The Mind of Putting Others First
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
Even If Only in Thought
Happy New Year to everyone.
Again this year, I hope we would learn something from every person and every thing that we encounter, while passing the year in harmony with others and by showing consideration for each other.
One thing that allows you to do this is the mind of putting others first. Setting aside your own desires, you are considerate of how to make other people happy. This teaches you where harmony and happiness exist between yourself and other people.
However, as we are apt to think about ourselves in a self-centered way, some people may suppose that in this day and age, to be so good-natured would be a personal loss. Even so, Founder Nikkyo Niwano stated, “Many people say that ‘human beings cling to their selves and cannot forget their selves,’ but depending on how you go about it, you can do so easily. I always say that it is enough to ‘put others first’ and think only of their happiness. If you can continue to do for them one thing after another—‘I want that person to tell me his or her problem,’ ‘I want that person to let me help him or her’—without making a fuss about it, you will become happy.” Therefore, if you are aware that it may sometimes result in a loss to you, it is important to remember that to “put others first” is a shortcut to becoming happy. The reason for this is that the mind that puts others first and prays for the happiness of other people is connected to the Buddha’s compassion.
“Although I have not yet reached nirvana, I must help others to reach it first”—although I myself am still confused and suffering, first I must relieve other people’s sadness and suffering. These are words found in Treasury of the True Dharma Eye by Zen master Dogen (1200–1253), and here he is saying that most praiseworthy is this mind of compassion, this consideration for other people that puts others first, also that to cause living beings to give rise to this mind is, for living beings, a benefit.
That said, at first it is all right to only do it in form alone. Thinking of putting others first is, in and of itself, a precious thing, and the moment we do so, we are transcending gain and loss and attachments, and we are being liberated.
Each Person’s Putting Others First
In Rissho Kosei-kai, since the founding of our organization, the mind of putting others first has been important. And by practicing it, many people have experienced happiness. Well then, everyone, what concrete examples come to mind when you hear “put others first”?
One person says it is “doing my utmost for other people, without considering gain or loss.” I think that many people understand the words “put others first” in this way, but someone says, “For me, with my strong desires, putting others first are the words that give rise to the mind of letting go of my own ego and giving priority to other people.” Certainly, thinking of putting others first or saying those words instantly cools down the heat of greed and desire, and naturally turns your mind toward those around you.
Someone else says, “As for me, whose own ego often comes forth, putting others first is giving other people the credit.” Besides, in the sense of thinking of bringing joy to other people, another example of putting others first is putting aside your own feelings and praising the other person, and working to bring out someone else’s strength is also one form of acting to “put others first” that brings joy and happiness to yourself and others.
Looking at things in this way, each and every person has his or her own approach to putting others first. However, Founder Niwano also taught us as follows: If we are not grateful for being caused to live, then we cannot do deeds that benefit others. The founder’s admonishment is that if we are not aware of the great compassion that being caused to live by the Buddha represents, then we cannot, in the true sense, have the mind of putting others first.
On this basis, at the beginning of this new year, why not ask yourself what “put others first” means to you.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.