THE BUDDHA WRITINGS OF NICHIREN DAISHŌNIN~ AN INTRODUCTION ~
by Martin Bradley
Even though the concept of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen) is included in the glossary at the end of this book, I am going to explain it so that the reader can grasp this concept in further detail. For the sake of putting our various mental states and moods that are often indefinable at the edges, such as our complexes, joys, angers, and sufferings, into a schema where they can be grasped more clearly, the Buddha teaching evolved the doctrine of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas.
The unhappiest realm of dharmas is hell (jigokukai) and the suffering of its denizens. This would include all suffering, either physical or mental. Suffering begins at the stage of a thorn in your little finger, feeling the lash of pain caused by words that hurt, humiliations, the pain of broken relationships, illnesses and injuries. This also must include the horrors of war and the almost unimaginable mental dimension of the perpetrators and the victims of things that happened in the Second World War, as well as what has been going on in the Middle East, Africa, and other places in recent years. Hell is also hate.
Each and every one of us has suffered in some way or another. From a more conventional and stereotyped Buddhist point of view, there are, according to various teachings of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), eight hot hells, eight cold hells which are situated under the world of humankind. Usually the descriptions of these hells are mediaeval and sadistic and, in their iconographic way, far removed from the real pain, suffering, and mental anguish that many people experience. The object of the teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin is to lead people away from such torments.
Hungry demons (gaki), in the Buddhist teaching of Shākyamuni, are seen as ghosts who live in a purgatorial state, some say under the ground. It is their sad destination that they are condemned to continually hanker after food, sex, drink, and other such things that they covet. It is reported that there are 39 classes of these unfortunate creatures. This is the second of the three lower karmic destinations.
In traditional Buddhist iconography, these beings are depicted as having long, thin necks with swollen bellies that force them to crawl on the ground. There are also a number of Japanese paintings of the Edo period depicting hungry ghosts hanging around the more sordid and seedy establishments of the red-light districts. The present-day visualisation would be closer to heroin addicts in need of a fix, or alcoholic derelicts haunted by their thirst, or the need for a cigarette. This is the part of us that craves, wants, and must have in order to continue. From a positive angle, the perpetual desire for food, nourishment, money, etc., is the mechanism to defend the life within us, in order to do the things that make life positive. Again, like all the other realms of dharmas, the mental state of the hungry demon is also endowed with all the other ten.
In the teachings prior to those of Nichiren Daishōnin, the realms of dharmas of animality (chikushōkai) meant to be born as an animal, even though there must be psychic entities that can only be incarnated in the animal world. One of the definitions of animality is a sentient being who is essentially motivated by animal instincts and territorialities. Since we also have been described as hairless apes, then maybe we can recognise that our animal qualities are not only limited to eating, defecation, and sex, but are also partly responsible for our class systems, hierarchies and feudalism in the office or in the workplace. However, to be born with a human body also gives us the opportunity to open up our minds to comprehend what life is all about.
The shura (shurakai), originally, in the Brahmanic and Vedic mythology, were titanesque beings who were always vying with the deva (ten) for superiority. Traditionally they are defined as being “ugly”, “not deva” and “without wings”. There are four categories of these beings that depend on the manner of their birth, which means they are born from eggs, or from a womb, or born by transformation, or as spawn in the water. Their habitat is the ocean which only comes up to their knees, but other less powerful shura (shurakai) live in mountain caves in the West. In popular iconography, the kings of the shura are represented with three faces, and they have either four or six arms. They also have realms and palaces like the deva (ten).
In the teaching of Nichiren, this realm of dharmas corresponds to the psychological mechanism of wanting to be centre of attention, to be noticed by others, and the desire to control. Often when these tendencies are frustrated, they then turn into anger, rage, and jealousy. In simpler terms it has a lot to do with the show-off within us. In the Thesis on the Fundamental Object of Veneration for Contemplating the Mind, Nichiren refers to cajolery, wheedling, and “buttering up” as a part of this dimension. In a more positive sense, this is the part of us that says we need our own space, which enables us to mentally and physically carry on living – in other words, all that our egos need.
