This year Rissho Kosei-kai marks a major turning point--the
seventieth anniversary of its founding. Today's sangha was created
thanks to the tireless dedication of elder members, who ate and slept
their faith in the early days, and our gratitude to them is
inexhaustible. We are taught that real compassion means communicating
the Truth and the Dharma to others. Retaining in our hearts the image
of those elder members who pursued that path every day should help us
expand our commitment to dissemination work. As an organization, we
have considered various ways to commemorate our seventieth anniversary.
The central feature of our celebration will involve installing the icon
of Shakyamuni Buddha in the family altar of every member, starting this
year. This is something I have had in mind even since before I
inherited the Lamp of the Dharma.
The organization will make the arrangements and hopes to gradually
carry out the plan with the help of the congregations at each branch.
It goes without saying that we are Buddhists. It therefore follows that
installing in every member's family altar the icon of the Eternal
Buddha Shakyamuni--the foundation on which our religion rests--is a
basic and very natural thing for us to do. All kinds of people belong
to our organization. Some joined more than half a century ago, some
have just now joined, and each represents a unique combination of age,
gender, nationality, lifestyle, and role in the organization. Each is
an irreplaceable individual.
As expressed by the well-known phrase, "All sentient beings innately
possess the buddha-nature," we are taught that everything in this world
is a manifestation of buddha-nature. The ultimate source of life is one
and the same for all. When our acceptance of this runs deep, we realize
that as all people received life from the same, single source, we are
all brothers and sisters, and that "the self and others are one and
inseparable." This is also expressed in the "Parable" chapter of the
Lotus Sutra: "The living beings in [this triple world] / All are my
The Buddha does not separate us from the buddhas as "ordinary
people," but sees us all as his children. As Buddhists, we should
simply and frankly accept this affection and do our best to be children
of the Buddha. More than anyone, Founder Nikkyo Niwano believed in and
recognized the value of every single person. The founder did not say
that a person could become a true believer only through long and
arduous religious training. He held that "all new members are
missionaries of the Dharma," and urged those who had just joined to
have the confidence to communicate to others the joy they felt on
having found faith.
The concept of the "One Vehicle" teaches that the fundamental nature
of human existence puts us all together, like passengers on a single
vehicle, and so we should be open-minded toward, have mutual respect
for, and cooperate with one another. In this spirit, the founder
treated all people with reverence and respect, greeting them with hands
held together in prayer. Thus I believe that we can consider the act of
installing the icon of Shakyamuni Buddha in every member's family altar
to be something he would have eventually carried out.
Given the background of the changing times since our organization
was founded, the history of its growth, and other various sequences of
events, I expect that there were things that the founder did not get
around to doing in his lifetime. I believe that the proper role for a
second-generation president is to accomplish these things in the
following era. After visiting members at all branches as fellow
relatives in the Dharma, taking part in nationwide guidance tours, and
learning from participants in branch leaders' meetings and elsewhere, I
am now confident that the time is now ripe to take the opportunity of
our seventieth anniversary to promote the installment of the icon of
Shakyamuni Buddha in all members' family altars.
Making the Prayer of the Buddha, the Founder, and the Cofounder Our Own
Installing the icon of Shakyamuni Buddha in our family altars
will help clarify our focus of devotion as Buddhists. Zen master Dogen
is said to have called the Buddha "Jifu Daishi Shakyamuni," "Jifu"
meaning "deeply affectionate father," and "Daishi" meaning "great
teacher/master." This expression encompasses the implication that, as
humans are born with only one father, for Buddhists there is only one
great teacher, Shakyamuni. To install the icon of the Eternal
Shakyamuni Buddha in the family altar and worship there every day is
fundamental to us as Buddhists. We can say that the ultimate goal of
educating ourselves as human beings is to become people who can kneel
before the Buddha and devote ourselves to him.
