Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 7: Happiness for Both Ourselves and Others [7.3]
7.3 The Path of Mutual Respect and Growth
The aim of Buddhism is the pursuit of happiness, a life of mutual elevation in which we seek happiness together with others, respecting and supporting one another as fellow seekers.
Buddhism is the pursuit of happiness. The purpose of faith is to become happy; we carry out Buddhist practice for the sake of our own happiness.
Aniruddha, one of Shakyamuni’s ten major disciples, known as the foremost in divine insight, once dozed off while Shakyamuni was preaching. Deeply reflecting on his behavior, he vowed never to sleep again. As a result of his unremitting practice, he eventually went blind. Later, though, he is said to have opened his mind’s eye and thereby gained extraordinary powers of discernment.
One day, Aniruddha attempted to mend a tear in his robe. However, because he could not see, he was unable to thread the sewing needle. In his frustration, he muttered: “Is there no one who will thread this needle for me and so gain good fortune [from helping a practitioner of Buddhism]?”
Someone approached him and said: “Allow me to accumulate good fortune.”
Aniruddha was stunned. For it was unmistakably the voice of Shakyamuni.
“I couldn’t possibly trouble you,” he protested, adding: “Surely one such as yourself, World-Honored One, does not need to gain any benefit.”
“On the contrary, Aniruddha,” Shakyamuni responded, “there is no greater seeker of happiness in the world than myself.”1
Shakyamuni went on to teach Aniruddha, who was still not convinced by his words, that there are things that one must continue to pursue eternally. For instance, in seeking truth, there is never an end, a point where we can say, “This will do.” Similarly, in our efforts to lead others to enlightenment, there is no limit at which we can say, “I have done enough.” The same goes for our practice to develop and perfect ourselves.
The pursuit of happiness also has no bounds. Shakyamuni told Aniruddha: “Of all the powers in the world, and in the realms of heaven or human beings, the power of good fortune is foremost. The Buddha way, too, is attained through the power of good fortune.”2
Shakyamuni’s words “There is no greater seeker of happiness in the world than myself” have important meaning.
Buddhism is not about turning one’s back on life or escaping reality, or acting as if one has already attained enlightenment and risen above considerations of happiness and unhappiness. In particular, thinking oneself alone to be special has nothing to do with Buddhism.
Rather, genuine practitioners of Buddhism are those who, as humble seekers of happiness, earnestly pursue their Buddhist practice together with and in the same way as everyone else. They take action with courage and joy, more determined than anyone to never pass up an opportunity to accumulate good fortune. Such people never arrogantly think, “This is good enough,” but continue to exert themselves out of a desire to gain still more fortune and benefit and to develop a state of eternal happiness. The spirit of Buddhism pulses in this resolve to keep improving and challenging oneself without end.
Shakyamuni’s simple offer to thread Aniruddha’s needle conveys his infinitely profound spirit and attitude toward life. His conduct is a natural expression of his egalitarian philosophy to regard his fellow practitioners as equals.
In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, the Daishonin states: “It is like the situation when one faces a mirror and makes a bow of obeisance: the image in the mirror likewise makes a bow of obeisance to oneself” (OTT, 165).
Believing in others’ Buddha nature, we respect and treasure them from the bottom of our hearts. When we treat others in this manner, the Buddha nature within them responds, on a fundamental level, with respect toward us in return.
Broadly speaking, when we interact with others with true sincerity, more often than not they will come to respect and value us as well. And this is all the more so when our actions are based on prayer—chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Conversely, denigrating others only leads to being denigrated oneself. And those whose lives are tainted by feelings of hate toward others will come to be reviled by others in turn.
Let us open the path to mutual respect and harmonious coexistence so as to bring an end to this vicious circle that has long been part of human destiny.
From a speech at a European representatives conference, Germany, June 11, 1992.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.