Ichinen Sanzen | Nichiren Buddhism Explored
An independent exploration into the philosophy and practice of Nichiren Buddhism

The Three Great Secret Laws

Those whose daily practice involves Gongyo from The Liturgy of Nichiren Buddhism (prayer book) will twice daily offer an Appreciation for the Gohonzon in the second silent prayer: “I acknowledge my debt of gratitude and offer profound appreciation for the Dai-Gohonzon of the Three Great Secret Laws, which was bestowed upon the entire world; to Nichiren Daishonin, the Buddha of the Latter Day of the Law…”[3]. While it goes without saying that the words ‘secret’ and ‘law’ should spike anyones curiousity, it seems a deeper understanding might too often be skimmed over. In this post, we’ve turned to questioning what are the Three Great Secret Laws of the Dai-Gohonzon that one is to acknowledge such gratitude and profound appreciation for? Moreover, why are they secret? After looking to a number of different resources, we hope a clearer picture has begun to appear.

To begin with, many might already know on the surface what the laws are. In Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations the Three Great Secret Laws are identified as the Honzon, Kaidan and Daimoku.[7] Many might also understand the meaning of these as Honzon representing the calligraphic Gohonzon scroll (object of devotion), Kaidan representing the moral precepts and place of practice, and Daimoku, the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.[7]  But is that all there is to it? As Nichiren formed his entire practice around these ‘laws’, surely there must be so much more to them than their superficial expression. What are these laws beyond the surface?

During our research, it was very interesting to find in Nichiren’s Three Secrets by Paul O. Ingram [6] and The Teaching of the Eightfold Path by Shin Yatomi (Living Buddhism) [12] explanations of other core Buddhist concepts in relation to Nichiren Buddhism. For those familiar with other practices of Buddhism, such core concepts as the Three Jewels, Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, both of these authors mention them in relation to the Three Great Secret Laws. One of us has indeed come from another background of Buddhist practice and often questioned where these foundational elements were. Hopefully this post can help share more about these core concepts of historical Buddhism, which can also all now be understood through the Three Great Secret Laws. We’ll look at this briefly below before continuing to explore the Three Great Secret Laws in depth.

… the “Three Jewels” [Three Refuges] of early Buddhism – taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha – are echoed in Nichiren’s Three Great Secret Laws. In the age of mappo, daimoku and the honzon have replaced Buddha and Dharma because fixing the mind on the sacred title as inscribed in the honzon leads the devotee to an experience of awakening to his own innate Buddha Nature, while the honzon itself becomes equivalent to the Dharma to which he has awakened. Kaidan supersedes sangha (“community”) because it is the place for the establishment of a new Buddhist community in the age of mappo.[6]

The Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path (taken from Shin Yatomi’s writing in SGI-USA Living Buddhism (November-December 2006)).[12]

“Simply put, the teaching of the four noble truths illuminates the causality of suffering and enlightenment – why people suffer and how they can overcome their suffering and attain supreme happiness.

 

The last of the four noble truths refers to the teaching of the eightfold path, which consists of right views, right thinking, right speech, right action, right way of life, right endeavour, right mindfulness and right meditation…

 

The eight aspects of the path are often categorized into the ‘three types of learning,’ or three disciplines, which Buddhist practitioners seek to master. They are precepts (also morality), meditation (also concentration) and wisdom. In terms of the eightfold path, right speech, right action and right way of life correspond to precepts. Right endeavour, right mindfulness and right meditation correspond to meditation. Right view and right thinking correspond to wisdom. Right endeavour is sometimes considered as part of wisdom or as related to all three types of learning.

 

The three types of learning are connected. Precepts are intended to prevent error and stem evil in thought, word and deed. Meditation is a practice designed to focus the mind and attain tranquillity. Wisdom enables us to overcome illusions and realize the truth. Through observing precepts, we can satisfy our conscience and rid ourselves of regret or shame. Through observing precepts, we can also regulate our physical activities and improve our health. Through observing precepts, therefore, we can prepare for the discipline of meditation. Through meditation, we can attain a state of tranquillity, which, in turn, helps develop the wisdom to overcome our illusions and attain enlightenment.

 

The three types of learning are said to encompass all aspects of Buddhist doctrines and practice… In this regard, Nichiren Daishonin explains, “The three types of learning, namely, precepts, meditation, and wisdom, are represented by the Three Great Secret Laws embodied in the ‘Life Span’ chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]” (The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, p.142).

 

In Nichiren Buddhism, the three types of learning correspond to the Three Great Secret Laws – the object of devotion of the essential teaching, the daimoku (chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo) of the essential teaching and the sanctuary of the essential teaching. Specifically, the object of devotion corresponds to meditation, the sanctuary to precepts and the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to wisdom.”[12]

Without further ado, let us begin this exploration starting with the SGI online dictionary of Buddhism:

Three Great Secret Laws

“…The Three Great Secret Laws represent Nichiren’s embodiment of the Mystic Law, to which he was enlightened, in a form that all people can practice and thereby gain access to that Law within their own lives. He associated the Three Great Secret Laws with the three types of learning set forth in Buddhism—precepts, meditation, and wisdom. Specifically, the object of devotion [Honzon] corresponds to meditation, the sanctuary to precepts [Kaidan], and the daimoku to wisdom…”[4]

As can be seen from this definition, the Three Great Secret Laws extend far beyond their separate physical or descriptive manifestation. They are in fact an embodiment of the Mystic Law as the practitioner themselves. This is important to note as it helps change ones perspective of looking outwards (externally or dualistically) towards these laws and instead interpreting them as a process of becoming. One does not chant Daimoku to the Gohonzon. Rather, we interpret that one becomes the chanting and the Gohonzon as an inseparable co-arising embodiment. Let us explore this in more detail.

To begin, we would first like to turn to where Nichiren makes reference to the Three Great Secret Laws. We looked to two of the ten major writings of Nichiren that were identified by Nikko Shonin (1246-1333) as his most important writings.[2] These are On Taking the Essence of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke Shuyo Sho) and On Repaying Debts of Gratitude (Ho’on-sho).  Here, Nichiren identifies these secret laws in question/answer format:

On Taking the Essence of the Lotus Sutra (Hokke Shuyo Sho)

Question: What is the secret dharma that Nagarjuna,* Vasubandhu,* T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo did not spread during two thousands and some years after the Buddha’s extinction?

Answer: They are the Honzon (Most Venerable One)* and Kaidan* (Precept dais) of the essential section, and the five-character Daimoku* of the Lotus Sutra.[1]

On Repaying Debts of Gratitude (Ho’on-sho)

Question: Is there a correct teaching that was not propagated even by T’ient’ai and Dengyo?

Answer: Yes, there is.

Question: What sort of teaching is it?

Answer: It consists of three things. It was left behind by the Buddha for the sake of those who live in the Latter Day of the Law. It is the correct teaching that was never propagated by Mahakashyapa or Ananda, Ashvaghosha or Nagarjuna, T’ien-t’ai or Dengyo.

Question: What form does it take?

Answer: First, Japan and all the other countries throughout Jambudvipa should all make the Shakyamuni Buddha of the essential teaching their object of devotion. In other words, the Shakyamuni and Many Treasures who appear in the treasure tower, all the other Buddhas, and the four bodhisattvas, including Superior Practices, will act as attendants to this Buddha. Second, there is the sanctuary of the essential teaching. Third, in Japan, China, India, and all the other countries of Jambudvipa, every person, regardless of whether wise or ignorant, will set aside other practices and join in the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This teaching has never been taught before. Here in the entire land of Jambudvipa, in all the 2,225 years since the passing of the Buddha, not a single person chanted it. Nichiren alone, without sparing his voice, now chants Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.[5]

As stated, the Three Great Secret Laws are represented by the Honzon, Kaidan and Daimoku.   For clarity’s sake, we would like to approach each of these laws individually.  But it must be reminded as elucidated previously that this is not how they truly function. In fact, Kaidan and Daimoku are derived from the Honzon.  So we will start by looking at Honzon.

Honzon (meditation)

“Hence the object of devotion is the core of all three. For this reason the Gohonzon, or object of devotion, is also referred to as the One Great Secret Law.”[9]

 

The core of the Three Great Secret Laws: The Gohonzon, or the object of devotion of the essential teaching, is the core of the Three Great Secret Laws in Nichiren’s doctrine and represents the purpose of his life.[9]

From the various ways the Honzon is described throughout the literature, it seems there is far more to it than a paper scroll with calligraphy.  Indeed, it has been directly connected to meditation – as mentioned previously in the SGI Online Dictionary of Buddhism[9], and as the core of all three laws.  We would like to return to the SGI Online Dictionary of Buddhism and then, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations.

“…The object of devotion [Honzon] in terms of the Law: Nichiren’s mandala that embodies the eternal and intrinsic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That Law is the source of all Buddhas and the seed of Buddhahood for all people. In other words, Nichiren identified Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the ultimate Law permeating life and the universe, and embodied it in the form of a mandala…[9]

“The term honzon refers to the focus or chief object of reverence in Nichiren’s system… …the actual physical honzon is a mandara (derived from the Sanskrit: mandala). In Japanese Buddhism this is “a devotional object of which Buddhas and bodhisattvas are depicted or on which a doctrine is expressed….[For many Japanese Buddhist schools it is] the embodiment of enlightenment or truth” (English Buddhist Dictionary Committee 2002: 390-1). Here the honzon is a mandara centred on Sakyamuni as the primordial Buddha, designed by Nichiren in 1279 and based on the Lotus Sutra. In the centre is the formula Namu-myoho-renge-kyo – Adoration (or Reverence) to the Lotus Sutra. Around it are written the names of the cardinal directions, Sakyamuni, Prabhutaratna, the assembly of other beings who appear in the Lotus Sutra, and those who represent the true lineage of the teachings, each in its appropriate position.”[7]

As such, it seems that the Honzon as meditation requires the practitioner as an essential element. In this way, the Honzon as meditation is a co-arising phenomena that assists a practitioner in awakening to the same Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that is their very life itself.  As such, the gohonzon becomes a focal point helping the practitioner realize they literally are the reality of their very own fundamental nature depicted within it. Approached in this way, the Honzon can be seen as a focal point for meditation where the person and the law become one and the same.  As seen below:

…The oneness of the Person and the Law: This means that the object of devotion in terms of the Person and the object of devotion in terms of the Law are one in their essence. The Law is inseparable from the Person, and vice versa. The object of devotion in terms of the Law is the physical embodiment, as a mandala (the Gohonzon), of the eternal and intrinsic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo…”[9]

In trying to understand this process, we have thought about it as follows: The Honzon becomes a focusing tool (mandala) for meditation.  Indeed, it is the Honzon combined with chanting Daimoku (another secret law) that is an extremely powerful tool to focus and free one’s mind from its habit of becoming attached to every passing thought that arises; a process to help stop identifying with and acting on stored tendencies (also known as Karma) that usually prevent us from awakening to or believing in our Buddha Nature. This continuous stream of thought is sometimes referred to as the ‘monkey mind’ because its nature is to jump from thought to thought like a monkey jumps from tree to tree – carrying us away with its never ending distractions and identifications. This obviously prevents one from being present in one’s own life. When continuously acted upon/identified with, this distracted state leads one uncontrollably in various directions, creating further actions/thoughts (also known as Karma) based on the same tendencies of ignorance (not realizing/interacting with phenomenal world as it truly is – see The Three Poisons: ignorance, greed and anger). All in all, one will be kept in the cycle of the “sufferings of life and death” or the Wheel of Samsara. From what we understand, The Honzon as a law of meditation is trying to help us realize that Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is our very life itself and this is the realization of Ichinen Sanzen in actuality. To further expand on this, let us turn to an excerpt from Nichiren’s Three Secrets by Paul O. Ingram.

… even though Nichiren’s mandala [honzon] is not cyclic in pattern, its function is fundamentally the same as any mandala. It graphically represents the “sacred power” of Sakyamuni as absolute reality, the “disintegration” of this sacred power into specific manifestations (the various historical Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas), and the “reintegration” of sacred power back into itself, since all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are partial manifestations of the absolute reality of Sakyamuni. Consequently, by chanting daimoku before the honzon, the devotee internalizes this sacred power and is thereby able to reintegrate the forces of fragmentation that are the result of life in the age of mappo in this “centre”. For this reason, uttering daimoku while “fixing the mind” meditatively on the honzon, believing what the honzon symbolizes – that Sakyamuni, the Lotus Sutra, and the devotee are one – accomplishes for the devotee what the established schools of Buddhism attempted by the traditional practices of meditation and ethical discipline. As Anesaki has noted, “the object of worship… is to be sought nowhere but in the inner most recesses of every man’s nature, because the final aim of worship is the complete realization of Supreme Being (i.e., Sakyamuni) in ourselves”35).[6]

Jacqueline Stone describes this process wonderfully in her dissertation as quoted below:

“In the act of chanting the daimoku, Nichiren taught, as in more traditional forms of meditation, the subject/object barrier collapses, and the mind of the practitioner (single thought-moment) becomes one with the entire phenomenal world (three thousand realms). Chanting the title of the Lotus thus opens a point of access to non-dual reality in which the ordinary person and the Dharma are identified, the eternal, timeless Buddha realm breaks through into the present moment, and the saga world of our empirical experience becomes the Buddha land. In speaking of this, Nichiren borrowed a phrase then current in both Tendai and Shingon Buddhism: the “attainment of Buddhood in this very body” (sokushin jobutsu).”[10]

Thus from what we understand, the practitioner as the three laws embodied is a meditative practice where the oneness of the person and the Mystic Law become a single non-dual embodiment.

Daimoku (wisdom)

… the law of daimoku, or “title”, meaning the five Chinese characters of the title of the Lotus Sutra, pronounced in Japanese as myoho, ren, ge, kyo, to which he added namu, literally “to take refuge in”. The law of daimoku is thus the practice of meditatively repeating over and over again the phrase namu myoho renge kyo… [6]

(see: Dependent Origination: The Doctrine of Interdependence for further examination of Nam Myoho Renge Kyo)

After reading the above it would be very easy to stop here and say Daimoku is simply the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, but we feel this would definitely leave out some critical aspects that help clarify its role in the practice. You see, Daimoku is also associated with wisdom in regards to the three types of learning in Buddhism.[9] This is a critical to reflect upon.

Looking again to Jacqueline Stone’s description that was shared earlier, we can begin to explore why Daimoku is associated with wisdom,

“Chanting the title of the Lotus thus opens a point of access to non-dual reality in which the ordinary person and the Dharma are identified, the eternal, timeless Buddha realm breaks through into the present moment, and the saga world of our empirical experience becomes the Buddha land.”[10]

In this sense, one can easily see that Daimoku becomes another meditative tool to gain deep wisdom into our true nature. It’s practice helps us to see past our limited and dualistic perspective and perceive the Truth of oneness of self and environment (see Dependent Origination, Ichinen Sanzen). In this process we can begin to recognize our Buddha Nature (potential for Buddhahood) and through this, gain the wisdom that allows us to see beyond our limited perspectives of “self” and “environment” as separately existing phenomena. Instead, the process of Daimoku might allow us to awaken to the interdependent co-arising of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which when fully embodied, becomes our own Buddhahood realized. The purpose of chanting daimoku then is to attain perfect and complete awakening (enlightenment).[11] From this perspective, it becomes quite easy to see why Daimoku is associated with wisdom.

Behind the law of daimoku, as well as the other two great secret laws, was Nichiren’s use of the concept of “Buddha Mind” (bodhicitta)23, again appropriated from the Mahayana-Tendai tradition. According to this doctrine, all sentient beings possess the potentiality for becoming actual Buddhas, even in the age of mappo, because all beings possess “Buddha Mind”, which Nichiren located in what Western psychology is apt to call the “unconscious mind”. For this reason, enlightenment is latent in all persons… In other words, to fervently chant daimoku is an act of faith which raises the unconscious bodhicitta to conscious awareness, which in turn results in the experience of enlightenment… [6]

The practice of Daimoku then seems to require two essential components: Faith (see post on “No Prayer Will Go Unanswered”) in the sense of resolute conviction in your Buddha Nature (potential for attaining Buddhahood) and the actual meditative practice of chanting. When Daimoku is performed with the Honzon, we have the opportunity to enter into a consciousness where our vantage point has the potential to extend from a place of “Buddha Mind”. Here, deep insight and wisdom can be gained regarding the nature of reality and our own lives.

Let’s turn again to to Nichiren’s Three Secrets by Paul O. Ingram before moving to the secret law of Kaidan.

Chanted over and over again, daimoku becomes, as Harry M. Buck has noted 28), incarnate in the honzon, the second of the Three Great Secret Laws. Accordingly, daimoku and honzon complement one another, for chanting daimoku places the devotee at the “centre” of the honzon (hon, “origin”, “source”; son, “supremacy”). Therefore, as daimoku is a verbal embodiment of the entire truth and saving power of the Lotus Sutra, the honzon is a visual embodiment of this same truth and power because it is a calligraphic representation of daimoku in mandala form, again an extension of the principle of ichinen sanzen. [6]

Kaidan

Kaidan in Nichiren Buddhism is a little more difficult to form a clear interpretation of as it has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Some believe it is an actual physical location where his ordination platform would eminate from, as can be seen below. Others have recognized it as Nichiren’s precept platform, and still others recognize it as any place of direct practice, which is sort of a combination of both.

The kaidan as the last of the Three Great Secret Laws is essentially an expression of Nichiren’s concern that the “succession” of his teachings be preserved and continued in the future after his death. He thus dreamed of establishing a national centre with his own “ordination platform” from which his teachings would emanate throughout the whole world, and for this purpose, he selected his final retreat, Mount Minobu. He died before he could accomplish his dream. [6]

To better understand Kaidan as a precept platform, we will again mention the article from Living Buddhism that explains Buddhist precept platforms. We will then explore how this is incorporated into the practice of Nichiren Buddhism, a practice that seemingly lacks a defined precept platform.

The Sanskrit and Pali word for precepts or morality is sila, which means “habitual action.” The purpose of sila is to guide behaviour and cultivate virtue through striving to make wholesome actions into one’s habits. Precepts are not commandments enforced by religious authority; they are observed through one’s own commitment or vow. In this sense, precepts are different from monastic code (Skt, Pali vinaya) often enforced by penalties to ensure harmonious conduct within a Buddhist community.[12]

Through observing precepts, we can satisfy our conscience and rid ourselves of regret or shame. Through observing precepts, we can also regulate our physical activities and improve our health. Through observing precepts, therefore, we can prepare for the discipline of meditation.[12]

Regarding Kaidan as a precept platform in Nichiren Buddhism, the SGI Online Dictionary explains that embracing the Gohonzon as the object of devotion is the only precept.[4] “…embracing this object of devotion called the Gohonzon is the only precept in Nichiren’s teaching, the place where it is enshrined corresponds to the place where one vows to observe the Buddhist precepts—the ordination platform, or sanctuary, of the essential teaching.”[4] You may be asking, as we were, how can embracing the Gohonzon be the only precept in Nichiren Buddhism? To better understand this, we found the below from Chapter 11: The Three Great Secret Dharmas, Real Life with Ryuei.[13]

“Nichiren Buddhism teaches that the Hīnayāna precept platform and the Mahāyāna precept platform are now obsolete: the time has arrived for the precept platform of the diamond chalice precept which subsumes all other precepts. The practice of Nichiren Buddhism ensures that morality and ethics are not unthinking, rigid adherence to any specific code of conduct. Rather, the moral and ethical life is based directly upon the wisdom and compassion of buddhahood. There is no need to go to a specially sanctioned place in order to receive the diamond chalice precept. Wherever Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō is recited becomes the precept platform where we can dedicate our lives to the Wonderful Dharma and attain enlightenment. It is the place where we receive the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching directly from the Eternal Śākyamuni Buddha, just as the bodhisattvas from beneath the earth received it during the ceremony in the air.”[13]

In this example, we can see that Kaidan can be both the sanctuary for practice of Daimoku and the precept platform combined by recognizing that wherever Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is recited it becomes the precept platform [and place] where we can dedicate our lives to the Wonderful Dharma and attain enlightenment.[13] This can also be clearly seen in Ingram’s description of the “internal” real Kaidan below.

