When we are aware of the happiness we enjoy, and give thanks for it,
our awareness of the bounty of blessings we receive is itself a true path to liberation.
Generally speaking, when we encounter some difficulty and feel worried or anxious, we ask the gods and the buddhas for some kind of help, as reflected in the saying, "Any port in a storm." Regarding this matter, in chapter 16 of the Lotus Sutra, "The Eternal Life of the Tathagata," Shakyamuni says: "Ever making this my thought: 'How can I make living beings / Obtain entry into the unsurpassable Way / And quickly accomplish embodiment as buddhas?'" Here, the meaning of the scripture is that the Buddha always wants to somehow lead everyone to the Way of the Buddha, have everyone quickly reach the realm of the Buddha, and thereby attain true happiness.
Simply put, the Buddha always wishes to liberate us.
Those seeking liberation may think that when their load of suffering is lightened, they are being given encouragement to live. But when we look at things from the perspective of the Buddha, who wishes that we all "quickly accomplish embodiment as buddhas," simply seeking relief from suffering is the wrong direction.
The reason that the Rissho Kosei-kai Members' Vow includes the phrase, "We recognize in Buddhism a true way of liberation," is to lead us to understand the meaning as the liberation of others as well as ourselves, and that this is nothing other than what directs us to the basis of faith. Also, "a true way of liberation" is an important part of our members' vow, demonstrating a distinguishing feature of Rissho Kosei-kai and the very spirit of the Lotus Sutra.
Toward Living with Gratitude
When we hear the phrase "recognize in Buddhism a true way of liberation," it may seem to describe something very difficult, but actually the meaning can be understood by anyone.
When we are aware of the happiness we are already receiving, accept it gratefully and give thanks for it, our awareness of the bounty of blessings being bestowed upon us is itself a true means to liberation.
We learn the teaching and in the course of practicing it, when the words "thank you" and "it's all thanks to you" come naturally from our lips, then we are being liberated. Nevertheless, since we human beings are apt to complain or grumble at something the very next day, I think it is important that we make a habit of repeating our study of the teaching.
A Zen monk once said, "Our own hearts are, by nature, the Buddha, and when we realize this, we become buddhas; but when we are deluded, we are still living beings." Becoming awakened and delusion are like two sides of the same coin. In other words, the Buddha and a living being are also opposite sides of the same coin, existing as one in a single individual, and once we open our eyes to this fact, then and there we find a way to liberation.
When we are fully aware of this fact, a lifestyle of wanting things - "I want this," "I wish I had that" - changes to a lifestyle of being grateful for all things - "Thank you," "It's all thanks to you."
Shakyamuni teaches us that "In the world, everything does not happen according to our wishes." Yet he also teaches us that we can exercise control over ourselves. Therefore, even though we change ourselves, we cannot make others change according to our wishes. Buddhism is, after all, based on the realization that every one of us must make ourselves the light by making the Dharma our light.
Happiness and liberation are not far away. We are already receiving so much happiness, we are already being showered with blessings and, when we realize this in our daily lives, we see that these gifts exist in our own hearts and minds
This article was originally published in the April-June 2012 issue of Dharma World.