jobs or face cuts in their wages.

If we only take a negative view of such lean times, however, we can do nothing to change our circumstances. Rather, it is precisely in such hard times that it becomes important for us to view our daily lives in the light of the Buddha’s teaching.

The Japan of days gone by seems very distant indeed from today’s material abundance. We might say that back then, many ordinary people faced economic difficulties on a daily basis, often having to struggle to obtain sufficient food. Even so, people helped each other out, and led their
lives with consideration for others. In the family, parents and children were united in their efforts to confront their challenges and thus shared their happiness when they were successful, strengthening the bonds between them. In other words, in one sense the prevalent poverty encouraged stronger ties between people, helping to create warm social relationships.

There are many ways to deal with the situation we face today. We can take a pessimistic and negative view, or we can accept it positively, with gratitude in our hearts. How we come to terms with our situation will determine whether we lead a happy life or an unhappy one.

A Great Opportunity

The teachings of the Buddha show us how to see things and how to accept them.

For instance, someone who thinks the tasks he or she is given at work are boring and feels they are unfair and unfulfilling, and someone who takes assigned tasks seriously and thinks they are important, achieve very different results and are evaluated differently.

Furthermore, when we are let go by a company, it is only natural that we feel uncertainty about what the future holds for us, but we could see that being released by a company provides us with possibilities for demonstrating creativity in the opportunity to start something new. In this way, when we accept our situation with a positive attitude and a feeling of gratitude, new worlds open up for us one after another.

When we encounter something demanding and say that it is difficult, what we mean by difficulty is that it is hard for us to stay unaffected by the changing circumstances around us. In fact, however, we are being provided a great opportunity to undertake positive change in ourselves.

There is an old saying, “Even if you are in tight pinch, you will get through.” This means that when we are really perplexed and cannot find a way out, that is when we can find the key that unlocks the path before us. The saying is an adapted form of a verse from the I Ching (Book of Change), “When you are in genuine difficulty, the situation surrounding you will change. When such change occurs, you will be able to get through.” In other words, what really matters most in difficult times is that we free ourselves from our previous way of seeing things, because in the process of changing our point of view we can find a way out of our predicament.

Many Japanese people often quote the saying “Joy can be found in the midst of suffering.” This means that such joy as is found in suffering can be considered real joy.

I think that we are taught the same thing by the symbolism of the lotus that grows in muddy water but blossoms into a beautiful flower. The mud, in other words, represents our feelings of pain and sadness, from which our hearts can produce the happiness represented by the
beautiful lotus blossom.

Since we are now living in difficult economic times, let us strive all the more to transmit the light of the Dharma and help a beautiful flower blossom in the hearts of many people.

June 2009
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.



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