New Year's Dharma Guidance by
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Taking Refuge in the Three Treasures as a Basis, Have a Theme, and Follow the Bodhisattva Way
A new year has arrived, and I believe that all of our members have expectations in their hearts.
Last year was an important turning point as we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the completion of the Great Sacred Hall, and a great number of members visited the hall for the commemorative observances. I take heart in the fact that members in greater numbers across the country are devoting themselves to their faith more than ever before, reflecting on the spirit of Buddhism and the wishes of Founder Nikkyo Niwano, which are imbued in the Great Sacred Hall.
I referred to last year as “the beginning of the second half-century since the Great Sacred Hall was completed.” Marking the fiftieth anniversary, that phrase expressed the spirit in which we would take a step forward together and proceed with fresh outlooks. The reason that our organization’s focus of devotion is a standing statue of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni is that it is the symbol of just that sort of forward-looking attitude and dynamism, and we can say these were precisely the wishes of the Founder. I believe that this year we should move forward and create as diligently we can.
What follows are my Guidelines for 2015.
“Last year we moved ahead with a fresh start as we marked the fiftieth anniversary of the completion of the Great Sacred Hall. This year let us begin focusingour efforts on dissemination, with a theme based on our taking refuge in the Three Treasures of Buddhism.
“Since the realities of our daily lives are always likely to become complicated, we would like to come up with various ideas on how to focus constantly on the things that are important.
“Let us walk the Bodhisattva Way (the path we must walk as human beings), treasuring our natural humanity (cheerfulness, kindness, and warmheartedness), our loving-kindness, and consideration for others in the spirit of Shakyamuni as well as our Founder and Cofounder.”
“Additional Remarks: Let us always remember to pray for those who perished in the great earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan as well as in many other disasters.
“In the words of a classic Japanese poem:
‘Sowing grain seeds is best for a one-year plan,
Planting trees is best for a ten-year plan,
And for a lifelong plan,
Nothing surpasses the development of human beings.’
“When we think about the world’s future, those words make us keenly aware of the world’s many problems, such as lack of food security, nuclear accidents, and degradation of the environment. We can gain the experiences of sowing grain seeds and planting trees as well as of striving to develop the people in each sphere of our membership—at the levels of the individual, the chapter, the Dharma center, and the whole of Rissho Kosei-kai. Let us choose and pursue some of these goals and contribute to our community, our country, and our world.
“The gist of my remarks for this new year has not been different from my remarks for earlier years. I have added only slightly to this year’s guidance, wishing that you will always have a fresh frame of
mind as you make your efforts.”
At the core of this year’s guidelines are the exhortations “Based on our taking refuge in the Three Treasures of Buddhism” “Let us walk the Bodhisattva Way” (the path we must walk as human beings).
Since 2008, Rissho Kosei-kai has promoted the enshrinement of the Gohonzon (an image of the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni) in every member’s home. It is in this historical context of Rissho Kosei-kai that taking refuge in the Three Treasures, the fundamentals of Buddhism, is being accomplished. Through the establishment of these basic forms of taking refuge in the Three Treasures—the Gohonzon (the Buddha), the teachings of Shakyamuni (the Dharma) and good friends in the Dharma (the Sangha)—all members can increase their Buddhist self-realization and practice their devotions. This is at the root of our practice.
Furthermore, we have been entrusted with the mission of walking the Bodhisattva Way (our paths as humans) so that the world of great harmony that the Buddha desires for us is realized in the home, the community, the nation, and the world.
The driving force for this can be none other than the natural humanity (cheerfulness, kindness, and warmheartedness) and the loving-kindness and consideration for others in the spirit of Shakyamuni as well as our Founder and Cofounder.
Be Clear About What You Must Do and Focus on How to Do It
These are things that we members already know. In reality, however, our daily lives are too rushed, and even if we understand this in our minds, we are swept up in a rush of things to do, and before we know it another day has come to an end.
With this in mind, I have said as part of this year’s guidelines that we should choose a theme for focusing our efforts on dissemination.
