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International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Becoming Angry, Admonishing, and Guiding

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA president NiwanoA Serious Scolding

Recently there has been a string of heartbreaking news reports in Japan about bullying incidents and instances of corporal punishment in schools, and of domestic violence and child abuse at private residences. We cannot condone such violent deeds or words, and allow the physical harm or abandonment or neglect of infants and small children.

Once I read a book that pointed out, "What modern education in Japan lacks is the teachers paying due respect to the goodness in their students." The most important prerequisite in human relations is respect and when it is missing, no attempt at educating, instructing, or disciplining will influence another person.

One dictionary defines becoming angry as "the exacerbation of violent feelings," and to scold as "admonishing someone's faults in a raised voice." Becoming angry may be out of the question but no one feels good about having to admonish someone else. To reach someone's mind, the most appropriate approach is to gently reason with the person when discussing the matter.

On the other hand, though, the philosopher Masahiro Yasuoka (1898–1983) left us these invaluable words: "When your lifestyle falls into lazy idleness, you should be so fortunate asto have someone you respect scold you from the bottom of his or her heart." Thisidea played an importantrole in my own experience as a teenager.

I had asked my kendo master to take me on for two months as a working boarder at his home while I trained with him. My apprenticeship was not even half over when I broke my promise and returned to my own home. The following morning, the kendo master came to my house and at the front door, where my mother stood by, he scolded me loudly, then immediately took me back to his own house. At that time, he earnestly explained to me that if I ever lost confidence even once, it would be that much harderto regain it later. Eversince, his words have served me as an important self-remonstrance. I remember how happy, how grateful, and how moved I was by the serious scolding that he gave me. To scold or admonish is essentially the same thing as being considerate of the other person and actually offering deep affection, as my kendo master did for me.

When Angry, Think of the Buddha

Even when we scold someone because we care deeply about the person, however, depending on how the person feelsthe scolding may cause a misunderstanding. In addition, depending on how we do the admonishing, we may appear sometimes to be very coercive.

Shariputra, one of the ten great disciples of Shakyamuni, gave these admonishments to other practitioners: "Choose the proper time to scold someone," "use gentle, soft words," and "speak from the compassionate mind, do not speak from the angry mind." We risk saying thingsthat are not necessary, or becoming emotionally involved and angry. Shariputra tells us that at such times we must not forget our feelings of respect for others and the need for self-reflection. The reason, of course, is that "all living beings without exception have the buddha-nature." In other words, "we are all children of the Buddha."

Even so, if in the heat of the moment we are unable to maintain such cool composure and can feel our emotionsrising up, we should try focusing our minds on the Buddha.

The Lotus Sutra contains the passage: "If one with much anger alwaysthinks upon the Bodhisattva Kannon with respect, then the anger will be far removed." The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings also tells us that "[the Buddha] never became angry," and by single-mindedly thinking upon Kannon we can receive the heart oftheBuddha and Kannon.

The meaning of the Japanese word satosu (admonishing) is connected to the "realization" that comesfrom divine revelations and warnings.It also hasthe same meaning as convincing and guiding through persuasion. Therefore, our scolding or admonishing of others is actually an opportunity for us ourselves to learn, become aware of, and realize something important.

Do we really have the kindness to be considerate of others, do our interactions with them reflect the heartfelt wish that they grow spiritually and become happy? When ourscolding or admonishing includes this kind of self-reflection, then feelings of gratitude for having been admonished will well up in the other person's mind.

The experience of being scolded can develop into gratitude—and in every case, we must sincerely hope that this will happen.

May 2013
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.


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