However, the future kaidan will not only be a place of ordination, preservation of the teachings, and a concrete symbol of world wide faith in the Lotus Sutra. Nichiren also believed that the kaidan is in fact any place where the devotee receives “in his body” Sakyamuni’s Dharma in the form of daimoku and honzon 39). In this sense, even though externally the kaidan is a place which will be physically located at the foot of Mount Minobu, internally the real kaidan, like the center of Nichiren’s mandala, is “located” in the heart of any person at any time who is totally devoted to the practice of daimoku.[6]

From this, we interpret the Kaidan as any place of direct practice. Anywhere one is totally devoted to Daimoku becomes the sanctuary; through the wisdom gained in Daimoku, the precepts become a self-evident way of living that naturally blossoms out of the very embodiment of the Mystic Law itself. All of this instead of a set of rules that one blindly follows. In other words, one realizes and acts out of their very own Buddha Nature.

Finally why the secret? It seems strange that something given thanks for is continually referred to in this way without greater understanding. As usual, the SGI Library was of help here:

“They are called secret because they are implicit in the text of the “Life Span” (sixteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra and remained hidden or unknown until Nichiren revealed them. Nichiren regarded them as the vital teaching that Shakyamuni Buddha transferred to Bodhisattva Superior Practices in the “Supernatural Powers” (twenty-first) chapter of the sutra. He regarded his mission as one with that of Bodhisattva Superior Practices”.[4]

In other words, the laws are considered secret because Nichiren found them hidden within the Lotus Sutra. We are certain there is so much more to investigate than this, and will leave further analysis to a future post.

Conclusion

We have learned that The Three Great Secret Laws essentially are the core practice of Nichiren Buddhism. They are the “secret” teachings that Nichiren found hidden in the Lotus Sutra and that he made available to everyone as a practice for the age of mappo. These three secret laws relate to the three types of learning in Buddhism i.e. meditation, wisdom and precepts. We have also seen incredibly enough, that they replace the Three Jewels (Three Refuges) and incorporate the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path.

It can be easy to pass over the Three Great Secret Laws. Yet beneath their literal appearance lies a more profound practice that consists of conviction/faith (shraddha) in one’s Buddha Nature (potential for Buddhahood) and the reality depicted by Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (Ichinen Sanzen in actuality). From this we might derive the reassurance that as long as we hold Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in our hearts and recognize that it is our life itself, then anywhere we find ourselves becomes the true Kaidan. As Nichiren says in On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime,

Nevertheless, even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching. “Inferior teaching” means those other than this [Lotus] sutra, which are all expedient and provisional. No expedient or provisional teaching leads directly to enlightenment, and without the direct path to enlightenment you cannot attain Buddhahood, even if you practice lifetime after lifetime for countless kalpas. Attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime is then impossible. Therefore, when you chant myoho and recite renge, you must summon up deep faith that Myoho-renge-kyo is your life itself.[15]

We are grateful to have had the opportunity to give these important laws more thought. There certainly is far more to understand than we ever could fit in this post. Hopefully our personal exploration might inspire others regarding the profound philosophy within Nichiren’s practice. Thank you for taking the time to read and share.

Sources
[1] Hokke Shuyo Sho, P. 215, Writings of Nichiren Shonin, Edited by George Tanabe, Jr, Compiled by Kyotsu Hori, University of Hawaii Press, January 2002
[2] ten major writings – The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2258
[3] The Liturgy of Nichiren Buddhism, p. 18, SGI-USA, © 2010
[4] Three Great Secret Laws – The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2330
[5] On Repaying Debts of Gratitude – The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – SGI – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=735&m=0&q=
[6] Nichiren’s Three Secrets, Paul O. Ingram, p. 215-221, NVMEN International Review of the History of Religions, Published by: BRILL
[7] Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, p. 168, Paul Williams, Routledge; 2 edition (August 31, 2008)
[8] Dharma (Buddhism) – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma_(Buddhism)
[9] Gohonzon – The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=890
[10] Jacqueline Stone – Some Disputed Writings in the Nichiren Corpus: Textual, Hermeneutical and Historical Problems, P. 60
[11] Nam(u) Myōhō Renge Kyō – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daimoku
[12] The Teaching of the Eightfold Path, Shin Yatomi, SGI-USA – Learning: Buddhism 101 – Living Buddhism (November-December 2006)
[13] Chapter 11: The Three Great Secret Dharmas, Real Life with Ryuei – http://fraughtwithperil.com/ryuei/2010/06/18/chapter-11-the-three-great-secret-dharmas/
[14] Four Noble Truths – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Noble_Truths
[15] The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, On Attaining Buddhahood In This Lifetime – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=3&m=0&q= translate to dutch from englishАлюминиевые казаныбиметаллические радиаторы отопления купить москвазаводы sip панелейкомплексная диагностика организма

November 30 / -0001

Dependent Origination: The Doctrine of Interdependence

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
William Blake (Auguries of Innocence)

In a previous post titled On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime, we came to learn that Myoho indeed had a deep connection to T’ien-t’ai’s Three Truths.  We found that where Myo represents Emptiness, ho represents provisional existence and the Mystic Law of Myoho-renge-kyo represents the Middle Way. Since then we have continued to dig deeper and have discovered yet another interesting element that we felt needed to be explored further.  In a passage we previously shared, T’ien-t’ai (Chih-i) states the following: “Having discerned the nonsubstantial, contingent nature of all things, one recognizes their provisional existence as phenomena arising through dependent origination and is thus able to act in the world in a soteriologically effective way.[16] Rereading this, immediately raised a few questions. What does it mean to recognize provisional existence as arising through dependent origination? Does this apply to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism? If so, what could Dependent Origination be telling us about the true nature of Myoho-renge-kyo as a manifestation of the Middle Way? If this does indeed apply to Nichiren Buddhism, how would it then inform Nichiren’s meaning of Myo (non-substantiality or Emptiness) and ho (provisional existence) in Myoho-renge-kyo? We felt a great realization was close at hand.

As a starting point, we wanted to explore what the doctrine of Dependent Origination suggests about the nature of reality. Regardless of whether it is part of Nichiren Buddhism or not, we were very interested in opening ourselves up to what it has to say.  After presenting a basic overview of this doctrine, we then trace its lineage through a few Buddhist traditions to see how it might relate to Nichiren’s practice.  From this it would become clear whether Nichiren ascribed to this doctrine or not.  In any case, we figured that just through exploring how this doctrine was interpreted over time we would gain so much!

Dependent Origination

Our research quickly revealed some incredibly interesting perspectives and led us to a few sources that helped paint a more comprehensive picture of the concept of Dependent Origination. As we continued reading, some common themes began popping up. These included interdependence, interrelation and co-arising as can be seen in the below excerpt.

“Buddhism teaches that all life is interrelated. Through the concept of “dependent origination,” it holds that nothing exists in isolation, independent of other life. The Japanese term for dependent origination is engi, literally “arising in relation.” In other words, all beings and phenomena exist or occur only because of their relationship with other beings or phenomena. Everything in the world comes into existence in response to causes and conditions. Nothing can exist in absolute independence of other things or arise of its own accord.”[7]

The above excerpt implies that everything is truly interdependent. Although this might seem obvious, how this is interpreted makes all the difference.  The following passage will show more on this matter.

“Put simply, dependent origination means that all phenomena arise as the result of conditions and cease when those conditions change. The general theory of dependent origination was taught by the Buddha as follows: “When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases.” (Connected Discourses, p. 575) So nothing exists as a static, isolated entity. Everything arises and ceases depending on causes and conditions which themselves arise due to causes and conditions. There is no ultimate ground or primordial cause, but a network of causes and conditions. This undercuts the view of a metaphysical selfhood, fixed entity, or substance underlying the constant change which is life.”[8]

As we can see from the above, the profundity of this interdependence should not be underestimated. Beyond describing a simplistic reality that functions like pool balls bouncing off each other, where their “connection” is simply how these apparent fixed entities bump into each other, it is in fact describing a far more elusive and profound process. It is literally suggesting that ‘oneself’ and the ‘environment’ are a mutually co-arising phenomena of causes and conditions that simultaneously give rise each other. This transforms our basic understanding of cause and effect from one cause leading to an effect in a linear delineated fashion, to everything everywhere being both the cause and effect at the same time. This is also known as the simultaneity of cause and effect, which is in fact suggesting that there is no start or end to anything; everything is a borderless continuing process where all phenomena co-arise simultaneously ad infinitum as causes and conditions.  A hugely profound idea to wrap our heads around!

When we commonly hear the term “oneness of self and environment” it is not suggesting there there is a ‘self’ independently existing that interacts with the ‘environment’ out there, but rather that ‘self’ and the ‘environment’ are inseparable aspects of the same phenomena arising as the ever present moment.  In other words, they are two sides of the exact same process. Again and to be clear, this is not suggesting that things do not exist or that things do exist, but rather that all “phenomena are the interplay of causes and conditions, and apart from causes and conditions one can not speak of anything.[8] As we can see then, Dependent Origination is trying to describe something fundamental about the nature of reality and that this fundamental truth is beyond the two extremes of “existence” and “non-existence”. It is a middle ground that is extremely difficult to see.

Some ways we have tried to visualize the implications of this is by looking directly at Life itself.  From our perspective, Life is not a mechanistic process of fixed component parts interacting individually. Life instead is an interdependent process of becoming. It is a verb, not a noun. A forest is not simply a grouping of fixed entities called “trees”; a “forest” is instead an intricate process of the universe “foresting”. In the same way, we as humans are an intricate process of the universe humaning. Another clear way to see this is to look at a seed. The seed doesn’t contain the full grown tree, but through certain causes and conditions that are not “seed” or “tree” a 200 foot living process comes into being. What really is a “tree” then? Part of the difficulty with all of this we believe has to do with the influence of language on our perception and perhaps Ludwig Wittgenstein’s advice could come in handy when he suggests, “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.[19]

“Dependent origination is the Middle Way between the extremes of existence and non-existence. The view of existence, or “eternalism,” imagines that fixed entities, independent of conditions and immune from change, can be found underlying the phenomena which do change. The view of non-existence, or “annihilationism,” imagines there is no continuity at all within change and the entities which do arise will eventually vanish completely without a trace. Dependent origination is the Middle Way which cuts through those views by pointing out the ceaseless interplay of causes and conditions, which is the process of becoming, rather than the eternalism of being or the nihilism of non-being. The Middle Way points out that while there are no fixed entities, there is a flow of continuity within the process of change…

 

Dependent origination, then, is the teaching that things do have a provisional (though not intrinsic) existence based on causes and conditions. Therefore, one who is following the Middle Way will think in terms of causes and conditions, and not existence or non-existence. For the follower of the Middle Way there are no longer any immutable categories or boundaries, nor is there any question of absolute identity or absolute difference between entities. Dependent origination is the awareness of cause and effect and the interdependence of all things which gives rise to an authentic sense of responsibility, genuine love and compassion.”[8]

With this being said, our individual responsibility in co-creating our existence cannot be stressed enough. Dependent Origination tells us not to be fooled by what appears to be permanent fixed entities ie. ‘the self’ or our strong opinions about the world, but instead recognize them as impermanent processes co-arising out of causes and conditions. This is hugely liberating as it is essentially saying that by changing the causes and conditions we can change anything and everything. We are free to create the life we want as long as we don’t become attached to a fixed (limited) idea of “self” or the world that needs to be protected and reinforced as permanently existing. This is not to say that we are not affected by circumstances, but rather that we always have the ability to choose how circumstances are interpreted and then effect us. By letting go of our fixed ideas, our tendencies and patterns that keep us trapped in predictable behavior begin to dissolve. It is in this process that we have the opportunity to begin to perceive “problems” as opportunities to transform our lives. This “letting go” also has a hugely positive effect on the world because instead of basing our lives on worship of a fixed self in isolation from the world “out there”, we realize that our true identity is the co-arising of our relationships with everything else.

A Lineage of Dependent Origination

Now that we have established a basic understanding of the doctrine of Dependent Origination, we would now like to explore how it has arisen through the various practices of Buddhism related to Nichiren, and confirm if it is indeed a foundational aspect of his practice. We will begin this exploration by returning to Buddha himself. Please note: In the first excerpt below, Dhamma can be understood as meaning, “the state of Nature as it is.[5]

“Whoever sees Dependent Origination sees the Dhamma; whoever sees the Dhamma sees Dependent Origination.” [M.I.191]”[6]

The next excerpt is from a discussion between Venerable Ananda and Buddha. We thought it was important to share because it really emphasizes the profundity of Dependent Origination and warns not to take it for granted as it is so elusive. Venerable Ananda shallowly interprets it as “simple,” but is quickly corrected by Buddha.

“How amazing! Never before has it occurred to me, Lord. This principle of Dependent Origination, although so profound and hard to see, yet appears to me to be so simple!”

 

“Say not so, Ananda, say not so. This principle of Dependent Origination is a profound teaching, hard to see. It is through not knowing, not understanding and not thoroughly realizing this teaching that beings are confused like a tangled thread, thrown together like bundles of threads, caught as in a net, and cannot escape hell, the nether worlds and the wheel of samsara.” [S.II.92][6]

After finding its expression in works attributed to Buddha and recognizing its importance within those source writings, we continued searching the links connected to Dependent Origination that would possibly lead us to Nichiren. A quick search on Dependent Origination and Nichiren Buddhism revealed a lineage all the way back to Nagarjuna (150–250 CE).

“Nagarjuna developed the concept of “non-substantiality” in connection with those of dependent origination and the nonexistence of self-nature. Because phenomena arise only by virtue of their relationship with other phenomena, they have no distinct nature or existence of their own; and there is no independent entity that exists alone, apart from other phenomena. Nagarjuna described a Middle Way that regards the categories of existence and nonexistence as extremes and aims to transcend them. The practical purpose behind the teaching of non-substantiality lies in eliminating attachments to transient phenomena and to the ego, or the perception of self as an independent and fixed identity…

 

The continuity of this thought is evident in Nichiren’s explication of the Middle Way. Working within the framework established by Nagarjuna and reprised by Chih-i [T’ien-t’ai] as the doctrine of the “three truths,” Nichiren stated that: “Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality.” [4]” [3]

Not only does this excerpt confirm a lineage of teachings associated with Dependent Origination, but also that it is indeed a foundational aspect of Nichiren Buddhism.  We can explore how it runs directly from Buddha, Nagarjuna, T’ien-t’ai, all the way to Nichiren Daishonin.

Starting with Nagarjuna, we moved through his concept of “non-substantiality” to learn that, the “concept originated in connection to those of dependent origination and of the nonexistence of self-nature.[11]

Non-substantiality “Dependent origination means that, because phenomena arise only by virtue of their relationship with other phenomena, they have no distinct nature or existence of their own. Nonexistence of self-nature means that there is no independent entity that exists alone, apart from other phenomena. The common message is that the true nature of all phenomena is non-substantiality, and that it cannot be defined in terms of the concepts of existence and nonexistence. Nagarjuna explained it as the Middle Way, a perspective that regards the categories of existence and nonexistence as extremes, and aims to transcend them.”[11]

Putting the above into Nagarjuna’s own words we found a passage from his writings that speaks to this elusive path of the Middle Way.

All things arise through causes and conditions. That I declare as emptiness. It is also a provisional designation. It is also the meaning of the Middle Path.[17]

From Nagarjuna we then move to T’ien-t’ai who established the doctrine of the Three Truths based off of the teachings of Nagarjuna. This of course continued to elucidate the fascinating doctrine of Dependent Origination in terms of the concept of the Three Truths: Emptiness, provisional existence and the Middle Way. It also became apparent that it was a core aspect of T’ien-t’ai’s Ichinen Sanzen or three thousand realms in a single moment of thought as well. The Three Truths can be explained as follows.

  1. Phenomena are empty of self-nature,
  2. Phenomena exist provisionally from a worldly perspective,
  3. Phenomena are both empty of existence and exist provisionally at once.[18]

“The transient world of phenomena is thus seen as one with the unchanging, undifferentiated substratum of existence. This doctrine of interpenetration is reflected in the Tiantai teaching of three thousand realms in a single moment of thought.”[18]

To speak to this further, we quote a passage from T’ien-t’ai below. In this passage, T’ien-t’ai also introduces a process called the “sequential threefold contemplation”, which is the method he developed to contemplate the Three Truths.

“Having discerned the non-substantial, contingent nature of all things, one recognizes their provisional existence as phenomena arising through dependent origination and is thus able to act in the world in a soteriologically effective way. This discernment reestablishes categories and distinctions, but without biased attachment or false essentializing; it is said to correspond to the wisdom of bodhisattvas of the separate teaching. Last is the “contemplation of the Middle Way that is the supreme meaning.” Here one contemplates phenomena as both empty and provisionally existing, discerning both aspects simultaneously. This is said to correspond to the wisdom of the Buddha and of the perfect teaching. This progression through the three contemplations of emptiness, conventional existence, and the middle described here is called the “sequential threefold contemplation” (tz’uti san-kuan, shidai sangan).”[16]

The purpose of T’ien-t’ai’s above contemplation is to form the Unification of the Three Truths as explained below. In this process one recognizes that these are not three separately existing truths, but instead only appearances of one single truth.

“A principle set forth by T’ient’ai (538-597) based on the Lotus Sutra. It explains the three truths of nonsubstantiality, temporary existence, and the Middle Way as an integrated whole, each of the three containing all three within itself. T’ient’ai identified this as the view of the three truths revealed in the perfect teaching, or the Lotus Sutra, in contrast to the separation of the three truths, the view espoused in the specific teaching.

 

Separation of the three truths is the view of the three truths as separate and independent of one another. The truth of nonsubstantiality means that phenomena have no existence of their own; their true nature is non-substantial. The truth of temporary existence means that, although non-substantial in nature, all phenomena possess a temporary reality that is in constant flux. The truth of the Middle Way means that all phenomena are characterized by both nonsubstantiality and temporary existence, yet are in essence neither.

 

The unification of the three truths teaches that the truths of non-substantiality, temporary existence, and the Middle Way are inseparable aspects of all phenomena. T’ient’ai taught a form of meditation called the threefold contemplation in a single mind, aimed at grasping the unification of the three truths, eradicating the three categories of illusion, and acquiring the three kinds of wisdom (the wisdom of the two vehicles, the wisdom of bodhisattvas, and the Buddha wisdom), all at the same time.”[12]

From T’ien-t’ai’s Three Truths we finally arrive at Nichiren.  We have come to learn that he developed the practice of Myoho-renge-kyo based on both Nagarjuna’s and T’ien-t’ai’s teachings that arose from the Buddha’s original teaching of Dependent Origination. It’s expression in his practice can clearly be seen in the below excerpts from his writing On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime.

“What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend or words express. When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither color nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality.”[9]

 

“Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and ho, to its manifestations. Renge, which means lotus flower, is used to symbolize the wonder of this Law.”[9]

Conclusion

As we have seen, Dependent Origination is indeed a fundamental concept in Nichiren Buddhism that can be traced all the way back to Buddha himself. It is a doctrine that establishes an extremely important context for interpreting all of what Nichiren presents as his later philosophy and practice. We would even argue that without its comprehension it would be almost impossible to understand what Nichiren means in so many of his writings. Learning how it underlies his entire philosophy also gives us a critical vantage point for interpreting the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. From this, it becomes ever more clear that this is a practice that is used to perceive Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the Middle Way that is your life itself. The practice of chanting Myoho-renge-kyo then is a process of intuitively experiencing this truth (see Prajñā Appendix A) through mantra meditation (see Mantra Meditation Appendix B) and realizing Dependent Origination directly. In this way then, perhaps chanting becomes a tool for the realization of Dependent Origination that then empowers us to let go of the false views and attachments we cling to about ourselves and the world around us. For now, this seems like the most reasonable interpretation of Dependent Origination as an essential expression of Myoho-renge-kyo, which allows one to attain Buddhahood in this Lifetime. How else could we interpret the below passage from Nichiren?

“If you wish to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death you have endured since time without beginning and to attain without fail unsurpassed enlightenment in this lifetime, you must perceive the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings. This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth innate in all life.”[9]

Appendix A – Prajñā

Prajñā in Buddhism is wisdom, understanding, discernment, insight, or cognitive acuity. It is one of three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path. Such wisdom is understood to exist in the universal flux of being and can be intuitively experienced through meditation. In some sects of Buddhism, it is especially the wisdom that is based on the direct realization of such things as the four noble truths, impermanence, interdependent origination, non-self and emptiness. Prajñā is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions (kleśas) and bring about enlightenment.”[14]

Appendix B – Mantra Meditation

When a mantra is repeated mentally it’s called japa, which translates from the Sanskrit as “muttering.” Practicing mantra meditation can awaken within you a deeper spiritual awareness and allow you to make that awareness a part of your daily life.

