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The Basic Fundamentals of Practice


The Butsudan

The house of the teaching

The three great treasures of Buddhism are the teachings (Dharma), the Buddha or embodiment of the teachings (Dharma Body), and the gathering of practitioners of the teachings (Dharma Voice). In modern terms, the three treasures are the O’ Daimoku or Namumyohorengekyo (since all the teachings are represented in the title of the Lotus Sutra), the embodiment of the teachings as both the chanting and the mirror of the mandala housed in our practice in action and in a Butsudan as part of an altar as physical representation of our “house” of practice, and finally the Sangha, or community of practitioners, as the gathering. It is important to note that all the three treasures are personal and individual. The three treasures taken one at a time can be demonstrated as individual practices. The teachings are learned through individual effort, and from one to another. The embodiment of the teachings is in our individual practice of the teachings to manifest in our physical lives as well as our eternal life the inherent Dharma from within. The third treasure, the gathering or Sangha, in the concept of (Japanese) Itai Doshin, which means, “many in body, one in mind” (referring to the many individuals all united in the practice of the one vehicle and ultimate truth of Namumyohorengekyo, is actualized within the individual when one invokes the ultimate truth from within to manifest in this mundane world (Samsara).

Having stated this, I must also state that to keep our practice growing and corrected from our individual delusions; practicing, learning with others is invaluable to provide awakenings in our daily lives in leaps and bounds.

As stated earlier, Chanting of the O' Daimoku is our vehicle of awakening that functions by the invocation of our Buddha nature. This is the first of the three treasures. It is also the second of the three treasures during the actual practice of the chanting. However, when our life condition slips away from our Buddha nature after we stop chanting and enter the mundane activities of our daily lives, the embodiment of the teachings fades as we struggle through the delusions of mundane life. To maintain a stronger connection and provide a sanctuary for the embodiment of our individual practice of awakening, Nichiren provided us with a physical representation of the embodiment of the teachings in the form of the O’ Mandala or GoHonzon. To respect this GoHonzon requires that we “house” it in a protective place, and appropriately located. This is the purpose of a Butsudan.

The Butsudan is a dedicated container designed specifically to house the GoHonzon, both to protect it and to honour its presence in our practice. This is why no other items of “attachment” (photos of people, collected trinkets, etc…) are to be located anywhere around the Butsudan that they might offer distraction from the focus of the attainment of our ultimate truth, Buddha-nature. So then, the environs of the Butsudan are also important to the respect and protection of the embodiment of our enlightenment. Thereby, we must create a space for the Butsudan to house and to respect the embodiment of our practice of the Buddhist teachings, an altar.

The altar provides us a permanent physical location for our practice, and also an opportunity to congregate small groups to practice together, the third great treasure.

A proper altar need not be overly complex or ornate. In point of fact, the simpler the altar, the easier the focus on the object of the mirror of our Buddha nature and practice, the GoHonzon.

Here are a few items commonly set about the Butsudan and their associations with the practice of the Buddhist teachings.

  • Candles (white) representing pure light.
  • A cup of water signifying the building block of life.
  • Evergreens kept clean and alive through daily maintenance representing our dedicated practice in this mundane world.
  • An incense burner to offer sacred scents to cleanse the air, signifying purification of our senses.
  • A bell or gong to strike in making rhythmic sound to call upon our auditory senses and to vibrate the very atoms that comprise our mundane reality.

Here is a picture of a typical altar with a Butsudan, elevated so that the GoHonzon contained within is above the eyeline of anyone standing in the room when the Butsudan is opened.

This is simply a traditional form of reverence.

Two vases contain evergreens, a small cup with water, a tray for the offering of fruit on occasion (nourishment), two white candles in holders, and a bell on a side table where incense and other supplies can be stored.

Single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha

This is a Gosho, one of the writings of Nichiren that, though brief, provides a wonderful teaching regarding the five characters of Myo-Ho-Ren-Ge-Kyo. For those still struggling with the idea that “words” can contain larger concepts and actually provide motive energy toward enlightenment. I would also include a teaching of my own on the “nine consciousnesses” which I alluded to in the book “Quantum Life”, and which explains further, the methodology of the Daimoku through the alteration of conscious “layers”.

