Presidents Guidance

From Kosei,
December 2022

All Beings Living Together Happily
—the Six Paramitas

Delusions Are Transformed into Wisdom

We human beings have minds that are greedy and want more than is necessary, minds that get angry and hate others due to our selfish thoughts, and even minds that forget the universal truths that apply to everything, such as nothing stays the same forever, and all things are made up of karmic connections. Our minds are convinced of the correctness of their thinking, rooted in self-centered greed and anger; this sows the seeds of our own suffering.

However, Mahayana Buddhist teachings, including the Lotus Sutra, teach us that anyone can be liberated from suffering and anxiety while still possessing these delusions that are part of worldly life. Indeed, precisely because we have delusions, we strive to improve our characters, and because we have uncertainties about life and death, we seek the truth. As a result, we who are full of delusions can encounter, in the truest sense, the teachings that bring liberation to everyone, not only ending our sufferings but also transforming our delusions into wisdom.

One of these teachings is the Six Paramitas, which we have been studying together this year. Looking back, I realize that these six virtues are all practices that form one side of a coin, and delusions such as greed, anger, and attachment form the other side. This means that the key phrase that turns the self-centered mind toward doing the work of a bodhisattva is always coming in and out of view. As the coin flips, the key phrase that turns the mental and physical being, who is caused to live here and now, away from anger and attachments and toward bodhisattva practices is none other than “the mind of benefitting other people.”

On a daily basis, we talk about our intentions and wishes to practice benefitting others. Of course, you are all aware of this, aren’t you?

With “All Living Beings Together” in Our Hearts

When we perform sutra recitation, we chant, “May these merits / Extend universally to all / So that we and all living beings / Together accomplish the Buddha Way.” And every morning and evening, we take refuge in the Three Treasures, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, with the words: “all living beings together.” Aren’t we always hoping and praying to be happy together, as we dedicate ourselves to this goal, putting our hands together reverently before the Buddha?

Rev. Daiei Kaneko (1881–1976), a priest of the Jodo Shinshu sect, picking up on the phrase “all living beings together” said that “No matter what practices you perform to benefit yourself, they are done together with living beings and by the same token, no matter what practices you perform to benefit others, they all become your own path, which is called the bodhisattva way.” He goes on to say that the hope to be with “all living beings together” means that everything you see and hear becomes a teaching of the True Dharma and everything you realize becomes a force pushing your mind to seek the Way. This leads to a life as a bodhisattva who is with “all living beings together” and that becomes, in and of itself, a part of the Way. Therein lies the great joy of practicing the Six Paramitas.

That said, when you pray to be with “all living beings together,” what are you doing for the person next to you? When you see, on TV or the Internet, some tragedy unfolding in a distant land, how does it move your mind, you who desire to be with “all living beings together?”

In reality, there’s very little that one person can do, but I believe that each and every one of us is searching for how best to lead our lives and earnestly thinking about what we can do for the people around us; these efforts are one with the great working of the Buddha. Even if circumstances such as illness prevent you from doing anything for others, you can still wish to be with “all living beings together.” That wish becomes a prayer for the speedy recovery of those who have the same kind of illness. It becomes the power to get well and maintain a positive attitude that encourages others and clears away your own worries. And it can bring you great comfort while helping you come to terms with illness in a way that people blessed with good health may not be able to.

On New Year’s Eve in Japan, the temple bells toll one hundred eight times. While listening to the bells ring out the same number of times as there are delusions, I hope that, even if this year brought us many difficulties, we will greet one another with the poem by Kobayashi Issa (1763–1828), “How beautiful! / The night sky, / on New Year’s Eve,” and welcome the New Year with optimism and enthusiasm.