A mantra, which is the repetition of a sound or prayer, is a primary part of the meditative tradition of yoga. The mantra works as an ‘instrument’ of the mind, focusing it, creating in it a space or stillness, which becomes the source of well-being, peace and unconditioned joy.

As you develop a regular mantra meditation practice you will begin to develop a deeper understanding of self, you will begin to peel back the layers of your mind as awareness of your desires, fears, hopes, aspirations; all of your submerged thoughts float to the surface. And with each meditation you witness your life as it unfolds and as it does a deeper spiritual awareness grows.

The mantra provides the mind with ‘something to do’ and keeps it from becoming distracted; it acts as a centering device creating a space for the everyday mind to rest in.”[15]

Sources

[1] Gosho Zenshu, p. 737
[2] Bhavacakra – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavacakra
[3] Nichiren and the Core of Mahayana Doctrine – SGI USA – http://www.sgi-usa.org/memberresources/resources/indiatoamerica/nichiren_mahayana.php
[4] “On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime,” in The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, 3–4. The three truths are non-substantiality, temporary existence, and the Middle Way. See Glossary in The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, 1279.
[5] Dharma – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma_(Buddhism)
[6] An Overview of Dependent Origination – http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/coarise1.htm
[7] Interconnectedness – SGI Buddhist Concepts – http://www.sgi.org/buddhism/buddhist-concepts/interconnectedness.html
[8] On Dependent Origination by Ryuei Michael McCormick – http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/Ryuei/depen-orig.html
[9] The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin On Attaining Buddhahood In This Lifetime – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=3&m=0&q=
[10] Śūnyatā – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81
[11] non-substantiality – The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=1574
[12] unification of the three truths – The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2533
[13] The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – On Attaining Buddhahood In This Lifetime – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=3&m=0&q=
[14] Wisdom in Buddhism – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prajna
[15] Meditation Benefits: Mantra Meditation for Spiritual Awakening
http://meditationbenefits.co/articles-on-meditation-benefits/meditation-technique-benefits/meditation-benefits-mantra-meditation-for-spiritual-awakening/
[16] Jacqueline I. Stone (1999). Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. A Kuroda Institute Book, University of Hawai’i Press. pp. 177-181. ISBN 0-8248-2771-6
[17] Tiantai – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiantai
[18] Williams, Paul. Mahāyāna Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations. 2008. p. 162
[19] Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicuspersian language translation to englishдеснянский районный судидеи оформления ванной комнатыкаркасные дома в красноярскепроблемы с щитовидной железой симптомы

March 19 / 2013

The Three Poisons: ignorance, greed and anger

In this post, we’ve turned towards the exploration of the Three Poisons – an aspect of Nichiren Buddhism that seemed self-evident at first, had it not been for reading this line within On Attaining Enlightenment in this Lifetime:

“Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death [Samsara] in the least unless you perceive the true nature of your life.”[17]

We wondered:  How does perceiving “the true nature of [our] life” free us from the “sufferings of birth and death”? In the previous post we came to realize that the “sufferings of birth and death” are known in the Buddhist tradition as Samsara, and through researching it, the Three Poisons came up as being critical.  Samsara is defined as follows:

Saṃsāra (Sanskrit, Pali; also samsara) is a Buddhist term that literally means “circle” or “wheel” and is commonly translated as “conditioned existence”, “cyclic existence”, “cycle of existence”, etc. Within Buddhism, samsara is defined as the continual repetitive cycle of birth and death that arises from ordinary beings’ grasping and fixating on a self and experiences. Specifically, samsara refers to the process of cycling through one rebirth after another within the six realms of existence,[a] where each realm can be understood as physical realm or a psychological state characterized by a particular type of suffering. Samsara arises out of avidya (ignorance) and is characterized by dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction). In the Buddhist view, liberation from samsara is possible by following the Buddhist path.[4]

As an aside, it turns out that these Poisons are the first of the Three Obstacles (see three obstacles and four devils).  Perhaps there is a reason for this, as they contribute to the Second and Third Obstacles which are related to Karma[19].  In any case, while it may be known that these poisons are The fundamental evils inherent in life that give rise to human suffering[20], we weren’t sure how they become manifest within our lives.  Obviously, Ignorance, greed and anger are negative traits that of course no one would wish to harbour.  But is resisting them enough to prevent their taking root in our lives? It became clear that this topic requires far more elucidation.

In the gosho The Two Kinds of Illness,[1] Nichiren Daishonin writes about two kinds of illness that can afflict a person: Physical illnesses of the body that can be treated by a physician with medicines[1] and the second being illness of the mind, which “only a Buddha can cure”.[1]  Nichiren goes on to explain that illness of the mind refers to the three poisons and the eighty-four thousand illnesses. While we already are familiar with the three poisons, the eighty-four thousand illnesses according to T’ien-t’ai’s Volume 1 of the [Great] Calming and Contemplation are:

“On the basis of the three poisons – greed, anger, and folly [ignorance] – we arouse the eighty-four thousand defilements. At the prompting of these various defilements, we perform a variety of actions. As a result of good actions, we experience the recompense of [birth in] the three good realms of heavenly beings, humans, and asuras, And as a result of evil actions, we invite the retribution of [birth] in the three evil realms of the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals.”[18]

It is beyond this post to go into detail regarding these 84 thousand illnesses.  But we will revisit these shortly in terms of another important aspect explored further on.  First, to better understand where the three poisons originally came from, let us turn to a concept that was briefly touched upon in our last post On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime. This was the concept of Samsara, or what Nichiren refers to as the “sufferings of birth and death”.[3]  The SGI Dictionary of Buddhism also refers to this as transmigration[22].

Symbols are essential for clear communication and comprehension in any area of knowledge, and a good one is hard to find.  We found one such tool out of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism, known as The Wheel of Samsara (Wheel of Life).  This wheel, although not mentioned in Nichiren Buddhism was designed by Sakyamuni himself [21], and depicts the Three Poisons (as well as the 6 lower worlds) thus we are excited to refer to it throughout this post.

Let us begin by looking at this beautifully depicted TIbetan visual below that depicts the human condition and the possibility to be liberated from the cyclical tendency of Samsara:

The Wheel of Samsara Image Source: Critical Rant via Google Images

Within the wheel one can see six spokes which represent the Six Realms of Existence. These realms are defined as the Hell realm, Hungry ghost realm, Animal realm, Human realm, Demi-god realm and God realm.[4] Does this sound familiar at all? Of course it does.  These are very similar to the Ten Worlds (Ten Dharma Realms) in Nichiren Buddhism, where “the six lower states are called ‘the six paths,’ and the four higher states ‘the four noble worlds’”.[5] The Ten Worlds in Nichiren Buddhism are defined as hell realm, hungry spirits realm, animal realm, asuras realm, human beings realm, heavenly beings realm, voice-hearers realm, cause-awakened ones realm, bodhisattvas realm, Buddha realm.[16]  Admittedly there are differences. The artwork depicts six realms and Nichiren Buddhism has ten realms. However, these distinctions might be less significant once one looks into the layers of meaning contained within the rest of this image.

By now you might be asking: how then does this then relate to the Three Poisons? Well, at the very centre hub we will see a pig, snake and bird consuming each other. These represent the Three Poisons of ignorance (pig), greed (rooster) and anger (snake). Please note that these Three Poisons are also known as ignorance, desire/attachment and aversion. The black and white ring around these represent Karma, where figures on the white side are  “ascending to higher realms of existence because of virtuous actions” and figures on the black side are “descending to lower realms of existence because of evil or ignorant actions”.[10]  The spokes outside of this represent the Six Realms of Existence as mentioned above.  Finally, one can see that outside the wheel altogether is the Buddha pointing to the moon, a symbol guiding us to Enlightenment.  When considering the ring of good and bad karma, the 84 Thousand Illnesses from T’ien-t’ai and Nichiren come back into play.  As written by T’ien-t’ai, “As a result of good actions, we experience the recompense of [birth in] the three good realms of heavenly beings, humans, and asuras, And as a result of evil actions, we invite the retribution of [birth] in the three evil realms of the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals.[18].  These illnesses are what are created out of the Three Poisons, and lead us into the higher or lower six realms.  However, as can be seen by the Tibeten Wheel – even in the higher of these realms, we remain trapped within the cycle of Samsara because we are still acting out of these three fundamental Poisons and not perceiving the true nature of our lives.  The result is that we are kept from awakening to our innate Buddhahood nonetheless.

Three Poison in The Wheel of Samsara Image Source: Critical Rant via Google Images

This process is described below in terms of Tibetan Buddhism.

“In the Buddhist teachings, the three poisons are the primary causes that keep sentient beings trapped in samsara. As shown in the wheel of life (Sanskrit: bhavacakra), the three poisons lead to the creation of karma, which leads to rebirth in the six realms of samsara. Of these three, ignorance is the root poison. From ignorance, attachment and aversion arise. [From ignorance, greed and anger arise]”[6]

When considering this in terms of Nichiren Buddhism, we can see that rebirth in the six realms of Samsara could be comparable to being trapped in the lower six of the ten worlds as identified in the footnotes in Nichiren’s gosho The Opening of the Eyes below.  Note again that Samsara is described as ‘transmigration’, where we interpret “rebirth” not as being reborn after we die, but as our life entering new moments of existence:

“Transmigration with differences and limitations” refers to the transmigration of unenlightened beings through the six paths. In this repeating cycle of rebirth through the six lower deluded worlds, living beings are born with limited spans of life and in different forms in accordance with their karma. “Transmigration with change and advance” refers to the transmigration of voice-hearers, cause-awakened ones, and bodhisattvas. In this transmigration, they change, or emancipate, from the body subject to transmigration of delusion with differences and limitations, while gradually removing illusions leading to sufferings.”[11]

The Fundamental Poison: Ignorance

We might often hear the third of the poisons as ‘foolishness’ or ‘stupidity’.  But is foolishness the same as stupidity?  Indeed, what about ‘ignorance’?  Despite their apparent similarities, the subtle semantic differences are significant enough to justify going with ‘ignorance’ for this post. We would also like to note that although some SGI sources label this poison as ‘foolishness’ they then clarify its meaning specifically as ‘ignorance': “Of the three, foolishness is most fundamental, as it facilitates greed and anger. Foolishness here means ignorance (passive or willful) of the true nature of life.[7] Commonly listed as the third of the three poisons, we’ve become aware that it certainly is not the least of them.  For this reason we are covering it first.

While we were interested to learn of the interdependent nature of the Three Poisons and how they feed off of one another, we were particularly intrigued that ignorance is the fundamental poison that both anger and greed arise from.  The following two passages, the first from the SGI website covering Buddhist concepts and the second from Ringu Tulku Rinpoche of the Tibetan tradition provide remarkable insight into how this poison can be interpreted:

From the SGI Buddhist Concepts website:

“Of the three, foolishness [ignorance] is most fundamental, as it facilitates greed and anger. Foolishness here means ignorance (passive or willful) of the true nature of life. It is blindness to the reality of our interrelatedness–not merely our connectedness to and dependence on each other, but the connectedness of the unfolding of each of our lives to the unfolding of the very life of the universe; the fact that each of us is a vital component of life itself and a nexus of immense possibilities. Because it obscures life’s true, enlightened nature, this ignorance is also referred to as ‘fundamental darkness.’”[7]

From Ringu Tulku Rinpoche:

In the Buddhist sense, ignorance is equivalent to the identification of a self as being separate from everything else. It consists of the belief that there is an “I” that is not part of anything else. On this basis we think, “I am one and unique. Everything else is not me. It is something different.”…

 

From this identification stems the dualistic view, since once there is an “I,” there are also “others.” Up to here is “me.” The rest is “they.” As soon as this split is made, it creates two opposite ways of reaction: “This is nice, I want it!” and “This is not nice, I do not want it!” …
On the one hand there are those things that seem to threaten or undermine us. Maybe they will harm us or take away our identity. They are a danger to our security. Due to this way of thinking, aversion comes up… Then on the other hand there are those things that are so nice. We think, “I want them. I want them so much…” Through this way of thinking…attachment arises.[6][8]

As we can see from above, ignorance is referring to the true nature of life and not simply ignorance in the general sense of the word. Again, this is reinforced by turning to the excerpt from Nichiren’s gosho On Attaining Enlightenment in this Lifetime that we quoted earlier. Here Nichiren clearly explains that we must perceive the true nature of [our] life, which is exactly what the poison of ignorance is preventing us from realizing.

“Your practice of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of the sufferings of birth and death [Samara] in the least unless you perceive the true nature of your life.”[17]

We can see this fundamental ignorance or “Fundamental Darkness” as what then gives rise to and facilitates anger and greed. From the first excerpt we see that this ignorance is not just not knowing things, but is specifically addressing “the identification of a self as being separate from everything else”.[6][8] This is also known as perceiving a dualistic view of reality. Therefore, ignorance can be understood as incorrectly perceiving the true nature of existence and continuing to act out of that delusion, which then leads us into the other two poisons.

The Poisons of Greed and Anger

As was explained above, acting out of the fundamental poison of ignorance then gives rise to the poison of greed and anger.  But how does this work? The key principle to understand here, is that ignorance gives rise to our perception of dualism. As soon as we perceive our life solely as a dualistic phenomena, then anger and greed arise to reinforce this view. We can see this stated again in Ringu Tulku Rinpoche’s excerpt below:

“From this identification stems the dualistic view, since once there is an “I,” there are also “others.” Up to here is “me.” The rest is “they.” As soon as this split is made, it creates two opposite ways of reaction: “This is nice, I want it!” and “This is not nice, I do not want it!” On the one hand there are those things that seem to threaten or undermine us. Maybe they will harm us or take away our identity. They are a danger to our security. Due to this way of thinking, aversion comes up… Then on the other hand there are those things that are so nice. We think, “I want them. I want them so much…” Through this way of thinking…attachment arises.”[6][8]

An easy way to comprehend this is to simply ask oneself whether space connects or separates things.  While it may not always be obvious, ‘space’ does in fact connect ‘things’, as they are only separated by language and provisional constructs. The problem however, is that in our daily life we tend to only accept one side of this dichotomy despite them both being two sides of the same coin.  This means that we are functioning out of and reinforcing a delusion about reality. Anger and greed then become ways in which we can reinforce and strengthen our belief in these false boundaries that we’ve created. This includes our idea that we are a separately existing “I” that exists in and of itself.

artwork Sky and Water I by M.C. Escher, Completion Date: 1938

As we can see then, it seems that both greed and anger (also known as aversion) are not only born out of ignorance of the our fundamental nature, but are then manifested to reinforce the continuation of this delusional perception. This of course can be seen in the depiction of the cyclical representation of the rooster, pig and snake feeding off of each other in the Tibetan artwork of The Wheel of Samsara. From these Three Poisons then, all our suffering, unhappiness and dissatisfaction arise. The catch in all of this – and what makes the cycle so difficult to break out of – is that as long as we act out of our fundamental ignorance, our attempts to find happiness in a dualistic way simply reinforce our greed and anger and perpetuate further suffering. We see then the necessity of finding a way to perceive and act out of a non-dual understanding of reality. This way we can finally free ourselves from the influence of ignorance and the ensuing 84 Thousand Illnesses of the Mind that keep us trapped within the Wheel of Samsara.

What then is the Antidote for these Three Poisons?

Well, according to Nichiren the antidote is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. But there is a caveat of course. It is not simply Nam-myoho-renge-kyo itself, but Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the manifestation of faith, study and practice combined. There is Faith in our Buddha Nature, or in other words faith “in the internal cause or potential for attaining Buddhahood”.[13] There is Practice by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (mantra meditation) to train the restless mind and embody the true nature of non-duality. Finally, there is Study as in the studying of the Lotus Sutra, Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, and in our opinion, anything that helps bring clarity to both of these sources and inform one’s practice.  Nichiren himself studied extensively and we believe we should as well.

From our research it has become clear that Nichiren intended Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to represent Ichinen Sanzen in actuality (ji no ichinen sanzen)[12], so by deepening our understanding of Ichinen sanzen in principle (ri no ichinen sanzen)[12] from T’ien-t’ai, we can further clarify what Nichiren intended Myoho-renge-kyo to represent (see posts on Ichinen Sanzen Part 1 and Part 2 and On Attaining Buddhahood in the Lifetime). From this realization, we can see that Ichinen Sanzen depicts a non-dual interpretation of reality that reveals a new paradigm through which to perceive our existence. When chanting is approached as a meditative practice to perceive Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (Ichinen Sanzen in actuality) as your life itself, it is in essence implying that chanting daimoku is a practice of realizing the oneness of self and environment or the non-dual reality that permeates everything.

“In the act of chanting the daimoku, Nichiren taught, as in more traditional forms of meditation, the subject/object barrier collapses, and the mind of the practitioner (single thought-moment) becomes one with the entire phenomenal world (three thousand realms). Chanting the title of the Lotus thus opens a point of access to nondual reality in which the ordinary person and the Dharma are identified, the eternal, timeless Buddha realm breaks through into the present moment, and the saga world of our empirical experience becomes the Buddha land. In speaking of this, Nichiren borrowed a phrase then current in both Tendai and Shingon Buddhism: the “attainment of Buddhood in this very body” (sokushin jobutsu).”[15]

As we grasp this true nature of reality, our fundamental ignorance of duality (Fundamental Darkness) loses its grip on our lives and so does our tendency to act out of this delusion. We no longer see ourselves as a separately existing entity, but rather as interconnected processes of a whole (see Dependent Origination). Our identity is no longer trapped and defended within the confines of our skin, group associations or nationality, but is more correctly understood as the non-dual manifestation of both cause and effect simultaneously ‘now’. Our identity is then comprehended as our relationship to everything else, which changes everything. Instead of acting out of ignorance, we instead begin to act out of wisdom, insight, and right understanding. This then opens us up to cultivating selflessness, generosity and detachment instead of greed, which then of course leads us to cultivating loving-kindness, compassion, patience, and forgiveness instead of anger. Nam-myoho-renge-kyo becomes not only the meditative tool to bring us into the non-dual present moment to experience the true nature of reality first hand.  It also serves as a catalyst to remind ourselves not to get “hooked” by life’s ups and downs (8 winds) or delusions of the mind, and instead to stay focused on realizing the truth of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as our life itself. As Nichiren himself writes,

“Suffer what there is to suffer, enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life, and continue chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. no matter what happens.”[14]

To close, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is not something that we use to rev ourselves up with by adding more layers of delusion to our lives and feeding into The Three Poisons; rather, it is the means of awakening to the true and fundamental Buddhahood that has been there all along.

Sources
[1] The Two Kinds of Illness – Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – SGI – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=919
[2] Three Poisons – Buddhism Teacher – http://buddhismteacher.com/three_poisons.php
[3] On Attaining Buddhahood In This Lifetime – Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – SGI – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=3
[4] Saṃsāra (Buddhism) – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sa%E1%B9%83s%C4%81ra_(Buddhism)
[5] How To Live as Humans: The Six Paths and the Four Noble Worlds – SGI USA – http://www.sgi-usa.org/memberresources/resources/buddhist_concepts/bc15_six_paths_four_noble_worlds.php
[6] Three poisons (Buddhism) – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_poisons_(Buddhism)
[7] Three Poisons – the Source of the Problem – SGI – http://www.sgi.org/buddhism/buddhist-concepts/three-poisons-the-source-of-the-problem.html
[8] Ringu Tulku (2005), p. 29
[9] Transforming the Three Poisons: Greed, Hatred, and Delusion –  http://www.naljorprisondharmaservice.org/pdf/ThreePoisons.htm
[10] The Tibetan Wheel of Life – Religion Facts – http://www.religionfacts.com/buddhism/symbols/wheel_of_life.htm
[11] Foot Note 21 – The Opening of the Eyes – SGI Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=291
[12] Bodily Reading of the Lotus Sutra: Understanding Nichiren’s Buddhism, Ruben L. F. Habito, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Vol. 26, No. 3/4, Revisiting Nichiren (Fall, 1999), pp. 281-306
[13] Buddha Nature – SGI Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=212
[14] Happiness in This World – The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – SGI – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=681
[15] Jacqueline Stone – Some Disputed Writings in the Nichiren Corpus: Textual, Hermeneutical and Historical Problems, P. 60
[16] Ten Worlds – SGI Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2282
[17] On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime – The Writing of Nichiren Daishonin – SGI – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=3
[18] The Contemplation of Suchness by Dr. Jacqueline I. Stone (Religions of Japan in Practice by George J. Tanabe, Jr., Editor – Princeton Readings in Religions)
[19] three obstacles and four devils – SGI Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2354
[20] three poisons – SGI Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2359
[21] Bhavacakra – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavacakra
[22] samsara – SGI Dictionary of Buddhism – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=1899дать рекламусоциальная льгота в украине 2015бесплатно раскрутить сайтстроительство каркасных домов в самарепродвижение по трафику стоимость

March 06 / 2013

On Attaining Buddhahood In This Lifetime

One of the key themes of the Lotus Sutra is that everyone has the potential to attain Buddhahood. This potential is also known as Buddha Nature.[6] From this revelation, Nichiren developed a mechanism to help us realize this innate capacity through the recitation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  As one of the three pillars of Nichiren Buddhism, this phrase is often associated with “practice,” along with the other two of pillars of “faith” and “study”.  It is easy however, to approach these three pillars as autonomous silos distinct from each other. Using the analogy of “pillars” it becomes obvious that their proper functioning and strength does not lie in their independence, but in their working together as a whole. With this being said, we would like to explore Nam-myoho-renge-kyo beyond an isolated pillar of “practice” – considering it instead as the unified manifestation of these three pillars.