The realm of dharmas of humanity (jinkai) is the sense of equanimity and rationality. In spite of all our troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha), there is a part of us that reassures us that things are not as bad as they appear and that everything is all right. It is the part of us that gets on with our daily living without too many upsets – in other words, a satisfactory life. In the Buddha teaching of Shākyamuni, the realm of dharmas of humanity meant being born as a human being.
As far as the teaching of Shākyamuni is concerned, the realms of dharmas of the deva (tenkai) refer mainly to the merits of the divinities of Brahmanism and other Vedic teachings. The deva (ten) are said to have golden bodies, superhuman powers, and to have extremely long lives filled with joy and ecstasy. But, like all other lifespans, at some time or other, they have to come to an end.
Many deva are protectors of the Buddha teaching. According to Nichiren’s writing on Securing the Peace of the Realm through the Establishment of the Correct Dharma, one gets the impression that the deva (ten) protect human interests and that they are also nourished by religious rites and especially by the recitation of the title and theme Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. This is something we will explore further as this essay proceeds.
There are many cultures that have legends and mythologies concerning sentient beings who would come into the category of deva (ten), such as the elves, guardian spirits, local gods, saints, angels, and ancestral divinities. Since there are a number of names of deva (ten) who are important to the Buddha teaching of Nichiren inscribed on the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon), would not these tutelary essences be archaic archetypal elements in the depth of our psyches that have some influence over our lives in one way or another? Or when we create so much bad karma by doing things that are unwholesome that these archetypes can no longer take part in what we do, then these deva (ten) or whatever they may be no longer make their presences felt, which allows more destructive energies to take their place.
Anyone who has practised the teachings of Nichiren cannot help but be aware of forces that in some way guide our lives, often in the most unexpected way. What I have just said about the deva (ten) is obviously a personal intuition. However, somebody is likely to ask the question, “What are the deva (ten)?” Therefore, I thought an allusion to their existence might be food for speculation.
Because the deva (ten) have extremely happy and ecstatic long lives that unavoidably must come to an end in a protractedly distant future, the concept of the realms of dharmas of the deva (ten) in the teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin refers to our joys and epiphanies. Whatever our raptures and delights may be – like falling in love, getting the right job, a great night out, or the enjoyment of doing something useful or creative – however exhilarating or joyful our experiences may be, we are always sooner or later compelled to return to the more severe dimension of our normal realities of living. The realms of dharmas of the deva (ten) refer to the impermanence of all our joys, raptures, and delights.
The realm of dharmas of the hearers of the voice (shōmonkai) is a literal translation of the Sino-Japanese Buddhist term, which means “those who listen to or have heard the Buddha’s voice”. In the teaching of Nichiren, this term has the undertone of those who seek a meaning in their lives. Seen as a state of mind, it is the dimension of learning and wanting to find out. This process starts in our early childhood with continual questions in the form of “What is...?” and “Why?” This is the part of us that is the researcher and inquirer and the part of us where learning is still going on.
The realm of dharmas of the partially enlightened due to karmic circumstances (engakukai) is different from the search for understanding and wanting to know why. This psychological dimension is based on something comparable to the sensitivity of the mature painter and sculptor who perceive the phenomenal world around and within them as an aesthetic oneness, even though artists may pick and choose varying and contrasting colours and shapes in order to communicate their respective pictorial or sculptural messages. This is also true for composers who understand sound as a oneness that can be broken up, discriminated, and made use of. Again, it is the same with people who work with words, and no doubt there must be equivalents in the worlds of mathematics, science, and biology, etc., etc.
This realm of dharmas involves those people who have a deep understanding about what life itself entails, but not all its secrets. In the teachings that the Buddha Shākyamuni preached before the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), people who were partially enlightened due to karmic circumstances tended to be more involved in their own substantiation of nirvana, rather than taking into consideration all the people suffering in the bewilderment of the delusions of life around them. It is this point that evokes the essential difference between the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna) and the universal vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna) that strives for the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings.
The realms of dharmas of the bodhisattvas (bosatsukai), in the teachings of Shākyamuni up to the time of the original gateway (honmon) of the Dharma Flower Sutra, indicated persons who seek enlightenment not only for themselves but also strive for the Buddha enlightenment of all sentient beings. However, the enlightenment of the Buddha teachings prior to the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is fundamentally flawed with the concept of a Buddhahood in the sense of attaining nirvana after arduous practices over a period of many kalpas. What this really entails is that, after becoming a Buddha with the body of a Buddha such as seen in Buddha images, one would then be extinguished into the void of relativity (kū, shūnyatā) and would no longer exist at all.
