THE BUDDHA WRITINGS OF NICHIREN DAISHŌNIN~ AN INTRODUCTION ~
by Martin Bradley
In order to have a clear idea of what Nichiren intended in his writings, it is essential to have a reasonable understanding of the word myō, which I translate as utterness. Unfortunately, until very recently, many of the translations of these writings have twisted the meaning originally intended, due to a misunderstanding of the significance of this ideogram. However, throughout these theses and other writings, there are numerous instances in which Nichiren himself defines the word myō, which is the essential point on which his doctrine rests.
At this juncture, I would like to quote two phrases from The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden), to use as a cornerstone upon which the reader can build a deeper insight into this imponderably profound perception. “All-inclusiveness is the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen). But should we exchange the expressions ‘the ever-present now’ (soku) and ‘all-inclusiveness’ (en), they could be used as replacements for the word ‘utterness’ (myō).”
En means something that is round, circular, or encompassing, hence the use of the word “all-inclusiveness”. Ichinen sanzen literally means “one mind at present – three thousand”. The Chinese ideogram for “mind at present” (nen) is the ideogram for “now” placed above the ideogram for “heart”. Not so long ago, even in the west, people used to talk about the heart as an organ of thought (“my heart’s desire”, “my broken heart” or “completely heartless”, etc.). It is only since the nineteenth century that people have really assimilated the notion that we think with our brains. It might be worth mentioning that one of the Sanskrit equivalents to the Chinese ideogram shin for mind or heart is hrdaya or hrd, which is obviously the same philological root as “heart” in English or “coeur” in French.
Within the domain of the Buddha teaching, the implication of the word is closer to the idea of existence or being, rather than anything to do with the simple process of thinking. In the Thesis on the Whole being contained in the One Instant of Mind, Nichiren Daishōnin endorses a quotation from Myōraku (Miao-lo), by reiterating that the whole (of existence) is contained in the one instant of mind, which, in further detail, is divided into materiality and mind. Again in the Thesis on the Fundamental Object of Veneration for Contemplating the Mind, Nichiren writes, “These three thousand [existential spaces] are contained in a single instant of mind (ichinen sanzen). If there is no mind, then that is the end of it.” In other words, if there is no mind to perceive its own existence, then nothing can exist. In the Flower Garland Sutra (Kegon, Avatāmsaka-sūtra), there are two lines that have the same inference: “All dharmas are only mind, and the three realms, i) where sentient beings have organs of sense as well as desires, ii) where there is a physical dimension, and iii) where there is only mental activity, these three realms are merely ways of knowing.”
At first glance, existence from the Buddhist point of view seems to be subjective. This may be so, since the only way we can be aware of the reality of existence is through the means of perception of a mind that has individualised itself. Even so, one instant or the ever-present now of the individualised mind is its own utterness, which, at the same time, has been tarnished by our fundamental unenlightenment. This immediately becomes the materiality and mind within the oneness of mind. This fundamental unenlightenment is the karmic cause for both our bodies and their physical surroundings. Hence, the quality of how we perceive through our organs of sense and all our mental capabilities and defects have their origin in this extremely archaic karma.
Nevertheless, this one flash of mind, which is a continuity of flashes that constitute the ever-present now, makes itself known to us by what is occupying our immediate consciousness. Then, behind the here and now, we have somewhat closer thoughts that may be even related to what is going on in the present. Further away, there are other thoughts, memories, knowledge, stored away experiences, with their corresponding traumas and epiphanies. At greater depth, there are darker urges. And, way below our most archaic mental forces, we come to that part of us that is the very thing of life, which is what really makes us function as sentient beings. This is the glint of gold at the bottom of the abyss that C. G. Jung so often alludes to in his writings.
It is this part of us that brings our inherent archetypes to life and is also the dimension within us that occupies all space, all time, simultaneously and effortlessly. It is the very thing of life itself. In the language of the Buddha teaching, it is the citadel of the ninth cognition (kyūshiki no miyako). For those people who are in some way familiar with the teachings of Nichiren, this is the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) within us, which we project onto the same Object of Veneration (gohonzon) that is hanging in the altar (butsudan). Every nanosecond is the whole of existence, even though it may be only from a subjective worm’s eye view.
