Switching Off the Selfish Mind
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
The Secret of Living Happily
One of our three practices is clearly responding positively when someone speaks tous. When first considered, this may seem to be obviously a simple matter, but if the selfish mind thinks “What a bother” or “I don’t get along with that person,” then you cannot reply with sincerity.
On the other hand, if you are able to respond positively without hesitation, then you can be said not to have a selfish mind at such times. Not having a selfish mind is cited this way in the Analects of Confucius: “The master has renounced four things: the selfish mind, unreasonable demands, attachments to things, and the obstinate mind.” This means that the mind of Confucius does not have the above-mentioned four delusions that bind the self. According to a commentary on the Analects, the selfish mind leads to unreasonable demands, unreasonable demands lead to attachments, and attachments are the cause of being obstinate and bringing one to a standstill. Therefore, being able to mildly respond positively is one secret to happily living each day.
Incidentally, when our bodies experience cold, they try to avoid losing heat, and when they feel hot, body temperature is adjusted by sweating, so they automatically adapt to the environment and the circumstances. It would be good if your mind, without choosing the encounters and events of each day, were also able to humbly accept them and adapt to them, but when the selfish mind becomes an obstacle, you are unable to do so.
Rissho Kosei-kai has continued to make it important to accept, with gratitude, not only what is good, but also what may be painful or sad, as the “invisible arrangements” of the gods and the buddhas. When we understand that in accordance with such arrangements any type of occurrence is inevitable and nothing that happens is useless, we have left behind judgments of good or bad and are calmly accepting reality. Accepting the arrangements of the gods and the buddhas switches off the selfish mind, and by doing so, we can follow the Dharma and pursue a life of moderation and ease.
The Source of Success and Serenity
The 84-year-old Japanese entrepreneur, philanthropist, founder of two multibillion dollar companies, and honorary chairman of Japan Airlines Kazuo Inamori approaches the challenge of any major business undertaking based on Buddhist principles. He repeatedly asks himself, “Is the motive good, or does it involve the selfish mind?” He has written that serving one’s own business interests is never enough. The motive has to be for the good of others, of society as well. He would ask whether or not there was a selfish mind involved, intended to make himself seem important, and only after determining that would his will become firm and the courage arise to move on an undertaking.
From this account, we know that acting to switch off the selfish mind is living as one with the Dharma, and at the same time it leads to the spirit of bodhisattva practice, that is, working for the public good in the real world through business or community activities.
Even when Mr. Inamori received an unreasonable order from a customer, he was glad to fill it if he felt it was for the benefit of many people and pleased the customer. His selfless mind and attitude naturally resulted in trust, and it is not difficult to appreciate that in due course they created advantages for himself and others.
Economic activity should be not only a matter of pursuing profit for a company and an individual. The Japanese word for economy, keizai, derives from keisei saimin, which means “governing the world and fostering the people.” Therefore, in the words of Konosuke Matsushita (1894–1989), the founder of the huge multinational electronics corporation Panasonic who was called in Japan the god of management: “As business is a public endeavor that involves many people in the world, it must not be attached to the selfish mind.” Thus, primarily, the selfless mind should be the foundation of a business and the key to its success.
To quote the literary critic Hideo Kobayashi (1902–83), a successful entrepreneur is a selfless person who “in response to how things are moving, reinvents him- or herself day by day.” He also referred to a certain capable business leader who would listen carefully to what other people say, without arguing with them or making excuses, and in the end would always say, “How right you are.”
Nirvana, which we will very soon mark with the memorial service for the anniversary of Shakyamuni’s entrance into nirvana, means the state of having all delusions completely extinguished, which is certainly not a realm far from our reach. With selfless minds, we respond positively when someone speaks to us, we submit to whatever occurs as the arrangements of the gods and the buddhas, we get close to people’s hearts, and we listen to them and show them consideration. In such daily lives filled with serenity and comfort, we can find nirvana.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.