Firstly, here is the gosho:

Letter to Gijo-bo

I have carefully reviewed your question about the Buddhist doctrines. The beneficence and awakenings of the Lotus Sutra can only be understood between Buddhas. It is the kind of enlightenment that even the wisdom of Shakyamuni Buddha’s emanations throughout the ten directions can barely fathom, if at all. This is why, as you well know, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai construed the character myo [of Myoho-renge-kyo] to mean, that which is beyond ordinary comprehension. The Lotus Sutra proclaims a great diversity of practices, but only T’ien-t’ai, Miao-lo and Dengyo were able to understand the heart of the sutra. Among these men, the Great Teacher Dengyo was the reincarnation of T’ien-t’ai [and therefore well versed in the T’ien-t’ai doctrine]. Nevertheless, he sent envoys to T’ang China on many occasions in an effort to resolve the common doubts of others concerning the sutra. The essence of the sutra is the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, one hundred worlds and one thousand factors, and the three thousand realms in a single moment of life. This is a doctrine of great importance, which was revealed in the work entitled Maka Shikan.

The teaching of the Juryo chapter bears special significance for me, Nichiren. T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo understood it in a general way but did not reveal it in words, and the same was true of Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu. The Jigage section of the chapter states, ‘...single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha, not hesitating even if it costs them their lives...’ I, Nichiren, have called forth Buddhahood from within my life by living this sentence. This means that I myself embodied the Three Great Secret Laws, or the reality of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life, implied in the Juryo chapter. But let us keep this to ourselves!

Dengyo, the Great Teacher of Mount Hiei, journeyed to China to receive instruction in the profound meaning of this sentence from the sutra. ‘Single’ of ‘single-mindedly’ means the one pure way, and ‘mind’ indicates all phenomena and existences. The Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai explained the Chinese character for ‘mind’ by saying that it consists of four brush strokes representing the moon and three stars and implies that the mind that resides in the effect [of Buddhahood] is pure and clean. My interpretation of the passage is that ‘single’ stands for myo (mystic), ‘mind’ for ho (law), ‘desiring’ for ren (lotus), ‘see’ for ge (flower), and ‘Buddha’ for kyo (sutra). In propagating these five characters of Myoho-renge-kyo, one should ‘not hesitate even if it costs them their lives.’

‘Single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha’ also means to see the Buddha in one’s own mind, to concentrate one’s mind on seeing the Buddha, and that to see one’s own mind is to see the Buddha. I have attained the fruit of Buddhahood, the eternally inherent three bodies [by living this sentence]. In achieving this I am sure I surpass T’ien-t’ai and Dengyo, Nagarjuna and Mahakashyapa. The Buddha admonishes that one should by all means become the master of one’s mind rather than let one’s mind master oneself. This is why I have emphatically urged you not to hesitate to give up your body and your life for the sake of the Lotus Sutra.

Namu-myoho-renge-kyo, Namu-myoho-renge-kyo.
Nichiren, the twenty-eighth day of the fifth month in the tenth year of Bun’ei (1273)

The 9 Consciousnesses

Another important concept with which the daimoku practice is shown to be the essential and complete teachings of the Buddha, as the One Vehicle and as the First of the “three secret laws” or “three precious truths” or “three great treasures” of the Law (Dharma), the “object” (Dharma Voice) and the “sanctuary” (Dharma Body); and the essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra is contained in the Gosho of “Hell and Buddhahood.”

The Threefold Lotus Kwoon teaching is based on the Buddhas teachings as well as T’ien-T’ai and Nichiren’s exposition of the Nine Buddhist Consciousnesses. In order to introduce this teaching I will first provide the gosho as reference.

Here is the gosho:

Hell is the Land of Tranquil Light

I have received your various gifts. Nothing would please me more than to know that you have communicated with the late Lord Ueno, but I know that that is impossible. Perhaps only in a dream or a vision can you see him. Your late husband must certainly be in the pure land of Eagle Peak, listening and watching over this saha world day and night. You, his wife, and your children have only mortal senses, so you cannot see or hear him, but be assured that you will eventually be reunited [on Eagle Peak].