Another way of looking at this one instant of mind containing the whole universe would be to say: I am here in Belgium where I live, which is a part of Europe, on the old continent that is on the planet Earth, which is a part of the solar system, which again is a part of the Milky Way, and so on and so forth. It can also be said that what is happening now, at this very instant, cannot be separate from what is going on, at this same moment, in New Delhi, or on the surface of the sun.
Returning to the subject of the Buddhist technical expression “three thousand existential spaces”, even today in the Indian countryside there are not a few people who would find counting up to a thousand as an almost impossible undertaking, which would make such an amount practically innumerable. To treble such a sum would amount to incalculability. One can easily imagine that three thousand years ago such a numerical concept could easily imply totality. The existential spaces are just as it says. They are the spaces where existence takes place. The “all-roundness”, which is in the first quotation we are talking about, has the implication of the all-inclusiveness of the entirety of sentient existence.
Coming to the second sentence which I quoted a little earlier, it says, “But should we exchange the expressions ‘the ever-present now’ (soku) and ‘all-inclusiveness’ (en), they could be used as replacements for the word ‘utterness’ (myō).”
It is only in the writings of Nichiren Daishōnin that I have ever seen the ideogram soku used as a noun. In most dictionaries it is translated as “namely”, “then”, “forthwith”, “immediately”. Also, there are further interpretations which stem from the Tendai School in China, such as “not separate”, “not two”, and “inseparable from”. It is also a participle that has something akin to the idea of implication – A implies B; B is implicit in A; B does not exist without A. In Harajima’s Nichiren Daishōnin Goshō Jiten, we find, among various other definitions, “the inseparability of the sequence of time”. Obviously, if we try to make a noun out of all these adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, and conjunctions, we get something like “the simultaneousness of time”, “synchronicity, i.e., all space, all time simultaneously and effortlessly”, or the paraphrase “the ever-present now”.
The second sentence reads, “But should we exchange the expressions ‘the ever-present now’ for ‘all-inclusiveness’, they would become alternative words for ‘utterness’ (myō).” Now that we have the added ingredient of time, it would suggest that the real identity of life is that we live all space all time – which includes the past, present, and future – simultaneously, but always suspended in the ever-present now. We will go into the Buddhist concept of the simultaneity of cause and effect further on in this essay.
Although it may be possible to dig out the secrets of the universe by thought, reason, logic, and mathematics, it is also possible to examine what life is, by means of our feelings, sensations, or intuition. And it also can be a combination of all of these.
All the schools that propagate the teachings of Nichiren emphasize that the only way to open up our inherent Buddha nature is to develop a solid faith in the idea that all beings and all things are fully endowed with the essence of enlightenment. Faith is very like our intuition, which is a preparation by the mind without reasoning. Faith is also a kind of trust that can lead to understanding. It is also a part of the process of our personal development. Any flat belief in a dogma without enquiry can only lead to mental stagnation and bigotry. With an open mind, we can explore a teaching, look into it, think about it, and maybe such a teaching could well be able to impart to us profound psychological truths upon which we can build our lives.
None of the Buddha teachings are philosophies simply based on empirical concepts. Instead, they are a real exploration into ourselves and our environment, which can never be separated from what we are. However, there is not only one Buddha teaching. Also, the profundity, the extent as to how much these teachings involve is entirely dependent on what Shākyamuni’s intention was at the time when these doctrines were taught.
In order to clarify the role of Nichiren Daishōnin’s Buddha teaching in the evolution of Buddhist doctrine, I will have to first introduce the word Dharma and then proceed into an oversimplified summary of how the Buddha teaching evolved.
