Sharing the Dharma for Happiness of All
Buddhism is the teaching
that reveals the pure buddha-nature possessed by all people.
Its application in daily life leads to peace and harmony
within oneself and in the family, work place, and community,
and eventually to world peace.
Rissho Kosei-kai is a contemporary Buddhist organization, established on March 5, 1938 by Founder Nikkyo Niwano and Co-founder Myoko Naganuma.
"Rissho" means establishing the teachings of the true Dharma (Lotus Sutra) in the world. The "Ko" of Kosei signifies mutual exchange of thought among people seeking spiritual growth - that is, the principle of spiritual unity among all human beings. "Sei" stands for perfection of the personality and the attainment of buddhahood. "Kai" means association or society. Our purpose is to learn and understand Shakyamuni Buddha's realization of the Truth, to practice these teachings in our daily lives, and create a prosperous life, brighter society, and peaceful world.
The Roots of Our Wishes
President of Rissho Kosei-kai
President Nichiko Niwano
Our Wishes Are as One
When the temple bell rings at midnight on New Year’s Eve and we welcome a brand-new year, we have the feeling of a solemn occasion. Shrines and temples in Japan are crowded with people making new vows for the coming year and wishing for the good health and well-being of their families and success in their work or business.
In essence, these yearly wishes of ours and the Buddha’s vow to “bring salvation to all living beings” share the same roots.
Many people may think that the wishes that stem from their own desires and the vow of the Buddha do not share the same origins.
The wishes to achieve salvation, happiness, and peace of mind are common to everyone. Our wishes for the good health and well-being of our families and for success in business are part of these wishes.
In the eyes of the Buddha, however, these wishes in common of human beings become “I want you to achieve salvation; I want you to be happy; I want you to attain peace of mind.”
For that reason, we can say that our fervent wishes and the Buddha’s vow are one and the same.
The reason that Shakyamuni renounced the world and undertook asceticism was that he had a personal wish to achieve salvation and be free from suffering.
In other words, he was led to the Truth, the Law, by benefiting himself, through his seeking the way to resolve his own suffering. At the same time, he became aware that there was no true salvation for himself without salvation for others, and thus he attained the spiritual state of great compassion in which benefiting oneself and benefiting others become one.
In this sense, our sincere wishes and the vow of the Buddha do not differ. They are one and the same.
The Source of All Life
Zeami (1363-1444), the man who perfected the form of the Noh drama as it is still known today, left behind the words, “Never forget the ideals with which you started out.” This is a lesson to always keep in mind one’s inexperience when attempting something new. For those of us who have faith, this means treasuring the purity in our hearts when we were guided to the teaching for the first time.
While we should retain such a pure and humble heart, at the same time we should strive to fully understand the meaning of the teaching “All existence is the buddha-nature” and make it our own. The buddha-nature is equal to the life of heaven and earth, in other words, the original roots of life. We ourselves are sustained by the buddha-nature, and the Buddha and all living beings are one. Therefore, the source of all life is one.
This year, we mark the seventieth year of the founding of our organization. The starting point of Rissho Kosei-kai was Shakyamuni’s vow to “Open the eyes of wisdom, so that all people achieve salvation.” This stems from the source of all life, the buddha-nature. Together, let us look squarely at that starting point, and from one day to the next advance spiritually with a sublime feeling of newness in our hearts.
RK Buddhism Teachings:
•The Law of Causation
•The Seal of the Three Laws
•The Four Noble Truths
•The Ten Suchnesses
•The Law of the Twelve Causes
•The Eightfold Path
•The Six Perfections
Devotion to the Three Treasures
The Precious Three are the basic elements that Shakyamuni Buddha taught his disciples as the spiritual foundation of Buddhism: “the Buddha”,” the Law”, and “the Sangha”. Because of their supreme value, they are also called the Three Treasures.
“The Buddha” is Shakyamuni Buddha
"The Law" means the universal truths,
“The Sangha” is the community of fellow believers who seek the same teachings as his disciples.
In the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, the Buddha also refers to the Eternal Buddha Shakyamuni, the ultimate truth of the Universe, to which Shakyamuni Buddha was enlightened. Buddha is present always and working everywhere. Buddha is protecting and guiding each one of us so that we are able to open and realize the Buddha wisdom
People find it difficult to seek the Law and to practice it in complete isolation. They are apt to become lazy and fall into evil ways. But they can steadily advance by teaching, admonishing, and encouraging each other. So Shakyamuni Buddha taught us to regard the Sangha as one of our mental foundations.
The things on which we must depend spiritually are the Three Treasures: the Buddha, the Law, and the Sangha. If we depend spiritually upon the Buddha, his teachings and the community of believers, we can faithfully practice the Righteous Law in our daily lives. Therefore Buddhists always take refuge in the Three Treasures.
Chanting the Sutra
Daily chanting from the Lotus Sutra is an essential religious practice in which Rissho Kosei-kai members engage. They read the sutra aloud each morning and evening before the Buddhist altars in their homes and churches.
What are the reasons for this sutra chanting?
Generally, it is not only an expression of the members’ devotion and gratitude to the Buddha, but an essential foundation of their religious life. Through this religious practice we offer our sincere gratitude the Eternal Buddha sustaining us all, to Shakyamuni Buddha who left us the teachings of how to lead a true life, and to our ancestors who handed down the precious gift of life from generation to generation.
Further, chanting the sutra specifically has three meritorious results.
1) We are able to present the gift of spiritual joy to our ancestors though transferring the merits we acquire from sutra chanting.
Though our devoted chanting, the power of the sutra containing words of truth combines with our wish for our ancestors’ attainment of buddhahood. The two combined elements, which turn into merit, reach and please those ancestral spirits.
