Presidents Guidance

from Kosei
January 2019

Everyone Has the Roots of Goodness

Providing Moisture to Dry Roots 
Happy New Year! Once again this year, with joy in our hearts and single-minded determination, let us together walk the Buddha Way.
I think that right now, all of you, with your own personal vows in your hearts and clear, fresh feelings, are eager to be even more diligent in your practice.  
Even so, there may be some people whose circumstances prevent their hearts from feeling clear and refreshed and are unable to be optimistic.
This is a story I heard about someone who had become ill at an early age and had been told that the illness would be a constant companion for the rest of his life. When he felt that the future was without hope, he fell into a state of disappointment and despair, but his mentor in the faith told him over and over again that he possessed the roots of goodness.
In the course of receiving such encouragement, his feelings of worthlessness and his view of life as hopeless disappeared, and the idea came bubbling up in his mind that he himself wanted to do something for other people and that even he could do it.
The Sutra of Innumerable Meanings, part of the Threefold Lotus Sutra that we recite, includes the phrase, “Saturate living beings’ roots of goodness” (cited from the “Virtuous Practices” chapter). The roots of goodness are roots that form a foundation producing beneficial results, which I understand to have the same meaning as the buddha-nature, for everyone possesses the same nature and characteristics as the Buddha and everyone is a manifestation of the Buddha. Therefore, we can say that everyone has the roots of goodness. However, in order for those roots to have healthy development and grow, the dry roots need moisture, which gives them vitality.
In the case of the young man who felt that life was hopeless and had a negative self-image, giving affirmation to his essential being by telling him, “You have roots of goodness that are precious” was tantamount to generously providing plenty of moisture to parched roots.
Now, that person is nourishing the roots of goodness in other people who are suffering from the same difficulties that he himself faced, and he is performing his role in spreading the Buddha’s blessings everywhere.

A True Assembly of Those Resolved to Become Awakened
“Saturate living beings’ roots of goodness,” the passage from the Sutra of Innumerable Meanings cited earlier, continues as follows: “Sow the seeds of goodness in the field of merits.” This passage encourages us to sow many seeds of goodness, which become the basis of deeds that will do the most for the sake of other people and the sake of the world. In short, it advocates dissemination of the Dharma to make ourselves and other people happy together by sharing the Buddha’s teachings. I think that “sowing the seeds of goodness” is the same as providing moisture to many people’s parched roots of goodness.
There is one reason that this passage of the sutra encourages us to disseminate the Dharma. After listening to the teachings of the Buddha like the young man mentioned above, the roots of the heart get moistened, one escapes from the pit of despair, which awakens the spirit of boundless compassion, and one thinks, “I want other people, too, to escape from their suffering, just like me, and realize that happiness is right in front of them.”
It seems unlikely, however, that the young man, who was suffering and worrying, would have been able to faithfully accept the Buddha’s teaching from the start. In this sense, in our approach to disseminating the Dharma, what is important for us is that, above all else, we lead our lives with the hope that we will have good connections with the people close to us. Words and behavior that demonstrate kindness and consideration for others provide moisture to the dry roots of goodness in the hearts of people who are suffering.
Then, while we perform our basic daily practices, including sutra recitation and the study and practice of the Dharma, we are continuing to reach out to people who have no connection to the Buddha’s teaching. Doing so leads to the highest form of living, which is, as the previously cited passage tells us, to “Make all people, without exception, put forth the sprouts of buddhahood” (in other words, “to cause people everywhere to aspire to the awakening of the Buddha”).
My university mentor told me, “Without dissemination, there is no religion.” The prerequisite for his words was that we are all friends determined to become like the Buddha—that we form, in the truest sense, “an assembly of those resolved to become awakened.” I hope that we are making our sangha “an assembly of those resolved to become awakened,” where the minds of all people who are seeking liberation are always at peace.