Luminosa Award for Unity Acceptance Speech
Nichiko Niwano
President, Rissho Kosei-kai

It is a great and unexpected honor to receive the Focolare's Luminosa Award for Unity. I would like to offer my heartfelt gratitude toward President Chiara Lubich and all the members of the Focolare Movement.

One of the reasons you cited for my selection for the award is "recognition of efforts toward ecumenical programs that promote world peace." This award is a great boon for me as proof of the protection given by God and the Buddha for the peace activities that each and every Rissho Kosei-kai member has undertaken through interreligious cooperation efforts, especially those of my father, Nikkyo Niwano, the founder of Rissho Kosei-kai. At the same time, I accept it as proof of the oneness of our activities with those of Focolare members on the same path toward the unity, which is a great source of encouragement for all of us. On behalf of Rissho Kosei-kai, I would once again like to express my profound joy and gratitude for being invited to today's splendid ceremony.

I currently serve as the second president of Rissho Kosei-kai, a lay Buddhist organization that was founded sixty-six years ago by my father. Ever since the establishment of Rissho Kosei-kai, members have made diligent efforts to improve their character through the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha while working to bring peace to their families, communities, countries, and the world by cooperating with members of other religions.

My father explained many teachings based upon the Lotus Sutra--the sacred text in which all Rissho Kosei-kai members take refuge--from the standpoint of the true consideration for others that can save all people. At the root of this lies the teaching of the "One Buddha Vehicle," which is what we call the teaching of One Vehicle. This teaching is metaphorically exemplified as a wagon large and strong enough to enable all living beings, each and every one, to attain buddhahood. That is the teaching of Mahayana (Great Vehicle) Buddhism. The Lotus Sutra is a teaching of the One Vehicle, and Buddhism itself can be called a teaching of the One Vehicle.

There are many religions in the world. Each of them gratefully praises the value of teachings of the gods and the buddhas having found expression in ways particular to each religion. Each has a unique way of preaching because there are any number of ways to explain the Dharma, but although the expression differs it remains the one same fundamental truth. Mahatma Gandhi put it in these words: "Even as a tree has a single trunk but many branches and leaves, so there is one true and perfect religion, but it becomes many religions as it passes through the human medium. The one religion is beyond all speech." Rev. Nikkyo Niwano, used the phrase "All religions spring from the same source" to express this idea.

All of us have our own personalities and appear to be unique individuals, but the same Truth runs through the innermost being of all people. This state is the One Vehicle. After all, while our critical perception may compare the little things we notice about one another and use such differences to make decisions, in the realm of the ultimate, there are no such distinctions and all are equal, one and the same. In this regard, I think that the One Vehicle and the unity for which the Focolare Movement strives as its goal are the same.

Unity becomes a reality through religious wisdom. Shakyamuni teaches us that all things existing in the world are brought into being through dependent origination or innumerable causes and conditions, and that therefore all things are interrelated with one another and together form the one immense cosmic life. When we examine the source of life through religious wisdom, we see that every living being is sustained in life by the one immense cosmic life that is Eternal Life and is a "child of life," supporting one another as brothers and sisters in one family. Beyond the differences of race, religion, and culture, we are living in the here and now, as "children of life," sustained in our lives by the one immense cosmic life. When we awaken to this Truth, ourselves and others unite as one, and the sadness and suffering of others becomes our own sadness and suffering.

One human being, one race, one nation--on the global level, each is nothing more than one organizational element. When put in this perspective, we should see things not by comparison but rather as part of one absolute. This is the wisdom realized by Shakyamuni. While recognizing each other's differences, by finding the common ground of being "children of life," we can become aware that the world is one. Such a spirit always flows at the deepest level of the interreligious dialogue and cooperative programs that we advance.

In Japan, recently there has been a spate of tragic incidents in which crimes committed by juveniles have become increasingly heinous and the age of the offenders has grown younger. Rissho Kosei-kai has thought that the family is the origin of solutions to these circumstances and parents should tackle the problems. I have therefore proclaimed the guiding principle of 2004 to be "regulating the family," or in other terms, "putting the home in order." By putting our home in order, we can create a family filled with warmth.

Every morning and evening, Rissho Kosei-kai members chant the Lotus Sutra before our focus of devotion enshrined in the Buddhist altar in each home, kneeling and offering prayer to the great and respected ones and giving thanks for the blessings received thereby. The home is a place of rest and a place of relaxation, and also a place in which are cultivated a heart and a mind that have faith in God and the Buddha. Building peace in such a home begins with family members respecting one another. To that end, every day we undertake three principles of thought we should always bear in mind.

The first is the exchange of morning greetings among family members, the second is replying with a clear affirmative when spoken to, and the third is neatly lining up our shoes when we take them off upon entering the home. Through the practice of these three principles, we intend to crush the shell of our self-centered way of thinking. By extending these practices of respecting one another and maintaining a peaceful harmony in the home to the surrounding community and to society, I am convinced that we are building a link that eventually will lead to world peace.

At present, there are regrettable incidents and strife affecting every region of the world, especially the Middle East. When we see the tragic reality of people fighting and killing each other, it pains our hearts. This history of conflict is the result of humanity's inability to open its eyes to the Truth, treading instead the path of self-centered living, deluded by the human ignorance that Buddhism refers to as the three poisons, that is, "greed, anger, and folly." Such ignorance leads people not to recognize other ways of living and thinking, and worse still, not to admit other cultures, traditions, and faiths, then denying their very existence and even trying to exterminate them, because of those who stubbornly adhere to the thought that they are right or to a belief that others have taken the lives of their neighbors or control them. At this point, the wish of all people is that this sad state of affairs will end even one moment sooner. I pray that the way of coexistence will open before us even one day earlier, that we will forgive each other, respect each other, and help to live our lives together.

In Buddhism, a prayer is called a "vow." It is born from the deepest depths of life; it is the sublime spirit of wishing for the happiness of all people. Prayer heals us and gives us courage. The many peace activities, because they are born from prayer, have great power. A vow resides in the depths of the heart of each of us. If we are aware of this fact, then the hearts of all of us can be joined, we can overcome the differences of our nations, races, and religions, and we can recognize and cooperate with each other. Prayer has such a tremendous power.

I have been told that the word focolare in Italian means "fireplace" and that someone who saw the activities of President Chiara Lubich and her followers remarked that "just as the family gathers around the fireplace, they gather around the word of God," and that this is how the group came to be known as Focolare. I would like to end this speech by vowing that we members of Rissho Kosei-kai will do our utmost to make our homes and communities as warm as a fireplace, as have all of you--our brothers and sisters with whom we have enjoyed a very close friendship--and that we will continue to pray with you for the peace of our world.

Thank you very much.


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