First, we have this word Dharma. According to Sanskritologists, this word means something that maintains its own character, which in itself becomes a standard. Essentially, the word Dharma signifies the whole universe and everything it contains, as an object of thought. Since no single item can be divorced from the rest of existence, from the standpoint of the Buddha teaching of Nichiren as well as various other schools of Buddhist thought, even the tiniest grains of dust are fully endowed with the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen) [see Thesis on the Real Aspect of All Dharmas]. As far as we are concerned at the moment, the second meaning of the term “Dharma” is the Buddha teaching. It is here that the Dharma has various implications, which are unequal in their profundity or extent. During the first forty-eight years of Shākyamuni’s preaching, with the scope of setting all sentient beings onto the path of enlightenment, he graded his teaching according to the needs and capacities of his hearers.
The first discourse of Shākyamuni was the Flower Garland Sutra (Kegon, Avatāmsaka-sūtra), which is a voluminous text that establishes the practices of a bodhisattva. However, this sutra, by being the first, is a revelation that describes the Buddha’s own enlightenment, as well as emphasizing that all sentient beings have a Buddha nature. Also, this sutra teaches that each and every other phenomenon, noumenon, or event, as well as each experience, although apparently independent, contains all things, experiences, and events, in an interdependent and mutually complementary relationship. It is recounted that Shākyamuni expounded this sutra to five of his co-practitioners, over a period of either three or six days.
Because the content of the Flower Garland Sutra (Kegon, Avatāmsaka-sūtra) was not readily accessible to people with little or no instruction, Shākyamuni then embarked upon the general teachings of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), which was the basic form of the Buddha doctrine based upon the Pāli Canon, whose main concern was the individual substantiation of nirvana in the sense of it being the complete annihilation of any state of existence whatsoever. In the Nichiren Schools that use English, often this period is called the “Agon Period” (Agonji), which refers to the Āgama sutras. But, since I try to avoid too many foreign words in writing English, or any other language for that matter, I refer to this period as “the general teachings of the individual vehicle”, an expression which seems to cover this concept satisfactorily. Albeit these doctrines of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna) were never intended to be ultimate teachings in themselves, even though Shākyamuni may have said so at the time, the real intention of these teachings as an expedient means was to lead people further into the Buddha dharma, so that they could become fully enlightened.
The third of the five doctrinal periods of Shākyamuni is the period of the equally broad (hōdō, vaipulya) teachings. These teachings are said to have been expounded for the benefit of sentient beings within the psychological and material realms (sangai), where i) sentient beings have organs of sense as well as desires, where ii) there is a physical dimension, and where iii) there is only mental activity. This period of teachings lasted for sixteen years. Among the important sutras that were expounded were the Sutra on the Golden Illuminating Light, which is often mentioned in the Thesis on Securing the Peace of the Realm through the Establishment of the Correct Dharma (Risshō Ankoku ron), as well as the Sutra on the Layman Yuimakitsu (Vimalakîrti), who refuted the teachings of the followers of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna) by showing that his own existence was based on relativity or the void (kū, shūnyatā).
The Wisdom (Hannya) period is the fourth of these five periods of teachings. Most of the sutras expounded at this time usually have the expression “the wisdom that ferries sentient beings over the sea of living and dying to the shores of nirvana” as a part of their titles. In these teachings, this particular wisdom is described as being the supreme, highest, or paramount, on account of its enlightenment and also due to its thorough understanding of the illusion of all existence. This doctrine was expounded as the principal means of attaining nirvana.
The final and fifth doctrinal period of Shākyamuni is called the Dharma Flower and Nirvana period (Hokke Nehanji), which lasted eight years, in which most of the time was taken up with expounding the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō). This sutra comprises twenty-eight chapters, and the version that was translated by Kumārajîva (344-409 CE) is the basic teaching of all the schools of Tendai (T’ien T’ai) and Nichiren.
The first fourteen chapters deal with events that occur in time and place and are called the “temporary gateway” (shakumon) to the Dharma. The following chapters refer to the timeless and fundamentally archetypal aspect of existence that is referred to as the “original gateway” (honmon) to the Dharma. This original gateway is the real revelation of the enlightenment of all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.
The whole content of this sutra, with all its adjoining implications, was written out in the form of a mandala by Nichiren Daishōnin himself, as the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon). The Nirvana Sutra was preached by Shākyamuni, just before his death. Nirvana is understood as the cessation of all desires, delusions, mortality, and of all activity, thus passing over to a state of nonbeing that is beyond all concept.