In contrast to such an attainment being hardly feasible, especially the continuous practices spread over many aeons, the possibility of the real happiness and inner realisation of the Buddha teaching of Nichiren, whose object is to open up our inherent nature with our persons just as they are, remains within the bounds of possibility. Bodhisattvas, especially with the connotation of bodhisattvas who spring from the earth, are understood as not only people who practise for themselves, but who also seek to set others onto this particular path, which is the practice and doctrine of all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future. At another level, the bodhisattva realm is that part of us which wants to do something for the benefit of others. Essentially, it is our altruistic nature.
To be more precise about the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth, I will have to digress from what I was saying about the altruistic qualities of those persons who belong to the Dharma realm of the bodhisattvas, in order to deal with one of the most difficult doctrines of the Nichiren Schools.
The bodhisattvas who spring from the earth are first mentioned in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up out of the Earth, which is the chapter that marks the beginning of the teaching of the original gateway. This gateway to the Dharma might well be thought of as a psychological description of the archetypal and fundamental state of all sentient existence.
In previous chapters, myriads and myriads of bodhisattvas who had come from other realms asked the Buddha Shākyamuni for permission to propagate the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) among the world of humankind after his demise into nirvana. Nevertheless, the Buddha refused, by stating that there were already bodhisattvas capable of carrying out this task. At the beginning of the fifteenth chapter, the ground shook and an astronomical number of bodhisattvas sprang from the earth, each one accompanied by his own coherent following of devotees. These bodhisattvas were led by four bodhisattvas – Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra), Infinite Practice (Muhengyō, Anantachārita), Pure Practice (Jyōgyō, Vishuddhachārita), and Firmly Established Practice (Anryūgyō, Supratishthichārita).
Since this gateway to the Dharma is so delicate and profound, I would rather quote Nichiren from his “Single All Embracing Item on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up out of the Earth”, which is a part of The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) (Goshō Shimpen, p.1764):
“Number One, Concerning the Teachers who are Leaders of the Chant: The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) says, ‘The whole of this particular Chapter on the Bodhisattvas who Swarm up out of the Earth deals with those bodhisattvas who were converted in the inherent infinity of existence.’ The behavioural norm of the bodhisattvas who were converted in the inherent infinity of existence is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō; this means that they recite it. ‘To lead’ means to induce and guide all sentient beings of the world of humankind to the Pure Terrain of Spirit Vulture Peak (Ryōjusen, Gridhrakūta). The leaders and tutors of the final period of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō) who confine themselves to the original doctrine of the conversion within the inherent infinity of existence are referred to as teachers.
‘Now, in order to make it clear what the Four Universal Bodhisattvas imply, it says, in the ninth fascicle of the Supplementary Adjustments and Annotations to Myōraku’s Textual Explanation of the Dharma Flower Sutra: ‘The four guides and teachers who are in the sutra actually depict four specific virtues. Jōgyō [lit., the Practice that is Supreme] represents me, Nichiren. Muhengyō [lit., Practice without Bounds] stands for timelessness. Jyōgyō [lit., the Practice of Purity] represents purity itself. Anryūgyō, which literally means “the Practice that Establishes Tranquillity”, portrays happiness. At one moment in time, there is one single person who is to be endowed with these four significant qualities.’
“The practice that dwells on the terrain that is completely free and unrestricted, as well as being exempt from the two kinds of death, one of which is the living and dying of ordinary sentient beings, whereas the other is seen by persons that are sage-like or bodhisattvas as nothing more than a transition – such an observance is called the Practice that is Supreme (Jōgyō). By going beyond the confinement of impermanency, this practice is thought of as the Practice without Bounds (Muhengyō). On account of the potential of this practice to rid ourselves of the polluting involvements of the five fundamental conditions that bring about troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha) in our physical surroundings along with their corresponding needs and desires, as well as the obstacles and attachments that lurk in the domain of our thoughts and ideas (sangai, triloka), this practice is spoken of as the Practice of Purity (Jyōgyō). Because the bodhi tree is a sphere of virtues, this adherence is said to be the Practice that Establishes Tranquillity (Anryūgyō).”
