President’s Monthly Message

President’s Monthly Message

President’s Monthly Message

Turn Your Mind Toward Seasonal Customs

Nichiko Niwano
President, Rissho Kosei-kai

Refining Your Sensitivity Through Contact with Nature

Whether we live in a large city or small rural town, the workings of nature are always with us. In my youth, I lived for about ten years in Suganuma, Niigata Prefecture; when winter came the snow fell, and as summer approached we planted rice, so our lives were always in sync with nature. As I was just a child, I helped with the farm work and looked forward to events such as Bon dances and festivals at the village shrine.

No matter how much time passes, the natural phenomena and customs associated with the four seasons are always intricately connected to our lives, although we are apt to forget how important those connections are. In a big city, we have fewer opportunities to watch the flowers and insects vibrantly announce the arrival of the seasons or to marvel at the beauty created by nature.

The poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850) wrote these words in “The Rainbow”:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!

Why does Wordsworth go so far as to say that there is no point in living if one loses a sense of admiration and awe for nature? As if in reply to this question, the biologist Rachel Carson (1907–64) wrote, in The Sense of Wonder: “Those who dwell . . . among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. Whatever the vexations and concerns of their personal lives, their thoughts can find paths that lead to inner contentment and to renewed excitement in living. Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts” (1965, Harper & Row).

As Wordsworth wrote, the secret to maintaining your youth and vitality lies in a daily life of never forgetting the innocent feelings of childhood, being inspired by the workings of nature, and marveling at nature’s wonders.

Nature Is Quietly Putting Forth the Truth

Rachel Carson’s words also tell us that we can overcome suffering and sadness if we have the sensitivity that allows us to see something beautiful or wondrous and feel inspired by its beauty or magnificence. Refined sensitivity stimulates the functioning of a flexible mind that finds a way to be liberated from suffering and helps you stay energetic for all of your days.

Come to think of it, nature never says a word of complaint while quietly showing us how things should be and, by supporting many lives, keeping the whole world alive. In other words, nature is quietly putting forth the truth. The metabolic regeneration of our physical bodies can also be seen as one of the ways that nature is putting forth the truth. Therefore, being aware of the workings of nature—the workings of truth—may even bring us peace of mind and liberation.

For example, imagine if the inspiration of coming into contact with the beauty of the earth could lead our minds to think about the miraculous existence of this planet earth, and the workings of each and every form of life that lives here. In that case, everyone would realize that what matters most on this planet is not attacking or fighting with others, but giving praise for each other’s lives, wouldn’t they? Such a realization puts your mind at ease.

In keeping with this idea, why not try gazing at the stars or looking at the flowers at your feet, especially with a young child who is full of sensitivity? Of course, even while at home, you can come in contact with seasonal customs and the workings of nature. Doing so means refining your sensitivity and at the same time, enjoying, savoring, and discussing the workings of the truth with people who will witness the era to come. I think this is also an important bodhisattva practice that contributes to the future by nurturing young minds and fostering humanity.