President's Monthly Message

If You Change Your Mind, You Change Your Life

Nichiko Niwano
President, Rissho Kosei-kai

We Are All Equally Disciples of the Buddha

In last month’s issue of this newsletter, I mentioned the story of Shakyamuni and one of his disciples, Shuddhipanthaka.

In that story, Shuddhipanthaka, who had been lost in grief and lamenting his poor memory, sincerely believed and practiced the words of Shakyamuni. As a result, he realized the importance of cleansing his mind of defilements and changed his way of life.

A quote attributed to American philosopher William James (1842–1910) describes this very idea. He said, “If you change your mind, you change your actions. If you change your actions, you change your habits. If you change your habits, you change your character. And if you change your character, you change your fate.” It almost seems like James is directly referring to the story of Shuddhipanthaka, who, by changing his mind, changed his way of life and in turn also changed his fate.

Phrased differently, changing your life means changing your relationships and your connections with everything around you. That is, when you realize something important like Shuddhipanthaka did and resolve your mind, the way you deal with everything around you changes. Then, even when disadvantageous things come your way, you can put them to good use.

Now, is this the case for us? When asked, some of us may feel discouraged and say, “That’s much too difficult for me.” However, we must not forget that, like Shuddhipanthaka, we are also disciples of the Buddha and we are receiving teachings from the Buddha. As with the disciples of the Buddha of the distant past, so do we also—in the midst of our worrying and suffering—encounter the teachings of the Buddha that make us realize something important.

Therefore, depending on the person and the circumstances, I think there are many ways to clear away the defilements of the mind—such as resisting being swept away by the desire in front of you, not allowing your emotions to go unchecked and turn into anger, and accepting change just as it is. And I do think that by sincerely believing the teachings of the Buddha and putting them into practice, your destiny will change of its own accord.

The Matter of Belief

In last month’s issue of this newsletter, I mentioned the story of Shakyamuni and one of his disciples, Shuddhipanthaka.

In that story, Shuddhipanthaka, who had been lost in grief and lamenting his poor memory, sincerely believed and practiced the words of Shakyamuni. As a result, he realized the importance of cleansing his mind of defilements and changed his way of life.

A quote attributed to American philosopher William James (1842–1910) describes this very idea. He said, “If you change your mind, you change your actions. If you change your actions, you change your habits. If you change your habits, you change your character. And if you change your character, you change your fate.” It almost seems like James is directly referring to the story of Shuddhipanthaka, who, by changing his mind, changed his way of life and in turn also changed his fate.

Phrased differently, changing your life means changing your relationships and your connections with everything around you. That is, when you realize something important like Shuddhipanthaka did and resolve your mind, the way you deal with everything around you changes. Then, even when disadvantageous things come your way, you can put them to good use.

Now, is this the case for us? When asked, some of us may feel discouraged and say, “That’s much too difficult for me.” However, we must not forget that, like Shuddhipanthaka, we are also disciples of the Buddha and we are receiving teachings from the Buddha. As with the disciples of the Buddha of the distant past, so do we also—in the midst of our worrying and suffering—encounter the teachings of the Buddha that make us realize something important.

Therefore, depending on the person and the circumstances, I think there are many ways to clear away the defilements of the mind—such as resisting being swept away by the desire in front of you, not allowing your emotions to go unchecked and turn into anger, and accepting change just as it is. And I do think that by sincerely believing the teachings of the Buddha and putting them into practice, your destiny will change of its own accord.

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