Also, the motivation for carrying out this plan will be a firm
self-awareness of the true nature of Buddhism, which is the point we
need to keep foremost in mind as we do so. In addition, also beginning
in this year, the Dharma titles of Founder Nikkyo Niwano and Cofounder
Myoko Naganuma will also be installed together with the icon of
Shakyamuni Buddha. The founder and cofounder are the teachers who
directly communicated to us the teaching of the Buddha, and the
installing of their Dharma titles will clarify that we are the direct
disciples of the founder and cofounder, and members of Rissho Kosei-kai.
Shakyamuni's constant wish was "salvation of the multitudes." The
founder and cofounder made this prayer their own, and spent their whole
lives working to bring salvation to all living things. As we install
the icons of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Dharma titles of the founder and
cofounder, we need to foster the self-awareness that we also shelter
this same prayer within us. We have received life as human beings, and,
through the founder and cofounder, we have encountered the Truth and
the Dharma to which Shakyamuni had become enlightened. These are no
small gifts. Contemplating the meaning of this and allowing ourselves
to feel deeply grateful will release a natural upwelling of devotion.
Families in particular are the basic training ground for building
character. Having an icon of Shakyamuni Buddha in each family altar and
living a life that revolves around the Buddhist altar is an extremely
fortunate thing for families. Paying homage to the icon and expressing
gratitude through the practice of chanting sutras and offering
greetings at the family altar in the morning and evening has a decisive
effect, of course on the adults, but most particularly on building the
maturing character of the young people in the family. Paying homage to
the icon helps us to consider things from a Buddhist point of view and
live lives in which we judge things according to Buddhist standards as
an everyday, regular practice. In the immediate context, this means
parents, children, and couples will be respecting each other as living
beings and greeting each other with hands held together in prayer.
Warm family relations can be realized through a faith that revolves
around the Buddhist altar. Our organization's task is to undertake
dissemination work in and outside Japan in the hopes of increasing the
number of such fortunate families. When families lose this function,
praying for peace becomes a futile exercise. Putting families into
order will lead to peace in societies, nations, and the world.
All Members of One Mind in a World of Giving and Receiving Salvation
As in the expression "the sangha of the four quarters," we are
taught that all people in the world--in the north, south, east, and
west--are originally members of the universal sangha in which harmony
prevails. Because Shakyamuni's teaching makes the Truth intelligible,
Buddhism is a world religion in every sense of the word. Buddhism is
completely accessible to anyone in any country who feels that it is
compatible with their spirit. In this world of deepening conflict and
never-ending war, there is more than enough basis for accepting
Buddhism, which teaches us to be generous in spirit and is
In this context, I believe that in the future our organization needs
to communicate more clearly that the Lotus Sutra is comprehensible to
anyone. Children, adults, and people of all countries and cultures can
understand it. For us as a religious organization it is of great
importance to help all people understand it; and as individual members,
to be able to explain it to others in ordinary, everyday language.
Founder Niwano gave everything he had to the era in which he was
born, and used a hundred and twenty percent of his energy and ability.
As people alive in the present, we who come after him must aim for
further creative development. All parents want their children to become
independent--one day we will have to let go of the hand we now hold.
This is how we must see the death and entry into nirvana of the
founder. By embracing death and entry into nirvana, the founder
awakened in us a spirit of independence.
The role we now have to play is one that will of course give proper
respect to history and tradition, but at the same time embrace changes
appropriate to our era. "You are yourselves. Be yourself. Use the
powers that you have; create your own era." I believe that that was
what the founder wished for us.
The turning point of the seventieth anniversary of the founding of
our organization can also be perceived as a new departure point for
each one of us to confirm a true and independent faith and set out with
great enthusiasm on the missionary path. With all members of one mind
and making the prayer of the Buddha, the founder, and cofounder our
own, we can devote ourselves to bodhisattva practice, and what will
provide both the ground and the root for this is the installment of the
icon of Shakyamuni Buddha and the Dharma titles of the founder and
cofounder. The Lotus Sutra teaches that lodged in the innermost recess
of everyone's heart is the wish that all sentient beings will be saved
and attain happiness, and this wish motivates us to be born into this
world--this is called gansho, or birth by aspiration. I hope that we can concentrate our energies to create a world in which all give and receive salvation.
This article was originally published in the April-June 2008 issue of