On this note, we wondered how one is to approach Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to fulfill its purpose of attaining Buddhahood?  Where better to look than Nichiren’s gosho On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime[9] to see how Nichiren intended the three pillars to be a functioning as a whole. Faith soon clearly becomes the catalyst that underlies our entire journey, but that also challenges us to confront our own delusions. These delusions cause us to doubt our Buddha nature. It is the conviction of knowing that our Buddha Nature exists, that gives us the potential to awaken to our Buddhahood. Practice seems straightforward as well. It is chanting and applying Nichiren Buddhism to all aspects our life. Now the pillar of Study on the other hand, is something that is a little less obvious. It’s importance cannot be stressed enough when we consider how vulnerable the mind is to the influence and perils of the Three Obstacles and Four Devils (metaphors and a topic for another post), which can be seen as insistent delusions that prevent us from perceiving our lives correctly. Mara (devil king of the sixth heaven) has an endless supply of ways to obstruct Buddhist practice, and this is especially true to the uninformed practitioner (again, Mara or the devil king of the sixth heaven is a metaphor and not a real devil). Without deeper inquiry into such things as the nature of the Mystic Law, our practice can easily become distorted in so many ways. This is not to be confused with “intellectualizing”, but rather informing oneself to unify faith, study and practice to embody an immense wisdom when combined.

With this being said, what aspects of Nichiren’s teachings are essential to study?  Surely we can agree that Shakyamuni Buddha’s Lotus Sutra, along with practices that formed out of these teachings by Buddhist scholars such as T’ien-t’ai (Chih-i, 538-597), Dengyo (Saicho, 767-822) and of course Nichiren (1222-1282) were not for nothing. These scholars took the time and in some cases, risked their lives to write detailed and profound doctrines to help us realize for ourselves the truth that lies within the Lotus Sutra.  We hope their importance becomes evident through exploring Nichiren’s gosho On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime.

Without further ado, let’s begin. As we enter the first paragraph of this gosho, we almost  immediately encounter the below phrase that seems to suggest that all that is needed is to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. There is no mention of the three pillars being necessary at all.

“This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth innate in all life.”[9]

Out of context, this quote could easily suggest that chanting is all one needs to do. The reality however, is that it is written within a more encompassing statement:

“If you wish to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death you have endured since time without beginning and to attain without fail unsurpassed enlightenment in this lifetime, you must perceive the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings. This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth innate in all life.”[9]

Indeed, context is everything. Notice the two key points: “sufferings of birth and death” and “mystic truth”.  Firstly, what exactly does he mean by “sufferings of birth and death”?  Do we need to know? We would argue that understanding it is important to informing the entirety of this practice. To briefly explain, the “sufferings of birth and death” refer to the Buddhist concept of Samsara – or in other words the sufferings of transmigration in the six paths.[7][8] One can get a glimpse of the greater meaning below:

Samsara
Transmigration. The cycle of birth and death that ordinary people undergo in the world of illusion and suffering. In India, the theory of transmigration first appeared in Upanishad philosophy, before the rise of Buddhism, in the eighth or seventh century B.C.E. Buddhism holds that ordinary people undergo an endless cycle of birth and death within the threefold world (the worlds of desire, form, and formlessness) and among the six paths (the realms of hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings, and heavenly beings). This repeated cycle of birth and death in the realms of illusion and suffering is referred to as “transmigration in the six paths.”

 

The Buddhist concept of emancipation (Skt vimoksha ) means liberation from this repeated cycle of birth and death in the realms of illusion and suffering. Freeing oneself from transmigration in the six paths was considered the goal of Buddhist practice. The causes for such transmigration were regarded as ignorance of the true nature of life and selfish craving. Liberation from them required awakening to the truth and eliminating selfish craving, and was considered to lead to the attainment of nirvana, or emancipation.[13]

Mystic truth,” is another term that seems essential to understand from Nichiren’s passage. We’ve come to understand this as the truth of the Mystic Law or what Myoho-renge-kyo embodies.  In fact, Nichiren writes that our enlightenment is dependent upon perceiving “the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings.” If it is so critical to perceive this “mystic truth” in order to attain enlightenment, shouldn’t we seek to grasp its meaning?  Upon continued reading of this gosho one can see that Nichiren elaborates upon it,  hence implying its importance.  We will visit this further down, but first lets continue with the next important section of this gosho.

“The Lotus Sutra is the king of sutras, true and correct in both word and principle. Its words are the ultimate reality, and this reality is the Mystic Law (myoho). It is called the Mystic Law because it reveals the principle of the mutually inclusive relationship of a single moment of life and all phenomena. That is why this sutra is the wisdom of all Buddhas.

 

Life at each moment encompasses the body and mind and the self and environment of all sentient beings in the Ten Worlds as well as all insentient beings in the three thousand realms, including plants, sky, earth, and even the minutest particles of dust. Life at each moment permeates the entire realm of phenomena and is revealed in all phenomena. To be awakened to this principle is itself the mutually inclusive relationship of life at each moment and all phenomena.”[9]

After reading the above passage one might be left asking, ‘what the heck is Nichiren talking about?’ He speaks again of the Mystic Law, in addition to “the principle of the mutually inclusive relationship of a single moment of life and all phenomena”.  These are aspects of T’ien-t’ai’s philosophy of Ichinen Sanzen which have fundamental importance to Nichiren’s practice.  Let’s continue with the gosho…

“Nevertheless, even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo, if you think the Law is outside yourself, you are embracing not the Mystic Law but an inferior teaching. “Inferior teaching” means those other than this [Lotus] sutra, which are all expedient and provisional. No expedient or provisional teaching leads directly to enlightenment, and without the direct path to enlightenment you cannot attain Buddhahood, even if you practice lifetime after lifetime for countless kalpas. Attaining Buddhahood in this lifetime is then impossible. Therefore, when you chant myoho and recite renge, you must summon up deep faith that Myoho-renge-kyo is your life itself.”[9]

As the above passage suggests, there definitely is more to attaining Buddhahood than simply chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in and of itself. Nichiren himself writes above that “even though you chant and believe in Myoho-renge-kyo” if your chanting is not informed through understanding of the Mystic Law, then you are not practicing in accord with the Lotus Sutra’s intentions. He even goes as far as to state that if one practices for “countless kalpas” neglectful of this, it will be impossible to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime. So even though one chants and believes in Myoho-renge-kyo, it is still possible to practice incorrectly. Therefore, isn’t it in our best interest to understand what embracing the Mystic Law is all about? This is of course a rhetorical question, but the real question is what is the Mystic Law referring to?

Let us move forward in this gosho to read Nichiren’s explanation. In this, we will see T’ien-t’ai’s Ichinen Sanzen featured yet again.  It will also soon become clear that in order to grasp Nichiren’s concept of the Mystic Law, we must first comprehend further teachings from T’ien-t’ai.

“What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend or words express. When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither color nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality. Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and ho, to its manifestations. Renge, which means lotus flower, is used to symbolize the wonder of this Law. If we understand that our life at this moment is myo, then we will also understand that our life at other moments is the Mystic Law.4 This realization is the mystic kyo, or sutra. The Lotus Sutra is the king of sutras, the direct path to enlightenment, for it explains that the entity of our life, which manifests either good or evil at each moment, is in fact the entity of the Mystic Law.

 

If you chant myoho-renge-kyo with deep faith in this principle, you are certain to attain Buddhahood in this lifetime.”[9]

What Nichiren is describing above as the “Middle Way” is the The Three Truths or Threefold Contemplation that was developed by T’ien-t’ai.  This is partially covered in Part 2 on Ichinen Sanzen, but to further elucidate The Three Truths or Threefold Contemplation, we would like to quote T’ien-t’ai himself:

“Having discerned the nonsubstantial, contingent nature of all things, one recognizes their provisional existence as phenomena arising through dependent origination and is thus able to act in the world in a soteriologically effective way. This discernment reestablishes categories and distinctions, but without biased attachment or false essentializing; it is said to correspond to the wisdom of bodhisattvas of the separate teaching. Last is the “contemplation of the Middle Way that is the supreme meaning.” Here one contemplates phenomena as both empty and provisionally existing, discerning both aspects simultaneously. This is said to correspond to the wisdom of the Buddha and of the perfect teaching. This progression through the three contemplations of emptiness, conventional existence, and the middle described here is called the “sequential threefold contemplation” (tz’uti san-kuan, shidai sangan).”[12]

Reading both above passages, we can indeed see such a strong correlation between Nichiren and T’ien-T’ai.  To repeat Nichiren:

It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality. Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life, and ho, to its manifestations.[9]

We can see what he is in fact referring to is the Threefold Contemplation, where Myo is equivalent to Emptiness, Ho is equivalent to Conventional Existence and “mystic entity of the Middle Way [is] the ultimate reality”.  These are also known as the Three Truths of Emptiness, Provisional Existence and the Middle Way. This is not something that becomes obvious without digging deeper into the teachings of T’ien-t’ai.  When this is further researched, the meaning of the Mystic Law as Nichiren intended becomes clear. How then, would it be sufficient to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo while ignorant to this? Although we are just scratching the surface, it is hard to imagine that Nichiren would want us to overlook these core principles of his own practice.

With this being said, our aim would be incomplete without also comparing Nichiren’s practice to another aspect of T’ien-t’ai teachings, The Contemplation of Suchness (essentialy Ichinen Sanzen).  In our minds, its consideration is incredibly valuable in opening up a deeper understanding of the Daishonin’s intention.  If we read T’ien-t’ai’s passage below, it becomes quite evident that this must be from where Nichiren formed his concept of the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  Although the passage is a little long, it would do a disservice to paraphrase, hence is worth the read.

Excerpts from Volume 1 of the [Great] Calming and Contemplation:

Oneself and others are from the outset a single reality that is the principle of suchness, without the distinctions of hell-dwellers, animals [, etc.]. Nevertheless, once ignorance has arisen, within the principle that is without discrimination, we give rise to various discriminations. Thinking of suchness or the universe merely in terms of our individual self, we draw the distinctions of self and other, this and that, arousing the passions of the five aggregates [the physical and mental constituents of existence: forms, perceptions, conceptions, mental volitions, and consciousness] and six dusts [the objects of the senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought]. [Towards objects that accord with our wishes, we arouse the defilement that is greed;] toward objects that do not accord with our wishes, we arouse the defilement that is anger; and toward objects that we neither like nor dislike, we arouse the defilement that is folly. On the basis of the three poisons – greed, anger, and folly – we arouse the eighty-four thousand defilements. At the prompting of these various defilements, we perform a variety of actions. As a result of good actions, we experience the recompense of [birth in] the three good realms of heavenly beings, humans, and asuras, And as a result of evil actions, we invite the retribution of [birth] in the three evil realms of the hells, hungry ghosts, and animals.

 

In this way, [living] beings and [their insentient] environments of the six paths merge. While transmigrating through these six realms, we arbitrarily regard as self what is not really the self. Therefore, toward those who go against us, we arouse anger and we abuse and strike or even kill them; thus we cannot put an end to the round of birth and death. Or toward those who accord with us, we arouse a possessive love, forming mutual bonds of obligation and affection throughout lifetime after lifetime and age after age. In this case as well, there is no stopping of transmigration. In other words, transmigrating through the realm of birth and death is simply the result of not knowing that suchness is oneself, and thus of arbitrarily drawing distinctions between self and other, this and that. When one thinks, “Suchness is my own essence,” then there is nothing that is not oneself. How could oneself and others not be the same? And if [one realized that] self and others are not different, who would give rise to defilements and evil actions and continue the round of rebirth?

 

Thus, if while walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, or while performing any kind of action, you think, “I am suchness,” then that is realizing Buddhahood. What could be an obstruction [to such contemplation]? You should know that suchness is to be contemplated with respect to all things. Clergy or laity, male or female – all should contemplate in this way. When you provide for your wife, children, and retainers, or even deed oxen, horses, and the others of the six kinds of domestic animals [that is, horses, oxen, sheep, dogs, pigs and chickens], because the myriad things are all suchness, if you think that these others are precisely suchness, you have in effect made offerings to all Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three periods of time, as well as to all living beings, without a single exception. This is because nothing is outside the single principle of suchness. Because the myriad creatures such as ants and mole crickets are all suchness, even giving food to a single ant is praised as [encompassing] the merit of making offerings to all Buddhas of the ten directions.

 

Not only is this true of offerings made to others. Because we ourselves are also suchness [with each thought-moment being mutually identified with and inseparable from all phenomena], one’s own person includes all Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three time periods and is endowed with the hundred realms, thousand suchnesses, and three thousand realms, lacking none. Thus, when you yourself eat, if you carry out this contemplation, the merit of the perfection of giving at once fills the universe, and because one practice is equivalent to all practices, the single practice of the perfection of giving contains the other perfections. And because cause and effect are non-dual, all practices, which represent the casual stage, are simultaneously the myriad virtues of the stage of realization. Thus you are a bodhisattva of the highest stage, a Thus Come One of perfect enlightenment.

 

And not only are living beings suchness. Insentient beings such as grasses and trees are also suchness. Therefore, when one offers a single flower or lights one stick of incense to a single Buddha – because, “of every form and fragrance, there is none that is not the Middle Way” – that single flower or single stick of incense is precisely suchness and therefore pervades the universe. And because the single Buddha [to whom it is offered] is precisely suchness, that one Buddha is all Buddhas, and the countless Buddhas of the ten directions without exception all at once receive that offering… When one contemplates suchness with even a small offering, such as a single flower or stick of incense, one’s merit shall be thus great. How much mores, if one chants the Buddha’s name even once, or reads or copies a single phrase or verse of the sutra! [In so doing], the merit gained by thinking that each character is the principle of suchness [is so vast that it] cannot be explained in full.

 

In this way, because all living beings, both self and others, are suchness, they are precisely Buddhas. Because grasses and trees, tiles and pebbles, mountains and rivers, the great earth, the vast sea, and the empty sky are all suchness, there is none that is not Buddha. Looking up at the sky, the sky is Buddha. Looking down at the earth, the earth is Buddha. Turning toward the eastern quarter, the east is Buddha. And the same is true with the south, west, north, the four intermediate directions, up and down. [2]

To further underline how strongly Nichiren draws from T’ien-t’ai, let’s revisit an excerpt from above with one of Nichiren’s.

T’ien-t’ai writes:
Thus, if while walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, or while performing any kind of action, you think, “I am suchness,” then that is realizing Buddhahood.[2]

 

Nichiren writes:
“When outside the place of practice, you need not give preference to [any of the four postures] walking, standing, siting, or lying down. One’s constant practice should be chanting the daimoku, Namu-myoho-renge-kyo. [5]

As we have seen above in Nichiren’s gosho On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime and through T’ien-t’ai’s passages on the Threefold Contemplation and The Contemplation of Suchness, we can see how critical the pillar of study is to comprehending Nichiren’s message. It is not about intellectual accumulation.   Rather, when incorporated within one’s faith and practice, study becomes an essential catalyst to fully embody the wisdom of the Lotus Sutra (Nam-myoho-renge-kyo).  As Nichiren writes himself, “Without practice and study, there can be no Buddhism. You must not only persevere yourself; you must also teach others. Both practice and study arise from faith. Teach others to the best of your ability, even if it is only a single sentence or phrase.[1]

The message of the Lotus Sutra is that we all innately possess Buddhahood.  However, it is how we practice that makes all the difference in its awakening. While chanting serves as a form of mantra meditation (see Appendix A), when combined with Nichiren’s philosophy, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo becomes a tool for our Enlightenment.   This is a method that from the outside seems so simple that anyone can do it, but at a deeper level, is so profound that it can penetrate the true nature of reality itself when applied as intended. In this sense, chanting the daimoku of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo really serves a spectrum of needs as one matures in their practice. In its most basic form, it may be seen as a seed, which when first planted opens the heart towards Buddhahood.  At the same time, in its most encompassing application it can be seen as the mechanism that actually allows one to awaken to their innate Buddhahood.

To use an analogy, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo could be like an elegantly folded map that is available to everyone. Faith is believing that the map actually leads somewhere real – that is, our innate Buddhahood.  In order to realize this however, one must open the map and actually read the directions.  For this reason, although the message is so basic, it is easy to miss the point and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in and of itself.  For this reason, study combined with faith and practice are necessary in order to use this map; if one only chants then there is no way to navigate without getting lost.

With all this said, one can imagine the perils of oversimplifying their practice through focusing on chanting alone.  Yet this is often justified by referring to our time as The Latter Day of the Law- a time of such ignorance that only a simplistic approach can break through to communicate the message of the Lotus Sutra. We would argue however, that the apparent ease of Nichiren’s practice functions as a universal gateway for anyone to enter.  Upon doing so, the deeper meaning becomes increasingly clear through one’s progression.  As a spectrum practice that fulfills different needs on the way to awakening Buddhahood, Nichiren’s model is truly accessible to all, which is what the Lotus Sutra intended.

To close, it seems that Nichiren’s Buddhism must be supported by the three pillars working as a unified whole, as opposed to separate functioning entities. Although it is still unclear exactly what Nichiren implied by study, it’s importance is certain. With that being said, we know that his philosophy is formulated out of a number of sources owing to “his lifelong habit of turning to texts, rather than human teachers, for instruction and the resolution of doubts, an approach that he later equated with the Nirvana Sutra’s admonition to “rely on the Dharma and not upon persons.””[10]  In this regard, we hope this post will inspire practitioners to dig deeper into the Dharma. As the Lotus Sutra promises, we all have Buddhahood, but it is up to us to awaken it for ourselves.

Appendix A – Mantra Meditation
When a mantra is repeated mentally it’s called japa, which translates from the Sanskrit as “muttering.” Practicing mantra meditation can awaken within you a deeper spiritual awareness and allow you to make that awareness a part of your daily life.

A mantra, which is the repetition of a sound or prayer, is a primary part of the meditative tradition of yoga. The mantra works as an ‘instrument’ of the mind, focusing it, creating in it a space or stillness, which becomes the source of well-being, peace and unconditioned joy.

As you develop a regular mantra meditation practice you will begin to develop a deeper understanding of self, you will begin to peel back the layers of your mind as awareness of your desires, fears, hopes, aspirations; all of your submerged thoughts float to the surface. And with each meditation you witness your life as it unfolds and as it does a deeper spiritual awareness grows.