Thanks to our parents, grandparents, and innumerable other ancestors, we are born into this world and exist here and now. If we compare our ancestors to the roots of a tree, the practice of our daily sutra chanting is like providing nutrients for the roots of our tree of life, so that we, the descendants, can have meaningful lives.
2) The starting point of our faith is our aspiration to the attainment of buddhahood.
Bodhisattvas should not only aspire to their own attainment, but also pray to the Buddha that all people in the world will reach the state of heightened awareness. This is one of the reasons that the religious practices in our daily lives differ from simple ethical or moral deeds and why our socially oriented activities go beyond the usual volunteer service.
Further, the good works of bodhisattvas are so innumerable and extensive that they will not be achieved without the support of the Buddha. We therefore should chant the sutra wholeheartedly to pray for help to render bodhisattva practice for the sake of people throughout the world. Thus we can achieve something far better and greater than we could have imagined, thanks to the support of the Buddha, even though that support is invisible.
3) We are able to purify our minds to their utmost depth by chanting the sutra.
Another important Buddhist practice, samadhi practice, is a way of immersing oneself in the life-force as the souse of the universe by stopping the working of one’s surface consciousness. Samadhi practice includes not only seated mediation in Zen, but such religious practices as changing the sutra or the tile of the Lotus Sutra (Shodai). Sutra chanting in Rissho Kosei-kai also functions as Samadhi practice.
The continued Samadhi practice of chanting the sutra gradually purifies our subconscious. In other words, when we continue to chant the sutra every day with a grateful attitude, our minds will be purified. As a result, we come to do good in spite of ourselves or without being forced or forcing ourselves to do so, and further, our overall personalities become more warmly outgoing, thus attracting people to ourselves. When our purified minds cause such changes in our lifestyle, certain changes will be brought about in our surroundings. Thus we will come to lead joyful, harmonious lives at home, in our communities, and at our places of work.
President Niwano teaches that “We are often swayed by our defilements, such as jealousy, miserliness, arrogance, and ignorance. Daily sutra chanting helps bring us back to our inherent being and to our pledge to walk along the Buddha’s path. That is truly a merit to be thankful for….Through chanting the sutra every day, we are sure to learn something new and find our mental states changed. Thus we can move ahead on the Buddha’s path step by step.
2. Sharing the Teachings
Not long after the Shakyamuni’s awakening the number of his disciples had reached sixty. The Buddha said to them, “You and I have been delivered from the fetters of the world and have attained the highest awakening. For the sake of the peace and happiness of all people of the world, go into all regions and preach the doctrine.”
He added that many people, although they were subject to little confusion and passion, still suffered because they had not heard the precious teaching. Such people would find liberation if only the correct way were shown to them. He thus instructed the disciples to guide and teach as many as people as possible. That was the beginning of the teaching mission of the followers of the Buddha.
Following this example, members of Rissho Kosei-kai strive to share the Buddha’s teachings with many people. Even members who joined the organization fairly recently begin to guide others, sharing with them the joyful experience of new awareness. This is one of the practices of the bodhisattva, a person devoted to attaining awakening for all sentient beings.
President Niwano states in his book, Shinden o Tagayasu (Cultivating the Buddhist Heart), “Human beings feel fulfilled in rendering sincere service through practices benefiting others as well as themselves. Only then are they able to savor true joy and satisfaction.” Members find meaning in life when they share the teachings of the truth with suffering people for the sake of the release from suffering of both others and themselves.
Members usually visit newcomers as well as nonmembers in order to share the teachings and to listen to the troubles or suffering that those visited may be experiencing. Through such rounds of guidance work, we can become aware of the imperfection in our own hearts and minds by seeing ourselves reflected in other persons. Such awareness makes it possible to change our attitude for the better.
Through listening to others on guidance rounds, we learn the viewpoints and feelings of other people and come to understand their positions. By acquiring such experience, we gain insight into the hearts and minds of others, and further, into those of the people around us. Guidance work, in other word, brings about our spiritual development. The spiritual growth of both ourselves and others is the religious merit gained from sharing the teaching of the truth.
3. Hoza: Circles of the Dharma
Among the important religious activities of Rissho Kosei-kai is a unique form of group counseling known as hoza, which is guided by experienced leaders. The origin of hoza is found in Shakyamuni’s method of teaching his disciples. Rissho Kosei-kai has adapted and revived it for people today so that they can solve their problems and learn how to make practical use of the Buddha’s teachings in everyday life. As in Shakyamuni’s day, the counsel benefits all the members of the group, not only an individual with a specific problem.
For hoza leaders, the doctrine of the Four Noble Truths is the key to the problem-solving process. First, the troubled person and other members of a hoza group take on, as their own, his or her problem (the truth of suffering). Second, they work together to find the cause of the problem (the truth of cause). Third, they reach a conclusion about the right way of living (the truth of path) so that fourth, he or she will achieve peace (the truth of extinction).
Although Buddhist doctrines are unquestionably important for hoza counseling, the true spirit of hoza is firmly rooted in a major concept of Mahayana Buddhism: all living beings possess the buddha-nature, or the potential to attain perfect awakening (buddhahood). They reveal and develop their buddha-nature by working together with compassion to solve the problems of someone who is troubled. When genuine sharing and mutual understanding are achieved, troubled people very often express their suffering, disclose their true selves (buddha-nature), and discover totally new meanings and dimensions that they have not so far been aware of in their lives. When people can truly realize that they have the buddha-nature, they come to recognize spontaneously that others equally possess it. In hoza, participants try to find the buddha-nature in others, to respect it as far as possible, and by doing so, to make others become aware of it both in themselves and in others.
Members of hoza circles meet regularly, not only to learn how to employ the Buddha’s teachings as a guide for living or to obtain relief from suffering but also to gain insight and to achieve spiritual growth.