Now all those who follow Nichiren and reverently recite Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō follow the same course as the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth. The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) also states that fire has the function of burning things; water is used for making things clean; wind has the role of blowing dust and dirt away; and the earth has the purpose of making plants and trees grow. These are the effective benefits of the four bodhisattvas. Even though the functions of these Four Bodhisattvas differ, all of them carry out the practice of the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō).
The explanation for the reason why these Four Bodhisattvas inhabit the nether region is said to be “that the Buddha nature is a bottomless abyss and the profundity of its essential point is unfathomable”. “By being the nether region, it is where they abide. By being the nether region, it is where the actual intrinsicality of existence lies.” In the Supplementary Adjustments and Annotations, it says, “With regard to the nether region, the Chinese monk Jiku Dō Shō (?-434) declared that by living in the nether region the Four Bodhisattvas themselves are the actual intrinsicality of existence.”
But the actual intrinsicality of existence is said to come out of its abode and make itself apparent. Nevertheless, The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden) does not say that the thousands of plants and myriads of trees are not the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth. Therefore, the bodhisattvas themselves who spring from the earth are said to be the original terrain, which is the inherent infinity of each and every instant. The origin is the effective benefit of a past, which would figuratively be described as a time that existed prior to a period which would amount to all particles of dust that go into the making of five hundred kalpas. This in fact refers to the effective benefit that has neither beginning nor end.
The bodhisattvas that spring from the earth are those that hold to the original Dharma, which is inherently infinite. The Dharma which is inherently infinite is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. Since this title and theme is decidedly what the bodhisattvas who spring from the earth hold to, then it is not in the possession of those bodhisattvas who were converted through the temporary gateway to the Dharma, which is made up of doctrines suspended in time and space. From the fundamental substance of this inherently infinite Dharma emerges its function, which expands into the one instant of thought containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen).
This is made clear in Tendai’s (T’ien T’ai) Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly. At a more general level, the explanations of the Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai) and the Teacher of Humankind consist of the propagation and the application of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma), “This inherently infinite original Dharma is accepted and held to through the single word faith. The sharp sword that can confront and cure our primordial unenlightenment is the single word faith. You must realise that faith is defined as being free of doubt.”
To finish this digression which nevertheless is very important for the understanding of the concept of a bodhisattva from the standpoint of the Nichiren Schools, I would like to add that Nichiren, in his Thesis on the Fundamental Object of Veneration for Contemplating the Mind, refers to a phrase in the Sutra on the Buddha’s Passing over to Nirvana, where it says that “Even an unrepenting, wicked man can still have love and affection for his wife and children. This is the part of us that is the bodhisattva.”
With regard to the Dharma realm of the Buddha (bukkai), here the word Dharma is in the singular because the Buddhas see the whole of existence as a oneness that is not separate from its synchronistic dynamo, Utterness. Since this is beyond the experience of anyone I know of, I shall simply quote from the second part of the 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:
“You must make the effort to substantiate the intrinsicality of the esoteric treasure [the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon)] through your practice, since this is what all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future originally had in mind. The two sage-like persons the Bodhisattva Sovereign Remedy (Yaku’ ō, Bhaishajya-rāja) and the Bodhisattva Giver of Courage (Yuze, Pradhānashura), along with the two Deva Sovereign Guardians, Deva Sovereign Guardian who Maintains the Terrains upon which we Depend for an Existence (Daijikoku Tennō, Dhritarashtra Mahādeva-rāja), and Deva Sovereign Guardian Vaishravana (Bishamon Tennō, Vaishrarana Mahādeva-rāja), as well as the Mother Numen of the Demonic Children (Kishimojin, Hārītī), will watch over you and protect you. When you die, you will be immediately reborn in the ultimate supreme terrain of silence and illumination.
But should you for the shortest while return to the dream of living and dying, your person [Dharma body] will completely fill all the realms of dharmas of the ten directions, and your mind will be in the physical incarnations of all sentient beings. You will urge them on towards enlightenment from within, and on the outside you will show these sentient beings which path to take. Since there is a mutual correspondence between what is on the inside and what is on the outside, as well as there being a harmony between causes and karmic circumstances, you will busy yourself with the immense compassion that lies in the fullness of the reaches of your mind that is independently free to effectively benefit all sentient beings simultaneously.”
