Living a Great Vow
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Comparisons Can Cause Suffering
Someone who thinks, “That family is so rich, they are really lucky,” becomes jealous and envies them. And a person who thinks, “I am not as good as others at work,” begins to engage in self-belittling and becomes depressed. Then, someone else might suppose, “No one is as talented as I am,” and become arrogant. We can observe such emotions and behavior frequently in daily life. When they escalate, they damage human relations and lead to conflict.
Why, then, do we become envious, demean ourselves, or grow arrogant?Probably because we are failing to understand something important. If we did understand it, we would not compare ourselves to others and instead would develop more completely rounded hearts and minds with no dents of dissatisfaction and no bumps of pride.
April 8 is the date on which we observe the anniversary of Shakyamuni’s birth. When he was born, it is said that Shakyamuni announced, “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth.”
We are taught to understand that the meaning of this is that in the vast universe, every single human being has an existence worthy of respect.
Those who discover the worth of their own selves also see equally the worth of other people. Therefore, when we are able to realize this for ourselves, we no longer need to make comparisons with others.
The following are two statements I came across in my past reading: “Making comparisons with others seems like the source of our unhappiness,” and “Feelings of anger, as people grow up, are imprinted by their parents and society.” Thinking about such statements together suggests that there is a way out from feelings of unhappiness and anger.
However, even as we think so, we continue to make comparisons. If this is so, how should we relate such feelings to the development of human beings and of society in general? Instead of hurting ourselves and others, how should we turn our feelings into a positive force?
Buddhism teaches us a method to control our hearts and minds, and we can find joy in a lifestyle based on faith.
Discovering One’s Self
I noted above that we are able to attain peace of mind (having a well-rounded heart and mind) when we do not constantly compare ourselves with other people. This is because such comparisons with others, whatever they may involve, often lead to such emotional reactions as feelings of envy, worthlessness, or even arrogance. However, it is a fact that in work, studies, sports, and even hobbies, and maybe especially in the field of faith, when we see someone improving himself or herself we can be stimulated and encouraged to further improve ourselves.
In that regard, making careful comparisons may be meaningful, as Zhiyi (538–87), the founder of the Tiantai school in China, wrote, “Do not inquire about things outside, only keep to what lies inside.” That is, instead of turning our attention to things outside ourselves, we should be asking ourselves what is truly important to us, and not forget to ponder what lies deep inside us.
The Buddhist priest and educator Yoshio Toi (1912–91) wrote, “There is no path to developing a true self other than living a great vow,” which is one example of the something important that I just mentioned.
The phrase, “living a great vow” may not be easy to understand. To try and give an example, I will say that it corresponds to deepening our hearts and minds by revering the buddha-nature in ourselves and other people through our daily practice of sutra recitation and participating in hoza sessions. When such a heart and mind feels deep reverence for other people, this creates a surrounding atmosphere of serenity.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.