Finding a Life Worth Living
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Changing Our Values Today
It is tragic news indeed that the number of
suicides occurring in Japan has exceeded 30,000
annually over the past twelve years. Shakyamuni
said, “All things in this world are characterized by
suffering (events do not occur according to our
wishes),” and as one person who believes in and
accepts the teachings of Buddhism, I am deeply
saddened to learn that so many people keep taking
their own lives.
What bothers me most is that this continuing
phenomenon seems to cast a suffocating sense of
helplessness over people’s view of the world, as if
they are living in a hopeless society that hypnotizes
them into losing a reason for living. Everything is
taken as a negative indication that things are
getting worse and worse, which makes the world
seem a dark and depressing place.
According to the teaching of the Buddha, this
world is certainly a place of suffering, but what
matters is whether we try to find the meaning of
life by recognizing the severity of the world as it is,
without being swayed by undue feelings of pessimism
Viewing current social conditions from that
viewpoint, we can see that we are being given a
great opportunity to change our sense of values.
The Buddha teaches: “Everyone should change
their perspective and way of thinking in order to
build a world in which all can live together happily.”
It seems to me that this teaching is directed
to the many people today who are tired of chasing
after economic wealth, constantly comparing
themselves to others and competing with them.
For example, in a competitive society those
who dislike pushing others aside are apt to fall
behind and lose confidence in themselves. However,
a gentle heart is one of the basic values that constitute the precious virtue which human beings
can possess. The people who choose to avoid competing
with others can be good at understanding the
inner pain others feel, at lending a sympathetic ear
to the woes of people in trouble and in need, and
good at easing the minds of those feeling melancholy
and oppressed by suffering.
Once we start thinking this way, a world in
which kindness and consideration are as highly
valued as competition looks much more appealing
than a world in which always win ning is considered
ideal. This teaches us that even people who
have lost sight of their purpose in life can find a
reason for living by turning their minds toward the
true value of existence instead of superficially
always comparing themselves to others.
The Joy of Each Day
The Sutra in Forty-two Chapters contains the
verses: “To go on seeking the Way is to suffer.
However, to never have the desire to seek the Way
is to suffer all the more. We are born in this world,
grow old, fall ill, and die, and there is no limit to
such suffering.” As I have already noted, in this
life “all things are characterized by suffering,” and
that is precisely why people do not quit seeking the
The Way is knowledge of the universal truththe
law that pertains to everyone, everywhere, at
all times—and putting it into practice, in other
words, living according to the teaching of the
Buddha. This means that when we practice and
study the teaching, we distance ourselves from
worries and are able to lead more cheerful lives.
This is directly connected to the reason for
living. If we now learn just how we are existing in
this world, we come to understand that all of us are
existing as part of the whole, and we sustain each
other’s lives and lead our own lives with the
support of others.
Everything in this world being in harmony
while sustaining the lives of others, a world in
which our own work is for the sake of others, and by helping others live fully our own lives will also
become fulfilled—that is our ultimate reality, the
way things really are.
Although we may not be aware of this every
day, when we please other people we are happy,
too. For human beings, this is the meaning of life.
When cheerful, kind interactions help to spread
smiles, we are building a world of full of benefits
for ourselves and for others that simultaneously
achieves both our own joy and the happiness of
others. This is the true meaning of a life worth
living, something that cannot be achieved as long
as we are ruthlessly obsessed with winning or
On April 8 we mark the anniversary of
Shakyamuni’s birth. Let us always be grateful for
the wisdom and compassion of Shakyamuni, who
declared, “Everyone in the world, each of them, is
worthy of respect.” Let us together deeply grasp
the value and meaning of having received the lives
we have now in this world.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.