Welcoming the Other—Being Tolerant
Nichiko Niwano, President of Rissho Kosei-kai
The World Is One
When I think about what it means to be tolerant, I recall the following words of the Buddhist thinker Shuichi Maida (1906–67): “Tolerance is itself awareness that the world is one, and only when we base our lives on this fact does the true peace of humanity become a reality.”
Rev. Maida described tolerance in religion by quoting Mahatma Gandhi’s words: “Just as the single trunk of a tree supports a great many branches and leaves, religious faith that is true and perfect can only be one.”
There are many different religions in this world, but all of them focus on the same goal: freeing ourselves from ego and taking refuge in the gods and the buddhas. Divine power equally helps such people who have thus taken refuge. It follows, therefore, that regardless of the religious teaching one believes, taking refuge in it and freeing oneself from ego means that conflicts and superficial differences become meaningless and one arrives at true perception that the world is one—and therein lies the real meaning of tolerance.
We tend to think of tolerance as the forgiving of others or accepting that they are different from us. However, broadly speaking, it is when we become aware that everyone is one that we experience the true spirit of tolerance. If we cannot understand “oneness,” it is due to our egoistical state, and from the perspective of perceiving that the world is one, we come to see how far away from the truth we are when our egos flare up and we argue with people. We then come to realize to what extent such actions make our own point of view and our own world much smaller and narrower.
Compassion and Wisdom Lead to Tolerance
As an example close at hand for us as members, Founder Nikkyo Niwano led his life in the spirit of tolerance. Today, every nation’s government has recognized and the United Nations has given an important status to Religions for Peace. In the begin-ning, however, when it was still thought of as some-thing impossible to come about, the leaders who built it, including Founder Niwano, overcame differences of faith in order to realize the fundamental hope common to all religions. They started out by giving a concrete form to the tolerance that comes from egolessness, as is well known today. Last month we convened the Ninth World Assembly of Religions for Peace in Vienna, and our main theme was “Welcom-ing the Other.”
The current world situation is such that one group starts making demands on another and it becomes difficult to maintain peaceful coexistence, for example, between Japan and its neighboring coun-tries, or the Arab nations and the Western nations, this means that the responsibility of those of us who participated in the conference having been given the theme of welcoming the other was large and brimful of meaning.
Tolerance is an important principle on a large scale that affects the relations among all countries, and it is also an important principle in our daily lives. However, when we reflect on ourselves, we can see that sometimes our egos take over our emotions and it becomes difficult for us to put tolerance into practice.
For example, someone may say something unkind to us and this makes us angry. At such a time, we feel that we should not let that person get away with it and want to strike back. However, when we really think about it, if what the person said had not struck a chord in us, we would hardly care at all about the comment. Rather, our reaction proves that whatever the criticism was, it reflected something that does exist in us.
In other words, when we can reflect on ourselves and realize that because the other person has a similar disposition, he or she is teaching us this insight into ourselves, we can then find something in common with the person and become as one. At that time, the spirit of tolerance brings us harmony through the working of compassion.
Moreover, being aware that the world is one gives us the wisdom to lead lives full of confidence and free of fear. This is because having such recognition means that we are able to have an expansive point of view that transcends any immediate loss or gain, or feeling of victory or defeat. For each and every one of us to become egoless and to perfect our self-reflection, in other words, attain true tolerance—that is the foundation for building a bright future.
From “Kosei” Translated by Kosei Publishing
Read past Guidance messages from President Niwano.