President’s Monthly Message
The Morning Is Important
President, Rissho Kosei-kai
Opening Our Eyes to Being Grateful Every Day
As in a deep sleep of springtime
Or the bosom of a loving mother.
(Haruo Sato [1892–1964])
This poem conveys the warmth of a spring morning and a pleasant mood. Maybe that is why we find, in Chinese poetry, “In spring, sleeping a sleep that knows no dawn.” And in Japanese haiku poetry, “morning sleep” is a seasonal phrase associated with spring. It is nice to have such a day once in a while, isn’t it? But the morning is so important that we are often told “the morning is everything”; therefore, as the new fiscal year begins on April 1 in Japan, I would like to reconsider the significance of the morning, the start of the day.
First of all, speaking for myself, I now get up at four o’clock every morning. This is a habit I learned from one of my life mentors, Genshitsu Sen (b. 1923), the fifteenth Grand Master of the Urasenke School of the Japanese tea ceremony. Recently though, I often wake up once around three o’clock and get up and stop the alarm clock before it goes off at four. If I can accept that with aging my physical constitution is continuing to change so that I am able to use my time more effectively, then I suppose this is a fortunate development.
After I wash my face, the first thing I do is open the doors of the small shrine of our home altar that holds the Focus of Devotion. In the quiet of the early morning, when I put my hands together reverently and offer prayers, I experience a refreshing sensation because I have, in good health, greeted the Buddha again today. Being able to start my day with such gratitude is a source of vitality that lasts all day long.
There is still time before morning sutra recitation, so afterward I do such things as go to my study to read aloud modern and ancient aphorisms that I have been writing down for a long time and perform some light calisthenics and rowing exercises on an indoor exercise machine.
Just reading aloud aphorisms lifts my spirits, and exercise is very meaningful because it makes me feel positive about having done it. If you suffer from back pain, like I do, or if you are worried about something, the constraints of pain and anxiety may make you feel weak or helpless. Therefore, I think it is important to put yourself in a positive frame of mind first thing in the morning by expressing gratitude, praying, and exercising.
A Day That Starts with Shakyamuni’s Birth Declaration
Greeting the gods and the buddhas and performing sutra recitation are essential to our morning routines, but we should also pay attention to the fact that putting our hands together reverently, which is part of both offering prayers and performing sutra recitation, helps us generate good health and vitality.
Last month, I talked a little about the book that sparked my interest in health, Nishi shiki kenko ho (The Nishi Method of Health) by Katsuzo Nishi (1884–1959). It says that by firmly pressing your hands together and continuing to put your palms together reverently at face level for forty minutes, you are using your hands to do what a sacred text of the ancient Greeks describes as, “Pressing your palms together and laying on of hands, which will heal all ailments,” and a Roman incantation describes as, “Pressing your palms together, which connects you to the gods.” In addition, the book notes that five minutes of reverently pressing the palms together “guarantees good health all day long.”
However, the important point is not that you put your hands together for a long time, but that the action of reverently pressing your palms together and paying homage connects you to the gods and the buddhas and that your feeling of piety relieves stress and has the potential to call forth natural healing powers and dormant energy. Moreover, if you wholeheartedly put your hands together reverently before the gods and the buddhas first thing in the morning, you deepen the mind of taking refuge and awaken your inherent vitality, don’t you? That is what we are doing, every morning, when we put our hands together reverently.
Moreover, it is said that “a single day is a microcosm of a lifetime” and in that sense, waking up in the morning is just like the moment of your birth. When you welcome the morning feeling as fresh as if you were just born today, every day is a new day, and you can start your day with a positive frame of mind, free from the restraints of yesterday.
This is the month of Shakyamuni’s birth, and it is significant that every morning, we contemplate the meaning of the declaration he made at his birth: “I alone am honored, in heaven and on earth.” Let’s turn on the switch that starts the morning by receiving Shakyamuni’s encouragement—his telling us that we are wonderful. That is the message found in his birth declaration, which itself is said to be an expression of praise, powerful as a newborn’s cry, for the sanctity of all life.