Counting all your previous lives, you must have shared the bonds of matrimony with more men than there are grains of sand in the ocean. However, the man to whom you were wed in this life is your true husband. He is the only one who brought you to practice the teachings of the Lotus Sutra. You should revere him as a Buddha. While he was in this world, he was a living Buddha, and now, he is a Buddha in death. His Buddhahood transcends both life and death. This is the meaning of the doctrine that is of utmost importance: attaining Buddhahood in one’s present form. The fourth volume of the Lotus Sutra states: ‘If one can uphold this [sutra], he will be upholding the Buddha’s body.’

Neither the pure land nor hell exists outside our selves; both lie within our own hearts. Awakened to this truth, one is called a Buddha; deluded about it, one is called a common mortal. The Lotus Sutra reveals this truth, and one who embraces the Lotus Sutra will realize that hell is itself the Land of Tranquil Light.

Even though one may practice the provisional teachings for immeasurable millions of years, one will only fall into hell if one turns against the Lotus Sutra. These are not my own words; they were proclaimed by Shakyamuni Buddha and confirmed by Taho Buddha and by all the Buddhas of the ten directions, who are Shakyamuni’s emanations. To practice the provisional teachings is to be like a man scorched by fire that enters deeper and deeper into the flames, or like a drowning man sinking to the bottom of the deep waters. Not to embrace the Lotus Sutra is like jumping into fire or water. Those who rely on such evil teachers as Honen, Kobo and other slanderers of the Lotus Sutra and believe in the Amida or Dainichi Sutra are falling farther and farther into the fire or sinking deeper and deeper toward the bottom of the water. How can they possibly escape from agony! They will doubtless fall into the fiery pits-into the hell of repeated rebirth for torture, the hell of the black cords, and the hell of incessant suffering and sink to the depths of the ice to the hell of the blood red lotus and the hell of the great blood-red lotus. The second volume of the Lotus Sutra reads, "When his life comes to an end he will enter the Avichi hell, [be confined there for a whole kalpa, and when the kalpa ends, be born there again]. He will keep repeating this cycle for a countless number of kalpas."

Your late husband has escaped such agonies, for he was a supporter of Nichiren, the votary of the Lotus Sutra. A passage from the sutra reads: "If someone . . . should enter a great fire, the fire could not burn him.... If one were washed away by a great flood and called upon his Name, one would immediately find oneself in a shallow place." Another passage reads, "It cannot be burned by fire or washed away by water." How reassuring! How encouraging!

You may think of hell, the iron rods of the guards of hell or the accusing cries of the demon wardens as existing way off in some faraway place, but they are not like that. This teaching is of prime importance, and yet I will impart it to you just as Bodhisattva Monju revealed to the dragon king’s daughter the secret teaching of the attainment of Buddhahood in one’s present body. Now that you are about to receive that teaching, strive even more earnestly in your faith. One who practices still more earnestly whenever one hears the teachings of the Lotus Sutra is a true seeker of the way. T’ien-t’ai states, "From the indigo, an even deeper blue." This passage means that something dyed repeatedly with indigo becomes even bluer than the indigo plant itself. For us the Lotus Sutra is the indigo plant, and the growing intensity of our practice is "an even deeper blue."

The word jigoku or "hell" can be interpreted to mean digging a hole in the ground. A hole is always dug for one who dies; this is what is called "hell." The flames that reduce one’s body to ashes are the fires of the hell of incessant suffering. One’s wife, children and relatives hurrying one’s body to the grave are the guards and wardens of hell. The plaintive cries of one’s family are the voices of the guards and wardens of hell. One’s two-and-a-half-foot-long walking stick is the iron rod of torture in hell. The horses and oxen that carry one’s body are the horse-headed and ox-headed demons, and the grave itself is the great citadel of the hell of incessant suffering. The eighty-four thousand earthly desires are eighty-four thousand cauldrons in hell. One’s body as it leaves home is departing on a journey to the mountain of death; while the river beside which one’s filial children stand in grief is the river of three crossings. It is useless to look for hell anywhere else.

