President’s Message for October 2020
If You Change Your Mind, You Change Your Life
President, Rissho Kosei-kai
We Are All Equally Disciples of the Buddha
In last month’s issue of this newsletter, I mentioned the story of Shakyamuni and one of his disciples, Shuddhipanthaka.
In that story, Shuddhipanthaka, who had been lost in grief and lamenting his poor memory, sincerely believed and practiced the words of Shakyamuni. As a result, he realized the importance of cleansing his mind of defilements and changed his way of life.
A quote attributed to American philosopher William James (1842–1910) describes this very idea. He said, “If you change your mind, you change your actions. If you change your actions, you change your habits. If you change your habits, you change your character. And if you change your character, you change your fate.” It almost seems like James is directly referring to the story of Shuddhipanthaka, who, by changing his mind, changed his way of life and in turn also changed his fate.
Phrased differently, changing your life means changing your relationships and your connections with everything around you. That is, when you realize something important like Shuddhipanthaka did and resolve your mind, the way you deal with everything around you changes. Then, even when disadvantageous things come your way, you can put them to good use.
Now, is this the case for us? When asked, some of us may feel discouraged and say, “That’s much too difficult for me.” However, we must not forget that, like Shuddhipanthaka, we are also disciples of the Buddha and we are receiving teachings from the Buddha. As with the disciples of the Buddha of the distant past, so do we also—in the midst of our worrying and suffering—encounter the teachings of the Buddha that make us realize something important.
Therefore, depending on the person and the circumstances, I think there are many ways to clear away the defilements of the mind—such as resisting being swept away by the desire in front of you, not allowing your emotions to go unchecked and turn into anger, and accepting change just as it is. And I do think that by sincerely believing the teachings of the Buddha and putting them into practice, your destiny will change of its own accord.
The Matter of Belief
Even though we understand how important it is to believe and practice the teachings of the Buddha, sometimes our minds waver, go off the tracks of the teachings, and race toward self-centered words and actions.
The cause of this may be solely believing in the teaching. As Founder Niwano told us, “Faith is not just blindly believing—it is believing after having awakened to the truth.” In other words, in order to have faith, just believing is not enough, for if you have learned the truth and the Buddha Dharma (all things are impermanent, nothing has an ego, dependent origination), you can think about things in that light, and in turn lead a life rooted in wisdom, which is the real meaning of believing in the teachings of the Buddha and having faith.
Speaking of faith, having a mind of devotion means believing that we human beings possess the same essence as the Buddha. Therefore, our belief in the Buddha Shakyamuni means that we believe in humanity and the buddha-nature of everyone around us.
With that in mind, we could say that the basis of believing in and practicing the teaching is doing our utmost to believe in and revere the person in front of us in this moment.
Incidentally, as is written in “Specification of Merits” (chapter 17 of the Lotus Sutra), “Those people who have heard that the life span of the Buddha is of such long duration and have been able to experience even a single moment of faith and understanding will attain merits beyond limit and measure.”
As I have often said before, if we believe, even for a moment, that we are living the same eternal life as the Buddha and that everyone is a manifestation of buddha-nature, our personal experience of such a realization by itself brings us incalculable merits.
As all of you surely know, everyone lives the same life as the Buddha and is a manifestation of buddha-nature. But when truths like this sink in, they change the way we treat people and how we accept what they say to us, don’t they? By experiencing this realization, you are opening up a life in which you can always live joyfully with the same great mind as the Buddha.