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Rissho Kosei-kai
International of North America
Buddhism for Today
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President's Message

Standing Firm

 

RKINA Pres. Nichiko Niwano

First, Take a Deep Breath

The Dhammapada, one of the oldest extant sutras in the Buddhist canon, includes this verse: “He who can control the rumbling of his rising anger, just as if he were controlling a quickly running carriage, I call a good driver.”

Here, Shakyamuni is explaining the importance of controlling your anger. However, even though we are taught to do so, it is difficult to put the brakes on feelings or emotions, which are hardly limited to outbursts of anger. We humans are apt to say things we shouldn’t say, give in to the temptation to buy things we shouldn’t buy, and stray from the right path—and as a consequence, we may end up in conflict with others.

Well, then, when you feel that you are about to get carried away by anger, desire, or self-centered thinking, how can you stand firm against them?

I recommend that before you do anything, just take a breath. By simply taking one deep breath, you calm your heart down a little. It is also important that, if possible, you let matters rest overnight, and then think about them coolly. Also, if you are someone who has religious faith, when the dark clouds of greed, anger, and ignorance begin to cover your mind, by turning your thoughts to “what would the Buddha think about this?” or “what would the Buddha do?” you can regain your cool composure. Instead of some form of existence such as the gods and the buddhas that are not visible, some people may turn to a role model close at hand with whom they have a direct connection and think “what would my father do?” or “what would my mother say?” and thereby quell their feelings of anger, desire, or selfishness.

The second practice of the Eightfold Path, “right thinking,” means “staying away from greed, anger, and ignorance, and thinking about things with a magnanimous mind like the Buddha.” When we apply this to our daily lives, it means that when we feel as if our emotions and impulses are about to run wild, we first take a deep breath and then stand firm, which is the gateway to practicing right thinking, isn’t it?

The Mind of Consideration

Getting rid of the three evils of the mind, namely, greed, anger, and ignorance (that is, self-centered foolishness), and thinking about things with a magnanimous mind—I think all of you know how important this is. However, I have heard some people say in despair, sounding as if they had given up even trying, that because they knew this, the more they were told that they should become such people or that they should stay away from desires and attachments, the more they could only think of themselves as “useless” human beings whose minds will never be free from desire, anger, and selfishness. In that case, why don’t we change our perspective slightly, examine what right thinking truly means, and deepen our understanding of it?

“Right thinking” means thinking about things correctly and without the greedy mind, the angry mind, and the mind that belittles other people. Put in different words, it means the mind that shares, the mind that warmly interacts with others, and the mind that is caring. And then, when we sum this up in a single word, it is none other than consideration. In other words, here, when we say “right,” we really mean “with the mind of consideration.”

No human being is perfect. Therefore, it is important that we cultivate the personal habit of thinking about things with the mind of consideration, even though we cannot get rid of greed or anger, which may sometimes take hold of our mind.

By doing so, anyone can think and act with a magnanimous mind like the Buddha’s. However, whether “standing firm” or “thinking with the mind of consideration,” situations in which you find it truly difficult to do so will come around more than once in your lifetime.

I once talked about the phrase, “Be silent—like the sun, like a cool breeze, like a pillar, like a rock.” When you have trouble with someone, and especially if you feel that you are about to be swayed by intense emotions, think about the quietude of nature as described in this phrase and try to broaden your frame of mind. Just as we human beings and the natural world are one, you and the person before your eyes are also one—and by realizing this, we become the “good drivers” of our own minds. With a magnanimous mind like the Buddha’s, we can lead lives of gratitude.


From Kosei, June 2018

 


Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.


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