Life as a Mirror

“A tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel when polished. A mind now clouded by the illusions of the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but when polished, it is sure to become like a clear mirror, reflecting the essential nature of phenomena and the true aspect of reality.” (Writings of Nichiren Daishonin Part I, p 4)

Daisaku Ikeda, the president of the Soka Gakkai International Buddhist organization, has written many letters, essays, and given many speeches around the world. He often makes references to the many writings of Nichiren Daishonin, who practiced Buddhism in the 13th century Japan. An essay Daisaku Ikeda wrote on February 27th, 1990 connects life to the concept of a mirror. Your environment is a direct reflection of you. By incorporating Buddhism into your life, he says, you can polish the mirror of your life to reflect the depths of your being; the past, present, and future. By looking at this reflection of your life, you are able to fundamentally change and grow, leading you to live a happier, beautiful existence.

Mirrors in ancient times were usually made of polished metal alloys such as nickel, steel, and bronze. These ancient mirrors could only produce blurred reflections, unlike today’s mirrors that are made of glass. The oldest glass mirror dates back to 1551, found in China and Egypt. “Suffice it to say that the history of mirrors is as old as that of the human race. It is perhaps an inborn human instinct to want to look at one’s face.” Even though people tend to focus on the outside appearance of their face, they tend to neglect what is on the inside. While people may put make up on to make themselves look better or wash a stain off their face, they choose to ignore the stains in their lives.

In Buddhism, a person never fails to receive the effects of their actions, whether good or bad. The law of cause and effect, which functions deeply in our lives, stresses that “the unseen virtue brings about visible reward”. Although one can conceal blemishes upon their face, they cannot conceal their soul, and the causes they’ve made in their lives that reveal their true nature. If one is ignorant of this fact, they cannot perceive themselves as they truly are, and therefore cannot change and grow in their lives.


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