The mantra provides the mind with ‘something to do’ and keeps it from becoming distracted; it acts as a centering device creating a space for the everyday mind to rest in. One of my favorite analogies is music. In the same way that a beautiful piece of music can so engage the mind that you become part of the music, the mantra can so engage your mind that you slip in to pure awareness.[11]

Sources
[1] The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – THE TRUE ASPECT OF ALL PHENOMENA – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=386
[2] The Contemplation of Suchness by Dr. Jacqueline I. Stone (Religions of Japan in Practice by George J. Tanabe, Jr., Editor – Princeton Readings in Religions)
[3] Jacqueline I. Stone, Biographical Studies of Nichiren, pp. 443
[4] The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – Page 894 http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=894&m=0&q=
[5] Chanting the August Title of the Lotus Sutra: Daimoku Practices in Classical and Medieval Japan (Stone, Jacqueline I.)
[6] SGI Online Dictionary – Buddha nature – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=212
[7] SGI Online Dictionary – sea of the sufferings of birth and death – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=1924
[8] SGI Online Dictionary – Samsara – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=1899
[9] The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin On Attaining Buddhahood In This Lifetime – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=3&m=0&q=
[10] Jacqueline I. STONE, Biographical Studies of Nichiren, pp. 443
[11] Meditation Benefits: Mantra Meditation for Spiritual Awakening
http://meditationbenefits.co/articles-on-meditation-benefits/meditation-technique-benefits/meditation-benefits-mantra-meditation-for-spiritual-awakening/
[12] Jacqueline I. Stone (1999). Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. A Kuroda Institute Book, University of Hawai’i Press. pp. 177-181. ISBN 0-8248-2771-6
[13] SGI Online Dictionary – Samsara – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=1899korean to english translation serviceобразовательные туры в польшуспособы продвижения сайтов в интернетеканадский дом под ключ ценапрофилактика энтеробиоза

February 27 / 2013

“No Prayer Will Go Unanswered”

What is prayer in Buddhism?  And is it true that any of our prayers will be granted as might be implied by the title, a quote so familiar to many practitioners within Nichiren Buddhism? We have found it remarkable that prayer, while so central to the practice of Nichiren Buddhism is at the same time so vaguely understood and explained. To us it has appeared to be a very mysterious issue that has at times seemed almost to resist deeper contemplation. This may particularly apply in the case of frustrated members who seem not to be having their prayers answered.

It may surprise some that the quote itself is actually not from Nichiren Daishonin, but rather from Nichikan Shonin (1665-1726), the twenty-sixth high priest of the Taisekiji branch of the Fuji School of Nikko’s lineage, now known as Nichiren Shoshu.[1]  In its entirety it reads as: “The benevolence and power of the Gohonzon are boundless and limitless and the work is immeasurable and unfathomable. Therefore, if you take faith in this Gohonzon and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, even for a while, no prayer will go unanswered, no sin will remain un-forgiven, all good fortune will be bestowed, and all righteousness will be proven.”[1] Although these are not the Daishonin’s words, we outline below how Nichiren does write something somewhat similar, so it is still applicable in our minds. Hence, what exactly is the significance of this passage? What is prayer in Buddhism? Many practitioners that we have come across seem to interpret that by praying through chanting for whatever one desires, one will get whatever one prays for. At first glance such an interpretation is easy to form. Indeed, is a prayer being answered not the same as a prayer being fulfilled?  Perhaps there is more to be understood than at first may appear.

Nichiren himself in his gosho On Prayer writes that “Prayer that is based upon the Lotus Sutra is a prayer that is certain to be fulfilled.”[2] In the same gosho he refers to prayers from other sects that are not based on the Lotus Sutra as:  “such prayers do not simply go unanswered; they actually bring about misfortune.”[2] From this we can see that Nichikan and Nichiren are both trying to say something specific about prayer and that it is not simply wishing for something and getting it, but something far more profound. To interpret prayer as a “genie in a bottle” or a “wish granting device” is not only a limited perspective, but as Nichiren says of incorrect prayer, it will actually bring about misfortune.

How does this all work?  What then is the purpose of prayer in Nichiren Buddhism if it is not to fulfill one’s wishes?  What is meant by basing these prayers on the Lotus Sutra? Furthermore, what can truly be meant by “earthly desires are enlightenment”?

It is our current view that one must understand what is meant by prayer in Buddhism, the Gohonzon, faith and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo within the practice of Nichiren Buddhism to correctly understand what is meant by prayer.  Questions such as these certainly bring attention to why study is one of the three pillars of Nichiren’s practice, an aspect without which one may easily fall into superstitious “magical thinking.” We will be looking at themes presented in the Lotus Sutra to clarify what prayer based on the Lotus Sutra might be suggesting.  In this way we hope to reveal that prayer is actually a way of turning inwards to realize our own dormant Buddha Nature; a letting go of our own limited views/delusions and openly embracing the true nature of reality, which in turn empowers us to then bring about the change in our lives we truly wish to realize.  Moreover, without going into ichinen sanzen specifically, we will be able to see how this aspect is reflected in prayer as well (read more on ichinen sanzen here).

We will begin by quoting former SGI-USA General Director Greg Martin from his lecture On Prayer.

“Prayer in Buddhism is significantly different from the prayer that many of us were familiar with in our upbringing. If we don’t understand the difference, then there will be a tendency in us to continue to pray as though we are trying to communicate with some external power. This would be taking on only the superficial aspects of a Buddha, while remaining attached to previous ways of thinking…

 

In Buddhism, the “source” or the “power” is within us. A Buddhist prayer is inner-directed. We are seeking assistance from our own Buddha nature within. In Buddhism, human beings are inherently worthy and good. We possess the Buddha nature. Buddhist prayers are then filled with a sense of responsibility and appreciation….

 

Our prayer should be that we are going to try to gather lotuses in the muddy swamp of our own life. Chanting daimoku to the Gohonzon is intended to open our eyes to see that lotus blossom. It is extremely difficult for us to perceive what is at the depths of our lives. The Daishonin created a prayer for us to open our eyes and see revealed, the treasure that we possess.

 

If you are chanting in front of the Gohonzon and searching for some power out there to come to you and bring you a miracle, you are looking in the wrong place. Our Buddha nature is in the deep dark storehouse of our lives. It is not easy to find. We tend to look for our Buddha nature in the areas in our lives where we can see easily. Within our lives lie not only the cause of our suffering, but also the solution to all of our problems.

 

If you pray with an outwardly-directed prayer, your prayers will not be answered. Nothing will happen…

 

The intent of our prayer in Buddhism is to transform illusion into wisdom. Wisdom is the greatest benefit of our Buddhist practice. Our society tends to promote the view that the purpose of life is to collect as much material possession as possible. Buddhism says that this is not the purpose of life.”[3]

From what Martin is describing, it is important that we understand what Buddhist prayer is to fully apply it to our practice.  A buddhist resource describes this quite clearly:

“Buddhist prayer is a practice to awaken our inherent inner capacities of strength, compassion and wisdom rather than to petition external forces based on fear, idolizing, and worldly and/or heavenly gain. Buddhist prayer is a form of meditation; it is a practice of inner reconditioning. Buddhist prayer replaces the negative with the virtuous and points us to the blessings of Life…

 

For Buddhists, prayer expresses an aspiration to pull something into one’s life, like some new energy or purifying influence and share it with all beings. Likewise, prayer inspires our hearts towards wisdom and compassion for others and ourselves. It allows us to turn our hearts and minds to the beneficial, rousing our thoughts and actions towards Awakening. If we believe in something enough, it will take hold of us. In other words, believing in it, we will become what we believe. Our ability to be touched like this is evidence of the working of Great Compassion within us.”[5]

Prayer that is based upon the Lotus Sutra

Following above quoted passage, we now turn to the Lotus Sutra to try understand what Nichiren was saying when he wrote, “Prayer that is based upon the Lotus Sutra is a prayer that is certain to be fulfilled.”[2] If we follow Buddhist prayer based on the context that is explained above, then prayer based upon the Lotus Sutra would be about recognizing the message of the Lotus Sutra within us and opening our hearts and minds to these truths. By recognizing these truths within us, we recognize our own and everyone else’s inherent Buddha Nature. Therefore, to pray based upon the Lotus Sutra is to recognize the message of the Lotus Sutra in all things. To highlight a few of the overarching themes in the Lotus Sutra, I will be referencing journalist and Buddhist practitioner Barbara O’Brien below. Also, besides the themes outlined below it is essential to explore the concept of Ichinen Sanzen to fully understand the message of the Lotus Sutra. You can read more on Ichinen Sanzen here.

All Vehicles are One Vehicle

In early passages the Buddha tells the assembly that his earlier teachings were provisional. People were not ready for his highest teaching, he said, and had to be brought to enlightenment by expedient means. But the Lotus represents the final, highest teaching, and supersedes all other teaching.

In particular, the Buddha addressed the doctrine of triyana, or “three vehicles” to nirvana. Very simply, the triyana describes people who realize enlightenment by hearing the Buddha’s sermons, people who realize enlightenment for themselves through their own effort, and the path of the bodhisattva. But the Lotus Sutra says that the three vehicles are one vehicle, the buddha vehicle, through which all beings become buddhas.

All Beings May Become Buddhas

A theme expressed throughout the sutra is that all beings may attain buddhahood and attain Nirvana. A significant point is that in the dialogues the Buddha promises several women that they will attain buddhahood without having to be reborn as men.

The Buddha is presented in the Lotus Sutra as dharmakaya — the unity of all things and beings, unmanifested, beyond existence or nonexistence, unbound by time and space. Because the dharmakaya is all beings, all beings have the potential to awaken to their true nature and attain buddhahood.

The Importance of Faith and Devotion

Buddhahood may not be attained through intellect alone. Indeed, the Mahayana view is that the absolute teaching cannot be expressed in words or understood by ordinary cognition. The Lotus Sutra stresses the importance of faith and devotion as means to realization of enlightenment. Among other significant points, the stress on faith and devotion makes buddhahood more accessible to laypeople, who do not spend their lives in ascetic monastic practice.[4]

The Gohonzon and Nam-myoho-renge-kyo

What does all of this mean in relation to the Gohonzon? We have come to know the Gohonzon as the inscription that Nichiren left as the object of devotion for chanting/prayer, but the scroll itself is not what is really important. What is important about the Gohonzon is what it symbolically represents and how it is used as a mandala to focus one’s awareness while chanting.

The Gohonzon has multiple layers of meaning, but fundamentally speaking it represents the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or in other words, the law expressed through the Lotus Sutra. When chanting Nam myoho renge kyo with the Gohonzon you are in fact attempting to become one with what the Gohonzon represents, which is in fact becoming one with what you already are and always have been – an unrealized Buddha. The act of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with deep undistracted focus brings us into the non-dual present moment so that we can realize the simultaneity of all that exists, or in other words the oneness of everything (ichinen sanzen/3000 realms in a single thought) or the non-dual reality that permeates everything and that everything is contained within. Below is a brief explanation from the SGI Online Dictionary on the Gohonzon.

“The word go is an honorific prefix, and honzon means object of fundamental respect or devotion. In Nichiren’s (1222-1282) teaching, the object of devotion has two aspects: the object of devotion in terms of the Law and the object of devotion in terms of the Person. These may be described as follows: (1) The object of devotion in terms of the Law: Nichiren’s mandala that embodies the eternal and intrinsic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. That Law is the source of all Buddhas and the seed of Buddhahood for all people. In other words, Nichiren identified Nam-myoho-renge-kyo as the ultimate Law permeating life and the universe, and embodied it in the form of a mandala.

 

The oneness of the Person and the Law: This means that the object of devotion in terms of the Person and the object of devotion in terms of the Law are one in their essence. The Law is inseparable from the Person, and vice versa. The object of devotion in terms of the Law is the physical embodiment, as a mandala (the Gohonzon), of the eternal and intrinsic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.”[6]

To better understand Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, below is an excerpt from the Laurel District SGI district study on the Lotus Sutra that explains it in detail. We were so happy to find this document as this is exactly the type study that really helps clarify such topics and are essential to a deeper growth within one’s practice.

“The Lotus Sutra reveals that the universe and the individual self are one and the same; that is, that our life is itself the macrocosm. Although a theoretical understanding of this doctrine is not difficult, we cannot accept it as a reality until we can actually feel our own being fused with the great universe as its energy pulses within our life. This becomes possible only when we fuse with the Law – Nam-myoho-renge-kyo — by practicing to the Gohonzon.

 

Namu of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo means more than mere devotion in the conventional sense. In his commentary on the Lotus Sutra called the “Ongi Kuden” (Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings), Nichiren Daishonin explains that namu signifies a simultaneous two-way interaction: We devote ourselves to, or become one with, the universal, unchanging truth of Myoho-renge-kyo, and at the same time draw forth infinite wisdom and energy which function in response to our changing circumstances. Faith and practice constitute the actual means by which this interaction occurs. Buddhism could not survive if it were merely a matter of doctrine or ideology. It would be like a blueprint for a house, theory without actuality. The Lotus Sutra explains the true entity of life clearly enough, but what it teaches becomes vivid and real only with the final stroke — Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.

 

Myo (mystic) signifies “incomprehensible,” and ho means “Law.” Thus myoho means the “Mystic Law” which is the incomprehensible realm of life, beyond our ability to imagine or conceive. From another viewpoint, myo, meaning “incomprehensible,” indicates the true entity of life, and ho, all phenomena, which are its manifestations. In terms of the principle of ichinen sanzen, the three thousand changing aspects correspond to ho and the unchanging reality (ichinen) permeating these changing aspects is myo. All existences, at one time or another, assume physical shape, size and vital energy and, at other times, assume an incorporeal state (called ku in Buddhism). Phenomena (ho) are changeable, but pervading all phenomena there lies a constant reality. This reality is called myo.

 

Renge means lotus flower. In Buddhism the lotus is used to symbolize the simultaneous nature of causality, because the lotus produces both flowers and seeds at the same time. In Buddhism the nine worlds correspond to “cause,” and Buddhahood, to “effect.” Both simultaneously exist within us. Moreover, from the standpoint of faith and practice, when we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo (cause), the state of Buddhahood simultaneously emerges (effect). This is represented by the lotus flower.

 

Our ordinary perception leads us to believe that first we perform an action, and later we may receive its effect. But the Buddhist teaching reveals that this future effect is already inherent within the act itself. The important implication here is that our future is being shaped by our present actions. Thus, everyone is responsible for his or her own destiny. At present we may be suffering the effects of bad karma we created in the past, but because the innermost depth of our life-the Buddha nature-remains independent of the karma accumulated by past deeds, we can create true happiness under any circumstances, if only we manifest the Buddha nature. This truth is represented by another quality of the lotus flower. The pure blossoms spring forth from a muddy swamp, yet they are undefiled by the mud. Similarly, the innermost core of our lives remains untainted despite whatever evil deeds we may have committed, and by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can at once bring forth our potential Buddhahood, no matter what our circumstances may he. Thus, renge also signifies the emergence of Buddhahood.

 

Finally, kyo means sutra, or the teachings of a Buddha. The Chinese character for kyo originally meant a warp of cloth, and later came to have the additional meanings of thread of logic, reason, way or law. It was therefore also used in tile sense of a teaching to he preserved. Kyo of Myoho-renge-kyo indicates that Myoho-renge-kyo is itself tile eternal and unchanging truth.” [14]

To bring this back to prayer, our prayer then becomes a form of meditation to realize experientially (not theoretically) our oneness with the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or our oneness with the Gohonzon through chanting (daimoku). That is, it is to realize our inherent Buddha Nature. Jacqueline Stone describes this process in her dissertation.

“In the act of chanting the daimoku, Nichiren taught, as in more traditional forms of meditation, the subject/object barrier collapses, and the mind of the practitioner (single thought-moment) becomes one with the entire phenomenal world (three thousand realms). Chanting the title of the Lotus thus opens a point of access to nondual reality in which the ordinary person and the Dharma are identified, the eternal, timeless Buddha realm breaks through into the present moment, and the saga world of our empirical experience becomes the Buddha land. In speaking of this, Nichiren borrowed a phrase then current in both Tendai and Shingon Buddhism: the “attainment of Buddhood in this very body” (sokushin jobutsu).”[7]

Through chanting, Nichiren is in essence telling us that we will come to realize the fundamental truth of the Lotus Sutra within, which is the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or the realization of our own Buddha Nature. Everything we perceive in life becomes an expression of whether we understand the truth of embodying Nam-myoho-renge-kyo or not. This can be further understood through the concept of the Nine Consciousnesses, the Ten Worlds and a larger understanding of Ichinen Sanzen as a whole. The Nalanda University Buddhist Encyclopedia expands on some of this in relation to the Nine Consciousnesses below.

“Buddhism teaches that there is a ninth consciousness which Nichiren Daishonin identified as the Buddha nature, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is the basis of all life’s functions and is known as the ‘amala’ or ‘fundamentally pure’ consciousness, shared at the most profound level with all life. As we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, so life force comes from the ninth consciousness, purifying the internal causes and effects that lie in the eighth, and improving the way our sixth and seventh consciousnesses function. We start to create new causes in the eighth consciousness, based not on the tendencies that we have developed after making many different causes, but on the life state of the Buddha, and therefore filled with courage, compassion and wisdom. Another benefit of this process is that we start to see our lives with the eyes of the Buddha, enabling us to see our karma in its true light. As we see it, so it becomes easier to challenge it and change it.”[8]

Understanding Faith

The word faith, like prayer, needs to be properly understood outside of its Western context/interpretation to understand its intended meaning in Buddhism. Faith is a translation of the original word “Shraddha (Sanskrit)” or “Saddha (Pali)” and does not mean belief without a real basis.

“Shraddha means something closer to “trust” or “conviction.” It most commonly refers to the conviction that develops from one’s own direct experience and practice. It can also mean confidence or trust in oneself and one’s practice. In the Saddha Sutta of the Pali Canon, the Buddha compared trust in the dharma to the way birds “trust” a tree in which they build their nests.”[9]

To further explain the important difference, see the below Faith and conviction – same difference? by Andrew Horder.

“Faith is a belief that has no absolute basis in observable fact – for example “There is a god”. It may be supported by observed facts that can seemingly only be explained in the light of the belief, but nonetheless the belief itself is not a result of the facts. Indeed, in my interpretation, if it could be generated purely from the facts, it’s not really faith – it’s conviction. Faith requires NOT knowing for sure, in an empirical way, that something is true.

 

Conviction, on the other hand, requires the exact opposite. It’s the normalization of the passive voice of the verb “to convinced”; that is, it means the state of being convinced. And in order to be convinced of something, there have to be observed (or at least acknowledged) facts from which the conviction has been derived. It doesn’t matter whether one’s interpretation of the facts is accurate, or accepted by other people – that’s not the point, what matters is that the belief has come from facts that are believed to lead to it.” [10]

In this sense then, faith within Nichiren Buddhism is about developing conviction in the practice through one’s own direct experience of the practice and not based on “blind faith.”

Earthly Desires Are Enlightenment

Another term that needs to be clearly explained in relation to prayer is “earthly desires are enlightenment.” This term is commonly mistaken to mean that we will somehow literally obtain the objects of our desires that we pray/chant for and this will lead to enlightenment, which is far from what the term is referring to. This will also allow a further understanding of the distinction between “having our prayers answered” and “having them fulfilled,” in reference to Nichikan’s quote. The term “Earthly Desires” comes from the translation of the Sanskrit word “klesha,”[11] which is defined below.

Kleshas (Sanskrit, also kleśa; Pali: kilesa; Tibetan: nyon mongs), in Buddhism, are mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions.[12]

These can include, but are not limited to:

greed (lobha)
hate (dosa)
delusion (moha)
conceit (māna)
wrong views (micchādiṭṭhi)
doubt (vicikicchā)
torpor (thīnaṃ)
restlessness (uddhaccaṃ)
shamelessness (ahirikaṃ)
recklessness (anottappaṃ)[7]
Attachment (raga)
Anger (pratigha)
Ignorance (avidya)
Pride/Conceit (māna)
Doubt (vicikitsa)
Wrong view/False view/Opinionatedness [12]

As you can see “Earthly Desires” are not desires in the general sense of the word, but refer to something very specific. If we then look to Nichiren in regards to Earthly Desires are Enlightenment, perhaps what he is suggesting is that through these ‘mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions’ that we become enlightened. Perhaps this is suggesting that chanting/praying for things and getting them is not what is meant by ‘earthly desires are Enlightenment’ as is commonly misunderstood, but rather through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and observing our ‘earthly desires’ as they rise and fall within our mind, we just observe these ‘earthly desires’ and not become attached to them.  In other words, by not empowering the mental states that cloud the mind by identifying with them, we gain deep insight  on ourselves and in doing so, free ourselves from the suffering they once caused within our lives. These “earthly desires” or ‘mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions’, are what prevent us from realizing our innate latent Buddha Nature.  In reference to Nichikan’s quote at the beginning of this post, our prayers get answered by the wisdom we gain from understanding the root of the desire contained in the prayer. In this way, it is not about having the prayer fulfilled, but rather seeing the prayer for what it is and gaining great insight into the prayer.

Conclusion

As we have seen, prayer in Buddhism is extremely different from what may be commonly understood as prayer in the West.  Prayer in Buddhism is about turning inwards to realize our own fundamental nature, which then transforms our relationship with everything else. This change comes about by becoming aware of the illusions we once understood as reality, granting us insight about the true nature of “self” and existence. It is about recognizing the source of our desires (the root of our delusions) that gives us a deeper understanding of our nature, and in the process end the sufferings these delusions bring about.  By developing a strong conviction (faith) in what the Lotus Sutra reveals through one’s direct practice and experience, we learn to become one with the Gohonzon and embody the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or in other words, embody the truth expressed through the Lotus Sutra of our inherent Buddha Nature and everything that means.

