President’s Monthly Message

President’s Monthly Message

President’s Monthly Message

 Audio

Living with a Calm and Peaceful Mind

Nichiko Niwano
President, Rissho Kosei-kai

“I Wish I Could Live Like This”

Soon it will be the season in Japan when bright green leaves, washed by the rain, catch the eye. As the humidity and temperatures rise, however, the rainy season may also dampen our minds and make us feel gloomy, so let’s try to at least keep our minds clear and cheerful.

The other day, I came across a wonderful volume of poetry titled Sukoyaka ni, odayaka ni, shinayaka ni [Healthy, calm, and flexible], (Tokyo: Kosei Publishing, 2006). In it, the poet Shuntaro Tanikawa (b. 1931) freely expresses, in Japanese, his impressions of passages from an English translation of the Dhammapada. Here is a poem from this volume:

Calmly

If you chase after pleasure,
You may only be left with sadness,
And if you indulge in it too much,
You may smart with pain forever.
Into a mind with nothing to lose,
Joy flows freely.
Anger will narrow your view,
And close your mind.
Arrogance will tie you down,
And restrict your mind.
So let your mind be calm
And carefree, flexible, and cheerful.

The promotional blurb for this book only says, “I wish I could live like this,” and I feel that is exactly what it explains. Calm, carefree, flexible, and healthy. If we can live like this, truly our minds will always be clear, cheerful, and tranquil—and this is certainly the way to lead peaceful daily lives without attachments, regrets, or worries.

Shakyamuni teaches us that we are transported to a state of tranquility by our diligent practice. Therefore, we can believe that by continuing our diligent practice, we will experience peaceful days. In that case, what exactly does “diligent practice” mean?

Because We Have the Desire to Improve Ourselves

Buddhism is called “an unsurpassable teaching,” and of course we can accept it as a most excellent teaching. That said, we should not merely revere it with gratitude; we should also accept it as a teaching that—no matter how much we study it—has no limit or endpoint so that we go on cultivating our minds as we put what we learn into daily practice. I think this is how diligent practice leads us to tranquility.

Religious faith is meaningful precisely because our physical actions are its concrete manifestation. Therefore, our diligent practice takes the form of applying the teachings we have learned to all our daily actions by being kind, showing consideration for others, and interacting with others cheerfully and warmly. The accumulation of such moments brings us peace of mind day after day.

Although we say “apply the teachings you learned,” some people may be confused about what to keep in mind and how it applies to their daily practice. I think it is up to each of us to determine what diligent practice means, depending on our own concepts of an ideal person and our aspirations to lead this kind of life or become this kind of person.

For example, making an effort to stay healthy in order to complete your responsibilities every day is a form of diligence that corresponds to making a nonmaterial donation, like doing volunteer work. And while no one can live without occasionally burdening others, exercising self-restraint so as not to be a burden is performing another form of diligence. By always taking on, with gratitude and joy, not only paying work but also child-rearing and such daily housework as cooking and laundry, you are also performing a wonderful form of diligence. In other words, I think there is diligent practice in each and every thing you do in the course of your daily life that comes from the desire to improve yourself and follows through on that aspiration; this in turn brings you joy and peace of mind.

From time to time, though, there may be a day when our minds are not clear and bright. At such times, we should follow the example of Yoshio Toi (1912–91), who wrote these words, so appropriate for this season: “When it rains, / Do not grumble. / On a rainy day, / Live your rainy day lifestyle.” So why don’t we perform the diligent practice of trying to make something disagreeable into discovering a new way of living? Doing so will certainly make the whole day a good, peaceful day.

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