For the past two decades I have devoted myself to the activities of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP). The WCRP is a group of religious leaders from many countries who work with one spirit for world peace. It has expanded its activities and promotion of step-by-step progress toward world peace to include assistance to developing nations, service as a United Nations nongovernmental organization, and calls for disarmament at the Special Sessions of the UN General Assembly Devoted to Disarmament. [The WCRP convenes a substantial world assembly every four years and has held seven as of 1999. It has grown into a world organization for interreligious dialogue, with more than a thousand participants from 60 nations.]
When I reflect on how I have been able to devote what little talent I have to promoting the WCRP, what comes to mind is the help and kindness I have received from a truly wide variety of people. Surrounded by my family and grandchildren and sustained by the assurance of being able to rely on so many people, I can carry out my duties from one day to the next. If I look a little further, I can see that I am sustained by the efforts of kindred spirits not only in Japan but all around the world. I feel this from the bottom of my heart.
Just who was it that created me? Needless to say, it was my father and mother. My father worked hard every day in the fields, was the center of the harmony of our family, and engraved on my heart the importance of a life of honesty. My kind mother strained her frail constitution working constantly at household chores, caring for the silkworms, plying the loom, making good use of the slightest moment of leisure, and sitting at night by the hearth patching our clothing.
Words fail to describe how indebted I am to all the teachers who have instructed me from elementary school to the present day. It was my spiritual mentor, Sukenobu Arai (1879 - 1949), who opened my eyes to the Lotus Sutra. It is impossible for me to imagine how different I would have been had I not met him. When I think about the great karmic connection that allowed me to meet Arai, I can only put my palms together in a prayer of gratitude.
When we stop to think about it, we realize that we live surrounded by the affection of many people. Of course, there are some who fling malice, hatred, or jealousy at us, but those who touch our lives with warmth and friendship are certainly in the majority. This encompasses not only visible signs of love and words of kindness and encouragement from family and close friends, but also the actions of many people whom we have met only once or twice, or who were once close to us, who are concerned about us from afar and watch over us. When we realize this, there arises in us a feeling of gratitude for even the invisible bonds among human beings.
The woodblock artist Shiko Munakata (1903 - 75), who carved out a world all his own, is said to have murmured while engrossed in carving his blocks, "Thank goodness, thank goodness. The chisel is cutting along by itself." To whom was he so grateful? Probably not even he himself knew exactly. Something invisible simply set his carving tools in motion. Somewhere, along the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness, he felt this invisible force and softly murmured his gratitude. Surely at such a moment Munakata was completely happy.
There is a strong tendency today to give a logical explanation for everything and to deal with things as matters of rights and duties. For example, some people think that when a parent raises a child, the parent is only obeying an animal instinct, so there is no particular reason for the child to be thankful. Some think that it is only natural for teachers to teach, since after all they receive salaries. Pursuing this line of thought, one concludes that plants give oxygen just because they are alive, and that the sun gives light and heat as just a natural phenomenon. In other words, there is no cause to be thankful.
There is no way for such thinking to make people happy. It can only make people egoistic, cold-hearted, puffed up, and lonely. By contrast, we cannot imagine how much happier it makes us to be grateful to our parents, to the people around us, to the plant kingdom, and for the blessings of heaven and earth. If the number of people who feel such thankfulness grows into the thousands and millions, not only will they support one another with affection, but they will be able to exist in harmony with the plants, the oceans, and the atmosphere. This planet will become a peaceful, comfortable place to live.
When one looks at how the world is formed, one can understand that everything is interdependent, and is connected in some way. Nothing exists entirely in and of itself. Our environment is one of constant, interrelated change, in which the death of one thing becomes the source of life for another. With everything so interdependent, a grand but subtle harmony is built up. As a consequence, we can say that it is most natural to live in grateful acceptance of every encounter with those who share this bond. Conversely, as long as we do not forget to see things as they are, the feeling of gratitude for all things will surely spring forth.
Happiness comes from the thankfulness we feel as we become aware of the many earthly and divine blessings we receive, including the support of many other people.
Copyright © by Rissho Kosei-kai. All rights reserved.