Savoring Every Encounter
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Accept Things Gratefully
The Japanese use a word meaning “thanks to” or
“thanks for” on a frequent basis (as in “thanks to
your assistance” or “thanks for your kindness”) and
when we can do so from the heart, we feel the happiest.
When I think about this, I realize that the times we
feel intense joy and cannot help but say “thanks to
you” are when we feel completely fulfilled―those
are the times when we are genuinely happy and are
As Shakyamuni explained through the teaching of
dependent origination—that all things arise through
causes and conditions—none of us lives by our own
power alone, we are caused to live thanks to what
we receive from everything else. As is written in a
sutra, “Two reed stalks stand by supporting each
other. If one is taken away, the other collapses.”
There is nothing in this world that exists solely of its
own accord (cause); everything comes into being
through connections (condition) to other things—
that is the truth.
Thinking deeply about the law of dependent origination
and treating every encounter as important, we
can spend our days joyfully enriched. Fully appreciating
our indebtedness for the support to our very
lives, all of us must feel grateful. Those who are
capable of accepting with gratitude whatever connections
and encounters they may experience just as
they are are people who have opened their eyes to an
essential truth about life and then know happiness.
Suffering Can Lead to the Buddha Way
We may wonder, though, what it means in concrete
terms to savor every connection and encounter
when so many of them occur in the course of a day.
I think that, first of all, it means taking a second
look at the connections we have with our families,
which we may habitually take for granted.
News reports tell us of tragic cases of parental
child abuse and other terrible incidents. When we
try to imagine what it must be like to experience
such a situation, we can see just how fortunate we
are to have the connections that cause us to live. Our
lives may seem ordinary, but we know that passing
our days peacefully, thanks to the workings of
myriad connections, is something for which we
should be immensely grateful. When we have gratitude
for these connections and savor every encounter,
we can serve as a good condition to foster positive
encounters for those around us.
Furthermore, when something painful or difficult
for us does occur, we can recognize even an unwelcome
encounter as also something we should savor,
and turn it into a positive one.
In a short poem Zen master Ikkyu (1394 - 1481)
wrote, “Something may seem bad, but do not reject
it. Think of the bitter persimmon that becomes
sweet when dried.” When I was a child, I once bit
into a bitter persimmon without knowing its taste,
and quickly threw it away. What Ikkyu is doing
here is comparing a bitter persimmon with a painful
or difficult experience, an unfortunate encounter,
which through wisdom can be turned into a good
Encounters are an active element of life and bring
about change. For this to be successful depends on
how we accept our encounters, not simply on the
type of event that is occurring, as this poem tells us.
There is no such thing as an unnecessary encounter.
If we think deeply about this, we find that they
all provide spiritual nourishment. When we do not
avert our attention from some difficult or painful
occurrence but experience it fully, we clearly see
that “suffering is the seed of joy” and can at last
clearly know what true happiness is.
Just as our predecessors were skilled at making
sweet dried persimmons from unripe bitter ones,
only when we first know suffering do we seek the
way to be free from suffering. In other words, we
start leading our lives following the wishes of the
gods and the buddhas. Suffering is therefore a good
encounter, leading people to the way of awakening.
It is important for human beings to encounter the
sacred. As members of Rissho Kosei-kai, we are
very fortunate in that, thanks to the founder and
cofounder, we have already encountered the teachings
of the Buddha and know the joy of living with
our minds at peace.
In November we mark the anniversary of the birth
of the founder, so in recognition of that, while treating
as important each connection and every encounter,
let us vow to serve as good connections with
people who are suffering or who feel isolated, for
that is one of the most important forms of practice
by which we can repay our debt of gratitude to the founder.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.