THE ESSENTIAL OF THE TEACHING OF
by Martin Bradley
It seems that every time we come to die, we are, at some time or another, confronted with the clear light of the Dharma. It is the clear light of the original state which is, as the Collation of the Layers of the Various Teachings of all the Buddhas (Sō Kan Mon Shō) states, “mind just as it is, is light”, our fundamental condition, the simultaneity of all time past, present, and future, as well as every imaginable space.
But, every time we die, there is always something inherent in us that makes us turn away from this fact, so that we find ourselves again in the entanglement of thoughts, which bring back old attachments that haul us all the way back to the cycle of living and dying, like roach and dace on the hook of a fishing line.
However hallucinating and disorientating our experiences in the intermediate state between dying and being reborn made us feel, we come back into the world of humankind all fresh, innocent, and clean, as though we had come out of a good bath. We are hardly aware that deep down in our psyches lurk many of the older reactions to the pitfalls of life that make us unhappy. As we grow up, we usually become less carefree and progressively burdened by our respective karma. We look in all directions for paradisiacal relief, either in the flesh or in the mind. There are all manners of heavens, all sorts of hells, and all kinds of spaces in between.
Nichiren Daishōnin’s aim was to make us understand that the clear light of the Dharma realm is in no way apart from whatever situation we are living at this very moment. This essay and these translations are about the quest for an inner realisation and becoming an undivided self. And they are done in this spirit of bearing the intention of the Daishōnin in mind, which was to make all people aware of the fact that our real identity is life itself, and at the same time we can get on with being the persons we think we are in the business of living out our lives.
Probably the best way to introduce a collection of translations of the writings of Nichiren Daishōnin would be to first give the reader a résumé of the main events in his life. However, before I go a step further, I would like to explain the title Daishōnin.
In most Chinese and Japanese dictionaries, the ideogram shō is defined as a sage, wise and good, upright and correct in all his character. In Harajima’s Nichiren Daishōnin Goshō Jiten, the standard dictionary of Nichiren Shōshū terminology, it says, “a person whose knowledge and insight is decidedly superior, and thoroughly versed in all principles. Therefore, such a person is able to discern the correct view of the Buddha wisdom.” This word or ideogram could be translated as “sage-like”, if we were to think of this word in its philological context as having an underlying meaning of “whole”, “healthy” or “hail” or in Latin languages “saint”, “sain”, etc.
Placed in front of this word shō, we have the ideogram dai, a pictogram of a man with his arms and legs stretched out. This ideogram is defined in one of oldest glossaries of the Chinese language, Discerning the Signs and Explaining the Ideograms (Shuowen jiezi, Setsubun kaiji), as the following: “as enormous as the sky, as huge as the earth, and also, as vast as humankind. Therefore, this ideogram is in the shape of a human being. That is why it means universal or great.”
So here, in contrast to the Buddha whose title might be translated as “the enlightener”, we have the Daishōnin, who is the person who is universally sage-like.
It is in this light that I have translated a few of his writings, in order to break out of the sectarian limitations of the various schools that propagate something of his teachings. The aim of this book is to make the all-pervading enlightened wisdom of Nichiren Daishōnin available to a wider reading public.
Part 1: The Life of Nichiren
Nichiren Daishōnin was born on the 16th of the second month of the first year of Jō.ō (1222 CE) and died on the 13th of the tenth month in the fifth year of Kō.an (1282 CE). He is the founder of the Nichiren Shōshū School and is understood by Nichiren Shōshū believers to be the original Buddha of the final phase of the Dharma of Shākyamuni (mappō).
He was born in the fishing village of Kominato in the Tōjō district of the Awa province – the present-day village of Kominato in the Chiba Prefecture. His father was Mikuni no Taifu; his mother was called Umegikunyo, and they were said to have led a humble existence along the seashore. As a child he was called Zennichi Maro. At the age of twelve, he entered Seichōji Temple under the instruction of the Venerable Dōzen, who gave him the name of Yaku’ ō Maro.
At about the same time, Nichiren made a vow to the Bodhisattva Kokūzō that he would become the wisest man in Japan. He took holy orders as a monk when he was sixteen and was renamed Zeshōbō Renchō. He then left for Kamakura for further studies. Three years later he came back to the Seichōji Temple and left again almost immediately for Kyōto, in order to study and practise the Dharma gateways of the Tendai School on Mount Hiei. More precisely, it was at the Onjōji Temple, the Tennōji Temple, and on Mount Kōya where he studied the doctrinal significance of each and every school, as well as reading through all the sutras and other Buddhist writings.
When he was thirty-one, he left Mount Hiei and returned to Seichōji Temple. On the morning of April 28th 1253, in the Hall of Holding to the Buddha (Jibutsutō) in the All Buddhas Monastic Residence (Shobutsubō) of the Seichōji Temple, in front of the whole assembly Nichiren announced his fourfold criterion: “Those who bear in mind the formula of Amida Buddha (Amitābha) (Nembutsu) bring about the hell of incessant suffering. The school of watchful attention (Zen) is the work of the Universal Demon of the Sixth Heaven. The Tantric (Shingon) school entails the ruin of the state, and the Ritsu School are the robbers of the land.” He also announced that all sentient beings could be saved by the recitation of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō).
When Tōjō Kagenobu the local ruler, who was a follower of the Nembutsu – i.e., the people who bear in mind the formula of Buddha Amida (Amitābha) – heard this, he flew into a rage and tried to have Nichiren arrested. However, the Venerables Jōken and Gijō, acting as guides, were able to organise his escape, and he made his way back to Kominato.
After taking leave of his parents, Nichiren embarked upon his life’s destiny of propagating his teaching. He began his mission in Nagoe no Matsubatani outside Kamakura, where he had built a hermit’s cottage. During that period, he converted numerous people who became his disciples and supporters. In the eleventh month of the fifth year of Kenchō (1253), he was visited by a monk from Mount Hiei called Jōben, who was later to become Nisshō, one of the six elder monks. In 1258, on a visit to the Iwamoto Jissōji Temple, the then thirteen-year-old Nikkō Shōnin became his disciple and was to remain so, until he became the second patriarch after the Daishōnin’s demise in 1282. Among the other disciples, there was Toki Jōnin who was a samurai attached to the Shogunate, as well as other samurai, such as Shijō Kingo, Soya Kyōshin, Kudō Yoshitaka, and the two Ikegami brothers Munenaka and Munenaga.
On the 16th day of the seventh month of the first year of Bun.ō (1260), the Daishōnin, as a result of the good offices of Yadoya Nyūdō, was able to have his well-known Treatise on Securing the Peace of the Realm through the Establishment of the Correct Dharma (Risshō Ankoku ron) handed over to the regent Hōjō Tokiyori. The argument of this treatise is that if the correct Buddha teaching were established instead of the incomplete doctrines of the time, then the whole country would find peace and stability.
That same year, on the night of the 27th of the eighth month, the followers of Nembutsu and the Shogunate organised an attack on the Daishōnin’s hermitage at Matsubatani. Fortunately, he was able to escape harm and moved to the estate of Toki Jōnin. On the 12th day of the fifth month of the first year of Kōchō (1261), under the orders of the Shogunate, the Daishōnin was exiled to the Izu Peninsula. His disciple Nikkō Shōnin, and Funamori Yasaburō and his wife accompanied him and were constantly in attendance. One year and nine months later, the Daishōnin was pardoned, and he returned to Kamakura.
In the first year of Bun.ei (1264), the Daishōnin returned to his birthplace in Awa, in order to take care of his mother during her illness. At the same time, he propagated his teaching throughout the whole of the Awa region. In the same year, on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, while Kudō Yoshitaka of Amatsu was returning towards his estate, his military escort was attacked by Tōjō Kagenobu, the local ruler, in Komatsubara. Both Kudō Yoshitaka and the Venerable Kyōnin were killed in the struggle. Nichiren was wounded on the forehead.
