Presidents Guidance

From Kosei,
November 2021

Why Is It Necessary to Acknowledge Our Faults?

Because We Aim Higher, We Acknowledge Our Faults

According to Masahiro Yasuoka (1898–1983), a renowned authority on Eastern philosophy, we human beings have an innate desire to become the highest, most respected, greatest form of existence possible, and the functioning of that desire produces the mind of respecting and revering the gods and the buddhas. At the same time, he tells us, because we aim to do better as human beings, when we become aware of our own shortcomings, that innate desire produces the mind that reflects upon and regrets our faults. In other words, the process of acknowledgment and remorse nurtures the human mind and, by extension, supports the progress and improvement of humanity.

The general trend, however, is to consider acknowledgment and remorse as something disgraceful. For instance, a dictionary definition of the word remorse is “awareness of committing a wrong, honestly admitting it to other people and the Divine, and making amends,” which gives us the impression of something dark and negative. Therefore, some people may think that acknowledging and publicly showing remorse for their failures is embarrassing, unpleasant, and disagreeable.

However, since our striving toward an ideal form of existence and human improvement gives rise to the mind of acknowledgment and remorse, they are the manifestation of our positive will to seek self-improvement. Rather than viewing acknowledgment and remorse as embarrassing and unpleasant, I think the natural human attitude is to feel some discomfort for our failures and shortcomings while we go on improving ourselves. The Threefold Lotus Sutra, which we all know very well, concludes with the Sutra of the Method for Contemplating the Bodhisattva Universal Sage (the Sutra for Contemplating the Universal Sage, for short), which has, as its theme, performing acknowledgment and remorse as the means necessary to continue practicing the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. After all, no matter how diligently we practice, we fall prey to distractions and are unable to realize all of our shortcomings, so it is important that our minds can always perform acknowledgment and remorse. When that mind is united with diligent practice, it spurs our spiritual growth.

To summarize, acknowledgment and remorse arise from living our lives in pursuit of our ideals. In other words, acknowledgment and remorse are evidence that we improve ourselves through the workings of our buddha nature and proof that we are bodhisattvas. In that case, we could even say that acknowledgment and remorse are none other than what we should revere and welcome.

Try and Try Again

At the recent Tokyo Olympics, an athlete who failed to advance commented to the press, “I will review what was lacking in my performance and aim at improving,” which made a deep impression on me. Even from this one example, you can see that in life, acknowledging failure and improving yourself are one and the same.However, it is also a fact of life that those who are unable to continue performing acknowledgment and remorse may have to repeat their failures and regrets. Some such people make themselves miserable by narrowly thinking that once they have acknowledged and showed remorse for a mistake, they could never make the same mistake again. It is important to make the most of acknowledging your faults and striving to practice acknowledgement and remorse as part of your faith, but if doing so becomes an obsession, you may end up blaming yourself and other people for what you cannot change or control.

According to the Sutra for Contemplating Universal Sage, “Bodhisattva practice is neither cutting off the bindings of delusions nor sinking in the sea of delusions.” For we who have faults, Founder Niwano sent out a lifeboat, telling us, “If you think that you are a weak human being, prone to making mistakes, just change your thinking and make a new decision about yourself. If you don’t succeed this year, make a resolution that you definitely will next year.”

When you lay yourself bare, just the way you are—your good points as well as your bad points—in the presence of the gods and the buddhas, that purifies your mind. And then, you can have a fresh start. Acknowledgment and remorse are like the walking stick that supports us on our path of diligent practice and helps us to gradually evolve in our humanity.

I read somewhere that when people are engrossed in doing what needs to be done, they are closest to the Divine. To quote from the Sutra for Contemplating Universal Sage, “If you want to perform acknowledgment and remorse, / You must sit correctly and contemplate ultimate reality.” Therefore, after performing acknowledgement and remorse, it is important that you abandon a self-centered point of view and live every day to the fullest.