Learning and Growing Up Together
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
The Role of Adults
Last year, one of the projects initiated to mark Rissho
Kosei-kai’s seventieth anniversary was one titled Youth Development.
We have decided to continue it this year as one of our
organization’s guiding principles. In every age, helping young
people to develop well and fully is a task that must be undertaken
responsibly by adults.
In particular, the early childhood years serve as an important
period for building a foundation that lasts throughout the
person’s lifetime. We therefore have an important role to play in
seeing that small children cultivate their individuality and self-reliance.
Currently, much serious thought is being given to the
problem of Japan’s declining birthrate and becoming a society
with large numbers of elderly citizens and too few children. One
issue that has come to the fore as a result of the declining
birthrate is the excessive concern about every aspect of child
rearing by young parents, especially mothers. In many cases,
these parents do too much for the child, interfering so much they
take away the opportunity for the child to think or act on his or
When a mother tries to instruct her child on every little
thing, she is nipping in the bud the child’s spontaneity. Some
specialists in child development suggest that such an upbringing
is one reason for the increasing number of children who become
self-centered and easily lose their temper for little apparent
In past days, families usually had several children, often
more, so that parents were very busy back then and could not
pay a great deal of special attention to each child. Children
played freely by themselves, helped their brothers and sisters
around the house, did as much as they could for themselves, and
tried not to be an extra burden on their parents.
I think that as long as parents take a firm hand in their most
essential duties, they should encourage their child’s independence.
It is important for parents to be grateful for their lives as
human beings, to gladly give thanks for the blessings so far
received, and as far as possible appear happy and smiling before
Children are very observant of adults. When growing
children see their parents bowing their heads before the gods
and the Buddha, they themselves come to revere gods and the
Buddha. When children see adults who are grateful for being sustained in living, they begin to realize the preciousness of
their own lives. When growing children see that their parents do
not lose their tempers or complain about life, and keep a happy
smiling face, they learn what attitude they should have toward
life and think, “I want grow up to be like that.”
Learning from Children
Adults, whether they are parents or not, always assume that
they act as teachers to children. It is important, however, never
to forget the importance of being able to learn from children.
Children’s words and actions are a mirror that reflects their
parents. Of course, no parents are perfect human beings. In order
to fulfill our role as affectionate, responsible parents, it is important
to understand that we are able to learn from and “grow up”
together with our children.
We may desire to learn from holy men and women of the
past but these men and women often teach us to learn from
young children. The Bible carries many references to children. A
famous example is the words of Jesus in the New Testament:“Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles
himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of
heaven.”(Mark 10:15) I think this passage is telling us the
importance of accepting the teaching with innocent purity and
the open mind of a small child.
The Zen master Bankei (1622-93) penned this poem: “How
sad that the newborn child / Gradually gains knowledge / And
grows distant from the Buddha.” Just as the poem warns us, we
must be diligent in our practice, not allowing ourselves to
become tempted by the kind of worldly knowledge that leads us
to become antagonistic and stubborn, but keeping our minds as
open and flexible as those of innocent children.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.