In 1268, the Mongolian court sent a delegation with a letter from Kublai Khan, demanding that the Shogunate become his vassal. This particular incident was evident proof of the prediction in the Treatise on Securing the Peace of the Realm through the Establishment of the Correct Dharma (Risshō Ankoku ron), which again urged the nation to take refuge in the correct Dharma. At the same time, Nichiren called for a public debate with the monks of all the other schools and sent letters to eleven various religious leaders. But he received no reply whatsoever.
During the eighth year of Bun.ei (1271), there was a terrible drought, from one end of the Japanese archipelago to the other. The then renowned monk Ryōkan performed the prayer ritual for rain but was unable to bring it about, whereas Nichiren Daishōnin’s success is well established in the annals of Japanese history. The defeated Ryōkan left Kamakura for the north. This became an opportunity for the monks of the other schools to provoke the Shogunate with slanderous reports concerning the Daishōnin.
On the tenth day of the ninth month of that same year, the Daishōnin received a summons from Heinosaemon no Jō Yoritsuna to be interrogated by the Court of Enquiry. At the interrogation, Nichiren Daishōnin severely reprimanded the hypocritical stance of the Shogunate. The outraged Heinosaemon no Jō immediately had the Daishōnin arrested and taken in the middle of the night to Tatsu no Kuchi to face execution.
Just as the executioner’s sword was about to strike, an enormous crystalline pure white light surged up and covered half the sky. In panic, the officials of the Shogunate and the samurai in attendance ran in all directions and hid. No one dared try to execute the Daishōnin. This was the moment when Nichiren Daishōnin reveals the original terrain of the self-received reward body that is used by the Tathāgata of the primordial infinity of the original beginning. It is also referred to as “eradicating the temporary gateway, in order to reveal the original”.
[Tathāgata (Nyorai) signifies the following: one who has gone; one who has followed the Path and arrived at the real suchness; one of the ten titles of a Buddha. Tathāgata can be explained as a person who comes from the real suchness of existence, which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō) – and that person will return to it.]
On the tenth day of the eleventh month, he was exiled to the island of Sado. There he began to compose the Treatise on Clearing the Eyes, the Treatise on the Fundamental Object of Veneration for Contemplating the Mind Instigated by the Bodhisattva Superior Practice (Jōgyō, Vishishtachāritra) For the Fifth Five-hundred-year Period After the Tathāgata’s Passing over to Nirvana (Kanjin no Honzon shō), and also completed a number of important treatises such as the Treatise on the Unbroken Transmission of the Single Universal Concern of Life and Death, the Treatise on the Significance of the Actual Fundamental Substance (Tōtai Gi Shō), An Account of the Buddha’s Revelations for the Future, and the Treatise on Cultivating Oneself in the Practice as it is Expounded. During Nichiren’s exile, several of his admirers, such as the Lay Practitioner Abutsu and his wife, took refuge in his teaching.
At Tsukahara, where the Daishōnin was forced to spend his exile in the broken-down Sanmaidō Temple, the Nembutsu School challenged him to an open debate, in which each and every argument was completely refuted. At this point, the Venerable Sairen and the Honma family were converted to the Teachings of Nichiren. After two years or so, in 1274, on the 27th day of the third month of the eleventh year of Bun.ei, Nichiren was granted a pardon, and he returned to Kamakura.
On the eighth day of the fourth month of the same year, he was summoned a second time by Heinosaemon no Jō to appear before the Shogunate. This time, they calmly admonished the Daishōnin and told him to treat and see the monks from the other schools as equals. Naturally the reply was that, if the correct Dharma was not held to, then it could not be possible to assure the security of the land. The outcome of this interview was that the Daishōnin retired to the backwoods to a more hermit-like existence, as had other wise men of the past in China and Japan, when their efforts to save their country went unheeded.
In this case, Nichiren Daishōnin retired to the Hagiri district on Mount Minobu in the province of Kai, which is the present-day Yamanashi prefecture. There he gave lectures on the Dharma Flower Sutra (Hokke-kyō). And, for the preparation and education of his disciples, he went into the subtlest details, so that the Dharma would be protracted into eternity. During this same period, he also wrote the Treatise on Selecting the Time and the Treatise on the Requital of Grace.
The Senior Monk Nikkō promoted propagation in the direction of Mount Fuji. His first major conversion was Nanjō Tokimitsu, then the Matsuno and Kawai no Yui families, and others from among the monks of Ryūsenji Temple in Atsuhara. Nisshū, Nichiben, and Nichizen also took refuge in the teachings of Nichiren Daishōnin. During the same period, a number of the local peasants and farmers did the same.
On the 21st day of the ninth month of the second year of Kō.an (1279), all the followers of Nichiren, both monks and laymen, were harassed and pestered as a single sect. Finally, twenty people, beginning with Jinshirō, were arrested. Heinosaemon no Jō interrogated the prisoners at his private residence and pressured them to change their religion. With profound faith, all of them persisted in reciting the title and theme Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō).
Jinshirō, Yagorō, and Yarokurō were beheaded, and the remaining seventeen were banished from Atsuhara. These events are often referred to as the adversity of the Dharma at Atsuhara.
Nevertheless, it was on account of this particular adversity of the Dharma that Nichiren Daishōnin felt that the time had come for him to fulfil his real purpose of coming into the world. On the 12th day of the tenth month of the second year of Kō.an (1279), he inscribed the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) of the Altar of the Precept of the original gateway.
In order to perpetuate his teaching, the Daishōnin appointed six elder monks to help him in this task but decided to entrust the succession of the patriarchate to Nikkō. In 1282, while undertaking a journey to the hot springs in Hitachi for rest and recuperation, in the mansion of Ikegami Munenaka, he entered peacefully and auspiciously into nirvana, at the age of 61 years.
Some years ago I wrote in the introduction of one of my catalogues, “Is it the dream that dreams the dreamer, or are we just caught in rather a sticky trap?” The answer, I am afraid to say, is yes, we are. But, however sticky it is or to what extent we feel free depends entirely upon our own efforts.
The idea of presenting these translations of the writings of Nichiren Daishōnin is to show people a teaching that might open the way to their finding some kind of individuation. By individuation, I mean, as C. G. Jung does, a personality that is not divided, that can live in his or her own skin and is reasonably happy. The writings of Nichiren Daishōnin and the practice that accompanies his teaching could well be for many people a way to clean up and put back into their right place some of the elements that constitute our inherent schizophrenia or unenlightenment. What I am referring to is that unhappy voice inside us that says, “There is me, the other people, the other things and places that have nothing to do with how rotten and empty I feel.”
This is not some hard and righteous evangelistic doctrine, although some practitioners may try to affirm that it is. All Buddha teachings and practice are based on universal compassion and a profound respect for all existence. Nevertheless, a sincere study and practice may help some people rediscover that the moon has a face, to become aware of the voices of the children playing at the end of the street, or how caterpillars have transformed the nasturtium leaves into organic pieces of lace. Also, there are not a few people who rediscover the entirety of existence in a single grain of sand.
The object of these translations is to help clear the way for that part of our mind that makes us smile when we read a haiku or look at a painting by Miró or Paul Klee. It is also that part of us that makes us struggle for human rights and dignity.
My intention is not to promote any particular one of the thirty-eight or so number of sects that base their doctrines on the teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin, but to try to make it known that such a Buddha teaching exists.