Each one of these five periods has its own Dharma; each Dharma has its own “extent of the reaches of the mind of the Tathāgata”. Incidentally, Tathāgata is a title that means “arrived at suchness”, which obviously has extremely profound implications. But, since it is a title, I leave it untranslated. However, out of all the different dharmas, there is only one Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma), which we will make an effort to explore in greater depth as we proceed.
In thirteenth century Japan during Nichiren’s lifetime, there was no empirical science, nor any scientific progress. There was an arithmetic mainly based on the abacus. Physics existed in relation to practical needs. A kind of chemistry did exist, especially in relation to metallurgy, paint-making, and materials for dyeing. It was a chemistry that was beginning to crawl out of its alchemical phase as in China. On the whole, most of Japanese learning at that time came from China. Nearly all learning was Chinese, except for some poetry and traditional sagas (monogatari). Outside of Buddhist doctrinal debate, which was always based on the fact that the Buddha always spoke the truth, there was no other discipline that really asked the whys and wherefores of existence. The Japan of Nichiren was an age of deep research into and a faithful reliance on the Buddha teachings, combined with an unshakable adherence to the mythology, folklore, and traditional values of the time.
We must not forget that Nichiren transmitted many of his teachings in writing to many of his followers. With this I would like to point out that all that we know about the doctrines of the Buddha Shākyamuni, Jesus Christ, and maybe many other religious founders, is what has been noted down by their followers. In the case of Nichiren, there still remain, here and there throughout Japan, many of his original writings, not to mention copies of these texts made by his closer disciples of the same period.
Coming back to our central discourse which is myō and Myōhō Renge Kyō, I would like to give some other definitions of this pivotal word, before we explore the “theme and title” (daimoku) that is recited by all schools that claim to be following Nichiren:
– Kai means to open up, clear away, or make accessible. In this sense, those who do not do any of the practices of any of the schools of Nichiren are usually totally unaware that, at the bottom of their psyches, there is a force that is totally unsullied by any deed or action, yet at the same time it permeates the whole of existence, and yet it remains itself. In the technical language of the teaching of Nichiren, this is referred to as the triple body, independent of all karma (musa sanjin). People who follow other faiths may have deep intuitions about its existence or even visions of it, such as in near-death states or trances. What is more important is to know what this archetype consists of and to know that its contents are what make us what we are.
The whole of the constituents of what make up the forces of life were written out by Nichiren, who was completely enlightened to them, on the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon). In order to have a real access to this Object of Veneration (gohonzon), the followers of the various Nichiren schools recite the theme and title. It is also possible to enrich our understanding of life through reading Nichiren's writings. And, for those people who can read the Chinese ideograms, they can study and ponder over these archetypal forces written out on the Object of Veneration (gohonzon). This again is a subject that will be studied in further depth, as we go forward.
– Gusoku means completely fulfilled. This expression is found here and there throughout the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) and the writings of Nichiren Daishōnin. The implication of this term is “there is nothing lacking”. This concept of completeness stands in contrast to other mandalas that usually have some defect or other, usually because they do not include our less noble urges or our darkest, hellish thoughts. If they do, then they are only conventionalised painted shapes. From the Buddhist point of view, these artisanally painted images only correspond to the axiom of phenomenon (ke), which is simply the outward form.
On the other hand, concerning written ideograms seen through the vision of Nichiren, his Writing on Questions and Answers with regard to All the Schools states the following: “Because written ideograms reveal the conditions of all the sentient beings who write them, people’s handwriting lets us know what their mental capacities are. In the light of the equation of mind and materiality not being two separate dharmas, then what people write is a manifestation of those persons’ poorness or fulfilment. It is only natural that written ideograms are the expression of the non-duality of materiality and mind of all sentient beings.”
