Advancing to Enlightenment
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Nurturing the Will to Live
Since the days of Shakyamuni, Buddhist communities
have attached importance to the practice of self-reflection.
When we stray from generally acceptable
behavior, or say or do something that hurts another
person, we engage
When I first began visiting Dharma Centers and
found myself worrying about what to talk about before
the sangha members, Founder Nikkyo Niwano advised
me to talk about whatever positive steps I had resolved to
undertake, because once I spoke about them in front of
other people, I would feel compelled to follow through.
So that one should come out
Incidentally, when we cling to our own foolish behavior or mistakes, self-reflection can become painful and trying for us, as we are sometimes dominated by negative emotions, such as feelings of being worthless.
In the Lotus Sutra, it is written, “Sit in meditation and
contemplate the true nature of things.” Everyone has
both good points and bad points, and our true nature as
human beings is our unlimited potential to do both right
and wrong. Furthermore, the true nature of this world is
A New Life Begins
Regarding a lack of faith in oneself and the tendency to
be fixated on one’s shortcomings, Zen master Dogen
(1200-1253) taught, “Do not belittle yourselves
because you think you are truly ignorant.” He went on to
explain, “Regarding those who realize this yet still do
not practice the faith, when will they practice it? By
being diligent, they will certainly become buddhas.”
If we think we are not grateful enough, then we should express more gratitude, and if we realize that we lack consideration for others, then we should show more consideration. What matters most is that in every situation we should continue to put into practice what we have realized. This is the attitude of using self-reflection to advance toward enlightenment.
The founder said about self-reflection, “Developing the ability to lay bare your own shortcomings and failures becomes a springboard for change.” Speaking openly about our faults and reflecting on them, we feel relieved and at ease, as if a thorn has been plucked out of a finger. We become cheerful and sincere, and our way of life changes—in other words, through self-reflection, we are able to get a new start on life.
Since people cannot be forced to self-reflect or be
grateful, however, those acts must come spontaneously.
Just as the Lotus Sutra contains the verses, “I guide
living beings and free them of their many attachments,”
so we should serve as good encounters for people who
To be engaged in this activity is also part of our own important effort to follow the Way, as we set our sights on becoming buddhas in our lifetime, just as Shakyamuni manifested for us in his physical form. Let us be diligent together, with the wish for all of us to attain enlightenment in our lifetimes.
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.