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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Savoring Every Encounter

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

President Nichiko NiwanoAccept 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 liberated.

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 encounter.

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.

November 2010
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.



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