Those who embrace the Lotus Sutra, however, can change all this. For them, hell changes into the Land of Tranquil Light, the burning fires of agony change into the torch of wisdom of the Buddha in his reward body; the dead person becomes a Buddha in his body of the Law; and the fiery inferno becomes the "room of great pity and compassion" where the Buddha in his manifested body abides. Moreover, the walking stick is transformed into the walking stick of the true entity or the Mystic Law, the river of three crossings becomes the ocean of "the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana," and the mountain of death becomes the towering peak of "earthly desires are enlightenment." Please think of your husband in these terms. To realize all this is to attain Buddhahood in one’s present form, and to awaken to it is to open the Buddha wisdom. Devadatta changed the Avichi hell into the blissful land of tranquil light, and the dragon king’s daughter also was able to attain Buddhahood without changing her form. Their achievements were none other than the results of understanding the above truth. This is because the Lotus Sutra saves both those who oppose and those who follow it. Such great benefits are contained in the single character myo.

Bodhisattva Nagarjuna states, "[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who changes poison into medicine." The Great Teacher Miao-lo states, ‘How can one find the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light anywhere outside Buddhagaya! This saha world does not exist outside the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light.’ He also says, ‘the true entity is invariably revealed in all phenomena, and all phenomena invariably possess the ten factors. The ten factors invariably function within the Ten Worlds, and the Ten Worlds invariably entail both life and its environment.’ The Lotus Sutra reads, ‘the true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddhas. This reality consists of the appearance, nature . . . and their consistency from beginning to end.’ A passage from the Juryo chapter states, ‘It has been immeasurable, boundless [hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, millions of nayutas of kalpas] since I in fact attained Buddhahood.’ Here, ‘I’ means all beings in the Ten Worlds. All beings of the Ten Worlds are essentially Buddhas; so they dwell in the pure land. A passage from the Hoben chapter reads, ‘All those phenomena are aspects of an abiding Law, and all the characteristics of the world are eternal.’ It is the way of the world that birth and death are the eternally unchanging characteristics of life throughout the three existences of the past, present and future. This is nothing to grieve over or be surprised at. The single ideogram ‘characteristics’ represents the eight characteristics or phases of the Buddha’s existence. Even these eight phases are subject to the law of birth and death. The votaries of the Lotus Sutra are enlightened to all this, thereby attaining Buddhahood in their present forms. Since your deceased husband was a votary of this sutra, he doubtless attained Buddhahood as he was. You need not grieve so much over his passing. But to grieve is natural, since you are an ordinary person. Even sages are sometimes sad. Although Shakyamuni Buddha’s greatest disciples had been awakened to the truth of life, they could not help lamenting his passing. Perhaps they behaved as ordinary people do.

By all means perform as much good as you possibly can for the sake of your deceased husband. The words of a wise man of old, ‘Base your heart on the ninth consciousness and carry out your practice on the six consciousnesses,’ are indeed well said. This letter contains teachings I have so far kept secret. Keep them deep within your heart.

Nichiren, The eleventh day of the seventh month, Reply to the wife of the late Lord Ueno

Now I would like to extend this teaching with the help of a visual aid. There are nine consciousnesses as shown in the diagram. From a Buddhist Dictionary of terms, the following definition is given of the nine consciousnesses:

  • Nine kinds of discernment. "Consciousness" is the translation of the Sanskrit vijñana, which means discernment. The nine consciousnesses are as follows:
    1. Sight-consciousness (Skt chakshur-vijnana),
    2. Hearing-consciousness (shrota-vijnana),
    3. Smell-consciousness (ghrana-vijnana),
    4. Taste-consciousness (jihvavijnana),
    5. Touch-consciousness (kaya-vijnana),
    6. Mind-consciousness (mano-vijnana),
    7. Mano-consciousness (mano-vijnana),
    8. Alaya-consciousness (alaya-vijñana), and
    9. Amala-consciousness (amala-vijñana).