Part 2: Utterness
In order to have a clear idea of what the Daishōnin 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 treatises and other writings, there are numerous instances in which the Daishōnin 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 (Myō) is closer to the idea of existence or being, rather than anything to do with the simple process of thinking. In the Treatise 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 Treatise on the Fundamental Object of Veneration for Contemplating the Mind, the Daishōnin writes, “These three thousand [existential spaces] are contained in a single instant of mental activity. 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, i.e., thoughts, fantasies, dreams, and hallucinations – 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 has its origin in this extremely archaic way of understanding.
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 Daishōnin, 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 Japan where I live, which is a part of Asia, on the 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 interdependence of time”, “interdependence, 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 interdependence 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 Daishōnin emphasise 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 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 Daishōnin 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 (see Treatise 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 teaching, 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 emphasising 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 three psychological and material realms (sangai), where 1) sentient beings have appetites and desires, 2) that are incarnated in a subjective reality with physical surroundings, 3) who, at the same time, are endowed with the immateriality of the world of thoughts, desires, and fantasies. 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 Treatise 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 – which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō and means to devote of our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō).
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 taught 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.
[Tathāgata (Nyorai) signifies the following: one who has gone; one who has followed the Path and arrived at the real suchness; one of the ten titles of a Buddha. Tathāgata can be explained as a person who comes from the real suchness of existence, which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (which is every possible psychological wavelength) (Kyō) – and that person will return to it.]
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” Nam[u] Myōhō Renge Kyō (daimoku) that is recited by all schools that claim to be a following of Nichiren Daishōnin:
– 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 the Daishōnin, 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 the Daishōnin, 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. This is Nam[u] Myōhō Renge Kyō, which means to devote of our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō).
It is also possible to enrich our understanding of life through reading the Daishōnin'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 the Daishōnin, 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, is 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. This replenishment refers to our living all space, all time, simultaneously and without effort. In the Treatise on the Real Aspect of All Dharmas, the Daishōnin 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 an interdependence 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 the actual direction of what will happen in due time is shaped. 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, existence 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 Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō itself – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] (Myōhō) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō) – 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 of 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) 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 regard 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. The Daishōnin, 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 the Daishōnin 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 the Daishōnin’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 the Daishōnin 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 the Daishōnin mentions in his Treatise 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 the Daishōnin 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 interdependence 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 or enlightenment 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.
Even though the concept of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces 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 (ashura), 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 (ashura) 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 Daishōnin, 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 Treatise on the Fundamental Object of Veneration for Contemplating the Mind, the Daishōnin 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 the Daishōnin’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, which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (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 who are important to the Buddha teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin 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 the Daishōnin 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 Daishōnin, 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 taught 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 (Hokke-kyō), 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 Daishōnin, 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 Schools of Nichiren.
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 realms such as ours asked the Buddha Shākyamuni for permission to propagate the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge 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 the Daishōnin 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 enlightenment. 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 – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (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 (Maka Shikan). At a more general level, the explanations of the Universal Teacher Tendai (T’ien T’ai) 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 Treatise 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, Vaishravana 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 will completely fill all the realms of dharmas of the ten psychological dharmas, 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.”
Only the Buddha has a Dharma realm, because he and his environment, his teaching, are all the one enlightenment. But people like us live out our lives surrounded by all kinds of dharmas, which are either in our heads or are a part of the makeup of our external realities.
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 Treatise 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, ”This real aspect of all dharmas is said to be (Sho’i shohō) in any way they make themselves present to any of our six sense organs – eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind [e.g., a carrot is orange; it tastes sweetish and may have a smell] (Nyoze sō), their various inner qualities which in any event must lead up to all the implications of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō [e.g., which include all the words associated with carrots, i.e., zanahoria, carotte, carota, ninjin, and all our memories of carrots and all the way up to their essence which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō; when we see this carrot, we unconsciously see a carrot, and both what we see and the associations in our heads automatically come together] (Nyoze shō), their substance or what they really are (Nyoze tai), their potential strength and energy (Nyoze riki), the manifestation of that energy and strength, which is their influence (Nyoze sa), their fundamental causes (Nyoze in), along with their karmic circumstances (Nyoze en), the effects they produce (Nyoze ka), and their apparent and karmic consequences (Nyoze hō); also in any way dharmas make themselves perceptible to any of our six sense organs – eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind – has a coherence with their ‘apparent karmic consequences’, which are present in every instant of life (Nyoze hon makku kyō tō).”
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 aspect.” 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 their various inner qualities which in any event must lead up to all the implications of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō (Nyoze shō), that is to say, the whole of existence – i.e., the Dharma body, the wisdom to understand it, i.e., Nam Myohō 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 teach, 2) those who had been partially awakened through karmic relationships such as art, science, mathematics, music, etc., and a profound search for the meaning of existence, as well as 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 kenichi). 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 experience or ke. In literal English, nyo ze sō would be “such as this is present” or “such is 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 existence 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 a presence 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 a presence” 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 manifestations of existing is only mind, and what we perceive in it is only knowing.
In Shākyamuni’s 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 our 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 interdependent event.”
Judging by this statement, enlightenment and delusion exist side by side in an interdependence as part of the fundamental whole, if it were not for our basic bewilderment which brings about our various dispositions (gyō) that are inevitably choices 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).”
[Tathāgata (Nyorai) signifies the following: one who has gone; one who has followed the Path and arrived at the real suchness; one of the ten titles of a Buddha. Tathāgata can be explained as a person who comes from the real suchness of existence, which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (which is every possible psychological wavelength) (Kyō) – and that person will return to it.]
Albeit it may be worthwhile to mention that the Buddha of the Sixteenth Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata in the Dharma Flower Sutra 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,
Before going into the question of the lotus flower being the interdependence of cause and effect, I would like you to read an oral transmission from the Buddha Writings of Nichiren Shōshū (Nichiren Shōshū Seiten). Not only is this writing a little-known poetic vision of the lotus flower, but it also makes references to the eight-petalled lotus flower as being our own inherent Buddha nature. This text will also give the reader an idea as to how this lotus plant was seen in thirteenth century Japan. Nichiren says the following:
“To begin with, if we are to think of inquiring as to where the Lotus Flower grows, and as to what sort of pond, or in what sort of water, or in what kind of locality, or in what kind of environment this flower belongs, then are we to suppose that it grows among snowy mountains of the North? Or is it in tepid pools among the fragrant hills of the South that we find this unimaginable and ineffably wonderful flower, the all-embracing white lotus? Is this why we call it the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma)?
“However that may be, the ponds of King Hokabara have lotus flowers that bloom with a thousand petals, but those that flower among humankind have only about ten petals each. Above us in the heavens, there are lotus flowers with a hundred petals, and those of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas have a thousand. Should we, for this reason, call them the lotus flowers of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma)? Or again should we not try to find out if there are lotuses growing up from the Pool of the White Heron or the waters of Kunming?
“You should carefully turn this matter over in your mind, without further inquiring into the distance or searching in places that are far away. These lotus flowers grow in the breasts of sentient beings such as us. In the midst of its foul slush of evil karma and troublesome worries, the mind is endowed with the cause proper of the Buddha nature that is designated by the name of the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma).
“The lotus flowers of the ordinary world only bloom in summertime, but not the whole year round. They grow in muddy ooze and not on dry land. In the wind, they sink beneath the passing waves. They close up when it is icy and wilt in the blazing sun.
