Presidents Guidance

from Kosei
November 2019

Encouragement and Diligence

Encouragement from the Buddha

In the world of faith, we often use the phrase “liberated by the gods and the buddhas.” In Buddhist terms, although we say that “the Buddha liberates us,” this does not mean we should simply wait for “liberation” to come.

To quote from chapter 7 of the Lotus Sutra (“The Parable of the Conjured City”), “[Buddhas] can compel living beings / To leave the hells of the threefold world.” Here, “compel” means to exhort or encourage. Founder Niwano explained these lines of scripture as follows: “The Buddha does not unconditionally free us from this world full of sufferings and worries (hells). He instead reveals the Truth for us and encourages us to come to know it through the teachings and thereby free ourselves from the place of suffering.” The Founder clearly stated that “we must free ourselves from the world of suffering through our own efforts that are grounded in the teachings.”

Since we members of Rissho Kosei-kai are connected to the Buddha’s teachings and therefore have already received—and are always receiving—encouragement from the Buddha through these teachings, we strongly feel the importance of our own practice, by which we are freed from this world of suffering.

By the way, do you know the last lines of the verse quoted from the “Parable of the Conjured City” above? These lines are familiar to us as the “Universal Transfer of Merit”: “May these merits / Extend universally to all / So that we and all living beings / Together accomplish the Buddha Way.”

These lines, which express our wish that we will all approach the Buddha’s level by transferring (redirecting) the merits of our offerings to many other people, may give us the impression that this is difficult to do. However, if we reread them in the context of our daily lives, this wish emerges as forms of diligence that are surprisingly close and familiar to us.

I interpret this passage as: “Let’s always be kind to everyone we come into contact with, starting with our family and friends. Through our morning and evening sutra recitations, let’s reexamine our own mental state and our actions. By doing so, we are creating good karmic connections with many people, making good friends and, together with them, experiencing real happiness.”

When we think about what it means to receive encouragement from the Buddha and “make our own effort” to practice the teachings, these familiar forms of diligence come to mind, grounded in our great wish as described in the scripture quoted above.


Living Attentively

Speaking of good friends, there is the famous conversation in which one of the Buddha’s disciples asks, “Is having good friends and good companions half of the Buddha Way?” and Shakyamuni replies, “Yes indeed, it is the whole Buddha Way.” Some days later, Shakyamuni refers to this exchange in his advice to King Pasenadi of Kosala.

Shakyamuni says, “King Pasenadi, you should be a good friend and good companion of the people and strive to lead them by performing good deeds. By doing so, all of the people who see and hear about your good efforts will think that they themselves should not be remiss and should also make an effort, much more so than if you tried to encourage them by scolding and admonishing them.”

This is good advice for us as well. When parents encourage their children because they want them to be happy, the parents’ own “innermost wish”—that is, what kind of human beings they themselves want to be—is important, which also resonates with Shakyamuni’s advice to King Pasenadi. Then, if we ask what it means to “strive to do good deeds,” it is not becoming complacent and supposing that in our daily lives, we are doing so as a matter of course. It means living each and every day attentively.

No matter who you are, wherever you are right now is “a place of the Way” for practicing the Buddha Way. Therefore, by continuing to always express gratitude for the things we often take for granted, you can hone your character and experience happiness together with those around you. This is diligence, and the meaning of “together accomplish the Buddha Way.”

However, we sometimes give rise to the mind of laziness and are unable to do what we can ordinarily do. At such times, our hope and our wish sustain us. The best thing is to start moving forward again, without rushing ourselves, toward the goal of becoming more like someone we see as our ideal—the Buddha, who wants all people to have real happiness—and wishing to be the kind of person who is a good friend to many.