Presidents Guidance

from Kosei
April 2019

People Who Are Like a Fragrant Breeze

A Fragrant Breeze Blowing through Your Mind
“Hana,” by the composer Rentaro Taki (1879–1903), is a song describing the beautiful spring scenery in Japan. The song begins with the words “a beautiful day in spring,” a lyric that many of you know very well. The cherry blossoms featured in the song are a flower representative of spring, but before the cherry blossoms appear, the sweet scents of plum flowers, daphne bushes, and magnolias fill the air and many people feel the joy of spring’s arrival.
Words expressing such joy are also found in the introductory chapter of the Lotus Sutra: “the fragrant breezes of sandalwood delight the minds of the assembled.” Founder Niwano explained this in simple language as meaning “when the fragrant breeze of the Buddha enters the minds of living beings, it produces great rejoicing.”
As we who have encountered the Buddha’s teaching continue to hear, study, and practice it, we gain many realizations. We become able to feel gratitude for people and things we disliked, and we become aware that the things that had made us feel happy up to that time were really nothing more than selfish thinking. At this point, our way of life undergoes a change.
Once we come to realize what is truly important, we spontaneously give voice to the joy of being emancipated from worrying and suffering—we have been liberated through the teaching. This is what Founder Niwano calls “producing great rejoicing,” and at this time the person “brings joy to the minds of others.” Incidentally, the Chinese character for joy (etsu) means removing ill feelings from the mind.
We cannot see the Buddha with our eyes. But, in the Great Sacred Hall, for instance, when we hear the Dharma Journey talk of someone who felt the Buddha’s compassion and became aware of the joy of living through the practice of the teaching, we too experience the joy of encountering the Buddha Dharma. The grandeur of the teaching blows through our minds like “the fragrant breezes of sandalwood.” From the time of Shakyamuni to the present, this has not changed.

We Are All Virtuous People
The Zen monk Ryokan (1758–1831) of Echigo (present-day Niigata Prefecture) must have known this verse about the breezes, since he made the phrase “all my life, be fragrant” his personal motto. He was determined to—and, indeed, he did—live his life as a person who could be like a fragrant breeze that surrounds people’s hearts with warmth, makes them peaceful, and brings them joy.
However, the Dhammapada tells us that “the fragrance of virtuous people advances, even against the wind” and “virtuous people fill every quarter with fragrance.” Therefore, we could take the position that bringing joy to people’s hearts requires being virtuous.
It might seem as though a well-cultivated mind or the accumulation of good deeds is the determining factor of being virtuous. However, I do not think this is necessarily so. Right now, we are living the one life we have in this world, which we receive through the blessings of nature and the virtues of our parents and ancestors. Every one of us already possesses abundant virtues. Therefore, we only need to realize our own virtuousness. Anyone who realizes his or her own virtues and cultivates them can give off a fragrant breeze and be a virtuous person.
In order to do so, it is important to feel gratitude. People are naturally drawn to those who are humble and sincere in remembering to be grateful for whatever happens. Using cheerful, kind, and warmhearted actions and words makes one’s virtuousness all the more fragrant. Interacting with consideration and in harmony with others releases the fragrant breeze of the teaching that lets people breathe easy.
This month marks both the anniversary of Shakyamuni’s birth and the end of the Heisei era in Japan. The new era will begin on May 1. I take this to be an opportunity to refresh our minds and prevent our bodhisattva practice—the practice of promoting peace among all people—from falling into a routine, a force of habit. To make this happen, living in a way that sends forth the fragrant breeze of the Buddha’s teaching will be all the more important.