Presidents Guidance

From Kosei,
November 2022

The Mind of Praying and Hoping for Everyone’s Happiness—Wisdom, Part 2

Accepting the Teaching of Emptiness

The author Hisashi Inoue (1934–2010) once said, “Make difficult things simple, simple things meaningful, meaningful things interesting, and interesting things serious.” This is an expression of his discipline; he is admonishing himself to write prose that many people can understand. When we turn to Buddhist thought, however, there may be nothing more difficult than conveying it in a simple, meaningful, and interesting way.

For example, there is the teaching of emptiness—nothing in this world has a fixed, absolute form, and everything that exists in the real world is temporarily made up of symbiotic relationships (karmic connections). In last month’s issue, I mentioned that emptiness gives us a hint about how to make the wisdom of the Six Paramitas our own. How, then, should we grasp this teaching of emptiness and use it in our daily lives in order to gain wisdom?

The author Seikan Kobayashi (1948–2011), paraphrasing the Heart of Wisdom Sutra, wrote that “Unlike ‘nothingness,’ ‘emptiness’ is not non-existent, but its existence is defined by having no characterization.” In other words, emptiness means that there is no such thing as a fortunate or unfortunate phenomenon, only a mind that thinks so. Because we make self-centered characterizations of phenomena and color them with our judgments, they become the seeds of our worrying and suffering. So let’s try to accept whatever happens without characterizing it. By doing so, we can live with greater peace of mind—the wisdom to live our lives according to the teaching of emptiness is good advice indeed.

The meaning of “the ultimate reality of all things,” as taught in the Lotus Sutra, is explained by the Buddhist thinker Hiro Sachiya (1936–2022) in very understandable language: “of everything that exists in this universe, there is not one unnecessary thing,” which is the same perspective as the teaching of emptiness. However, he also says that we are the ones making pointless distinctions (biases), such as “spiders are bad and butterflies are good.”

Having the wisdom to determine the difference between biases and necessary distinctions, firmly keeping in mind that the life of the Buddha resides in all things, and looking at people from the perspective that—whether we like them or not—they all possess the life of the Buddha, is the wisdom to live in a way that allows everyone to coexist in harmony and happiness.

Six Forms of Compassion

All existence in this world is emptiness and, at the same time, the life of the Buddha resides in everything that exists. This means that we must value both the insight that everything is, by nature, of equal worth and the perspective that we acknowledge and respect the differences manifested by reality. That is wisdom. Practically speaking, in any situation we possess the wisdom to avoid self-centered thinking and, while respecting all people and all things—just the way they are—to collect our thoughts and make decisions.

This year we observed the eight-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Nichiren. One expression of his ideal worldview is the phrase, “Throughout the universe, everything takes refuge in the wondrous Dharma.” For us, this is also an important lesson, rooted in wisdom. Not only does it express the hope that all people take refuge in the Lotus Sutra, it also means that all things exist according to the wondrous Dharma. Therefore, these words contain the prayer and hope for the happiness of people around the world who are linked together by infinite karmic connections.

Nichiren also said, “If you wish for your own happiness, first pray for the people around you and peace in the world.” When you look at things with the eyes of wisdom, each and every person appears worthy of respect, your heart wells up with compassion that hopes everyone can have happiness, and you cannot stop yourself from performing deeds that benefit others.

I interpret the teachings of the Six Paramitas—including the sixth, wisdom—as dividing the aspects of compassion into six forms. This is obvious, of course, with the first paramita, donation. Furthermore, taking control of our own minds by telling ourselves that “now is the time to practice the precepts and perseverance” as well as passing each day with a sense of gratitude are linked to the practice of benefitting others that shows consideration for everyone. By doing so, we can naturally pursue lives of “making ourselves the light and making the Dharma our light.”