President’s Monthly Message
Living Your True Self—Diligence, Part 2
President, Rissho Kosei-kai
We Are All Points on a Sphere
“Imagine a sphere and mark a point on its surface. We are all like that point on the sphere.” So said Sogen Omori (1904–1994), a Zen priest and kendo master. He continued, “Wherever you mark a point on the surface of the sphere, that is the center. There is no point that is not the center . . . even if you mark its surface with millions of dots.” And he added, “while the sphere itself is still one and the same.” While this is a slightly unusual expression, it shows us the true aspect of our existence.
I think Omori’s idea is easy to understand if you think of his “sphere” as the planet Earth. Each of us on the surface is standing at the center of the earth and has a unique existence. However, each individual is caused to live by all things—including the sun, water, and air—as well as by everyone else, so in that sense, all existence is one and the same.
This perspective is the same, whether expanded to the entire universe or applied to a smaller group like a local community or a home. This does not mean that the father is at the center and the children are on the periphery, but rather that each family member has a unique, irreplaceable existence, and that each individual exists in relationship to the other members of the family and the community.
We are informed of this by these words, attributed to the infant Shakyamuni: “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth.” Each of us is an individual, coexisting as part of a large whole, which is the meaning of “I alone am honored.” On the other hand, as individual citizens of this universe and inhabitants of planet Earth, Buddhist teachings explain that we are all brothers and sisters, living together as one life-force, which is the true aspect of our existence.
We practice the diligence of the Six Paramitas so that we are grateful for being caused to live such a life and do not forget the mind of giving thanks. I think the deeper meaning of diligence is that by practicing it, we become people capable of sharing the burden of others’ sadness and reaching out to those who are suffering, just as we revere and love ourselves.
Let’s Count Our Blessings
In last month’s issue, I wrote that diligence is “performing good deeds for the sake of other people” and “doing what is expected of us as people of faith,” but in order to continue such gratitude-based practices, nothing is more important than realizing the things we should be thankful for in our daily lives.
I think that most people know that they themselves are not perfect human beings. And while that may be why we continue to learn how to make ourselves more diligent, it is our encounter with the Buddha Dharma that makes us realize the importance of practicing diligence.
That said, in reality, we are able to learn the teachings thanks to our friends in the Dharma and our Sangha of family, relatives, friends, and acquaintances, so while we give thanks to the people around us and work hard at perfecting ourselves together with our friends in the Dharma, let’s definitely look for even small things to say “thank you” for and translate those thoughts of gratitude into action.
Speaking of things that will inspire you to count your blessings, our Rissho Kosei-kai Sangha members’ personal Dharma journeys are a treasury of wisdom. These people, who have formed a connection with the Buddha through the desire to be liberated from suffering, have realized, thanks to the teachings of the Buddha, that the cause of suffering was their own misunderstanding or wrong views and their lives have been completely changed. Speaking openly about their personal Dharma journey, even people who may have forgotten that they are caused to live will awaken and say, “I am grateful for anything and everything that has happened” and undergo a transformation to a way of life full of gratitude—a testament to living faith.
When we reflect, in the light of the teachings, upon our own past and our way of thinking and first awaken to the many things we are thankful for, we encounter ourselves as we truly are—having always been caused to live. In that sense, sharing your Dharma journey can be an important practice of diligence in order to live your true self; as Founder Niwano said, “The experience of joy in the Dharma plants seeds of joy in the minds of those who hear about it.” Your own joy expands to become the joy of your friends in the Dharma, which in turn becomes a practice of benefiting others that is full of compassion.
As we pray and hope for the realization of a world in which everyone can fall asleep at night with peace of mind, let’s continue to practice diligence.