In the light of what I just quoted, I can only suppose that, for a person who has opened up his inherent Buddha nature with his personality just as it stands, there is somewhere in the depths of that person a consciousness of that person’s identity being the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) itself, as well as the wisdom to discern its subtlest workings.
Here I have to reiterate that each one of these realms of dharmas is furnished with the other ten, not as a sequel, nor in any order, but rather as an amorphous blob of ten potentialities of personality change. As I said a little earlier on, even when I am famished which is a condition that belongs to the realms of dharmas of the hungry demons, the affection I have for my friends does not diminish [the bodhisattva realm]. Yet my anger with that nasty civil servant is still lingering [the realm of the shura]. I am still enjoying the surroundings of my home [the realm of humanity]; and my ability to read the Dharma Flower Sutra in the original has not been overshadowed in any way [the realm of the hearers of the Buddha’s voice]. And now I have made a fart which is something to do with the realm of dharmas of animality, and so on and so forth.
These ten [psychological] realms of dharmas that have now become a hundred, because each one of these ten [psychological] realms of dharmas is mutually endowed with the other ten – they become the basic fundamental of understanding this Buddhist view of life. Now we must look into the ten such qualities that define and describe in further clarity how we live out the first hundred psychological impulses.
In the Thesis on the Whole being Contained in the One Instant of Mind, the first sentence begins with, “The whole is contained in the one instant of mind. In further detail, this one instant is divided into a combination of materiality and mind.”
The concept and the ideogram for “materiality” is just a little more complex than what it seems. Perhaps I should start by saying that colour, form, solidity, and their attractiveness or ugliness are not separate from each other. Originally, the ideogram for materiality was a pictogram of a human face. At first, it must have had the intended meaning of how someone appears to the outside world. Later, like all words, the significances and nuances attached to this ideogram multiplied as the centuries went by. Apart from the idea of colour not being separate from its form, in the grey rustic world of ancient China, complexions and pinkness became sexual fetishes. We have a famous sentence from the Analects of Confucius that says, “I have not yet seen anyone loving virtues as much as they like pink faces (i.e., sex).”
Be that as it may, here in my translations, materiality implies colour, its form, and in this context we should also include density, hence the translation of shiki as materiality. The opposite of this concept is mind. The original Chinese ideogram was a simplified picture of a human heart, which, as we have said before, was for the ancients the organ with which they thought. In the Buddha teaching we have the equation “mind and materiality are not two separate entities” (shiki shin funi).
It is virtually impossible to close one’s eyes and not see at least an indigo backcloth on which to project our waking minds. Usually the backcloth moves and things like clouds, marshmallows, streaks of light, patterns, changing landscapes, strange architecture, and even nonexistent toys, faces, and strange animals appear in an endless procession, as our minds tick over at their own pace. But if we open our eyes and look at the space around us, whether it is outside with trees and houses or what have you, or an interior of a room with its furnishings, none of this could possibly exist, if we did not have a mind to perceive them.
Although materiality and mind may not be separate from each other, there is a difference between what goes on in our heads and what we see when we open our eyes. In addition to the images that float in our heads, there are also more abstract notions, such as words, figures, and imagined sounds and touch.
The second sentence of the passage quoted earlier on, says, “In further detail, this one instant [of mind] is divided into materiality and mind.” Most people seem to see their lives in these terms. This leads us to the ten such qualities (jūnyoze), which in the Dharma Flower Sutra are ten modalities that are ingrained in every aspect and instant of life.
The first mention of these ten such qualities appears in the Second Chapter on Expedient Means of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), where the Buddha Shākyamuni states, “What the Buddha has actually realised is the most rare and incomprehensible of all dharmas. Only one Buddha to another can exhaustively examine the real aspect of all dharmas. This is said to be that all dharmas have such an appearance, such a nature, such a substance, such a strength, such an action, such a cause, such a karmic relationship or affinity, such a fruition or effect, such a requital. Then, from such an appearance to such a requital, all these nine such qualities from beginning to end are equally the ultimate dimension of the real aspect of all dharmas.”