“Nevertheless, this is not the way of the lotus flower of the Buddha nature. By being the flower that is not limited by the past, present, or future, it keeps its petals throughout the four seasons of the year. And by being the flower whose bounds are unlimited, it flourishes in the six lower destinations of rebirth and the three realms of desire, materiality, and immaterial space. Since this is the flower of the non-duality of good and bad, it neither chooses the depth nor the shallowness of evil karma. Because it is the flower of the single suchness of right and wrong, it germinates in the foul slush of troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha). And, when it is grown, it is neither buffeted by the ten evil winds, nor is it submerged by the waves of the five deadly sins. The red lotus neither shrinks back from the icy cold, nor does it fade in the scorching heat.
“Even though we are in possession of the lotus flower of our Buddha nature just as it has been described, we are intoxicated by the liquor of unenlightenment, so that we are ignorant of its very presence within our bodies. By being beguiled by the murkiness of troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha), we are unawakened as to the real suchness of our own nature. This is like the poor woman who is oblivious of the treasure store in her own house and the kirin or dragon who is irritated by the jewel in his own body, without knowing that it is of worth. At all events, there are hidden things that we do not see, like the Buddha nature in sentient beings or the moon behind the clouds, the gold in the earth, or the flowers inside a tree. But there really is the Buddha nature stored within the hearts of sentient beings.”
Previously, we had the explanation of the meaning of the two ideograms for the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma). Now, it must be made clear what the lotus flower means. The words imply both the dharmic and metaphoric lotus flower [just as earlier there was both the dharmic and metaphoric Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma)].
Now the lotus flower of the actual fundamental substance has to be explained. Just as the metaphoric lotus grows out of the mire and remains unsullied, the lotus flower of the immaculate purity of our fundamental nature is not only unsoiled by muddy waters but is shown to be fully endowed with the fundamental substance and the functions of all the World Honoured Ones.
The lotus flower of the actual fundamental substance abides in the breasts of all sentient beings, in the form of a fleshy disc divided into eight parts. All of those who have received life everywhere – irrespective as to whether they are big, small, rough, or delicate, or as ungainly as crickets, ants, mosquitoes, and horseflies – all of them have within their bosom this immaculately white eight-petalled lotus flower.
In the eastern petal dwells the Buddha Ashuku (Akshobhya); in the southern petal dwells the Buddha Hōshō (Ratnasambhava). In the western petal, there is the Buddha Muryōju (Amitāyus); and the northern petal is the abode of the Buddha Fukūjōju (Amoghasiddhi). In the petal between the two astrological houses of the dragon and the snake, which is the southeast, resides the Bodhisattva Fugen; the petal in the southwestern direction of the sheep and the monkey is the seat of Bodhisattva Mañjushrī (Monjushiri). In the northwestern direction of the dog and the pig resides the Bodhisattva Kannon; and, in the northeastern petal, there is the abode of Bodhisattva Maitreya (Miroku). All eight petals entail four Buddhas and eight Bodhisattvas. Enthroned in the centre is the Tathāgata Dainichi, who is the Buddha of the nine World Honoured Ones of the eight-petalled lotus. In actual fact, this is what is known as the Buddha nature, which can be none other than the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma).
In the western region, all the Buddhas are comprised in the one Buddha Ashuku (Akshobhya); in the eastern region, all Buddhas are comprised in the one Buddha Muryōju (Amitāyus); and, in the northern region, all the Buddhas are embodied in the Buddha Fukūjōju. So, all the Buddhas of the ten directions and of the past, present, and future are all included among the nine World Honoured Ones in the eight-petalled lotus. In this manner, sentient beings are exquisite stupas that comprise the innumerability of all the Buddhas.
When it comes to ordinary mundane stupas, sentient beings are ignorant of this essential element. They have to be taught that our own bodies are indeed stupas that embody all the Buddhas and what this implies. People with sharper propensities would know that our bodies are analogous to the stupa of the realm of the Dharma. This is called the beginning of enlightenment. The eight-petalled lotus that lies within our breasts is called the lotus flower of the nine World Honoured Ones, and Bodhisattvas upon it are called the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma).
This pragmatic aspect of the teaching of Tendai (T’ien T’ai) should be studied in these terms. This is by far the most esoteric gateway to the Dharma. When we do talk of the minds of sentient beings in this manner, it is then said to be the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). Therefore, whenever we talk about the existence of the Precious Stupa in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō) as not being real, then it has to be taught that the actual fundamental substance of sentient beings is just like the stupa of Tahō.
Accordingly, since all sentient beings are stupas, then the killing of people is a fearful wrongdoing. There is not even a tiny insect that settles in the palm of your hand that is not fully endowed with the eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones. If you begin to grasp the significance of this, then you will understand that should we fall into the flames of hell, then the eight-petalled Lotus Flower would also have to fall.
If you, in the tiniest way, consider that our minds are endowed with the fundamental substance and the function of the World Honoured Ones, then you are all but on the threshold of enlightenment. Even if you were to fall into the path of the hungry demons and deeply suffer the pangs of starvation, yet were in some small way to seize upon the idea that in our hearts there is a stupa of the Buddha who is totally awakened to Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō), then this must be one’s person not being separate from becoming a Buddha.
Since time immemorial, the omnipresent ten realms of the dharmas have been the shape of Myōhō Renge Kyō. This is how the eight-year-old Dragon King’s Daughter in this manner fully realised what the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma) was. And, without altering the actual fundamental substance of her female body, she became a Buddha with her person intact. Therefore, “Of all the persons who hear the Dharma, there is not one who will not become a Buddha”. This is the disclosure of the principle that of all the people everywhere that hear the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō), there is not a single one who will not be enlightened.
In spite of there being the stupa of the eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones, through the one instant of thought being dirtied by the bewilderment of an unenlightened attachment to fancies that cannot be cleared away, we become temporarily unknowing. So this lotus is hidden by life and death and its troublesome worries (bonnō, klesha). When you hear it expounded in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō) that your own mind is the actual fundamental substance of the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō), with the fundamental substance and the function of the World Honoured One, and that the citadel of your mind is the abode of the stupa of Tahō, then the least understanding of this means that your person is not separate from becoming a Buddha.
What this teaching implies is in fact what can be made known, and knowing it is what we understand. What we comprehend is again according to our knowledge. Therefore, even if you do not read the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō), yet never give up meditating upon it, then seeing it in this way, you are someone who practises the Dharma Flower (Myōhō Renge Kyō). Albeit you do not understand this argument, it is still a meritorious virtue. Furthermore, when you know that the minds of all sentient beings are furnished with Buddhas of the eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones, you will, henceforth, always have the outlook of a person who practises the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). Whether you are asleep or awake, you will be accompanied by the Buddha both day and night.
When you hear this gateway to the Dharma without letting it slip from your memory, and if you can hold faith in it and understand it, then your person is not separate from becoming a Buddha. We have inherited a personality which is in accordance to how we reacted to things in former lives. Again, according to the karma which our personalities bring about in this life, this will then be the fruition of how we become and react to things in lives to come. But by even having a tiny speck of understanding and faith in the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō), the Buddhas of the eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones will reveal themselves and make an impression on future lives. You will acquire a Vajra body and dwell in the lotus flower of the citadel of your own heart.
A vajra is the thunderbolt of Indra (Taishaku), often called the diamond club. Recent anthropological research sees the vajra as a sun symbol. Here the word diamond is a synonym of hardness, indestructibility, power, and being the least frangible of all minerals. At the time prior to Shākyamuni, the vajra is also seen to have been a weapon of Indian soldiers. It is viewed by the Esoteric and Tantric Schools as a symbol of power and wisdom to overcome delusions and evil spirits.
Then there is a text that says, “On the contrary, I do prostrate myself at the feet of all the Buddhas within my heart.” The Dragon King’s Daughter, whose person was not separate from becoming a Buddha, became universally and correctly awakened and was enthroned on the Unsullied Precious Lotus Flower of the southern regions. This means that she dwelt in the awareness of the revelation that the nature of her own mind was Myōhō Renge Kyō, the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō).