To close, I would like to leave you with an excerpt from The Buddha in Daily Life by the late Richard Causton.

“Buddhism explicitly denies the existence of a force external to human life. As Nichiren Daishonin states in On Attaining Buddhahood, one of his most famous writings:

 

You must never seek any of Shakyamuni’s teachings or the Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the universe outside yourself. Your mastery of the Buddhist teachings will not relieve you of mortal suffering in the least unless you perceive the nature of your own life. If you seek enlightenment outside yourself, any discipline or good deed will be meaningless. For example, a poor man cannot earn a penny just by counting his neighbour’s wealth, even if does so night and day.

 

The implication of this denial is that, ultimately, human beings are totally responsible for their own destinies…

 

In Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism, prayer takes the form of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, which reveals one’s inherent Buddhahood, the highest state of one’s life. In other words, rather than asking for help from without, whilst chanting you summon up the courage and wisdom from within your own life in order to confront and overcome any problem you may be facing. In addition to this, by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo you reveal the Law in your own life, thereby putting yourself in harmony, or rhythm, with the universal Law.”[13]


Sources:
[1] Nichikan Shonin http://www.geocities.ws/chris_holte/Buddhism/IssuesInBuddhism/nichikan.html
[2] On Prayer – The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin – http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=336
[3] On Prayer – SGI-USA General Director Greg Martin – http://www.angelfire.com/alt2/mountvernon_ywd/study/On_Prayer.html
[4] Barbara O’Brien – About.com – The Lotus Sutra: An Overview http://buddhism.about.com/od/mahayanasutras/a/lotussutra.htm
[5] Buddhist Prayer – Purpose of Prayer in Buddhism http://buddhistfaith.tripod.com/buddhistprayer/id5.html
[6] SGI Online Dicationary – Gohonzon – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=890
[7] Jacqueline Stone – Some Disputed Writings in the Nichiren Corpus: Textual, Hermeneutical and Historical Problems, P. 60 Link
[8] The Nalanda University Buddhist Encyclopedia – http://www.nalanda-university.com/buddhist-ayurveda-encylopedia/eight_consciousnesses_vijnana_skandha_aggregate.htm
[9] Barbara O’Brien – About.com – Saddha, Shraddha – http://buddhism.about.com/od/buddhismglossarys/g/Saddha-Shraddha.htm
[10] Faith and conviction – same difference? – by Andrew Horder http://www.sunzu.com/articles/faith-and-conviction-same-difference-146031/
[11] SGI Online Dicationary – Earthly Desires – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=494
[12] Klesha – Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kleshas_(Buddhism)
[13] The Buddha in Daily Life – Richard Causton, P. 27-28, Random House, 2011, ISBN 1446489191, 9781446489192
[14] An Outline of the Lotus Sutra- (Source Lectures on the Sutra: The Hoben and Juryo Chapters) – http://laureldistrictstudy.homestead.com/files/Lotus_Sutra_Outline.pdf
полотенцесушитель электрический италиячугунная посуда купить москвапродвижение сайта гостиницы в интернетеполарсипсколько стоит создать сайт визитка в москве

February 16 / 2013

Ichinen Sanzen Part 2: Exploring the Doctrine as a Profound Cognitive System

Part 1 | Part 2

Initially this post aimed to explain ichinen sanzen by breaking it down into its component parts.  However, I came across an incredible article entitled The Ichinen Sanzen System – A contribution to a theory of cognition by Rita Voss that presents this doctrine in a far more holistic, comprehensive and living manner than I would have done.[1]  As such, I highly recommend anyone to read her article for themselves, particularly the section called, The cognitive system of Ichinen Sanzen: two but not-two which could easily be presented on its own as a great overview of ichinen sanzen.  For the purpose of this post however, I will be framing her article as well as other sources in terms of my initial question of What is ichinen sanzen and how does it inform the practice of Nichiren Buddhism?  I will point out that this post will be longer than what subsequent posts intend to be.  There is just so much to cover at this initial stage.  As well, please keep in mind that this series is purely a reflection of my ongoing learning process, and in no way intends to present itself as a conclusive authority.  I continue to welcome all and any feedback, insights and suggestions.  Thank you for joining me in this fascinating exploration!

To begin, I will briefly summarize the first part of Voss’s article and contextualize it within the scope of my question.  I hope I do justice to summarizing the first part of her fabulous article and presenting the second half on Ichinen Sanzen.

From my perspective, Voss suggests a hybrid model for explaining human cognition based on the Buddhist tradition of Ichinen Sanzen and theories of complexity.  In this light, she proposes an interpretation of Buddhism ‘as a means of self-improvement rather than a religion or a philosophy.’[1] She argues that the Buddhist Mahayana system of Ichinen Sanzen holds an integrated view of life that reveals the interrelated aspects of mind/experience and human/environment.  Moreover, she writes how such an understanding of ichinen sanzen can provide us with a fuller comprehension of human cognition.  In her own words she explains:

the Buddhist way of understanding life does not mean that if we commit errors we are condemned to a dire fate. On the contrary, as [people have] to live by action, errors and illusions are necessary parts of being able to understand our own nature, so that we may face up to and confront our own limitations, thereby acquiring the freedom to decide and determine the correct path. In this sense, Buddhism always has recognized the operative value of error and illusion, which arise from the poison of personal attachments, but in a relative way. If on one hand they prevent humans from seeing life’s events in their true light, on the other hand they can also be seen as valuable instruments for [humans to understand themselves, their] nature and uniqueness; they are means to achieve enlightenment or understanding. Ignorance and wisdom are both related to human desires and are two sides of the same coin, of the attachments of desires that turn into errors and illusions. That is, they act into our subjective world and like a mirror are reflected in environment. They are as noises to human cognition, restructuring the subjective world and becoming agents to higher levels of cognitive complexity.[1]

For this post, I will be bypassing the first half of her article and focusing on the section called, The cognitive system of Ichinen Sanzen: two but not-two. Voss begins by explaining that:

“the sutra [Lotus Sutra] [reminds us of ] an image of a flower growing in the mud. The muddier its soil is, the more pure and beautiful the flower will be. For the Buddhist, the mud represents our humanity, which is limited by the sufferings of life and dominated by worldly desires. In this view, suffering is an integral part of life. There is nothing we can do to avoid it.”[1]

To me, this beautiful analogy is about turning poison into medicine; it is through our world of suffering and domination by worldly desires that our enlightenment will be realized.  I am especially coming to see how this has great implications in understanding Nichiren’s practice.   By representing us as beings in the midst of such suffering and desires, the Lotus flower reveals how we can tap into this ‘mud’ and use it as the very fuel necessary for our transformation.  In other words, I believe that the practice enables us to understand our suffering and desires, and in this way come to true self-knowledge.  Hence it is not necessarily by fulfilling our desires in-and-of-themselves that this greater transformation comes about.

Secondly, she uses the lotus flower’s anatomy to symbolize the inseparability and simultaneity of cause/effect, subject/object and human/environment. This analogy stems from the fact that the lotus flower blossoms and produces seeds simultaneously, which is extremely unique for a plant to do. This helps to reveal the non-dual reality that the sutra represents on a whole. She explains:

“The flower is a metaphor used to teach something which is difficult to grasp, namely the simultaneity of cause and effect. To the Buddhist mind, actions are like seeds which represent causes. But in the act which originates the cause there is also, latent, the effect.”[1]

Another author Haiyan S Hen writes in his paper Objects as Truth are Subtle: Chih’s Theory of Truth:

“Cause must contain effect, for without effect, cause cannot sustain itself; and effect must contain cause, for without cause, effect is not possible. In this sense, cause and effect are identical to each other sharing the same reality. Likewise, the relative and the ultimate participate in the same reality as the Ultimate Truth, forming a harmonious whole.”[7]

Voss goes on to explain how in the Great Concentration and Insight, Chih-i formulated Ichinen Sanzen around the phrase “the true aspect of all phenomena” of the Lotus Sutra, in the second chapter. This chapter held great meaning because in it Sakyamuni set forth the teaching “that there is no difference between an ordinary human and a Buddha.[1] What this teaching is suggesting is that within every human exists a latent state of enlightenment or the state of Buddha.[1]  This is an incredibly profound idea because it leads directly to realizing that,

“no Buddha can exist who is not human, nor any human who is not Buddha. For this reason, human desires are vehicles towards enlightenment, as necessary as wood is for the fire. Desires, when taken as the end of existence, according to the teaching, show the innate darkness of life. Thus, controlled by impulses that propel him towards evil, man manifests various forms of destruction and unhappiness. As the environment in which man lives is directly influenced by his presence in the world, so the effects of those principles which guide his action become visible. Spiritual poverty shows itself in a degraded natural and social environment. But if these are seen as the roots of evil, man may redirect this tendency towards higher levels of knowledge and self-knowledge.”[1]

Ten Worlds (Ten Dharma Realms)

This leads us directly to the theory of the Ten Worlds where all of reality/human experience is simultaneously endowed within each world in every moment. I’ve come to interpret the Ten Worlds as a psychological model that can be used to better understand our impulses, desires, intentions and life states, which can then be used to redirect our lower states towards higher ones, or in other words, our more relative understanding towards a more ultimate and encompassing understanding. Through the daily practice of meditation in Chih-i’s approach or the practice of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (Ichinen Sanzen in actuality- (ji no ichinen sanzen)) in Nichiren’s approach. Both hold the potential to enable us to enter a state of consciousness to observe the mind and recognize the Ten Worlds within all aspects of our life.

The Ten Worlds include, Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity or Tranquility, Heaven or Rapture, Learning, Realization, Bodhissattva and Buddha.[1] Although each of us may be dominated by a tendency towards one or more of these states, all others are latently present.  As such, all ten coexist and can manifest from a number of causes (internal/external) at any moment.  This is what is referred to as the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.  The Ten Worlds are also subgrouped into the four evil ways, the six ways and the four noble ways. These I have come to understand as groupings of the different life states of the Ten Worlds. That is to say, that one’s dominant life state, be it within the four evil ways, the six ways or the four noble ways will generally manifest a reality associated with the worlds they contain. For further clarification on the subgroupings, see the SGI Online Dictionary.

JeeLoo Liu in his paper, Tian-tai Metaphysics vs. Hua-yan Metaphysics – A Comparative Study also provides more details on this below.

“The first four realms are called “the evil path.” They represent the lowest and the most painful states of existence. Human beings and gods are placed in the same category, in that both existences are mortal and are mixtures of happiness and misery (6 Paths). The four new realms are called “the holy path.” They include the highest form of attainment for the Hinayana school: arahats, which are divided into Voice-hearers and Self-enlightened Ones. “Voice-hearers” refers to those who listened to the Buddha’s early teachings and followed the doctrines of primitive Buddhism. “Self-enlightened Ones” refers to those who gained understanding on their own. Both forms of arahats have accomplished the goal of extinction and they regard nirvana as the negation of the phenomenal world. They are not interested in helping others reach the same goal. At the next level we have the highest form of attainment for the Mahayana school: bodhisattvas. Bodhisattvas also regard nirvana as the ultimate goal of attainment; however, they choose not to enter nirvana out of their compassion for all sentient beings who have not entered nirvana. Finally, the utmost highest form of existence is called Buddha. According to the Lotus Sutra, Buddhas can enter nirvana and reenter the phenomenal world as they wish. Tian-tai’s teaching is that everyone should aim to become a Buddha.”[5]

The Ten Worlds and the subgroupings can be seen in the image below from the Buddhastate website that clearly shows both.

Ten Worlds
Source: Buddhastate Website 

We return to Rita Voss’s article, which gives a very clear descriptions of the Ten Worlds. Through these descriptions one can easily recognize these manifestations within oneself and one’s environment and also see how they can combine and interact.

Hell, Hunger and Animality belong to the four evil ways and they are states in which the individual has no control over external circumstances, he is completely at the mercy of his environment, of his attachments and the needs to defend himself or satisfy his basic instincts.

In the state of Hell, the person is completely overwhelmed by suffering, deprived of liberty, whether in the psychological sense, as in depression, or in the physical sense, as in an illness that makes it impossible to live normally.

The state of Hunger is dominated by insatiable desires such as eating, making sex, gambling, or getting addictions in general, also, for power, recognition or fame. It is a state that is essentially compulsive.

The state of Animality is described as a state in which one is governed only by instinct, lacking reason or morality. He is under the laws of the jungle, defending territory or manipulating people in the family and society. Other people are only important insofar as they can satisfy desires, rather than for what they feel.

In a state of Anger the individual has some control over his environment. He
nevertheless may use his instinctive reactions to respond to the environment, with force or aggression. It is a state of arrogance in which the person is compelled to prove his superiority to others.

The state of Humanity corresponds to man’s natural inclination to find tranquility, balance and rationality. In this state, the individual tries to control his environment through rationality and to be in harmony with it and with other people.

The state of Rapture is related to the pleasure a person feels when he experiences a pleasant situation, for example when he overcomes a great suffering or satisfy a wish. Both Humanity and Rapture, however, are responses to stimuli from the environment and are easily exchangeable by lower states, to be considered higher states of life. The highest states, the two vehicles, correspond to the man’s search for answers to questions about the world, life and their mysteries, include his own, which move on from a passive position, controlled by the environment to a state of enquiry about and study of it.

The state of Learning corresponds to acquiring knowledge of how to achieve personal change and improvement.

The state of Realization refers to acceptance of the impermanence and mutability of life and its phenomena. Persons in this state are those who become aware of the existence of laws which govern the whole universe and become involved with artistic creation or scientific discovery.

But when a person views the world from a position that is beyond mere subjectivity or satisfying their desires in order to consider others what is outside themselves in the natural and social world around them, they may attain the state of Bodissativa, which is one of the highest states in life. The word derives from Bodh and Sattva which signify respectively enlightenment and beings, in other words those who attain enlightenment and also help others to attain it. A person in this state understands that in order to improve himself he must look beyond himself.

The highest state of all, however, is that of Buddha, because it is the source of the highest wisdom, beyond Good or Evil. To attain such a state, nevertheless, does not mean being someone special, but having the capacity to observe the mind as part of the body and its environment in order to see its true entity. To attain it means to enter the sea of wordlessness, of beginningless time, from the remote past of non-individuation.[1]

What is so empowering about the above Ten Worlds is that although one or many of the above states may be dominant in a person’s life, we are always capable of recognizing and changing these tendencies, realizing further our inherently present Buddha nature. Moreover it is critical to never forget that even the most enlightened state (as well as all others) is contained within each world. Hence, upon awakening to this knowledge one is always in truth, free and in control of one’s life condition. The Buddhist principle of impermanence, interdependence and emptiness reaffirm this and says that, “Everything (and everyone) that exists does so because of the interrelatedness of various parts – not because it has a permanent essence or “soul” around which all the parts are organized.[2] This is extremely liberating because anything that we use to contribute to our permanent idea of self, whether it be positive or negative, is essentially only reinforcing a rigid mental construct that does not fully represent the actual reality. Think about the many limiting situations where a person’s self identity is based on their dominant life state and in turn, reinforces the restrictions they place on themselves, on others and their environment.  By realizing the Buddhist principle of impermanence, interdependence and emptiness in relation to the Ten Worlds, one has an opportunity to challenge the identities we cling to, and let go of aspects that only further distort the true reality of what we are.  I will talk more about this when I bring in daimoku (chanting).

 

Three Truths and Ten Factors (Ten Suchnesses)

Now that we’ve spoken about the Buddhist principle of impermanence, this is a great place to introduce the Three Truths and Threefold Contemplation, leading us directly into our understanding of the Ten Factors (Ten Suchnesses). In Chih-i’s system of thought all multiplicities are an expression of one Ultimate Truth. The Three Truths and Threefold Contemplation are a way to describe and understand the three aspects of this Ultimate Truth, and the Ten Suchnesses are a way to characterize it. To further understand this, let’s turn our attention to a couple of excerpts from Objects as Truth are Subtle: Chih’s Theory of Truth by Haiyan S HEN.

The Threefold Truth describes the three aspects that constitute the Ultimate Truth. In other words, all dharmas are insubstantial and thus empty, but they are also temporarily existent with names, and thus provisional. This view of the Middle Way is taken by Chih-i to embody the Ultimate Truth. The Ten Suchnesses concretely describe the characteristics of the Ultimate Truth. This means that the Ultimate Truth is characterized by nature, appearance, substance, power, function, causes, conditions, effects, retributions, and beginnings-and-end-ultimately-alike.[7]

And the other.

“Chih-i views it [Ultimate Truth] as the principle or substance inherent to the nature of things, by which it underlies all things and is the unifying force of all categories of truth. All things as multiplicity are nothing else but the manifestation of the Ultimate Truth, and the Ultimate Truth as oneness is displayed through all things and governs diversity of views. The Ultimate Truth consists of relative truth and ultimate truth. Relative refers to the understanding of truth of the three teachings, with which truth is partially perceived. In the context of the Buddha’s soteriological activity, relative is legitimized by Chih-i to be expedient means for preparing listeners to advance to the ultimate, and the ultimate must depend on the relative to be displayed. In the context of attaining Buddhahood, relative is said to be the cause for attaining Buddhahood, and ultimate the effect of Buddhahood. Cause must contain effect, for without effect, cause cannot sustain itself; and effect must contain cause, for without cause, effect is not possible. In this sense, cause and effect are identical to each other sharing the same reality. Likewise, the relative and the ultimate participate the same reality as the Ultimate Truth, forming a harmonious whole.”[7]

To further elucidate on this, I would like to quote Chih-i himself as presented in Jacqueline Stone’s Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism.

Having discerned the nonsubstantial, contingent nature of all things, one recognizes their provisional existence as phenomena arising through dependent origination and is thus able to act in the world in a soteriologically effective way. This discernment reestablishes categories and distinctions, but without biased attachment or false essentializing; it is said to correspond to the wisdom of bodhisattvas of the separate teaching. Last is the “contemplation of the Middle Way that is the supreme meaning.” Here one contemplates phenomena as both empty and provisionally existing, discerning both aspects simultaneously. This is said to correspond to the wisdom of the Buddha and of the perfect teaching. This progression through the three contemplations of emptiness, conventional existence, and the middle described here is called the “sequential threefold contemplation” (tz’uti san-kuan, shidai sangan).[8]

To explain the concept of the Three Truths in a more transparent way, we can think of a tree. The tree when observed has a definite form that allows us to interact with it in a way that reaffirms its distinct existence. However, upon closer examination, we come to realize that this tree is completely dependant on things that are not ‘tree.’ Some of these would be soil, water, sunlight, temperature, gravity, electromagnetic force, etc… and without these the tree as we know it could not exist. In this way, we see that the tree both exists in its own right, but when we try to find the essence of ‘tree’ we instead find an infinite combination of interdependent elements that go back to the beginning of the universe.  In this light, the Three Truths are essentially saying that although there is form (provisional existence (ketai)) the form is ultimately empty of true essence in and of itself as in ‘a tree’ (emptiness (kutai)) (see Dependent Origination) and the simultaneous experience of these ‘two, but not two’ is the middle (middle way (chute)). In this sense, there really aren’t three truths, but instead three aspects of one truth.

Tree
Source: www.leics.gov.uk

But then how does this relate to the Ten Factors (Ten Suchnesses)? Haiyan S HEN explains this nicely.

“Chih-i regards the first nine realms [9 worlds] as belonging to the relative truth, the Buddha-realm [10th World] to the ultimate truth, and each of the ten realms is characterized by the Ten Suchnesses [Ten Factors]. Seeing that the Ultimate Truth is reflected by the Ten Dharma-realms that consist of the relative and ultimate, this Ultimate Truth embraces both the Relative of all dharmas, Chih-i declares that the Ten Suchnesses contain three meanings in terms of the Threefold Truth (Emptiness, the Provisional Existence, and the Middle Way) if they are read in three different ways. Inasmuch as the Threefold Truth is a comprehensive view of reality and constitutes the Ultimate Truth of the Middle Way, the Ten Suchnesses that contain the meaning of the Threefold Truth can be certainly taken to characterize the Ultimate Truth.”[7]

This might start to sound very complicated, but bear with me as we try to tackle the idea of the Ten Factors (Ten Suchnesses).   What I think the above passage hopes to elucidate is that we can see that these ‘Factors’ characterize the Ultimate Truth.  However, when applied in a threefold way to the Ten Worlds they reveal both the ultimate and relative truth (Three Truths).  HEN points out that Chih-i declares that the Ten Suchnesses contain three meanings in terms of the Threefold Truth (Emptiness, the Provisional Existence, and the Middle Way) if they are read in three different ways.[7] To illustrate, these three versions of the Ten Factors are listed below.  First they are listed in terms of Emptiness by way of this, then in terms of the Provisional by way of its and finally in terms of the Middle Way by way of all.  Take note that the first three factors (appearance, nature and substance) also closely correspond to the Three Truths (Emptiness, Provisional, and Middle Way).  I believe appearance is relating to the provisional and nature relating to emptiness and substance relates to the middle.

