Unnamed People Are National Treasures
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Doing Our Best
In today’s period of financial inequality, the trend seems to be for many people to make the goal of their lives to “never fall behind,” that is, to achieve success by getting ahead of other people.
To make an effort and be rewarded for it is important. However, I feel that there is something wrong with a society that does not acknowledge the work of the unknown, that is, the unnamed people who have nothing to do with brilliant activities, a society that considers someone a “loser” who has been forced out of a job because it suits the circumstances of the company.
In the sense of the workings of the overall economy, such a trend may be a natural occurrence. If we really think about the situation, however, on the national and the local levels our society is made up of the many unnamed people who work tirelessly at doing what must be done, the tasks at hand. We think that the politicians are running the country, but isn’t it precisely because the housewives in every home are scrupulous about supporting their families that the politicians can busy themselves with the affairs of the nation? This is equally true in a company. No matter how astute the company president may be, there would be no company without the dedicated employees who support him or her.
In this way of thinking, in all work, including housework, there is something more important than being caught up in getting ahead and achieving success.
It is something so simple as to be anticlimactic: the attitude of “doing one’s best with the task at hand.”
Just as expressed by the following words of the ninth-century Zen master Linji Yixuan, founder of the Linji (Rinzai in Japanese) school in China, “Become the master of every situation, and wherever you stand becomes the place of truth,” without a care for the opinions of others we should gladly throw ourselves into an activity with all our determination. At such times, the work and where we are—it all becomes the stage for helping us to improve ourselves.
The Heart and Mind of Making Donations
From long ago, Japan has been widely known for its superb handicrafts. In the early period after the Pacific War in particular efforts were made to improve skills and technology in every field, resulting in the rapid growth and development of the country as a whole.
The tools we use on a regular basis, as well as the latest space rocket which required the best of scientific technology for its development, are, today as in the past, imbued with the thoughts of the workers or scientists who made them, such as “Let’s produce something that makes tasks easier,” “Let’s develop something that helps people,” or “We hope to contribute to the advancement of humanity,” and who continued in their efforts to perfect those skills and technology. I do not think that by only wanting to be famous or to receive a large salary, they would have been able to continue pursuing a path of such strict training and research.
Liking our work is the ideal situation, but above all else, the joy of being happy to be helpful to others provides the energy that sustains us every day, and even if our lifestyles are modest, that joy is connected to our reasons for being alive and the willpower for living with confidence and pride. Such a pure heart and mind of improving oneself should inherently lead, for anyone, to the dynamic power for tackling the task at hand.
The thought of achieving happiness through helping others originates in the heart and mind of making donations. Giving something of ourselves to others can bring joy to other people—and their joy returns to us as our own joy. It becomes the encouragement to be further devoted to our work, and to further improve upon ourselves—not for fame or fortune, but because, with the goal of being alive determined in such a manner, social labels like “loser” are rid of their intent. With no reason to feel belittled, life can always be led with confidence and pride.
To begin with, just as the Buddha has said for us, “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth,” everyone in this world, without exception, has received a life that is meaningful and has value. When we are attached to fixed ideas and our ego, however, we cannot realize this. What releases us from that bondage, and demonstrates our inherent value, is bringing comfort and doing our best for others, that is, the heart and mind of making donations.
Saicho (767–822), the founder of the Tendai denomination in Japan, said, “Those who shine a light into their corner of the land are national treasures.” Each of the nameless people who are leading lives of making donations is, in every place from the individual home to the nation as a whole, a person of genuine power.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.