This would indicate that when faith and understanding become just a little stronger and flourish a little more, then even now, at this very moment, the Buddhas of the eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones, as a matter of course, reveal the light they emit and beam it onto our respective realms of dharmas. This is why it says, in the Collection of Given Decisions, “Do not lose sight of the teaching, on account of my personal indolence. The Dragon King’s Daughter became endowed with the thirty-two physical marks of a Buddha and bore witness to the silence and illumination of perfect enlightenment, on hearing the Sutra with undivided attention. What refers to all can be singled out with one example, since perceptive beings do think things out for themselves.”
It is on this account that if your understanding and your clear insight into the sutra is lacking, then you will not be capable of becoming a Buddha with your person just as it is. So there would be no reason for the Buddhas of the essence of your mind to reveal themselves in the lives to come. Therefore, you must forge and hammer yourself into the shape of becoming a Buddha. In this context, it is taught that you do not have to look for the peerless cluster of jewels, since we ourselves already possess it.
When you do come to fully understand this eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones, you do not become a Buddha, even though you may be seated with the Buddha who has always been since the beginning. Nonetheless, it only takes a tiny shred of unenlightenment to obscure this understanding, so that we may never perceive it again.
Now we have come to the knowledge of the understanding which reveals that “You do not have to look for the peerless cluster of jewels, since we ourselves already possess it”. So we have Nangaku (Nan-yüeh), who says, “The Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō) is the Universal Vehicle (daijō, mahāyāna), which, if sentient beings practise just as it teaches, then they will, as a matter of course, attain to the Buddha path. For instance, sentient beings who have rebuffed goodness, who are everywhere throughout the realms of dharmas, will decidedly, on a single hearing of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō), attain to a mind of enlightenment.”
The eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones is also the essence of the mind of the slanderous person of incorrigible unbelief, as well as the evil person who commits the five deadly sins or the ten acts that lead to evil karma. Should these people exercise a minimum of faith and understanding, there is no doubt that they will become Buddhas and naturally attain to the Buddha path. While hell is just being hell, it is endowed with the World Honoured One, with both his fundamental substance and function.
The universal and impartial wisdom, by being the actual fundamental substance throughout the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas of the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō), perpendicularly reaches through the past, present, and future. Horizontally, it embraces the whole of the ten directions and is totally unbiased towards the differences of things being high or low, great or small, coarse or delicate, because it is the universally impartial wisdom of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). As the sole vehicle has been expounded in this manner, then there can be no other path to attain; neither two nor three, since it is called the sole Dharma vehicle.
Indeed, what an outstandingly superlative Dharma gateway this is!
It does not teach that the eight-petalled lotus of the nine World Honoured Ones only dwells within the breast of the masculine. It extols with a sigh that women also receive it in their feminine frames. If it expounded that only high-ranking people were endowed with stupas, then those of inferior rank would bear a grudge. Because this is the stupa of universally impartial wisdom, there could be no circumstance for a deviation from the truth.
If the Dharma becomes a single vehicle, then there are no doubts concerning it. Although this is an easier Dharma for becoming a Buddha, it was as long as forty years before Shākyamuni exposed this treasury of esoteric wisdom, for fear that a simple explanation of universal significance of the Dharma would reduce it to insignificance.
The meritorious virtue of building and setting up a hundred thousand stupas made of precious metals does not amount to the meritorious virtue of holding faith in, and understanding that our minds are stupas of the Buddhas. So, when sentient beings do evil things, they are acts of perversity, because sentient beings are the fundamental substance of the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō, Saddharma). Therefore, the enlightenment to this concept naturally consists in universal compassion. There is even great merit in giving up the seat of one’s position, so that others may be placed upon it. But how much more is the boundless meritorious virtue of rolling back one’s own unenlightenment, so as to reveal and know that the dwelling place of the five Buddhas and four Bodhisattvas is in the citadel of one’s mind?
The Buddha, on giving an illustration, said that the ox-headed sandalwood tree is among all the kinds of wood the most renowned, so that one ounce of this wood is said to cost four mon. It is a treasure that has the value of a world where the sun shines from dawn to dusk under the four heavens. The capacity of this wood is like a wand with the wish-fulfilling jewel (mani) that can make all the treasures that one desires come raining down or bubble up like a spring. If you lay out this wood when it gets cold, it becomes warmer; and, if it is hot, it becomes cool. People who are sick are cured at once. Those who are impoverished become independently wealthy and honourable. So what would the meritorious virtue be, if one were to construct, from this precious wood, thirty-two halls, whose height is that of eight fan palms with a width of thirty-nine jō and two shaku, and then fill them with a hundred thousand fully ordained monks and members of the Order? Such a meritorious virtue would then be surpassed by myriads of billions of times, in a single instant of understanding and faith in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). All of this has been recounted in the sixth fascicle of this canon.
“Naturally, it must be the same as that which has just been said – that a hundred thousand myriad times that number of merits does not amount to the virtuous merit of one, which indeed is to be relied upon. What this Dharma amounts to is the reason for the Buddha coming into the world and is the direct path for all sentient beings, as well as the treasury of esoteric wisdom of all the Buddhas past, present, and future. Since this is the justification and the circumstances for the sole purpose of the Buddha appearing in the world, the Dharma that he expounded is of the ultimate significance.
“Nevertheless, the Buddha expounded the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō) from the podium of possessing eternal nirvana. Then what is the reason for sentient beings not understanding or having faith in it? Even Shākyamuni held it back for as many as forty years and taught the Flower Garland Sutra (Kegon, Avatāmsaka-sūtra), the sutras of the teachings of the individual vehicle (shōjō, hīnayāna), and the interrelated sutras instead, so as to entice the various propensities of his hearers towards the exposition of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). And this is its meritorious virtue.”
Above all poetic and metaphorical considerations, the lotus flower is the interdependence of cause and effect. Nichiren, in his The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden), makes this clear, when he says, “... The lotus flower is the two dharmas of cause and effect, as well as being the oneness of cause and effect... The lotus flower is the Buddha entity of the nine World Honoured Ones of the eight-petalled lotus.”
Would this not be the part of us that lives all space, all time, which must include the past, present, and future – the part of us that cannot be destroyed? Is it the very essence of life itself?
However many lives or deaths we have had and will have to go through, or however much pain and suffering we may have had and may have to suffer in the future, it is on account of this interdependence of cause and effect that the substantiation of our own inherent Buddha nature comes about and, at the same moment, makes the Buddha nature manifest in all the plants, trees, and all the things and people that surround us.
Now we come to the word “sutra”. One of its most common interpretations is “the thread of the discourse”. However, the Daishōnin in his explanation of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō) – at the very beginning of his The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden), defines it as, “... the realms of dharmas are the sutra”.
Among the many meanings attached to the Chinese ideogram kyō that is equated with the word “sutra”, as well as its Tibetan counterpart “mdo”, this concept includes the warp of a fabric and things running lengthwise such as meridians, etc. It is probably due to the never-ending vertical threads of the warp in weaving that this ideogram acquired a secondary nuance of something that lasts forever, such as a scriptural canon or a philosophical classic.
Be that as it may, if we use this ideogram for sutra in the light of the doctrines of Shākyamuni, then it was at the first council on Spirit Vulture Peak (Ryōjusen, Gridhrakūta) in northern India, not long after the Buddha’s demise into nirvana, that the Venerable Anan (Ānanda) was asked to repeat from memory all the teachings that the Buddha had expounded during his fifty years of teaching. It was because of Anan’s (Ānanda) outstanding memory that he was able to reconstitute these orally transmitted discourses and have people write them down. Each one of these Buddha teachings begins, “As I heard upon a time”. And, since then, this phrase has been used as a token to validate a discourse and call it a sutra.
