< The sourcefor peace starts from awareness of Buddha nature >
This year I had my first experience of winter in New York. Having been raised in Tokyo, I had never before experienced such a piercing cold and chilly winter. And I was mesmerizedby the flickering flakes of the “snow” that floated down from the sky onto Manhattan – the city lined with skyscrapers – and the sight of the tapestry of people who would come and go within this setting.
In the last few days, the trees lining the streets are starting to come alive from the cold winter and showing signs of delicate, yellowish-green leaves. Such fresh new beginnings have caught my attention. Cherry blossoms are also starting to bloom in Central Park. Now, in Buddhism, we are taught that each and every one of our lives – no, not only us but the life of all living beings that exist in the universe – is bestowed with the life of the Buddha and thus are extremely valuable.
To express this, we say: “All living beings without exception possess Buddha nature.” That means, all things that have life, each and every one, possess Buddha nature. This is also the teaching that, “Everything that has life is the Buddha nature itself.” If that is the case, I will realize that while I, who have been given life now “possess Buddha nature” and my existence is very valuable, I will also become aware that “Buddha nature” exists in the heart of everyone else. This link is the Buddhist concept that becomes the foundation for peace and harmony. At present here on our earth, however, the reality is that wars and internal conflicts persist and valuable lives are lost.
Yet, there is something here we must deeply consider. That perhaps the seeds which lead to such wars and conflicts may actually lie hidden within our hearts and minds. That is, within the hearts and minds of all human beings, there is the innate possibility to become a buddha (four heavenly realms) and possibility to fall into hell (six realms of the ordinary people), and thus possess the “cause” to move to any of the ten realms. We call this “Jukkai gogu.”in Japanese. This means each realm is contained in all other realms. And if we interpret this as the teaching on the state of the minds & hearts of human beings, we will realize that when we ordinary people act in selfish ways and keep our minds uncontrolled, we will continuously revolve within the six realms unable to escape from our suffering and troubles. We call this vicious cycle “transmigration within the six worlds.”
“Hell” is the state of mind in which anger takes control of our hearts and minds.
“Hungry spirit” is the state in which our hearts and minds are relentlessly consumed with greed.
“Animals” is the state in which we lack wisdom and are ignorant.
“Demons” is the state in which mutually selfish people engage in nasty fights.
“Human beings” is the state in which we possess all of the above four but, due to our conscience, are able to keep them in check.
“Heaven” is the world of joy. But it is a temporary happiness and thus a rapturous state of mind.
I briefly explained the six worlds above. When I reflected and looked into my own heart & mind, I became aware of many things that come to mind.
An angry heart: feeling angry despite ourselves; accusing others until they surrender; wanting things to go according to our own desires; not understanding reason, only wanting to do things only through instinct; being indecisive and a lingerer; should things end up going well, we become totally rapturous and in euphoric mood. Actually, perhaps these states are within everyone’s mind and heart.
First, it is important to remove the basis for all the above – the angry mind and heart. Fortunately, we always have the ability to be in the state of self-reflection. That is because we have the teachings of the Buddha. And we have the Sangha and good friends. And thus, we are in an environment in which we can improve by learning from others. Through our various daily contact and relations, we can see and also hear the workings of the Buddha (his message). This is our practice. This is our diligent endeavor.
President Niwano has said the following:
“To be angry, to become irritated, are emotions that are definitely acquired after birth. If that is the case, we can essentially eliminate such emotions. In various ways Shakyamuni Buddha taught us that when we can reach such a state, we are able, for the first time, to encounter the true meaning of a peaceful world. Therefore, I think it is important for us to deeply grasp in our hearts and minds the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha.”
In the spirit of what President Niwano has said, it is very important for us to learn the teachings of the Buddha in our hearts & minds, remove our anger, and acquire brighter, kinder, warmer, and more flexible hearts & minds.
It is precisely the collective effort of everyone’s steps to put this into practice that will become the cornerstone for the true meaning of a peaceful world.
New York Church Minister