This statement tallies completely with the philosophy of the painters of the post-informal school in the 1950s, as well as the opinion of many graphologists. What we write or what we paint, or even whatever we sing or say at any given moment, are what we really are, along with the whole of existence. The non-duality of mind or materiality, colour or form, sound or odour, by being the “middle way of reality” (chūdō jissō) opens up the speculative thought that what artists, musicians, composers, poets, and calligraphers have given to humankind are perceptions that give us a greater understanding as to what life is all about. In order that humankind could open up and substantiate the wisdom of the Buddha in each one of us, Nichiren inscribed the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon), which contains the ultimate equation of what constitutes life and inanimate existence, which he expresses in what might seem an oversensitive, and yet frighteningly dynamic, calligraphy. Since the Dharma of Nichiren Daishōnin is inseparable from the word “utterness” (myō), it can only have the implication of “being completely fulfilled”.
– The next definition of utterness is enman, which is the all-inclusive, replenished whole of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen). This replenishment refers to our living all space, all time, simultaneously and without effort. In the Thesis on the Real Aspect of All Dharmas, Nichiren makes the following remark, “The subjectivity and its dependent environment of the ‘hell of incessant suffering’ (mukan jigoku) are completely present in the minds of the supremely sage-like. So the person and the environmental terrain of persons such as the guardian Deva King of the North Bishamon (Vaishramana) do not go beyond the bounds of the universe contained in the instant of mind of ordinary people.”
– Another important definition of utterness is sosei, renewal, renovation, or rebirth. All of us are living in our own respective, ever-volatilising corridor of events, which at one end consists of the receding memories of a past which will eventually become the vagaries of history or personal myth. At the other end of this rapidly evaporating corridor, which is in fact the ever-present now, we also have the wildest dreams of a future that does not yet exist.
In a teaching that perceives existence as a oneness of space and time suspended in a synchronicity of cause and effect, it is difficult to have a concept of a future in which we can lighten our karmic loads and look towards something brighter. It would seem that our ways of understanding our surroundings and ourselves are akin to the volatile corridor of time, which I mentioned before. This volatile corridor is essentially made up of a sequence of karmic relationships and requitals for what we have done in the past, as well as all our karmic potentials.
This sequence also gives rise to the chain of illusions that we call our lives. The end of this volatile corridor becomes more indistinct, as the immediate past dissolves into the memories, reminiscences that precondition us to our respective present attitudes. The past consists of these residues of impressions that are recalled to the mind’s perceptions, to which we add our acquired knowledge of history, palaeontology, as well as other sciences. The front end of this volatile corridor is also blurred by our hopes, fantasies, wishes, and intentions, as it rushes along its karmic orbit. Our hopes for the future are affected by the circumstances of the past. But it is due to our various wants and intentions of what we should do about them that may change the course of our lives. Tomorrow I will shave. I will do my work and even do my practice.
Even though our subjective existences may have an apparently defined karmic tendency, it is through our intentions or determination or our neglectfulness and don’t-care philosophies that shape the actual direction of what will happen in due time. So if we are to hold a determined faith in a teaching whose values are applicable to those of the 21st century and whose practice can be feasible in the societies that we live in, then without a doubt we can become wealthy, healthy, happy, and wise. Although our individual existences are not separate from time, space, and every possible psychological dimension, it is our individual intentions and efforts that can alter our karmic orbits.
In this sense, Utterness is continually renewing itself and changing. I cannot give a reason why, but it seems that life really started on earth when monocellular organisms found a way of dying, instead of multiplying and clustering together with each other ad infinitum. When we die, we enter the dimension that is called the “antarābhava” (chūyū), which is the intermediate state between dying and rebirth. Those people who are familiar with the text that is popularly known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead will recognise this period as the bardo.
Incidentally, we must not forget that Nichiren was most certainly familiar with the esoteric doctrines of the Shingon School and that the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) itself contains Tantric elements. However, according to many other yogic and Tantric writings, people who are unused to mind-revealing experiences, or are unschooled in esoteric teachings, and who are also so attached to themselves that their only thought is “what is going to happen to me?”, very often have very traumatic experiences in this intermediate state before being reborn again. It is my personal opinion that whatever happens to us during this state highly influences and moulds the archetypes of our minds, which in turn have a lot to do with our future bodies and their surroundings, since through such experiences, our fears, longings, tendencies to love or to hate, etc., are already firmly planted.