It is within the Buddha teachings of Nichiren Daishōnin, whose education was almost entirely in classical Chinese – rather in the same way Latin was used in thirteenth century Europe – that we see the profundity of the word sutra extended to a far greater significance than a mere discourse. The way people used to read at the time of the Daishōnin was not like the way we read an Agatha Christie novel in the train. Because the content of the larger part of mediaeval writings had something to do with the meaning of life, readers projected the whole of their psyches into whatever was written, as a part of their search for an inner realisation.
I am firmly convinced that the way the Daishōnin read all his books was by thoroughly pondering over the significance of each and every ideogram, in whatever text he was examining, as though he was determined to find evidence to confirm his own enlightenment. For Nichiren, Myōhō Renge Kyō were not only five ideograms that made up the title of the sutra of the same name, each ideogram was a word.
A convenient translation would be “The Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō)”. But a far profounder interpretation of this title would be to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas [which is every possible psychological wavelength] (Kyō). In this way, the title becomes the “title and theme” (daimoku).
The word Namu is the Chinese version of the Sanskrit word Namas. The apt translation of this word is based on the Universal Teacher Tendai’s (T’ien T’ai) definition of it, which is “to consecrate and found one’s life on”. In Japan, this expression of devotion or dedication is to be found inscribed on the images of every kind of bodhisattva, deva (ten), or Shinto divinity.
But nothing could be more deeply meaningful than consecrating and founding our individual lives on the very essence of life itself. This is the particular significance of the recitation of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō. This is the lion’s roar, as Nichiren expresses it in his The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden): “The lion’s roar is the Buddha’s exposition of the Dharma. The exposition of the Dharma is the Dharma Flower Sutra, and in particular it is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō.”
According to the teachings of the Nichiren Schools, sentient beings possess nine modes of cognition (kyūshiki). The first five correspond to our faculties of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touch. i) The cognition of sight (kenshiki) depends on the organ of the eye, and its function is to discern shape, colour, and form. ii) The cognition of hearing (nishiki) depends on the organ of the ear, and its function is to discern and pick out sounds. iii) The cognition of smell (bishiki) has the function of discriminating odours, fragrances, and stenches. iv) The cognition of taste (zesshiki) depends on the tongue, whose function is to discern various tastes and flavours. v) The cognition of touching (shinshiki) and feeling depends on the body, whose role is to discern every variety of physical contact. vi) The cognition of conscious mental activity (ishiki) is the consciousness and the awareness of what we are feeling and perceiving, with regard to what is going on around us and within us.
The first five cognitions have their own organs to detect whatever they are supposed to sense, whereas the cognition of mental activity (ishiki, manashiki) is dependent on the mind as a faculty of thought. Perhaps one could say I know I am seeing, but that, in fact depends on the mind.
vii) The cognition of the mind as a faculty of thought (i, manas) – this cognition is in fact a little more complicated, since it has a strong power of attaching itself to the result of its own thinking. This cognition constantly perceives images, sounds, tastes, etc., even if they are only imagined, all of which induce this cognition to presume that it is the controller of the body and the part of us that makes decisions. It also sees itself as being independent by nature. The cognition of mind as an organ of thought first wills; then it discriminates (funbetsu), in order to judge. The process of judging entails an awareness of the individual particularities in concepts, ideas, and in matters and things – hence this cognition’s habit of firmly attaching itself to a subjective and objective view of existence.
The cognition of mind as an organ of thought is always functioning, even during our sleep, unconsciousness, and comas, etc. As a result, unenlightened people such as us are always prey to illusions and ideas about our own existence, which to all intents and purposes belong to the nine realms of dharmas (kyūkai) that constitute our unenlightenment in the world of the dream.
viii) The storehouse cognition (arayashiki) strictly speaking is not a cognitive faculty and has no discerning powers of its own; rather, its role is accumulative. This storehouse cognition is the source of the previous seven cognitions, which are produced from “messages” (shūji) that are implanted in it. This storehouse is a sort of universal unconscious that stockpiles every conceivable dharma that is available to us, whether it be physical or mental, including the concept of our own bodies. When this storehouse cognition receives the outcome of the messages from the other seven cognitions, it passes these messages on to the cognition of conscious mental activity (ishiki), which in turn holds on to these impressions and discerns them as being real.
In this sense, the storehouse cognition is the basic element of the individual who mistakenly interprets the cognition of conscious mental activity as the sum total of the self. On this account, we have the tendency to think that we are what we know. The storehouse cognition is also the part of us that stores up the whole of our past and present karma. This deepest basement of our personalities also accompanies us through all our cycles of living and dying. It is through the distorted notion of being what we know that we become susceptible to deep traumas in the intermediate existence between death and rebirth, which tend to create distorted archetypes in our psyches. The scars of these deepest traumas from previous deaths may even assist in obscuring any intuition we may have, with regard to our original enlightenment. At any event, the storehouse cognition hoards up the whole of our existence, whose real identity is ix) the immaculate cognition (amarashiki), which is the fundamental of life itself.
This ninth cognition is not really a way of perceiving, since this particular cognition is the origin of all dharmas and mind. At the same time, it is the track upon which our lives roll. The object of most Buddha teachings suggests, through one practice or another, that the people who carry out these practices should shake themselves free of the storehouse cognition that is tainted with illusions and return to the original state of the superlative and absolutely pure, real suchness, which is the immaculacy of pure mind as the self nature of existence. In other words, it is the cognition of the Buddha, which is the original enlightenment.
This immaculate cognition is also seen as the sovereign of the mind and the foundation of all its workings. By being the real suchness, it is what life really is and completely inalterable. All things, both sentient and insentient, are endowed with this quality. In the teachings of Nichiren, this ninth and immaculate cognition is the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō). To be a little more explicit but perhaps not simpler, this sutra consists in devoting our lives to and founding them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas (Kyō).
Nichiren defines this dimension of us as the ninth cognition that is the capital of the real suchness and the sovereign of the mind. This aspect of ourselves is not merely an emptiness filled with light, but is also replenished with all the archetypal urges that pulsate throughout existence. Thus, it was Nichiren’s all-embracing compassion for all sentient beings that made him draw up a mandala which includes all our primordial forces set in perfect proportion and in perfect relation to each other, just as they are in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). In this way, ordinary people who are burdened with karma, as we all are, can discover that this ninth cognition (daikushiki, amarashiki, amala-vijñāna) is our real identity.
Nichiren’s intention was to show us a pathway that would lead to a real individuation, which is referred to in Buddhist technical language as the opening up of our inherent Buddha nature, with our persons just as they are. This psychologically alchemical process can be set about through reciting Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō in front of this mandala, which for those people who follow these teachings is the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon).
7: A Chain of Twelve Causes
The next question is – how are we to understand this practice in terms of the twenty-first century?
Traditionally, the answer is through faith. But here we must make a distinction between faith and belief.
Here in the Western world, we are faced with the problem of not knowing the Japanese language. It is only in this essay, or in the translations that follow, that I know of any reasonable translation of Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which is, “the consecration and founding of our lives on the vertical threads of the sutra where existence takes place, into which is woven the filament of the interdependence of cause and effect of the entirety of existence that are the utter limits of the one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces”. Then of course we can translate Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō literally, which is, “to consecrate and found our lives upon the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō)”, the meaning of which Nichiren has explained with precise clarity in his The Oral Transmission on the Meaning of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Ongi Kuden).