As written by Haiyan S HEN:

i) In terms of the Ten Suchnesses that contain the meaning of Emptiness, the character Shih (this) should be put in the beginning of these phrases… By addressing the state of suchness, the emptiness of all dharmas as such, without substantial Being, is emphasized.

  1. appearance of this suchness
  2. nature of this suchness
  3. substance of this suchness
  4. power of this suchness
  5. function of this suchness
  6. causes of this suchness
  7. conditions of this suchness
  8. effects of this suchness
  9. retributions of this suchness
  10. beginning-and-end-ultimately-alike of this suchness

ii) In terms of the Ten Suchnesses that contain the meaning of the Provisional Existence, the character Ju (suchness – its) should be put in the beginning of these phrases… This is because phenomenal appearances bear different marks and they can be summarized by the characteristics stated in the end of these ten phrases. By addressing different aspects of suchness, the provisional aspect of all dharmas is conveyed. This is to say, although entities bear different marks as existence, they are by nature empty. Therefore, all dharmas or entities are not real, but of provisional existence.

  1. appearance of its suchness
  2. nature of its suchness
  3. substance of its suchness
  4. power of its suchness
  5. function of its suchness
  6. causes of its suchness
  7. conditions of its suchness
  8. effects of its suchness
  9. retributions of its suchness
  10. beginning-and-end-ultimately-alike of its suchness

iii) In terms of the Ten Suchnesses that contain the meaning of the Middle Way, the characters (such as “appearance”, “nature”, and so forth) should be put in the beginning of these phrases. These ten phrases are read this way:

  1. appearance is suchness
  2. nature is suchness
  3. substance is suchness
  4. power is suchness
  5. function is suchness
  6. causes is suchness
  7. conditions is suchness
  8. effects is suchness
  9. retributions is suchness
  10. beginning-and-end-ultimately-alike is suchness

This is the to state that the character Shih embodies objective reality as it is. The Ultimate Truth is represented by the Middle Way that encompasses both Emptiness and the Provisional Existence.[7]

To help avoid being overwhelmed by the above complexity, Haiyan S HEN further explains each of the Suchnesses in a general way:

  1. Appearance signifies external existence that can be distinguished;
  2. Nature denotes internal being that is unchangeable;
  3. Substance refers to the principal quality that intrinsically belongs to oneself;
  4. Power refers to potentiality;
  5. Function refers to that which constructs;
  6. Causes refers to the causes that bring about effects similar to themselves (such as a good thought produces more good thoughts, and a bad thought produces more bad thoughts);
  7. Conditions refers to indirect or conditional causes;
  8. Effects refers to the effects that are the same as their causes;
  9. Retributions refers to the effects resulting from the deeds one has done in the past incarnation;
  10. As both the beginning and the end share the same reality: the beginning contains the destination pointing to the end, and the end is the result that manifest what is contained in the beginning.[7]

In other words, the relative and the Ultimate Truth are coexistent as a polar concept, and contained within each other in terms of soteriological [salvation] significance. On one hand, without the relative of the nine realms, the ultimate of the Buddha-realm cannot be substantiated, and without the ultimate, the relative does not have any validity, two of which from a polar concept existing interdependently. On the other hand, if the relative does not contain the ultimate, then the attainment of Buddhahood would not be possible; if the ultimate does not contain the relative, then the Buddha would not undertake his task of teaching and saving beings. Only if the ultimate is already contained in the relative as the cause for Buddhahood, can the attainment of Buddhahood as the effect be possible, whereby all beings in the nine realm are grounded to be able to eventually enter the Buddha-realm; only if the relative is contained in the ultimate, can the Buddha’s endless soteriological activities of saving beings be realistic.[7]

Three Realms of Existence

This brings us now to the Three Realms of Existence.

If we want to understand how ichinen sanzen is manifested in our daily reality we must learn about The Three Realms of Existence. These realms are a combined embodiment of the Ten Worlds as characterized by the Ten Factors simultaneously. The SGI Online Dictionary explains it as follows.

“…The concept of three realms of existence views life from three different standpoints and explains the existence of individual lives in the real world. The five components, a living being as their temporary combination, and that being’s environment all manifest the same one of the Ten Worlds at any given point in time….

……the three realms themselves are not to be viewed separately, but as aspects of an integrated whole, which simultaneously manifests any of the Ten Worlds.”[6]

The Three Realms

  1. the realm of living beings
  2. the realm of the five components
    1. form
    2. perception
    3. conception
    4. volition
    5. consciousness[4]
  3. and the material, or environmental realm[3]

We can understand the realm of living beings in terms of one’s social or community sphere. These are all made up of entities that can experience the five components. The five components in turn, are all the sensual and cognitive aspects that are provisionally unified. The environment, on the other hand can be seen as all insentient aspects of our surroundings (ie rocks and rivers etc..) and as such, do not experience the realm of the five components!

3000 realms in one thought moment (Ichinen Sanzen)

Now we can come to a better understanding of the 3000 realms in one thought moment (Ichinen Sanzen).

The Ten Worlds (or 100 because each world contains all the others,10×10=100) are then linked to the Ten Factors (Ten Suchnesses) (100 worlds x10 factors = 1000) and then manifested in the Three Realms of Existence (1000 x 3 = 3000 Worlds/Realms). This combination is used to describe the complex interactions that manifest at each moment of life.

The combination of the Ten Worlds, Ten Suchnesses (Ten Factors) and Three Realms of Existence combine to form what each of us experience as our life. In other words, a person is the manifestation of the dependent co-arising of all internal and external aspects of their existence. “Cognition may be understood in this context, as emerging from the interrelation between the internal milieu and the environment.”[1] The complexity of this is overwhelming and impossible to fully understand in any real sense. It is an enormous interplay of cause and effect simultaneously arising everywhere. Everything in each moment is at once both a cause and an effect. What a difficult, albeit profound thought!

How All of this Applies to Life

There is so much to be said on this matter.  Because of the innate complexities involved with the interactions of The Ten Worlds, Ten Factors and Three Realms, it becomes very difficult for us to discern between the subjective and objective reality, and how that then informs our perspective.  This subjectivity guides our interaction within and without.  We can turn again to Rita Voss for some clarity on this:

“The limitations of human beings and aspects of individuation constitute a contingency of being in the world given the biological conditions which govern existence. But the biological characteristics of the human brain also permit the emergence of mind, which is capable of making choices which increase the chances of creating something new. Recursively, the more complex creations become, the greater the challenge is for individual cognition and society.”[1]

I can attempt to summarize her explanation as follows:  People fill their lives with all kinds of things upon which they place value based upon myriad ethical, esthetic and cultural constructs, to name but a few subjective values.  These personal perspectives however, have a very real impact on how the world is then projected upon, hence leading to a perpetual ricochet effect between the subjective and the objective truth. This process as you know, is far from from being based on fact.  Moreover, it is also intertwined with subconsciously stored experiences that come alive without us even knowing. From this complex interplay, our interpretations, value judgements, decisions, choices, opinions, etc. are formed and then manifest in our lives.

Rita Voss goes on to explain the subsequent conflict that arises from this:

“The problem is how to make people capable of making judgments, which express the relativity of what they observe by taking into account the imponderable qualities of the moment in life in which they take place. Facts cannot be “frozen” until to be sure of making the right judgement. Not even technology – film and video, modern eyewitnesses – can guarantee a wise decision since what is at stake is not only the apprehension of fact itself, but the value we attach to it. There is no certainty at all that our choices will bring us only benefits.”[1]

This is where the doctrine of Ichinen Sanzen becomes so critical in informing our practice. Voss explains it as a task of reconnecting the subject and the object in a way that inspires a model of self-knowledge.[1] This model ‘recognizes the internal constraints which prevent an individual following their goal and must invest in means which allow them to understand their own cognitive processes which involve body, mind and environment jointly.’[1] It is for this reason that Chih-i developed a practice to observe body and mind in a directed activity, for Chih-i this was the Buddhist practice of meditation. I also believe that this can be used to inform the practice of daimoku in Nichiren Buddhism, which in my opinion is a form of meditation. The practitioner focuses their awareness on the sound/feeling of the chant combined with the visual of the Gohonzon.   As a focal point to harness one’s awareness to, daimoku and the Gohonzon can prevent one’s awareness from drifting off with every passing thought. Instead of incorrectly identifying oneself with this drifting attention, one’s awareness becomes solidly grounded in the experience of chanting, and in this way become unified with what Nam-myoho-renge-kyo represents.  As an opportunity to observe one’s mind free from identification and attachment to its contents, this vantage point allows one to see the true nature of existence as the Middle Way, or in other words, embodying the mystic law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and realizing our innate Buddha Nature.

To quote Nichiren on this from On Attaining Buddhahood in the Lifetime,

“What then does myo signify? It is simply the mysterious nature of our life from moment to moment, which the mind cannot comprehend or words express. When we look into our own mind at any moment, we perceive neither colour nor form to verify that it exists. Yet we still cannot say it does not exist, for many differing thoughts continually occur. The mind cannot be considered either to exist or not to exist. Life is indeed an elusive reality that transcends both the words and concepts of existence and nonexistence. It is neither existence nor nonexistence, yet exhibits the qualities of both. It is the mystic entity of the Middle Way that is the ultimate reality. Myo is the name given to the mystic nature of life and ho, to its manifestations.”[12]

It is in this observation of the mind during meditation that a new form of consciousness can appear and open us to deep insight regarding our life. Voss refers to Kuon Ganjo, which is the Buddhist cosmovision where beings and the entire universe are individuations of the primordial, beginningless time.[1] She goes on to say that, “if everything is brotherhood at the primordial moment, without differentiation, individuation is the impulse to understand, which is why the Sutra of the Diamond states that in everything there is a potential for understanding, as a latent condition of life. Life, therefore, is knowledge.[1] It is in this process of observing and understanding, that the potential for attachment to the poisons of anger, greed and foolishness arise and become impediments to our discerning and evaluating phenomena.[1] These three poisons give rise to illusions and lead to suffering.

“By observing the mutability of the mind in passing from one state to another, an individual may experience what the Buddhist tradition affirms – the symbiosis of man and the world may take place when subjective states acquired jointly through perception, the senses, the consciousness and meditation are recognized. In this sense, self-awareness emerges from the work of consciousness in experiencing body, mind and environment jointly. That is to say, it is possible by means of this self-conscious observation to create a better life by expanding the mind’s possibilities. Self-knowledge which links cognition with evaluation of experience occurs when the individual observes himself.”[1]

Nine Consciousnesses

Voss then describes the multiplicity of the mind’s reality in Buddhism as a composition of nine consciousnesses (vijnana).[1] This will also be a topic for another post in the future.

  1. sight-consciousness (chakshur-vijnana);
  2. hearing-consciousness (shrota-vijnana);
  3. smell-consciousness (ghrana- vijnana);
  4. taste-consciusness (jihva- vijnana);
  5. touch-consciousness (kaya- vijnana);
  6. mind-consciousness (mano- vijnana),
  7. mano-consciuosness (mano- vijnana);
  8. alaya-consciousness (alaya- vijnana),
  9. amala-consciousness (amala- vijnana).[1]

“The first five correspond to the five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. The mind, the sixth consciousness, integrates the five senses in a coherent way to form a judgment of the external world. The first six consciousnesses are related to external aspects which connect to the world of the senses. The mano consciousness (the seventh) corresponds to the spiritual world Buddhism attributes to it consciousness and attachment to the self, as well as moral judgements of good and evil. It is important to emphasize our view of the world, and the value attached to it, depend on how much the self, which is the center of illusion, becomes dependent on psychological schemes which limit understanding.

The eighth consciousness corresponds to what psychologists call the unconscious. In it are stored as “seeds” the good and bad actions which, according to Buddhism, form the potential karma of a person and which will one day germinate. For them to do so, it is only necessary to find the right conditions which will turn them into actual reality. All the right conditions exist in embryonic form and it only requires external conditions to be right for the internal ones to become apparent, rather like soil, climate and temperature in the case of plants.

The final consciousness, amala, resides free of the karmic impurities as the basis of all the functions of life, kuu, or vacuity. To access it, one has to enter into contact with the final reality of life, which is contained in the three principles of impermanence, the interdependence of all phenomena and vacuity, where wisdom shines like a diamond in the body and mind of mortals.”[1]

In speaking to the ninth consciousness, Voss identifies it with objectively observing one’s own cognitive processes. As identified earlier, this is done through the act of meditation. It is by strengthening our ability to observe our own cognitive processes that we gain insight and wisdom, and are then able to apply this to our lives. It is also through this repeated exercise of meditation that we empower ourselves to act with this wisdom (free of illusions) in our daily lives. In this vein, I have, and continue to approach daimoku as a meditative practice for observing my cognitive processes. It is in this exercise that I focus on the sound and visual of the Gohonzon to free my awareness  from attaching and identifying with thoughts so I can freely observe the processes of mind.  I this way I find the profundity of the Three Truths become embodied as the One unfathomable Truth.

“Buddhism teaches that there is a ninth consciousness which Nichiren Daishonin identified as the Buddha nature, or Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. It is the basis of all life’s functions and is known as the ‘amala’ or ‘fundamentally pure’ consciousness, shared at the most profound level with all life. As we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, so life force comes from the ninth consciousness, purifying the internal causes and effects that lie in the eighth, and improving the way our sixth and seventh consciousnesses function. We start to create new causes in the eighth consciousness, based not on the tendencies that we have developed after making many different causes, but on the life state of the Buddha, and therefore filled with courage, compassion and wisdom. Another benefit of this process is that we start to see our lives with the eyes of the Buddha, enabling us to see our karma in its true light. As we see it, so it becomes easier to challenge it and change it.”[9]

This also makes this excerpt from Nichiren’s On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime, all the more meaningful.

“If you wish to free yourself from the sufferings of birth and death you have endured since time without beginning and to attain without fail unsurpassed enlightenment in this lifetime, you must perceive the mystic truth that is originally inherent in all living beings. This truth is Myoho-renge-kyo. Chanting Myoho-renge-kyo will therefore enable you to grasp the mystic truth innate in all life.”[12]

Part 1 | Part 2

 


Sources:
[1]Voss, Rita, The Ichinen Sanzen System -A contribution to a theory of cognition, Article written for “Cosmos, Nature and Culture: A Transdisciplinary Conference”, 18-21 de July, 2009, Phoenix, AZ, USA, a program of the Metanexus Institute
[2] Impermanence, Interdependence & Emptiness, Worl-Religions-Professor.com, http://www.world-religions-professor.com/interdependence.html
[3] Hōyō Watanabe – The Tradition of the Lotus Sutra Faith in Japan* – http://www.elb-studycenter.org/images/watanabe.pdf
[4] SGI Online Dictionary – Five Components – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=637
[5] JeeLoo Liu goes into more detail on this in his paper, Tian-tai Metaphysics vs. Hua-yan Metaphysics – A Comparative Study
[6] SGI Online Dictionary – three realms of existence – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2365
[7] Haiyan S HEN – Objects as Truth are Subtle: Chih’s Theory of Truth, Oriental Languages and Cultures, Ghent University, Belgium
[8] Jacqueline I. Stone (1999). Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. A Kuroda Institute Book, University of Hawai’i Press. pp. 177-181. ISBN 0-8248-2771-6
[9] Cause and Effect and the Nine Consciousnesses – http://www.nalanda-university.com/buddhist-ayurveda-encylopedia/eight_consciousnesses_vijnana_skandha_aggregate.htm
[10] SGI Library, On Attaining Buddhahood in This Lifetime – The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=3
[11] Fraught with Peril – REAL LIFE WITH RYUEI Chapter 10: Ichinen Sanzen – http://fraughtwithperil.com/ryuei/2010/06/18/chapter-10-ichinen-sanzen/
[12] On Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, http://www.sgilibrary.org/view.php?page=4
раскрутка сайта в поисковых системах ценастраховой стаж в украинезакупка ссылок что этополотенцесушитель белыйметоды оптимального решения

Ichinen Sanzen Part 1: A Brief Overview

Part 1 | Part 2

The first series of posts are going to be focused around the larger question of What is ichinen sanzen and how does it inform the practice of Nichiren Buddhism? In this post specifically, I am hoping to provide a small glimpse into the concept of ichinen sanzen (Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought Moment) based on my current understanding. I’ll begin with a brief historical background, followed by an overview of its conceptual framework, and finally I’ll share some general perspectives on this fascinating doctrine of nonduality. This is going to be a very high level overview that touches on many things, so if you feel overwhelmed, don’t worry.  Just bear with me, and it will become progressively clearer (I hope!). Because Ichinen Sanzen is such a profound topic, its examination will be broken up into a series of posts beyond this one that will go into more detail about everything presented here. Please keep in mind that these findings reflect an ongoing learning process and exploration.  Let me know if there is anything that has been misrepresented.

Chih-i (538–597 CE) who is considered the founder of the T’ien-t’ai tradition of Buddhism in China, developed the doctrine of ichinen sanzen (Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought Moment) in his ‘Great Concentration and Insight’.[1] This doctrine was later studied by the monk Saicho (aka Dengyo Daishi) (767-822) founder of the Tendai tradition[5], who traveled to China in 804 and brought back the doctrines of the T’ien-t’ai school.[17] Between 1239 and 1252, Nichiren studied at the Tendai centre on Mt. Hiei,[19] among other places in the general area. After and perhaps even during this period he was disconcerted with the Tendai practice as temples were being converted into centers of True Word, Pure Land, and Zen, and neglecting the original teachings of Chih-i, Miao-lo, and Saicho.[20]  As a result, he hoped to restore the heritage of the T’ien-t’ai School.[20] It was during this period that Nichiren became determined to carry forward the legacy of T’ien-t’ai by sharing the teaching and practice of the Lotus Sutra [20].  In doing so, he developed his philosophy based on the Lotus Sutra, that of course included the doctrine of ichinen sanzen.

Moving on to ichinen sanzen – perhaps the best place to start is with a quote from Chih-i (via Jacqueline Stone’s Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism). By sharing the below quote, I am hoping one can quickly see the difficulty in framing ichinen sanzen within everyday thinking and logic. This is not to discourage any attempt at understanding this doctrine however, but rather to address the limitations that language has in revealing the complexity it speaks to – that he is essentially pointing to something beyond thought (logic contained within normal causality). He does this by using linear language to express the non-dual as is done in the somewhat paradoxical concept of nini-funi, which means “two (in phenomena) but not two (in essence)”, or simply two but not two.[21]

“One may say neither that the one mind is prior and all dharmas posterior nor that all dharmas are prior and the one mind posterior…
If one derives all dharmas from the one mind, this is a vertical relationship. If the mind all at once contains all the dharmas, this is a horizontal relationship. Neither vertical or horizontal will do. All one can say is that the mind is all dharmas, and all dharmas are the mind. Therefore the relationship is neither vertical nor horizontal, neither the same nor different. It is obscure, subtle and profound in the extreme. Knowledge cannot know it, nor can words speak it. Herein lies the reason for its being called “the realm of the inconceivable.””[12]

It is from this linguistically elusive, but foundational concept of co-arising, that Chih-i then devises a system for understanding phenomena, called ichinen sanzen. In describing the ‘Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought Moment’ Chih-i says,

“Now one mind comprises ten dharma realms, but each dharma realm also comprises ten dharma realms, giving a hundred dharma realms. One realm comprises thirty kinds of realms, hence a hundred dharma realms comprise three thousand realms. These three thousand are contained in a fleeting moment of thought. Where there is no mind, that is the end of the matter; but if mind comes into being to the slightest degree whatsoever, it immediately contains the three thousand.”[11]

What Chih-i is explaining above is still quite difficult to comprehend. However we are beginning to see a framework to approach it by. To elucidate upon this even further, I would like to turn to Hōyō Watanabe’s explanation of ichinen sanzen in The Tradition of the Lotus Sutra Faith in Japan. Here he goes into great detail by outlining all the aspects that comprise ichinen sanzen, further clarifying the quote from Chih-i.

