Shining Our Light on Others
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Shining Forth Our Own Light
The Great Sacred Hall in Tokyo, the principal training center for us as members of Rissho Kosei-kai, held its inauguration ceremony exactly fifty years ago, on May 15, 1964. Since then, a light has continued to shine from the tower on the rooftop of the Great Sacred Hall.
This light that shines all night long symbolizes the bright lamp of the Dharma—Shakyamuni’s teachings shining on the hearts and minds of people who are suffering (“Make the Dharma the light”)—and also the lighting of one’s own lamp, that is, for everyone to be able to walk the Way by allowing themselves to be the light (“Make the self the light”). Most important in this is that there are no exceptions among us, as all human beings can allow themselves to be their own shining light and walk the Way.
In last month’s issue, I quoted the words attributed to Shakyamuni, “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth.” In this vast universe, each and every one of us is an irreplaceable existence that is precious. People who can see themselves from this perspective also can see that other people are the same and their lives are equally worthy. Our human goodness compels us to tell others about the happiness we ourselves have realized, and those people who have discovered their own worth surely will be unable to stop themselves from sharing the joy that comes from revering humanity as they see it reflected in the eye of their hearts and minds.
Making the self the light and pursuing the Way does not mean being independent and self-revering. On the contrary, it means that we raise up the lamp of the Dharma in the midst of every karmic connection and shine its light on others and, as a living being that continues to illuminate all corners of the world, we lead our lives full of purpose that accords with the Way.
Donation Is Central to Life
Regarding our existence shining our light on others, Shakyamuni is the model for us. However, rather than like a light raised up by an individual, he appeared in the universe as a burning star like the sun giving light, and since then has always shined the light of the teachings on countless people. Because we are unceasingly bathed in the light of the Dharma, we become aware of the sanctity of our own lives.
How, then, can we who are receiving the Buddha’s teachings use them to shine the light on other people?
I think that if we earnestly take on whatever task is before our eyes, whether at work if we are employed or in serving at our Dharma center, and thereby making others happy, that is the best way to shine our light on them.
As lay bodhisattvas we study the Buddha’s teachings and put them into practice. The Six Paramitas of our bodhisattva practice begin with making donations. Therefore, the practice of making donations is central to our lives. Those who make donations with their bodies are making physical donations, those who make donations with their hearts and minds are making spiritual donations, and those who make donations of assets are making material donations, all of which help other people and let them rejoice—and so our practice of making donations is clearly one and the same as shining our light on others.
There is an old expression, “A candle uses itself up in giving light to people.” One merit of making donations is that by doing our best for other people, our ego melts away from us. With our deeds, we make others happy, and at such times our bodies emit an illuminating light equal to the light shone by Shakyamuni. In other words, we are shining forth on others a precious light.
Of course, it is difficult to do this constantly. For example, however, by participating in the Donate-a-Meal Movement, one of Rissho Kosei-kai’s peace activities, in which we skip one meal a day several times a month and donate the money saved, we can obtain a taste of selflessness and lack of ego. This is an important practice for us as we lead our lives with the heart and mind of making donations. Or, like the Zen priest Ryokan (1758–1831) who aimed to use words of affection, when we are mindful of looking for the good in people and praising them for it, doing that is nothing but a form of making donations that shines the light on others.
When we have this perspective, then the light that burns all night long in the tower on the rooftop of the Great Sacred Hall, which I mentioned at the beginning, represents what lies deep in our inner hearts. Even if ours may only be a small ray of light, I hope it is something that can always shine forth to brighten and warm our surroundings.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.