From here on, we can say that the only place upon which we can found our lives and consecrate them to is the whole of life itself. I can also take on trust that all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future based their practice on reciting at least something that had the same meaning as the “theme and title” (daimoku) of the Dharma Flower, even if they were not the precise words.
What we are really talking about is the recitation of a paramount psychological truth. Where there is no subjective mind, such places cannot be explored. The boundaries of perception are always limited by the mandala-like circles that are created in the depths of the unconscious, and in most cases not even that.
I would say that nowadays in educated Western societies there are very few thinking and enquiring people who do not accept the subconscious of Freud and the collective unconscious of Jung as a part of our normal cultural heritage. Then would not Jung’s archetype of the ‘crock of gold at the bottom of the ocean’ not be the immaculate cognition I mentioned a few passages ago? Is this not the source from which all culture, mythology, and faith come? Is this not the immaculate cognition squeezing and squirming through the various deep down archetypes of our minds, in order to impart to us that our respective identities are not who we think we are, but in fact we are none other than life itself?
No doubt this is what the Bodhisattva Not Holding Anyone or Anything in Contempt Ever (Jōfukyō, Sadapāribbhūta), in the Twentieth Chapter on the Bodhisattva Not Holding Anyone or Anything in Contempt Ever (Jōfukyō, Sadapāribbhūta), saw in anybody who was a monk or a nun, or either a layman or female lay follower. He said, “I really admire you. How could I be arrogant and look down on you? Since you are all practising the path of the bodhisattva, you will certainly attain to the Buddha harvest.”
It is not beyond the bounds of the imagination that there is an immaculate essence that is all space, all time, which includes the past, present, and future that is the real embodiment of what life really is, yet at the same time is not separate from people like ourselves who, due to our fundamental unenlightenment, find ourselves living lives that are not without problems. This is what makes us ask the question, “How and why did I get here, and what can I do about it?”
The simple answer would be to have enough trust in the Buddha teaching to accept the fact that we have a Buddha nature, just in the same way that we have an unconscious, along with our usual complexes and quirks. This would be a basis for faith. But it is not faith if we blindly listen to or take to heart inanities, such as we find in some silly books that say, “The gohonzon (i.e., the Fundamental Object of Veneration) is the body and mind of Nichiren himself. It is not different from a living human being...” Then this is the way to piousness, bigotry, blind belief, and a life that is cold, narrow, and nasty. Often, it is in the circles that pretend to have faith in the teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin where there is far too much sanctimoniousness and not enough faith.
In order to understand why we are the way we find ourselves in the world of humankind, the Buddha teaching describes this situation in a chain of twelve causes and karmic circumstances that run through the whole of sentient existence.
i) The first is mumyō. This is the part of us that does not want to know, that does not want to change our ways. It is our fundamental unenlightenment that leads to ii) gyō, the dispositions and volitions inherited from former lives, which are carried over to iii) shiki, which are the first signs of consciousness that takes place in the womb after conception. This then leads to iv) myō, shiki, the body and mind evolving in the womb. The body then develops v) rokunyū, the five organs and cognitions of sense, as well as the cognition of conscious mental activity. After birth, this leads to vi) shoku, which is contact with the outside world. This opens the way for vii) ju, receptivity and budding intelligence and discernment from six to seven years onwards. At the age of puberty, we then develop viii) ai, the thirst and yearning for love and amorous relationships. All this leads to ix) shu, the urge for an existence in which desires, hopes, and ambitions are fulfilled. But, even if these desires are not accomplished, we come to x) shu, that is the substance of karma to come in the future. Then we come to xi) shō, the completed karma ready to be born again. Naturally, this life is now irrevocably facing in the direction of xii) rō, shi, old age, and death. Nichiren explains this karmic process in his Essay on the Chain of the Twelve Causes and Karmic Circumstances that Run through the Whole of Sentient Existence.
Since people who live in the Western Hemisphere are endowed with a healthy dose of doubt, as well as a tendency to ask how or why the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) is seen to have the properties it does, the answer has to be, “It is the people who do the practices of the Nichiren teachings who invest the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) with the qualities it has.” What this basically amounts to is the faith of the practitioners in the existence of their own Buddha nature.
This of course is also true for all the crosses, images of saints, Buddha images, and any other object that is thought of as being sage-like. But in the same way as beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, the numinous quality of an object of worship resides in the faith of those people who hold it sacred. Faith can bring about an intuitive understanding. Deeper insight can lead to greater faith. And, as a follower of the teachings of Nichiren, a deep faith can make us aware of our inherent Buddha nature, without becoming something different from what we are, even if this may only happen at the time of our deaths.
However that may be, the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) is as it is defined in the Second Consideration of the religious ceremony of the Nichiren Shōshū School, which is as follows: “I consecrate my life to the essence of the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata of the original gateway – the universal Dharma that lies esoterically submerged within the text – the subtle integration of the objective realm and the subjective insight of the original terrain that is so hard to understand – the primordial infinity of the original beginning – the actual fundamental substance of the self-received reward body that is used by the Tathāgata – the inherently infinite existence of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas, the pragmatic one instant of mind containing three thousand existential spaces – the oneness of the person and his Dharma – the one and only Universal Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon) of the altar of the precept of the original gateway.”
[Tathāgata (Nyorai) signifies the following: one who has gone; one who has followed the Path and arrived at the real suchness; one of the ten titles of a Buddha. Tathāgata can be explained as a person who comes from the real suchness of existence, which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō) – and that person will return to it.]
Now having quoted all of this, obviously I must now give the reader some explanations, starting with the essence of the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata. This is the Sixteenth Chapter of the Sutra on the White Lotus Flower-like Mechanism of the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō Renge Kyō), in which Shākyamuni refuted the concept that he had attained enlightenment for the first time in Bodhgaya under the bodhi tree in northern India. Instead, he announced that he already had become enlightened in the dimension of the original source of existence in the primordial infinity in time, which is the interdependence of cause and effect that perpetuates throughout the whole of existence.
This chapter begins with three exhortations, where the Buddha says, “Indeed, you must sincerely give your attention to having faith and accepting what the Tathāgata says.” The Buddha was about to repeat this phrase a fourth time when the Bodhisattva Maitreya (Miroku) said three times over, “World Honoured One, we only wish to hear your teaching. We do indeed accept with faith what the Buddha says.”
After this ritual of the Buddha announcing that he would teach without being asked to, a situation which throughout all the Buddha teachings is extremely rare, the Tathāgata said, “You must listen attentively to what I have to say about the extent of the esoteric and almost inaccessible reaches of the mind of the Tathāgata.” The Buddha then goes on to say that his enlightenment existed prior to a period of time that would amount to all the grains of dust that would go into the making of five hundred kalpas.
[Tathāgata (Nyorai) signifies the following: one who has gone; one who has followed the Path and arrived at the real suchness; one of the ten titles of a Buddha. Tathāgata can be explained as a person who comes from the real suchness of existence, which is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō – which means to devote our lives to and found them on (Nam[u]) the Utterness of the Dharma (Myōhō) (entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment) permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect (Renge) in its whereabouts of the ten (psychological) realms of dharmas (Kyō) – and that person will return to it.]
Rather than being an immense distance in time, I would suggest that we really are talking about a very great psychological depth. This statement is referred to as, “the clearing away of what is close at hand, in order to reveal the distance”. The Lifespan in the title of this chapter alludes to the longevity of the Buddha as being all time, which is an inherently infinite existence that includes all the past, present, and future, even though this infinity is expressed in terms of a time that is like a long piece of string, or perhaps as a circle instead of a synchronicity. This is the meaning of the Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata that is esoterically submerged within the text.
