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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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Mastering Form

Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai

RKINA Pres. Nichiko NiwanoForm Is a Type of Skillful Means

In sports, such as judo and kendo, and in the visual and performing arts as well, the model for physical postures or moves is called "form."

In my understanding, though, form is not limited to these areas, but is evident also in how we comport ourselves in our daily lives.

For example, I think that mastering form is important and that you should make it your routine to be punctual, greet your family members when you get up by saying "good morning," straighten up your shoes when you take them off, and clearly respond "yes" when spoken to, practicing these actions repeatedly in your daily life.

Incidentally, the Japanese word shosa (Sanskrit, kriya) , which is generally translated into English as conduct or behavior, is defined in Buddhism as "the outward appearances of the workings of three things: body, speech, and mind." Simply stated, our deeds and words are some sort of expression of a state of mind.

What, then, is that state of mind? What kind of state of mind is important to master as a form in daily comportment? To start with the answer to that question, it is nothing other than the mind of consideration and compassion for others. By embodying consideration and compassion and putting it into daily practice as our form, the mind of compassion will continue to be even more deeply engraved in our hearts.

In terms of the style and rhythm of life, for those who walk the Buddha Way, putting our hands together in reverence, praying, and offering morning and evening sutra recitation are important examples of form. These practices are also important aspects of diligence through which you yourself demonstrate your feelings of consideration and gratitude and thereby you are becoming a person who always lives life with a mind of consideration and gratitude.

When you have mastered form, then even if your mind is confused for a moment, you can quickly set it right by returning it to the mind of consideration and compassion. In this sense, form can be considered one kind of skillful means, but in fact it is directly linked to the truth that is consideration and compassion.

Form Is a Practice of Egolessness

When the mind of consideration and compassion becomes the basis of the form of our daily lives, its manifestation in how we act and behave does not seem to depend upon a manual to follow. In this world, no two people are exactly the same, so it is natural that our consideration and compassion toward others will be reflected in many different ways according to each individual. Although we are told that sitting straight with our knees tucked under our torsos is the proper posture for sutra recitation, some people cannot sit in that position without hurting their knees. Of course, such people who do not assume the proper posture are not disregarding form. As the Buddhist phrase "one is all, all is one" conveys, remembering the idea or wish at the basis of our action and behavior is essential.

In this sense, even though there may be as many forms as there are different personalities, any form that is selfish cannot be truly called form. After all, form exists in order to rein in the selfish mind that wants to do whatever it pleases.

Sometimes, for no particular reason, a situation with a family member or acquaintance escalates to the point that you do not want to see that person's face or speak with him or her. With such feelings, if you happen to see that person and your attitude is gruff, it will be unpleasant for both of you. But if, with your mastery of form, you greet that person with your hands joined together reverently and say "good morning," then the ego that made you feel that you do not even want to see that person's face will be cleared away, and you will attain a state of egolessness. That greeting is a step toward restoring harmony and furthermore, the mind of that person you greeted will be gentler than it was if you had not greeted him or her.

When you hear the expression, "formally," you may think it means something unchanging or done by rote, but by keeping to form and doing things correctly without questioning them, we human beings, who are apt to place importance on our own circumstances, can effortlessly, in that moment, become egoless.

In Rissho Kosei-kai, we participate in hoza sessions, perform sutra recitation, and practice putting others first. I think that all of theses practices are important examples ofform, the continued practice of which will enable us to become people of profound compassion like the Buddha, and that form has supported Rissho Kosei-kai through its history as the "equation of happiness."

December 2017
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing

Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.

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