What this means is that 1) such an appearance is the way such a dharma presents itself and also the way it behaves. The Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai) explains in the second fascicle of his Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, “An appearance is according to its manifest features, which have their own peculiarity. Hence it is referred to as an appearance.” The Universal Teacher Myōraku (Miao-lo) mentions in the fourteenth fascicle of his Explanatory Notes on the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, “An appearance is only a dharma’s manifestation.”
2) Such a nature is also its disposition, temperament qualities, and properties, etc. The Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower defines “nature” as “the intrinsic, inborn disposition which one cannot change. This is why it is referred to as such a nature.” What is ultimately intended in the fundamental nature of all dharmas is the Triple Body independent of all karma, that is to say, the whole of existence – i.e., the Dharma body, the wisdom to understand it, i.e., Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, and the way existence manifests itself. In Myōraku’s (Miao-lo) Explanatory Notes on the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, he says, “Nature or dispositions are only mind.”
3) Such a substance, entity, or reality is what something or someone really is, their inner and outward realities combined. In the teaching of Nichiren, substance (tai) is the true form, which involves both “such an appearance” as well as “such a nature”. In the second fascicle of the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, this is defined as, “The whole content of someone or something is referred to as its entity.”
4) Such a strength refers to the strength that is on the inside and also what it can do. It also indicates hidden capacities. In the second fascicle of the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, it says, “Merits and abilities become strength.” The Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to see Clearly puts it this way: “The capabilities to achieve lie in the strength and the use of it.”
5) Such an action is said to be an operation, a function, or its effect. It also means the manifestation of “such a strength”, in terms of actions and behaviour. In the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, “such an action” is explained as, “Constructing something indicates such an action.”
6) Such a cause is understood as, that which directly brings about an effect or fruition is a cause. The Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower defines causes as, “That which brings about a continuity of causes is seen as having one cause.” In the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to see Clearly, “A cause is something that invites an effect. This also could be thought of as karma.”
7) Such a karmic relationship is a complementary cause that aids and abets the original one. In the second fascicle of the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, it says, “A complementary cause becomes a karmic relationship.” In the fifth fascicle of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to see Clearly, it mentions that “The reasons which bring about karma are called karmic relationships.”
8) Such a fruition or effect is the result of cause. The explanation in the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower is “Whatever comes out as a result of a chain of causes is called a fruition.” The fifth fascicle of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to see Clearly also mentions that “Such a fruition is a fruition as seen as the victorious attainment.”
9) Such a requital is how “such a fruition” appears in reality. The Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower says that “such a requital” is “The recompense that accompanies fruition is called a requital.” The Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to see Clearly says that “such a requital” is a recompense for “such a cause”.
10) Then from such an appearance to such a requital, all these nine such qualities are equally the ultimate dimension of the real aspect of all dharmas. The words “such a” refer to the nine particular qualities that are applicable to everything in existence, irrespective of existing in reality or whether they are things that only exist in our heads.
However, when Shakyamui first pronounced these ten such qualities, in the second chapter of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), he said, “The real aspect of all dharmas [that is to say anything we are capable of feeling, perceiving, knowing, dreaming about, or fantasising] can only be exhaustively fathomed between one Buddha and another.” This statement opened the way for the replacement of the existing three vehicles of practice – that is, 1) the intellectuals who had heard the Buddha preach, 2) those who had been partially awakened through karmic relationships such as art, science, mathematics, music, etc., and 3) the bodhisattvas who are altruists. These three categories of people who were following the teachings of Shākyamuni were all to be put under the single label of those whose object is the path of Enlightenment.
This stage in the teaching of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is referred to as clearing away the three vehicles in order to reveal the one that leads to opening the awareness of Buddhahood, kaisan kenicho. The phase of teaching of Shākyamuni that includes the ten such qualities was defined by the Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai) as the “general clearing away of the three vehicles in order to reveal the one”, ryakkaisan kenichi.
For those who follow the Nichiren teachings of the Kōmon Schools and who, for the most part, in their daily practice (gongyo) recite the beginning of the Second Chapter on Expedient Means, Hōben pon dai ni, they may have asked why Nyo ze sō, Nyo ze shō . . . etc. are repeated three times over. We recite these ten such qualities in the way they are written in the Chinese text for ceremonial euphony. But the intention goes a long way deeper.