“In understanding the Lotus Sutra, Chih-i paid attention to shohō-jissō, the “true aspect of all phenomena,” found at the beginning of chapter two, which was followed by ju-nyoze, the “ten factors of life,” which is presented to suggest the outline and significance of shohō-jissō, true aspect of all phenomena. In the traditions of the Chinese sects of scholastic Buddhism, Chih-i focused attention on two factors which he considered to be the foundation upon which the concept of ju-nyoze [ten factors of life or ten suchnesses] functions. One of them, described in the Buddha-avatamsaka Sutra, was jikkai, “the ten potential states (worlds) of life inherent in each living being,” and the other was san-seken, the “three realms of existence” (the realm of living beings, the realm of the five components, and the material, or environmental realm), which was one of the subjects of “The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom,” mentioned previously. With regard to ju-nyoze, the ten factors, he made it clear that three aspects of existence, appearance, nature, and entity, become actual function that is accompanied by potential power and actualization of potential power. These five factors operate along with internal cause, condition, latent effect, and manifest effect. Ultimately, all of the previous nine factors function consistently and harmoniously as an interrelated whole.”[13]

In this further elucidation of what comprises ichinen sanzen, Hōyō Watanabe explains that Chih-i paid close attention to the “true aspect of all phenomena” and the ten factors of life (ten suchnesses) found at the beginning of chapter two in the Lotus Sutra.[13] These ten factors are used to help reveal the significance of the true aspect of all phenomena. They are as follows:

Ten Factors of Life or Ten Suchnesses from Wikipedia

  1. Such a Form (phenomenon)
  2. Such a Nature (character)
  3. Such an Embodiment (entity)
  4. Such a Potency (ability)
  5. Such a Function (activity)
  6. Such a Primary Cause (direct cause)
  7. Such a Secondary Cause (occasion or condition)
  8. Such an Effect (result)
  9. Such a Recompense (reward or retribution)
  10. Such a Complete Fundamental Whole[4]

Ten Factors of Life or Ten Suchnesses as described in more detail on the SGI Online Dictionary

  1. Appearance: attributes of things discernible from the outside, such as color, form, shape, and behavior.
  2. Nature: the inherent disposition or quality of a thing or being that cannot be discerned from the outside. T’ient’ai characterizes it as unchanging and irreplaceable.
  3. Entity: the essence of life that permeates and integrates appearance and nature.These first three factors describe the reality of life itself. The next six factors, from the fourth, power, through the ninth, manifest effect, explain the functions and workings of life.
  4. Power: life’s potential energy.
  5. Influence: the action or movement produced when life’s inherent power is activated.
  6. Internal cause: the cause latent in life that produces an effect of the same quality as itself, i.e., good, evil, or neutral.
  7. Relation: the relationship of indirect causes to the internal cause. Indirect causes are various conditions, both internal and external, that help the internal cause produce an effect.
  8. Latent effect: the effect produced in life when an internal cause is activated through its relationship with various conditions.
  9. Manifest effect: the tangible, perceivable result that emerges in time as an expression of a latent effect and therefore of an internal cause, again through its relationship with various conditions. Miao-lo (711-782) regarded the Buddhist law of causality described by the four factors from internal cause to manifest effect as the distinctive characteristic of the ten factors. It concerns the cause and effect for attaining Buddhahood.
  10. Consistency from beginning to end: the unifying factor among the ten factors. It indicates that all of the other nine factors from the beginning (appearance) to the end (manifest effect) are consistently and harmoniously interrelated. All nine factors thus consistently and harmoniously express the same condition of existence at any given moment.[22]

Regarding the above ten factors, and to number them accordingly, Hōyō explains that Chih-i made it clear that the first three, 1) appearance (form), 2) nature, and 3) entity, become 5) actual function that is accompanied by 4) potential power and actualization of potential power. These five factors operate along with 6) internal cause, 7) condition, 8) latent effect, and 9) manifest effect. Ultimately, all of the previous nine factors function consistently and harmoniously as an interrelated whole.[13]

Considering the first three factors describe the reality of life itself[22], it is interesting to note that they directly relate to the Three Truths/Threefold Contemplation, as explained in the below excerpt from the Buddhastate website.

Chih-i (538–597 CE) later founded the T’ien-t’ai school based on his understanding of Nagarjuna’s teachings of the Two Truths and the Middle Way. This Chih-i called the “perfect harmony of the Threefold Truth” because there are not three distinct truths, but a single truth understood in a threefold way.

The Three Truths are inseparable. A common simile used to explain this, is to consider a piece of paper. Although there are two sides to the sheet, neither can exist without the other. And the entity (the sheet of paper) cannot exist without comprising two sides – or aspects.

The first three of the Ten Factors are directly related to the Threefold Truth. They also represent the most common understanding of Myoho, in Myoho-Renge-Kyo.[16]

To get a glimpse into Chih-i’s perspective on these Three Truths, let us turn to an excerpt of his writing on the Threefold Contemplation.

First, is “entering [the insight of] emptiness from the [viewpoint of] the conventional”; that is, one contemplates the conditioned, dependent nature of all phenomena, which are without permanence or self-essence. From the perspective of this insight, all categories, hierarchies, and boundaries are collapsed; it is a discernment of ultimate equality. The discernment of all phenomena as empty frees one from attachment to desires and intellectual constructs and is said to correspond to the insight of arhats and bodhisattvas of the Tripitaka and shared teachings. Next is “entering [insight into] the conventional from [the discernment of] emptiness.” Having discerned the nonsubstantial, contingent nature of all things, one recognizes their provisional existence as phenomena arising through dependent origination and is thus able to act in the world in a soteriologically effective way. This discernment reestablishes categories and distinctions, but without biased attachment or false essentializing; it is said to correspond to the wisdom of bodhisattvas of the separate teaching. Last is the “contemplation of the Middle Way that is the supreme meaning.” Here one contemplates phenomena as both empty and provisionally existing, discerning both aspects simultaneously. This is said to correspond to the wisdom of the Buddha and of the perfect teaching. This progression through the three contemplations of emptiness, conventional existence, and the middle described here is called the “sequential threefold contemplation” (tz’uti san-kuan, shidai sangan).[7]

Please note that his reference to “emptiness” is interchangeable with “nature” as explained in Chapter 10: Ichinen Sanzen at Real Life with Ryuei,

“…since each individual thing contains all things, “nature” refers to the way that all things interact to give the individual the attributes that make it what it is. This also indicates the inner life of the subject which is constituted by feelings and thoughts regarding the environment which influences and shapes its life. This factor is closely associated with the truth of emptiness, because just like emptiness, an examination of the nature of things reveals that nothing has a fixed or independent existence but relies upon the causes and conditions that bring about its temporary existence as a manifestation of dependent origination.”[10]

Hōyō then explains that Chih-i focused his attention on two aspects which he considered to be the foundation upon which the concept of the ten factors of life function. One was jikkai, “the ten potential states (worlds) of life inherent in each living being and the other is san-seken, the “three realms of existence” (the realm of living beings, the realm of the five components, and the material, or environmental realm). These are identified below.

Ten Dharma Realms (jikkai) or Ten Worlds

These refer to the ten categories of living beings and are as follows:

  1. hell
  2. hungry spirits
  3. animals
  4. asuras
  5. human beings
  6. heavenly beings
  7. voice-hearers
  8. cause-awakened ones
  9. bodhisattvas
  10. Buddhas

Three Realms of Existence

  1. the realm of living beings
  2. the realm of the five components
    1. form
    2. perception
    3. conception
    4. volition
    5. consciousness[15]
  3. and the material, or environmental realm[13]

Now that the basic components of ichinen sanzen have been outlined, let’s turn again to Hōyō as he explains their interconnectedness and the reality they represent.

the ju-nyoze [ten factors of life] mentioned in the text of the Lotus Sutra should be recognized as the operation of existing things within the world of their actual state of existence—which can range, within the ten potential worlds of the jikkai, from ignorance to enlightenment. Moreover, it is necessary to recognize that this scheme is not only operating with regard to living beings. The material realm does not exist independently from the mind of living beings; rather, it is an object of perception paralleling the realm of the living. Thus, the material realm and the realm of living beings cannot be separated. The realm of the five components (form, perception, conception, volition, and consciousness), links the material realm with the realm of living beings. Existing things are recognized through a relationship between a perceiver—the function of the five components through its eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body, and the corresponding five senses of vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch—and the object of perception; there is no recognition if one aspect is not present.[13]

To conclude this first post, I hope I was able to begin to delve into the doctrine of ichinen sanzen in a way that gives a general overview of what I’ve learned about the basic structure of the doctrine. If you noticed anything that has been misrepresented, please let me know so that I can correct the post and of course, my understanding. This is only the beginning of trying to answer the question of What is ichinen sanzen and how does it inform the practice of Nichiren Buddhism? Stay tuned for future posts in this series that will go into more specifics and attempt to answer the primary question above. I will now leave you with some excerpts on ichinen sanzen from a variety of sources that inspired me to dig deeper into the philosophical aspects of Nichiren Buddhism and hopefully will have the same effect on you as well!

Excerpt from Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism and J. Stone quoting Paul Swanson.

The number three thousand is itself arbitrary; the point is that “all of reality is an integrated, interdependent unity,” as Paul Swanson puts it. [102] The concept of the “three thousand realms in a single thought-moment” is not, however, merely an analysis of the structure of reality. It is the ‘realm of the inconceivable’ to be discerned in meditation by the practitioner, who in so doing realizes one’s own identity with the totality of all that is.[7]

From the SGI Online Library,

“Life at each moment” means life as an indivisible whole that includes body and mind, cause and effect, and sentient and insentient things. A single moment of life is endowed, as stated above, with the three thousand realms. The relationship of these two elements is not such that one precedes the other, or that they are simultaneous in the sense that one is included in the other. Actually they are non-dual or, as T’ient’ai put it, “two [in phenomena] but not two [in essence].” The provisional teachings stated that all phenomena arise from the mind, or that they are subordinate to the mind. The Lotus Sutra clarifies that the true aspect is inseparable from all phenomena, and that all phenomena, just as they are, are in themselves the true aspect. When T’ient’ai stated, “The three thousand realms of existence are all possessed by life in a single moment…. But if there is the slightest bit of life, it contains all the three thousand realms,” he is referring to the non-duality of “a single moment of life” and the “three thousand realms.”[2]

Steve Odin in PEACE AND COMPASSION IN THE MICROCOSMIC –MACROCOSMIC PARADIGM OF WHITEHEAD AND THE LOTUS SUTRA

The T’ien-t’ai cosmological principle of ichinen sanzen is the culmination of Buddhist thought whereby each dharma arising through the causal process of pratitya samutpada is comprehended as a microcosm of the macrocosm…”[8]

“…In his commentaries on the Lotus Sutra, Chih-i, the founder of T’ient’ai (Tendai) Buddhism, argues that the ultimate meaning hidden at the depths of the Lotus Sutra is the notion of ichinen sanzen, “three thousand worlds in each thought-instant,” signifying that the whole cosmos is present in the human mind as a microcosm of the macrocosm. For Nichiren, the daimoku, or sacred title of the Lotus Sutra, and the gohonzon, or mandala upon which it is inscribed, function to reveal the unity of the macrocosm of the universe and the microcosm of the individual mind as expressed by the Tendai principle of ichinen sanzen—“three thousand worlds in each thought-instant….”[8]

…According to Nichiren Buddhism, then, the practice of chanting the daimoku of Nam-myôhô-renge-kyô to the mandala results in achieving Buddhahood through realization of the interpenetrating multidimensional cosmos of the Lotus Sutra as represented by the “mutual containment of ten realms” (jikkai gogu) and its multiplication into the ultimate Tendai principle of ichinen sanzen, “three thousand worlds in each thought-instant.”[8]

Tamura Yoshiro in The Ideas of the Lotus Sutra,

Chih-i systematized the teaching of the “three thousand realms in one mind,” and the Japanese priest Nichiren (1222–1282) depicted the ten realms of being in the form of a mandala. The teaching of the “Three thousand realms in one mind” explains that the realm of the microcosm (one mind) and the realm of the macrocosm (three thousand realms) are interdependent and one in their true state, forming a harmonious whole under the wonderful law as the one vehicle. The mandala of the ten realms of being illustrates diagramatically the existences of various beings in the universe under the wonderful law as the one vehicle.[9]

Steve Odin quoting Niwano,

T’ien-t’ai Chih-i, the third patriarch in the lineage of the Chinese T’ient’ai school of Buddhism, who lived in the sixth century, taught “Three Thousand Realms in One Mind” [Japanese: ichinen sanzen], interpreting liberally the possibility of change and the flow of humanity taught in the Law of the Ten Suchnesses [in chapter two of the Lotus Sutra]. That is, the “three thousand realms” will change in accordance with one’s spiritual attitude. I believe that true world peace is based upon this truth.[8]

From Fraught with Peril – REAL LIFE WITH RYUEI Chapter 10: Ichinen Sanzen

Ichinen Sanzen, the three thousand worlds in a single thought-moment, is the key principle of Nichiren Buddhism. The word ichinen means a single moment of conscious awareness. Sanzen literally means “three thousand,” in reference to the three thousand worlds. In this sense, the word “worlds” does not literally refer to different worlds. The meaning might better be translated as “modes of existence.” Ichinen sanzen is the theoretical formulation of the key insight of the Lotus Sutra. Chih-i, the founder of the T’ien-t’ai school, coined this term to indicate what he saw as the central insight of Buddhism that is revealed through the practice of introspection into the essence of mind. Nichiren recognized the importance of ichinen sanzen and made it a central part of his own teaching and he mentions it many times in his major treatises and other writings….”[10]

…Chih-i taught that these three thousand worlds were always present in every thought-moment. The true nature of reality, of which the three thousand worlds are merely aspects, can only be realized in a single moment of clear awareness. This is the simultaneous realization of the three truths of emptiness or unity, temporary existence or the three thousand worlds, and the Middle Way or the unity of the three thousand worlds in every single moment of dependent origination. It is also the transformation of the eight consciousnesses, which experience the three thousand worlds as the four wisdoms, which function in accord with the wisdom of the pure consciousness. Every thought-moment unfolds the fullness of reality when penetrated with deep spiritual insight. This insight into the true nature of consciousness in the present moment is called kanjin in T’ien-t’ai Buddhism…”[10]

…Ichinen sanzen is really the pinnacle of T’ien-t’ai Buddhism and the theoretical cornerstone of Nichiren Buddhism. Far from being a dry relic of Chinese Buddhist scholasticism, it is a universal way to see life as rich, dynamic, and meaningful. This is the world view that embraces the non-duality of body and mind and the non-duality of life and its environment. These two teachings point out that reality is interdependent, and the things that happen to and around us are not just meaningless mechanistic events or mere happenstance. With ichinen sanzen in mind, we can see life as inherently meaningful and infused with the ten worlds, operating according to the causes and conditions which we all set in motion. This world-view is not barren materialism or dogmatic theism; it is a dynamic non-dualism. This living breathing cosmology can be entered through the activity of chanting Odaimoku. Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is the way to put this view into practice with our whole being and not just with our intellect. By bringing about a fuller realization of ichinen sanzen through the practice of Odaimoku, we can change the way we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the world…”[10]

Part 1 | Part 2

 


Sources:
[1] From Wikipedia on Zhiyi – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zhiyi
[2] SGI Online Dictionary – Three Thousand Realms in a Single Thought Moment of Life -http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2376
[3] Nichiren Shõnin’s View of Humanity, ASAI Endõ, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 1999 26/3–4 http://www.hbsitalia.it/public/materiale/547.pdf
[4] From Wikipedia on Ten Suchnesses – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_suchnesses
[5] From WIkipedia on Saicho – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saich%C5%8D
[6] From Wikipedia on Tendai – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tendai
[7] Jacqueline I. Stone (1999). Original Enlightenment and the Transformation of Medieval Japanese Buddhism. A Kuroda Institute Book, University of Hawai’i Press. pp. 177-179. ISBN 0-8248-2771-6
[8] Steve Odin, PEACE AND COMPASSION IN THE MICROCOSMIC –MACROCOSMIC PARADIGM OF WHITEHEAD AND THE LOTUS SUTRA* Journal of Chinese Philosophy 28:4 (December 2001) 371–384
[9] Tamura Yoshhiro, “The Ideas of the Lotus Sutra,” in The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture,edited by George Tanabe and Willa Tanabe (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1989), p. 42.
[10] Fraught with Peril – REAL LIFE WITH RYUEI Chapter 10: Ichinen Sanzen – http://fraughtwithperil.com/ryuei/2010/06/18/chapter-10-ichinen-sanzen/
[11] Zenshi, pp. 125-127
[12] Shigyo Kaishu, Komon kyogaku no kenkyu, p. 288.
[13] Hōyō Watanabe – The Tradition of the Lotus Sutra Faith in Japan* – http://www.elb-studycenter.org/images/watanabe.pdf
[14] SGI Online Dictionary – Ten Worlds – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2282
[15] SGI Online Dictionary – Five Components – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=637
[16] Buddhastate – Ichinen Sanzen Part 2 – http://buddhastate.com/2012/04/the-ten-factors-ichinen-sanzen-part-2/
[17] Barbara O’Brien – Buddhism in Japan: A Brief History, About.com – http://buddhism.about.com/od/throughasiaandbeyond/a/japanhistory.htm
[18] Encyclopedia of World Biography on Nichiren – http://www.bookrags.com/biography/nichiren/
[19] Jacqueline I. STONE, Biographical Studies of Nichiren, pp. 443
[20] A Brief History of the T’ien-t’ai School and Tendai Shu, Real Life with Ryuei – http://fraughtwithperil.com/ryuei/2010/12/01/a-brief-history-of-the-t%E2%80%99ien-t%E2%80%99ai-school-and-tendai-shu/
[21] SGI Online Dictionary – oneness of life and its environment – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=1606
[22] SGI Online Dictionary – ten factors of life – http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=2249
как продвижения бренда его ценность и стоимостьказаны купитьстатистика запросов гуглконвектор ценазащищает ли презерватив от беременности

December 11 / 2012
Author Ichinen Sanzen
Comments No Comments

A Short Introduction

As this is the first post on the site, we’re going to focus on introducing some of the topics we are planning to cover. You can read the About page to learn more about this website project.

As part of the continued research, we have thrown around the idea of creating a study resource that would basically represent the anatomy of Nichiren (in a philosophical sense). Thinking of it in this way, we think it becomes easier to visualize the key components of a living philosophy and see how they all interconnect to provide a fuller picture (like a mind map). Although ‘the anatomy of Nichiren’ or a mind map of the philosophy has yet to be applied within this website, We are definitely going to keep this model in mind when approaching the content.  We’re certain it will be helpful in presenting and building linkages between the different topics and concepts.

As our research into Nichiren Buddhism grows, the topic base continues to expand into new areas. This we think is the natural process of learning and also representative of the interconnectedness of ideas. At this initial point in the site’s development, some of the topics we’re planning to cover (in no particular order) are as follows (note: some are sub-topics of other topics):

  • Ichinen Sanzen (3000 realms in one thought moment)
  • Mutual Possession of theTen Worlds
  • Ten Factors
  • Three realms: the realm of the 5 components, the realm of living beings, and the realm of the environment
  • Nine Consciousnesses
  • Karma
  • Rebirth
  • Buddhist View of Causality
  • Nam-myoho-renge-kyo
  • The Gohonzon
  • Simultaneity of Cause and Effect
  • Three Truths
  • Dependant Origination
  • ‘Earthly Desires’ (Kleshas) leading to enlightenment
  • The Fourteen Slanders
  • Three Obstacles and Four Devils
  • The Eight Winds
  • True Cause
  • Ten Mystic Principles
  • Oneness of life and its environment
  • Three Great Secret Laws or Three Great Hidden Dharmas
  • Sunyata
  • Faith – Shraddha (Sanskrit) or Saddha (Pali)
  • Samsara or Sufferings of Transmigration in the Six Paths
  • Three Poisons

That’s the incomplete list for now, as we have probably forgotten a few items. We will also be adding new items as we’re introduced to new topics over time. We can’t tell you how excited we are to begin this journey and we’re looking forward to learning from all the people we encounter along the way!ванная комната интерьеруголовный кодекс украины подделка документовпродвижение сайтовMototerra разводполенифрит

December 07 / 2012
Author Ichinen Sanzen
Category Uncategorized
Comments No Comments