Opening the Mind’s Eye
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
As a Child Would
“As the new year begins, / Look to posterity while enjoying many pleasures.” Just as this ancient Japanese poem tells us, I hope that we will together start the new year feeling refreshed and spend one day after another rejoicing in the Dharma.
Some people, though, think that actual life is not so easy—it is the repetition of humdrum daily activities, or day after day of endless struggle. When one has such an attitude toward life, that may indeed turn out to be the case. Let us look at the matter from a slightly different viewpoint.
Consider this passage from Siddhartha, the novel by Hermann Hesse: “The world just as it was, with nothing to want of it and observed plainly, as a child would, was a world of beauty. The moon and the stars were beautiful. . . . With eyes thus opened, with his heart open to the things close to him, he walked thus in the world having no doubt, and it was beautiful and lovable.” The view-point described here, “plainly, as a child would” is, in fact, the secret to enjoying anew each and every day.
Little children often ask their parents, “What is this?” about something unfamiliar. When we see things plainly, with that same innocent feeling, our eyes stop on something we never noticed before, and it elicits a sense of surprise and wonder. As described by Hesse, if something usually seen and taken for granted is felt to be beautiful, how much more enjoyable would each day become.
This awareness is the mind’s eye opening to see things as they really are. We may tend to think that opening the mind’s eye is something difficult to do, but at the moment that we become truly aware of something, our hearts and minds are opened. This is because awareness means hearing the voices of the gods and the buddhas calling us through vari-ous things.
And then, with childlike innocence, with a purity that has no room for a doubting mind or heart and no preconceived notions, we can refine our sensitivity to such awareness. In such a case, having a childlike heart and mind is in fact the heart and mind of practicing the Way.
Suffering Allows Becoming Aware
In this sense, in writing my book, Kokoro no manako o hiraku (Opening the mind’s eye), my hope was that each and every reader would become aware of and accept something new. I have received a letter from a woman who wrote that her way of seeing things had changed when she happened to read a passage in the book. She was going through a difficult time as her husband was ill and she was experiencing a lot of friction with the people around her. She had hit rock bottom. When she realized that other people were not to blame for the suffering she had brought upon herself and that the words of those around her—words that had hurt her feelings and confused her—could in fact be interpreted as words of encouragement, the light shone on her in her moment of deepest despair and tears of joy welled up in her eyes.
While I do not want to boast about my own book, this episode teaches me anew that opening the mind’s eye must be just this kind of awareness. That is, precisely when we are truly suffering is when we have the chance to heighten our awareness of what matters most.
Another important point is that regardless of what triggers such awareness, we cannot become aware of something that does not exist within ourselves. Just as we wake up in the morning when the sun rises, if we live honestly, our eyes are drawn naturally toward things we had previously never noticed. This leads not only to deepening our emotions and sympathy, but even to changes in our view of life. In every case, inspired by a karmic encounter, something already inside of ourselves awakens.
To quote a didactic poem, “If people ask, / ‘In this world, / What is suffering?’ / Tell them, / ‘People not knowing the Dharma.’” Indeed, nothing can be more important for us than awakening to the truth that we are caused to live, and when we live truthfully, it is always possible to continue doing so.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.