Nyo ze sō refers to the axiom of phenomena or the accepted principle of outward appearance or ke. In literal English, nyo ze sō would be “such as this it appears” or “such it its appearance”. As I have already said, this “sō” applies to all colours, shapes, and behaviours of each and every dharma. When we recite Nyo ze sō . . . .etc. for the second time, what really is implied is ze sō nyo, ze shō nyo and so forth, which literally translated means, “This appearance is such, This nature is such . . . .”.
When the ten such qualities are recited in this way, what is intended is that all dharmas are a suchness and that all dharmas are nothing but relativities in the void of existence kū. When we recite the ten such qualities for the third time, Nyo ze sō, it is to be understood as sō nyo ze which literally interpreted means “an appearance such as this”. This is also how the middle way of reality chūdō jissō is expressed in terms of the such qualities nyoze. All dharmas are such as they are according to the subjective circumstances and the location seken of the persons who are experiencing them. They are also the motivation for many people to start practising.
This brings us to the three existential spaces where the differentiation of individual qualities and environments occur. However, with regard to the first three of the ten such qualities as seen in the light of the original Buddha, such an appearance would be what Nichiren looked like as a human being. In terms of the triple axiom of phenomenon (ke), the void of relativity (kū), and the middle way of reality (chū), then this phrase “such an appearance” applies to the axiom of phenomenon. Such an inner nature is the mind and the utterness of the wisdom of the Daishōnin, which by being the nature of mind is the axiom of relativity (kū, shūnyatā) or the void.
As for the axiom of the middle way of reality, we have not yet come to it. When the Buddha Shākyamuni expounded these ten such qualities in the Chapter on Expedient Means in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō), the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas, which I have just explained, as well as the three existential spaces, which I will explain shortly, were merely an assumption. I presume that the inclusion of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas was understood by the people who were listening at the time, and maybe the existential spaces could have been taken for granted also. But, at all events, they are not mentioned in the sutric text.
Scholars like Tendai (T’ien T’ai) took the view that Shākyamuni was only referring to the one thousand such qualities. That is to say, a hundred realms of dharmas possessed by the ten such qualities become a thousand such qualities. Since this concept of life only takes place in a subjective vision of it, it is seen as a temporary gateway to the Dharma and as a teaching that belongs to events suspended in time and place.
Whereas one might think of the one instant of mind containing one thousand such qualities as a somewhat indefinable mass of psychological complexes and confusions, the three existential spaces are the boundaries that separate us from one another and also delineate the boundaries in which that existence occurs. Here, even though the illusion of materiality is built into the structure of our unenlightenment, the fundamental nature of all the appearances of existing is only mind, and what we perceive in it is only knowing.
In the Buddha teaching there is no concept of an ego as in western psychology. Instead, there are the five aggregates (go.on), which overshadow any notion of awareness of our original state which is the utterness and simultaneousness of all space and all time. This synchronistic Utterness is specified as our fundamental Dharma nature or as our basic enlightenment. Also, this can be described as the primordial Dharma nature that is the actual and unchangeable true suchness that is the basis of all existence.
In contrast, we are also endowed with a fundamental bewilderment, by which, due to our distraction from the fundamental Dharma nature, we find ourselves trundled away into the dreamlike delusions of unenlightenment. Since this unenlightenment is as fundamentally primordial as the Dharma nature, here, I use the word primordial in the sense that these two qualities of enlightenment and unenlightenment have always been, always are, and always will be in an ever-present now.
Here we can quote a passage from The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden), to make this point clearer: “Utterness (Myō) is the Dharma nature, and dharmas (hō) are their respective unenlightenment. The single entity of unenlightenment and the Dharma nature is called the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma). The lotus flower (renge) is the two dharmas of cause and effect as a single simultaneous event.”
Judging by this statement, enlightenment and delusion exist side by side in a synchronicity as part of the fundamental whole, if it were not for our basic bewilderment which brings about our various dispositions (gyō) that are inevitably inherited from former existences. This leads to an awareness that we have an existence that is our own, which entices us to invent i) the materiality (shiki) of a body and its necessary physical surroundings. This is the first of the five aggregates that darken our original enlightenment. Our bodies also involve the five organs of sense. This makes us ii) receptive (ju) to sensations and feelings, along with the functioning of the mind and senses in connection with affairs and things, then through iii) conception (sō), thought, discerning and the functioning of the mind in distinguishing. iv) The mind’s volition (gyō) in it – processes with regard to likes and dislikes, good and evil, etc. – brings about the mental faculty that makes us know v) shiki who we are, on account of our acquired knowledge and experiences.
