The Heart and Mind of Putting Our Hands Together Reverently
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Looking at the Self with Humility
With the approach of the year’s end, along with all the social clamor comes the sense of being busy. However, it is important that, in the midst of being busy, we find the time for introspection and look back on how we spent the year.
Whether or not we were careful in our speech and behavior, whether or not our hearts and minds were associated with our family and friends—we should turn our eyes to such matters, and find therein the goals of our diligent practice and, with clean, clear feelings, welcome the new year. That said, nothing special is necessary for engaging in introspection.
To quote a tanka poem in praise of the Buddha written long ago, “The right is the Buddha, / And the left is me. / Putting my hands together, / Makes the dignified sound / Of ‘Namu.’” One interpretation of this poem may be that when we put our hands together reverently, our hearts and minds become one with the gods and the buddhas and we are able to realize that we ourselves are caused to live thanks to everything in the universe. In Rissho Kosei-kai, while putting hands together reverently as a greeting is for all of us part of everyday practice, this attitude and this heart and mind of reverently putting our hands together have something in common with looking with humility at the self. In other words, at the time that we put our hands together reverently, our feelings become, “Everything is thanks to you” and “Thank you very much.” And introspection follows as its extension. In doing so, some people may suppose that introspection is painful, like blaming oneself, but actually, it is exactly the opposite. The reason is that introspection accompanies the joy of knowing that, “Through good luck I am blessed to have been born in this world as a human being.”
Asked, “In this world, what are you most grateful for,” the Chinese Zen master Baizhang Huaihai (Jpn., Hyakujo Ekai, 749–814) replied, “Sitting alone on Daiyu Peak.” Daiyu Peak was another name for the mountain on which the Zen master lived, so what he meant was “I am most grateful for me sitting here now, in other words, for being alive.” Realizing that to be alive is precious to such an extent and we are blessed to have been born, and thereby having the realization of not looking down on ourselves in turn leads to spiritual diligence. Introspection gives us the opportunity to do this.
Rejoice for Life as a Human Being
The Bodhisattva Never Despise, who appears in chapter 20 of the Lotus Sutra, is the perfect example of deepening introspection through putting one’s hands together reverently.
Of course, the Bodhisattva Never Despise, who put his hands together reverently and said, “I revere you. Why is this? Because you are all to become buddhas” to everyone he encountered, had already become aware of revering his own self. However, in addition to this, the Bodhisattva Never Despise, through his practice of putting his hands together reverently, always reflected on himself by ascertaining whether or not he was becoming arrogant. In fact, I think that this is an important lesson for us.
The Bodhisattva Never Despise, by putting his hands together reverently and saying to people, “I do not slight you,” was calling on them to awaken to the reverential nature of their own selves, of which they were not yet aware. He was telling them, in person, of the gratitude of having received life as a human being who is able to become aware of respect for one’s own self.
There are very few people who dislike having someone put their hands together reverently before them. Depending on the person, he or she may even feel that they are being liberated. Therefore, harmony is born from approaching one another with the attitude of putting our hands together reverently. This softens ill feelings and friction between people. Conversely stated, when we are unable to sincerely put our hands together reverently before others, we are producing “ego.”
Therefore, if right now there is someone with whom your heart and mind are not connecting, definitely try to reach out to that person with the heart and mind of putting your hands together reverently. “Let us both rejoice in having attained something difficult, that is, being born into the realm of human beings.” With those words in our minds, let us be as truthful as a young child. Becoming so, the little fetters that bind us then disappear, and we take one step forward toward the world of harmony. Let us do so together, and feel refreshed as we greet the new year.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.