Invisible Eyelashes: Seeing What is Closest to Us by Nikkyo Niwano

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Many people refuse to believe in anything that cannot be proved logically or scientifically. Buddhists believe, however, that there is an orderly logic at work in the world. Since the ordinary eye cannot see this order, Buddhists try to see it with the eye of faith. In today's secular world, faith sometimes seems like an outdated or unnecessary concept. But if we look closely, we can see it operating every day in our lives. Here is an example, from Japan, of the kind of faith we employ in our relations with loved ones:

In the mountains of Shinshu a small group of students from Tokyo was gathering plant specimens, and just below the edge of a sheer cliff they found an unusual flower. They wanted to add it to their collection, but could not climb down far enough. They decided to tie pieces of clothing into a rope, down which one of them could climb. The rope seemed too flimsy, however, to support an adult. Just then a thirteen-year-old boy happened by. They asked him if he would be willing to climb down to the flower for a small reward while they stood above and held the rope. The boy refused. They doubled their offer, but he shook his head. They tripled and even quadrupled it, but still he refused. Finally they asked how much he wanted. The boy said, "I'll do it if my father holds the rope." This was faith. Logically, the boy would have been safer with several husky students holding the rope than with just his father. His trust in his father was not strictly logical.

The Japanese poet Jukichi Yagi (1898 - 1927), who died young, was a devout Christian. One of his poems expresses his faith succinctly:

Because one calls,
Something appears.
Because one does not call,
Something disappears.

When we call the name of God, certainly we feel something. Even if we cannot see God, we can feel the embrace of God. The same thing is true when we call the Buddha's name.

The poet Yaichi Aizu (1881 - 1956), who was born in Niigata Prefecture and became a professor emeritus of Waseda University, included the following poem in his Jichu Rokumei-shu (An Annotated Collection of Deer Cries):

Eye of the Buddha old and faded
On the temple wall watching over me.

Aizu was looking at a mural at the temple Horyu-ji in Nara Prefecture. No doubt as he opened his heart to the image of the Buddha, whose color had faded with time, he began to feel palpably that the Buddha was watching over him. Though the gods and buddhas may not be visible to the eye, those who believe in them can continually commune with them in spirit.

Buddhism teaches that when all living beings are purified, the world will be pure. A nation whose people enjoy peace and prosperity is not something that we should passively await. It is when its people become of one heart that a nation becomes serene and peaceful; when they are not of one heart, the nation is racked by contention and covetousness.

For this to take place, it is vital that each of us should grow spiritually. One cannot command others to do this, as one might order people to stand in line. Rather, we each must cleanse our own heart and behavior. Where can we undergo this spiritual training? In our own workplaces and our own homes.

The Japanese word for training hall, dojo, brings to mind a place where people practice judo or kendo (Japanese swordsmanship). Actually, the original meaning of dojo is the place where the Buddha attained enlightenment. He attained enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, preached for the first time at Sarnath, and after devoting the remaining fifty years of his life imparting his truths, died peacefully at Kushinagara. But the Lotus Sutra, one of Mahayana Buddhism's key scriptures, teaches that wherever we are is the training hall where the Buddha attained enlightenment, where he preached his first sermon, and where he entered nirvana.

In other words, it is in our everyday lives, as we diligently go about our work, that we should awaken to our true selves, focus our efforts on being considerate of those around us, and build a world filled with tranquillity. Each day, each bit of work, each encounter with someone - these are what is important. Despite this, do we not spend our days becoming angry, being avaricious, quarreling, and talking about our values without putting them into practice?

The reason we live like this is that each of us often seeks happiness for just ourselves. We think simplistically and compete with those around us, believing that unless we defeat them we will be unable to achieve our own happiness.

We often seem to be waiting for leaders to appear and teach us how to create a better world. But one who is respected as a leader is not necessarily one who is trying to teach something. People follow someone who earnestly seeks the right path and devotedly follows it. Each of us must become the kind of person who shows others the way, and it is a world of such people that we must create.

To manifest our true merit, it is important that we begin by fixing our gaze on whatever is nearest at hand. We cannot see what is really closest to us - our eyelashes. Likewise, in daily life, we often overlook important matters which seem routine and familiar, but which nevertheless touch us deeply. Each of us should stop and think about what is the most important thing closest to us. By learning to understand such things in a fresh and profound way, each of us can find and follow the path to a peaceful and happier world.

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