Start with Yourself
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
With Natural Enjoyment
From time to time, I see in my neighborhood volunteer youth groups picking up roadside litter. That is truly a refreshing sight. However, there are so many cigarette butts, empty drink cans, and discarded paper trash that, no matter how much they pick up, the litter seems endless. It makes me wonder if those who do the littering have any sense of public morality.
If we criticize the litterers, however, our irritation and anger only increase, and our minds become filled with displeasure. Surely we need not allow other people’s litter to defile our minds.
When I went out for a walk with my wife not long ago, we also picked up litter along the roadside. This made me realize once again the obvious fact that if people didn’t litter, others wouldn’t be troubled by the need to pick up after them. Thanks to that experience, the thought “I will never litter” was emblazoned on my mind. At the same time, I also felt that if other people’s roadside litter bothered me, it taught me that, before I criticize others, I should start with myself and take some positive steps.
You should start with yourself whenever you notice something that needs your help.
This is not limited to picking up litter, but is one of the guidelines for leading a lifestyle that satisfies one.
What matters most in doing so is that your actions reflect the natural functioning of your mind and that you enjoy yourself while undertaking the practice. As is written in an ancient Indian text, “A bodhisattva who provides benefits to others gives rise to no pride or arrogance, because for a bodhisattva, doing so is a pleasure.”
We are all bodhisattvas, receiving life from the Buddha. Therefore, being self-conscious about our actions or feeling dissatisfied at being forced to do them will not make them a pleasure.
Just as nature pours forth its blessings unconditionally, we should naturally lend a hand to those in need, and take the lead in cleaning up a dirty place. Doing so can be a pleasure, and frees us from other feelings and concerns. This mental state, akin to the Buddha’s unhindered meditation, means that we are putting into practice the guideline of starting with ourselves.
From the Compassionate Mind of All
This past spring, massive earthquakes struck the area of Japan centering on Kumamoto Prefecture. It pains me to realize that there are still many local residents there whose lives remain very difficult. I have heard that many Rissho Kosei-kai members in the area have been concerned about the situation of their fellow sangha members since the earthquakes struck and made every effort to help them even though they themselves were victims of the disaster and were facing their own difficulties. Without being asked, they did such things as distributing vital necessities, lending an ear to the survivors’ experiences, sympathizing with them, and giving them encouragement. One member put it this way, “I myself don’t know why I kept up my efforts and seemed to forget whether I had eaten or slept.” Just as in the phrase, “the Buddha shows compassion without thinking of compassion,” surely the members were mentally inspired to act, and therefore could not stop from seeking to assist. Taking direct action thus did not seem hard or stressful to them. Rather, one realizes that they gladly accepted the opportunity as a karmic connection, and kept themselves busy doing as much as possible.
Of course, bodhisattvas like them are not exclusively Rissho Kosei-kai sangha members. When I hear about everyone who, whether taking the lead by starting with themselves or making every effort to put others first, did just as their hearts told them, freed themselves from attachments, and raced around joyfully helping others, I think that they are teaching me just how great our peace of mind will be when consideration for others is put into practice by each and every one of us.
The kanji character kyo of the word kyoryoku (cooperation) means harmonizing by joining power. By being considerate to your family members, by thinking of the people around you and turning your attention to starting with yourself, and by joining your power with that of others, you can begin to enter a world of peace in which everyone can live together with a feeling of satisfaction.
The mention of peace should remind us that the practice that achieves it does not consist solely of positive actions for its sake, but also requires our continual open-mindedness toward all people, including those we feel deserve harsh criticism. Such changes in our consciousness are also, for each of us, extremely important practices.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.