Daily Life Is the Place of the Way
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Putting the Dharma into Practice
Founder Nikkyo Niwano’s guidance tells us to study the Dharma and apply it in our daily lives—that is, to follow a lifestyle grounded in faith—and that is one of Rissho Kosei-kai’s distinguishing features. Accordingly, I would like to share some reflections on the spirit of the Buddha’s teachings by discussing “The Meditation on the Place of the Way” with which we begin our daily sutra chanting.
As all members know, “The Meditation on the
“The place of the Way,” that is, “the place of the Way of bodhi,” or iginally referred to the ground under the bodhi tree where Shakyamuni first attained enlightenment, but in the broader sense this phrase teaches us something about the meaning of our own place of practice. In other words, it means the place where one is now is where buddhas realize enlightenment, teach the Dharma, and enter nirvana. To further break this down in terms of experience, the phrase also teaches us that everywhere we as Buddhists devote our lives to studying the teaching and putting it into practice is a place of the Way.
When we offer daily sutra chanting before our home altars, we vow to put the Dharma into practice in our daily lives. While we are all prone to becoming distracted in our daily lives, by chanting “The Meditation on the Place of the Way” we can closely rein in our thoughts and concentrate our minds.
The Here and Now
The Chinese philosopher Wang Yangming (1472-1529) wrote that “Knowledge is the beginning of practice: doing is the completion of knowing.” In other words, when we know something, we have started to practice it, and through that practice, our knowledge of it is perfected, so the knowledge and practice are one and the same.
This is also true when we follow the Buddha Way: through practice, we bring the teaching to life. In this sense, too, anywhere we are putting the teaching into practice is a place of the Way.
When we learn about the teachings of the Eightfold Path and the Six Paramitas at our Dharma Centers, it is important that we put them into practice in our daily lives, so that on any occasion—at home, of course, and at school and in the workplace as well, when riding on a train or bus, or doing some shopping, when in a restaurant or cafe, these are all places of the Way where we can cultivate our hearts and minds.
In doing so, what matters most is being mindful of the here and now.
We have been taught by Shakyamuni that a lifetime is “an inconceivably short moment,” and therefore, living this very moment to the fullest is itself practicing the teaching. This means that, instead of only getting serious when there is some sort of special event, we should always earnestly engage in whatever is happening before our very eyes.
Even if some problem does arise, when we do our best to be mindful of the here and now, we can find a way to solve it. The reason for this is that accumulations of the “now” are guideposts to the future.
Furthermore, the place of the Way is not limited to a physical location. The sentence “Illusions are the place of the Way” is found in the Vimalakirti Sutra. This refers to the nonduality of illusions and awakening—the two are one and the same and cannot exist separately from one another—because we have illusions, we also have awakening, and when we investigate the cause of our illusions our awareness of the roots opens our minds to awakening. Therefore, we come to see that our illusions and awakening are, ultimately, one and the same thing.
Put differently, due to our being born as human beings with inherent illusions, we are able to pursue the Buddha Way. And by doing this at any time and any place, wherever we are becomes the place of the Way that cultivates our hearts and minds. With this as our foundation, I hope that together we can pursue a way of life in which, as one Buddhist to another, we are always applying the Dharma in our daily lives and making it our support, constantly mindful of the here and now.
“The Meditation on the Place of the Way” at the start of our sutra chanting reflects the Buddha’s compassion in calling on us to always make every effort wherever we are, here and now.
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.