President’s Message for December
Listen Closely to Your Inner Buddha
President, Rissho Kosei-kai
Acknowledgment and Remorse Are the Same as Awakening
The Threefold Lotus Sutra concludes with the Sutra of the Method for Contemplating the Bodhisattva Universal Sage (The Sutra for Contemplating the Universal Sage, for short), which says, “Those who practice . . . acknowledgment and remorse become pure in body and mind and do not become stuck on things, just like flowing water.” In other words, if you remember to perform acknowledgment and remorse in any situation, you will be able to live your life with a free, pure feeling, like rippling, flowing water. The sutra goes on to say that acknowledgment and remorse ultimately lead to deep contemplation of the true aspect of all things—that is, being free from delusions and attachments and seeing things as they really are. However, how does acknowledgment and remorse lead there? I feel that this point is a bit difficult to understand.
That is why I want to tell you about an almanac, published by JT Biohistory Research, that I always carry in my bag and frequently consult.
This small almanac concisely shows the origins and history of the universe, Earth, life forms, and human beings. To quote from the opening section of this almanac, entitled Watashi no ima iru tokoro, soshite kore kara (My whereabouts and future):
“Modern science has proven that Earth came into being as one of the many stars created by the universe, with life forms emerging from the seas that formed on Earth and human beings born out of the evolution of a great variety of these life forms. The history of the universe, Earth, and the emergence of life are commingled inside us.”
Every time I look at this almanac, I tell myself that we are here right now because of this history and marvel at the existence and lives of human beings. At the same time, I think of this magnificent history, in which all forms of existence have together nurtured one great life force and passed it down over immeasurably vast eons. Especially when I am struggling to mentally process something, I remind myself that I am just one human being in this great life force, and suddenly my horizons expand and I feel better.
In everyday life, we see that people and phenomena are all different, but a world exists in which absolute truth is universally equal and without discrimination—so grasping that truth, reflecting upon ourselves, and performing acknowledgment and remorse seem to be the very awakening that purifies our bodies and minds.
The True Spirit of the Lotus Sutra and Rissho Kosei-kai
Up to this point I have been discussing acknowledgment and remorse as a single package. Some people may think that spiritual realization and performing acknowledgment and remorse mean something different from the popular idea of showing remorse. Of course, the acknowledgment and remorse practiced by religious people may be a stronger force because of the perseverance and stoicism that lead to diligence, but I think that the popular idea of showing remorse is also a form of improving and moving forward. Therefore, I consider showing remorse to be essentially the same as our practice of acknowledgment and remorse.
Speaking in terms of religious practice, however, we can interpret the feeling of acknowledgment and remorse stirring in our hearts as a wake-up call from our inner buddha. A line from the Sutra for Contemplating the Universal Sage that urges acknowledgment and remorse, “Focus your minds on the Buddha,” also teaches us that when we are about to give in to anger or greed, we should listen to the voice of our inner buddha telling us to focus on the buddha inside and return to our true self. At times, just let your mind wander through the vast expanse of the universe and think about the history of Earth and life. Think about what it means for human beings and you yourself to exist amid this vast expanse of the universe and history. Then, if you turn toward your inner buddha and listen carefully to what that voice tells you, I think you will make up your mind to live a better life. After that, you only need to put that mind into practice.
Nichiren (1222–82) said, “The core of Shakyamuni’s lifetime teachings is the Lotus Sutra and the core of practicing the Lotus Sutra is found in chapter 20, ‘The Bodhisattva Never Unworthy of Respect.’” In Rissho Kosei-kai, the scripture in which we place our faith is the Threefold Lotus Sutra, and the reason why Founder Niwano led us toward valuing the practice of placing our hands together reverently before others is that he himself took the Bodhisattva Never Unworthy of Respect’s attitude as a model for human behavior. We could even say this is the most familiar practice of demonstrating through our own physical actions that the practice of acknowledgment and remorse is itself an awakening.
In my home, each day the Founder revered an image of the Buddha depicted with palms pressed reverently together. That Buddha is still there today, praying for the happiness of people everywhere.