According to these Tantric texts, all our positive and negative reactions to the visions in the intermediate state before rebirth are our own choices, and our reaction to them stems from previous existences. Since we can never be separated from Utterness itself, then this idea might lead to a vague idea as to how karma works. This idea is fully implied in the following concept of Nichiren, in his Collation of the Layers of the Various Teachings of all the Buddhas of the Past, Present and Future as to which Specific Doctrines are to be Discarded or Established, where he states, “In as much as the mind and the Dharma of the Buddha are Utterness, and the mind and dharmas of sentient beings are also utterness, and both these two utternesses are what make our minds work, therefore, outside of mind, dharmas do not exist at all.”
Notwithstanding, the possibility of being reborn again opens up opportunities to seek an inner understanding of what our identity really is and all that it signifies. This also applies to our everyday reality, since all of us want to be happy. This realisation of happiness then comes about through a search for the right teaching and a sincere desire to understand what our lives are about. Because life is in no way separate from Utterness, since this is what sets everything in motion, then it is in this sense that this word means renewal.
– Utterness also has the meaning of the Dharma nature. This particular nuance is probably the hardest to explain, since it is beyond the bounds of ordinary experience. The Dharma nature is the “real suchness” (shinnyō) that underlies all existence. It is also understood as being indescribable, and sometimes it is referred to as the “Buddha nature” (busshō).
Within the limits of human experience and from reading Tantric texts, the Dharma nature might be described as the clear light that is often seen in near-death experiences, or in hallucinogenic and other visionary states. Some people who have had this kind of experience say that they become the clear light and that, by becoming so, they are completely free from any subjectivity or objectivity.
Nevertheless, this Dharma nature or Buddha nature not only exists for humankind, one might suppose that it exists also for other living creatures, and also that the insentient and the inanimate have a Dharma nature as well. This point is clearly revealed in the Esoteric Oral Transmission Concerning Plants, Trees and the Environment having their Inherent Buddha Nature made Manifest, in the following passages:
“The question is asked: In the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), are both sentient beings and that which is insentient capable of revealing their inherent Buddha nature?
“The answer is given: The Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō) [the sutra which is made up of vertical threads that constitute the realms where existence takes place, into which is woven the filament of the interdependence of cause and effect that is symbolised by the lotus flower] is in itself the entirety or utterness (myō) of existence, which is also the Dharma (hō).”
This overwhelming title of this particular sutra would suggest that the absolute essence of reality and its substantiation entail the concurrence of all space and all the tenses of past, present, or future, suspended in an ever immediate present. Be that as it may, most of us are still stuck in the sticky trap with its karmically delineated boundaries.
What these boundaries really consist of are the five aggregates (go.on) that darken the awareness of our original enlightenment – i. a material form with its equally physical environment, ii. reception, sensation, feeling, and the functioning of the mind in connection with affairs and things, iii. conception, thought, discerning, and the functioning of the mind in distinguishing what is going on in both its psychological and material surroundings, iv. the functioning of the mind in its processes with regards to likes, dislikes, good and evil, etc., v. the mental faculty that makes us think we are who we are, on account of what we know.
Hence, due to such impediments, we are unable to see readily into the future or further back into the past beyond our own lived experiences, but we can have intuition and knowledge. In this light, C. G. Jung suggests that paranormal gifts and psychic phenomenon are something to do with a kind of “short circuit” between the realms of dharmas, which are really various states of consciousness, or even the whole.
It is here that I would like to make another digression. Nichiren, for the various reasons that are only sketchily described in the abbreviated biography at the beginning of this essay, received a summons to be interrogated by the Court of Enquiry. At this interrogation, Nichiren Daishōnin reprimanded the hypocritical attitude of the Shogunate. The outraged Minister Heinosaemon no Jō immediately had Nichiren arrested. In the middle of the night, he was taken to Tatsu no Kuchi, to face being put to death by beheading. Just as the executioner’s blade was about to swish down onto Nichiren’s neck, a brilliant orb, brighter than the full moon, shot across the sky, from the southeast to northwest. It was shortly before dawn, yet still too dark to see anyone’s face, but the radiant object lit up the whole surroundings, like a powerful magnesium flare. The executioner fell on his face, with his eyes so dazzled that he could not see. The soldiers were terrified and panic-stricken...