Because the combination of these five aggregates is an existential space in itself, it is said that this is what makes us separate individuals. It is also said, with the disappearance of the aggregate of materiality (shiki.on) after death which implies the loss of a body and its surroundings, this contributes enormously to our forgetting who we were in our previous lives.
Nevertheless, even though materiality can also exist within its own physical surroundings, we must now go further into the question of where existence takes place. The next existential space is called the existential space of sentient beings. The one thousand such qualities combined with the existential space of the five aggregates may well define what sort of individuals we are, but it is this existential space of sentient beings that is always the result of karma and is responsible for what our environments are to be.
According to Tendai’s (T’ien T’ai) Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly, the existential spaces of sentient beings are circumscribed according to the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas. Even though these explanations have a highly mediaeval flavour, it is easy to speculate as to how things would be in the twenty-first century. “It is the red hot irons that are the makeup of the dwelling place of the realms of the dharmas of the denizens of hell. The abodes of the realms of dharmas of animality are to be found on the earth, in water, and in the air. The realms of dharmas of the shura abide along the seashores or at the bottom of the ocean. The realms of dharmas of humankind dwell upon the earth. The realms of dharmas of the deva (ten) who represent the transient quality of ecstasies and joys live in palaces. The bodhisattvas who carry out the six practices that ferry sentient beings over the sea of mortality to the shores of nirvana (roku haramitsu) live in the same places as humankind. The bodhisattvas of the interconnecting teachings (tsukyō) who have not yet overcome their delusions depend on the same living spaces as humankind and the deva. But those who have been able to sever their delusions about living and dying live on terrains that are an expedient means. The bodhisattvas of the particular (bekkyō) and all-inclusive (enkyō) teachings who have not yet exhausted their delusions about living and dying live in the terrains of expedient means among humankind and the deva. But those bodhisattvas of the particular and the all-inclusive doctrines inhabit the terrains of real reward (jippōdo), and the Tathāgatas dwell on the terrain of eternal silence and illumination (jōjakkōdo).”
Albeit it may be worthwhile to mention that the Buddha of the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō) is always present in this actual world of ours that we have to put up with (shaba sekai), which for the enlightened is in no way different from the terrain of eternal silence and illumination, obviously all these different terrains are subjective. Hell can be in Buckingham Palace. And terrains of expedient means can be an artist’s studio. Or the ecstasy and joy of the deva (ten) can be at the Christmas party.
The Buddha teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin does not flatly state that dharmas do not exist, but that their reality is flexible. Nevertheless, this teaching does emphasise that materiality and mind are not separate from each other, and also it teaches that subjectivity has to have a dependent environment. In addition to that, the quality of our materiality or environment is entirely in accordance with the state of our minds which can be modified from moment to moment.
Now we come to the last of the existential spaces, that of abode and terrain. In reality, this is the psychological and, to a certain extent, the physical barrier that lies between the denizens of hell, the hearers of the Buddha’s voice, or the people who spend their time in the realms of the dharmas of animality. Certain people are not really welcome into our lives or living spaces. This has more to do with a sense of preservation than any moral judgement. This one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen) is always on the move, according to the karmic circumstances that influence our lives from instant to instant.
Every single nanosecond that is lived by each and every manifestation of life however small – the substance of each of their lives is mind that can only be the totality of mind. In some way or another, it is the materiality of our brains and other simpler centres of psychic coordination that function as filters that only allow enough mind to seep through for biological or economic survival. Albeit even the tiniest scrap of mind contains the whole of mind, still, due to each one of these existential spaces, each individual mind has its unique window that looks out on to life as a whole.
A dirty, bad-tempered stray cat can become a much endeared house pet, due to karmic circumstances. Human beings, whoever we may be, can find fulfilment and happiness through our karmic relationship to faith and practice.
Probably the next question is – faith in what?
The answer is – faith in the existence of one’s own Buddha nature, which is also present in every single event and object in our lives. The one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces (ichinen sanzen) is the Myōhō, the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma).
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.