The original gateway to the Dharma is the second half of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). The first half of this sutra concerns itself with teachings and events that are suspended in space and time, and therefore only temporary. In contrast, the original gateway to the Dharma points to things that exist in the original state that is more like a profound dream that unfolds to us psychological truths as to the nature of our real existence.
Another important point is that, apart from the Buddha stating that his life is inherently eternal, he also said that he is always present in “this world that has to be put up with” (shaba sekai), which means that there is no other Buddha terrain apart from the world we are living in now. The
Chapter on Expedient Means of the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō) emphasises that the dharma realm of the Buddha is present in all the other nine realms of dharmas of ordinary people. But in the
Chapter on the Lifespan of the Tathāgata, it is pointed out that these realms of dharmas are also endowed with that of the Buddha.
8: The Fundaméntal Object of Veneration
Since most of our societies are based on human rights and we are not into submissive knuckling under, we have a problem as to how we shall comprehend the Fundamental Object of Veneration of the Nichiren Schools (gohonzon).
To begin with, I refer to the gohonzon as the “Fundamental Object of Veneration”, instead of as the “Fundamental Object of Worship”. The reason for this is that the words ‘to venerate’ have the undertone of looking upon something with deep respect and awe, or to revere it on account of its enlightenment, etc. The word ‘revere’, means to hold in deep affection or religious respect, whereas the word ‘worship’, according to the Oxford Dictionary, has been defined as homage or reverence paid to a deity, etc. The word worship of course implies the pitfall of grovelling or snivelling towards some object of a cult or ‘juju stick’.
The Fundamental Object of Veneration is a diagrammatic representation that indicates the cosmic nature of Nichiren Daishōnin, as well as being a symbol of the workings of the universe in terms of the culmination of Shākyamuni’s teachings, as revealed in the Dharma Flower Sutra (Myōhō Renge Kyō). This Object of Veneration has been referred to as the “Self-received Wisdom Entity of the Tathāgata which he uses to save humankind”. This expression has been misinterpreted as the “Buddha of Absolute Freedom”.
In spite of this misnomer, this Fundamental Object of Veneration contains every conceivable psychological ramification of existence. Hell, which is represented by Daibadatta, is the dimension that includes every possible manifestation of suffering, from a thorn in our little toe to a normal headache, and even the pains of being mutilated in one of the many war zones that infest our planet. Next we come to the ‘hungry ghosts’. These are those unfortunate people who resort to bars and are addicted to alcohol, or the junkies in need of a fix. This dimension also represents poor and starving people of the less developed countries, or even children who beg their parents to give them more pocket money. Overall, this realm of dharmas is the world of wanting, needing, or feeling the lack of something.
The dharma realm that follows is animality and can often be connected to the realm of hungry ghosts. These people are motivated by animal desires, such as for sex, food, or love. At the lowest level, this realm of dharmas is represented by a child wanting to pee. This can even be extended to the sadist who hurts other sentient beings on account of deep-rooted instincts, which no doubt modern psychology can explain. Animality is the realm of dharmas of the psychological world of brutish behaviour. Now we come to the realm of the ashuras or shura in Japanese. This is the realm of the show-off or even the salesman who wheedles, cajoles, and pushes in order to sell something. However, this psychological wavelength of wanting to impose oneself on other people could readily be extended to being bad-tempered or even in a blind rage.
This realm of dharmas is followed by that of human equanimity which implies that, in spite of the four former, rather tempestuous psychological dimensions, things are not as bad as they seem and everything is all right. This realm of dharmas is represented by a polite, “Good morning. How are you?” The realm of dharmas that follows human equanimity is that of ecstasy, characterised by getting the right part in a play or falling in love, from a great night out, or from having a book published. As with all our joys and epiphanies, we go up into the air, only to come down again to our respective, mundane realities.
The following realm of dharmas is a high-class avidity. It starts with when we are children and we ask, “Why?” or “What is…?” And it finally goes on to deep study of some abstruse subject or other. The realm of dharmas that comes next is that of when we have assimilated our learning and have a deeper knowledge of our chosen subjects. We then become the people who are partially enlightened. In my translations, I tend to render the Buddhist technical words engakukai, pratyekabuddha as the term “people who have made a profound search for the meaning of life”.
Now comes the dharma realm of bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas, according to the teachings of the Tendai and Nichiren Schools, are persons who not only seek enlightenment for themselves, but also for others as well. However, this starts at giving some food to a stray cat or dog and can be extended to being rich enough to donate scholarships. The highest altruistic gesture is to teach people as to what the meaning of life is, and this means to rectify all that is not right in their lives. This would imply teaching the Buddha Dharma.
The realm of dharmas or the Dharma realm of the Buddha is the hardest for me to define, because it is beyond my experience. A Buddha is said to be wise, good and upright, and correct in all his character. This word is related to Budh, which means to “be aware of”, “conceive”, “observe”, or “to be awakened to the significance of existence as well as to fully understand how it works”. There is an eternal Buddha that is cited in the “Sixteenth Chapter of the Dharma Flower (Lotus) Sutra” and is said to have three facets to his person.
1) Hosshin, Dharma-kāya is the entity of the highest aspect of the threefold body of the Buddha. It is the absolute nature of the Buddha mind. It is ineffable, unmanifested, and without substance.
2) The second entity of the Buddha is his reward entity (hōshin, sambhoga-kāya) and is his wisdom and perception. For those that do the practices of the Nichiren Schools, it contains every possible manifestation of human existence.
3) Ojin, nirmāna-kāya is either the manifestation of Nichiren or Shākyamuni as persons, or anything that can awaken our perceptions to the truth of what existence really is. For the practitioners of the Nichiren Schools, Nichiren is the Buddha of the beginningless and endless original state. This is Nam Myōhō Renge Kyō, which entails devoting our lives to and founding them on the Utterness of the Dharma [entirety of existence, enlightenment and unenlightenment] permeated by the underlying white lotus flower-like mechanism of the The Essential of the Teaching of Nichiren Daishōnin 82 interdependence of cause, concomitancy and effect in its whereabouts of the ten [psychological] realms of dharmas. If one were to think about it, existence can only take place within the ten psychological realms of dharmas. As to the ‘where’ – where existence takes place, nobody can know. However, every facet of our lives is inscribed on the Fundamental Object of Veneration (gohonzon).
All mandalas are used for aiding and abetting meditational practices and for reciting formulas for enlightenment to, i.e., dhāranīs or mantras – in other words, to help the practitioner concentrate. The problem that lies within the Fundamental Object of Veneration is that this mandala is written out in Chinese, with two rather distorted letters from the Sanskritic Siddham alphabet. This makes this mandala unreadable for people who are neither Chinese nor Japanese.
Here is a case for the Fundamental Object of Veneration to be inscribed in the Roman and other alphabets or Gongyō to be recited in English and other languages. How this is to be done is not my responsibility. But I have it made it my obligation to render these teachings accessible to humankind, since they are so easily misunderstood.
The Object of Veneration is something to focus our faith on. In itself it has no intrinsic power, except for what is written on it. But that strength depends on who drew up this Fundamental Object of Veneration. The Fundamental Object of Veneration that was inscribed by Nichiren, and which is even available on the internet, is the calligraphy of a person who was completely enlightened and whom many people consider the Original Buddha.
With Sino-Japanese calligraphy, it is not necessarily what is written, but, like all in visual arts, what is important is how it has been put down to be made perceptible. This is not a question of skill, although ability does come into it. But ultimately it is what the calligrapher is, as a manifestation of his entire personality.
If the reader is curious enough, then there is the treatise of
The Threefold Transmission on the Fundamental Object of Veneration
(Honzon San Sōden) by Nichiren, written out by one of his close disciples Nichigen, which is included below. Other than this, I have no wisdom of my own.