In spite of various astronomical explanations for this event, has anybody thought that this orb of clear diamond light, that could illuminate all its surroundings, was anything other than a projection, or some kind of spilling over of the utterly enlightened mind of Nichiren himself, as he was about to be decapitated?
It would be difficult to imagine a person who had a handwriting with such wise hypersensitivity and strength not being associated with some kind of paranormal event or other. The tears that Nichiren mentions in his Thesis on the Real Aspect of All Dharmas almost allude to the tears that were not uncommonly shed during the mind-revealing experiences of many people, during the latter half of the twentieth century. However, such events that occurred at Tatsu no Kuchi, where Nichiren was nearly executed, remain imponderably inexplicable.
This last term, “imponderably inexplicable”, is also one of the many definitions of Utterness. Then, there is the concept of “Utterness in comparison with other teachings” (sōtaimyō). Essentially, this particular view means that when the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is compared with all the other sutras, it is only this sutra that entails the synchronicity of all space and all time, etc. On the other hand, with regard to existence, all the other Buddha teachings see time as a long piece of string which is really only a figment of our individual minds. Hence, all other sutras cannot measure up to the profundity of the Dharma Flower. This opens up the way for the idea of “Utterness as an absolute quality separate from all else” (zettaimyō). In any event, Utterness cannot exist without the comparability of the Dharma or dharmas.
Before leaving these definitions of Utterness and moving on to the word “dharma”, I would first like to explain that, in terms of the Buddha teaching, the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas, in everyday language, correspond to ten different states of mind. To give an example, when we are angry or rapturously in love, these particular states may be the dominant mood when they are happening, but, at the same time, even though we may be in the blindest of rages or at the height of orgasmic ecstasy, something of the rest of our lives remains somewhere in our heads. What I am trying to say is that each one of the ten dharma realms is mutually endowed with the same ten realms, or, as some schools put it, the mutual possession of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas. However, in order to understand this as a living experience, our heads know no simple joy or a sheet of pain that is not psychologically tinged by everything that happened prior to or after what is happening at any given moment. Our minds are as vast as the whole of existence.
Since Utterness sublimely includes everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will happen, as well as every imaginable space, we are confronted with the question about free will. Apart from the Dharma realm of the Buddha, the other nine realms of dharmas are seen as a network of interacting, volatile corridors of dream time and dream space, wherein people are only fully conscious of the actual instant they are living, so that they react according to their karmically construed personalities to situations that are also as illusory as the rest of their unenlightenment.
In The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden), Nichiren states that “Utterness is the Dharma nature, and dharmas are its unenlightenment. The single entity of unenlightenment and the Dharma nature is called the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma).”
I have no doubt that the reader is fully aware that the word Dharma is a semantic minefield. However, whatever other meanings, nuances, and implications can be given to this word, within the boundaries of the Buddha teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin, dharmas are everything that we think, see, hear, smell, taste, touch, or no matter what comes onto the horizons of our consciousness, as well as all that lies submerged below any level of awareness. Whatever it is, it is existence and therefore a dharma. In a more verbose way, we could define dharma as the momentary configuration of events. There can be no dharma that stands alone.
As I have said earlier on, both the Buddha teachings of Shākyamuni and Nichiren tend to be expounded from a subjective angle. Hence, we have the Dharma that is the teaching of the enlightened, who perceive their existence in terms of the wholeness of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen). Dharmas are not separate from Utterness. But it is through studying the writings of Nichiren that one can have an idea of what the real implication is of becoming aware of our inherent Buddha nature not being separate from our respective personalities. To really substantiate this notion, then it becomes a question of doing the whole practice. At this point, it might be worth mentioning that there is no Buddha teaching without a practice that corresponds to it.
Remote waterfall on the south end of Buttle Lake, Vancouver Island, BC
Martin Bradley, The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishōnin, ISBN: 2-913122-19-1, 2005,
The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishōnin by Martin Bradley
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 Canada License.