The word theme is used in the various senses of “main topic,” “wish,” “target,” “goal,” and the like. Briefly, it refers to something that one should do, something that points to the direction in which to proceed. For instance, wishing for the happiness of people close to us and developing a sincere rapport with them is an example of living with a theme.
All Dharma centers have their own themes and mottoes based on their regional characteristics and their particular nature. Even among our individual members we have themes for our faith. And we can think of having themes for ourselves as citizens, as members of a regional community, as employees in a workplace, as the parents in a family, as a husband, wife, or child.
Especially as Buddhists, we have one theme that we must follow most faithfully, that is, to emulate the Buddha and be compassionate. When we become aware of this, then how should we be going about our practice or be diligent, or what we should be doing, diffiwill be naturally guided. Having and following a theme leads to living a meaningful life with a definite plan.
As for this year’s guidelines, I have said that “since the realities of our daily lives are always likely to become complicated, we would like to come up with various ideas on how to focus constantly on the things that are important.” Although this generally refers to discovering good methods and measures to adopt, it also has the religious sense of single-minded concentration on the practice of following the Buddha Way.
There are many things in our daily lives that we absolutely must do. We might also have interests such as hobbies or pastimes and the like. And on top of this, as a result of getting caught up with various things, it’s not unusual for everything to end up unfinished.
The first of the two characters for the Japanese word for “government ministry,” shocho, has two senses of its own—“to eliminate or omit” and “to reflect upon.” When an organization becomes as huge as a national government, it is essential that it highly values both eliminating and reflecting, or else there will definitely be trouble, and that is why that character is part of the compound.
Of course, there may be no things in this world that are absolutely wasteful. But if you are to think of something you should be doing that takes priority, it may sometimes be necessary for you to eliminate something in order to focus on it.
Also, on very busy days we may fail to direct our attention to, or inadvertently forget, something important.
That tends to happen to me, so I have always several mottoes placed on my desk in plain view and in an easy reach. I either file important mottoes as memos or, if necessary, place them in the inside pocket of my coat. There is a word in Japanese, kunsen, meaning a nice, penetrating fragrance, and similarly when I read these or say them out loud they have a way of penetrating my mind.
We should review once again such things as how we use our time and how we deal with it in our daily lives, and come up with a plan to accomplish those things, depending on the circumstances.
Treasure Our Consideration for Others and Our Natural Humanity, and Move Forward with Our Feet on the Ground
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. More than three–quarters of the present population of Japan, numbering almost 100 million, were born after the war. Meanwhile, the people who experienced the war are now elderly, and as the years go by it is becoming increasingly difficult to hear what they have to say. Because of this, hearing what they have to say about their war experiences and their desire for peace is extremely important in creating the future.
Human beings over the course of history have repeatedly engaged in disastrous conflicts. Even at this very moment, wars are breaking out in every region of the world. Because of its peace constitution, Japan has enjoyed peace for seventy years, but there is no guarantee that this will continue for eternity.
The ancient Chinese text I-Ching (Book of Changes) contains the phrase “In peace we must not forget war.” It counsels that no matter how peaceful the world we happen to be in, we must never forget the turbulent times. This does not counsel simply that we be prepared for war; it implies that we should never drop our guard in our steadfast work for peace.
The Great Learning book of Confucianism has a saying meaning that having a morally correct mind and living a virtuous lifestyle lead to an orderly family, a well-governed country, and world peace. If we apply this to Rissho Kosei-kai, when we take refuge in the Three Treasures of Buddhism as our basis and treasure our natural humanity (cheerfulness, kindness, and warmheartedness), our loving-kindness, and consideration for others, by following the Bodhisattva Way (our paths as humans), it will lead directly to peace in the family, the community, the nation, and the world.
What is important is for all members to adopt this even more specifically as their personal “theme” and that they focus on it as much as possible by whatever clever means they can.
We are all together in taking the steps with which we started off into “the second half-century since the Great Sacred Hall was completed,” and I desire that we will place our feet on the ground and move forward this year as well.
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.