Note that the Sanskrit is the same for both the sixth and seventh consciousnesses. The first five consciousnesses correspond to the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. The sixth consciousness integrates the perceptions of the five senses into coherent images and makes judgments about the external world. In contrast with the first six consciousnesses, which deal with the external world, the seventh, or mano-consciousness, corresponds to the inner spiritual world. Awareness of and attachment to the self are said to originate from the mano-consciousness, as does the ability to distinguish between good and evil. The eighth, or alaya consciousness, exists in what modern psychology calls the unconscious; all experiences of present and previous lifetimes-collectively called karma-are stored there. The alaya-consciousness receives the results of one's good and evil deeds and stores them as karmic potentials or "seeds," which then produce the rewards of either happiness or suffering accordingly. Hence it was rendered as "storehouse consciousness" in Chinese. The alaya-consciousness thus forms the framework of individual existence. The Dharma Characteristics (Chin Fa-hsiang; Jpn Hosso) school regards the eighth consciousness as the source of all spiritual and physical phenomena. The Summary of the Mahayana (She-lun; Shoron) school, the T'ien-t'ai school, and the Flower Garland (Hua-yen; Kegon) school postulate a ninth consciousness, called amala-consciousness, which lies below the alaya-consciousness and remains free from all karmic impurity. This ninth consciousness is defined as the basis of all life's functions. Hence it was rendered as "fundamental pure consciousness" in Chinese. This is the storehouse of our inherent Buddha nature and our door to the ultimate truth.

In the following diagram the consciousnesses are rendered as circles or as a section through the spheres of consciousness with the most “worldly” on the outermost sphere moving toward the centre or innermost sphere of “pure” awareness or enlightened consciousness of Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. By invoking the daimoku while focusing on the ultimate mandala of the Gohonzon in our Samsaric “reality”, we invoke a cause in the three aspects of: the Buddha (the Law–Dharma-Myohorengekyo), the Wisdom (Dharma Body), and the Action (Dharma Voice) that work their way through the consciousnesses of Sight, purifying vision; Hearing, purifying listening; Smell, purifying odours; Touch, purifying the flesh; Mind, purifying thoughts; Mano, purifying causal tendencies, and self-perception of innate Buddha nature; Alaya consciousness, purifying causal heredity; and then ultimately, with direct association the Amala consciousness, as the mirrored aspect of the Gohonzon reflected into the essential purity of the subtle consciousness creating a continuity without time or space and the true aspect of the eternal continuity of life, Buddhahood. See the diagram for a graphic illustration.

Because the Daimoku reaches to the “core” of the Amala Consciousness immediately, the intermediate eight consciousnesses are purified without impedance whatsoever. This is why the Daimoku and the Gohonzon together, in the “active” meditation of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Buddhism, are the most expedient means of the Buddha practice to achieve enlightenment in this lifetime. In fact, the state achieved during the invocation of the Daimoku while focused on the Gohonzon done with determination as in the statement earlier, “single-mindedly desiring to see the Buddha”, immediately produces the mind of the Buddha. The objective of practice is to attain and maintain this Buddha-mind as long as possible and to maintain it beyond the meditation and to keep it while in one’s daily activities. So while one performs the practice of recitation of the Gongyo (two chapters of the Lotus Sutra, the Hoben and the Juryo), one instantly enters the Buddha mind and concomitantly affects all eight consciousnesses to purify them. Over time with regular practice, as the eight consciousness are cleansed, the innate core of Buddha nature is more and more able to be maintained throughout all the consciousnesses and therefore achieving the maintained state of awakening in one’s current life.

The Ten Worlds

One of the main concepts of Buddhism, and one that is crucial to understanding Buddhist method is the concept of life condition. If you don’t understand the concept of life condition, it’s going to be very hard to understand what an enlightened life condition is; and that, after all, is what the practice of Buddhism is all about.

Basic to the concept of life condition is a Buddhist term known as the Ten Worlds. The Ten Worlds are not physical places. They are momentary states or conditions of life that each person can experience at any given time. These conditions by themselves, in combinations, and always shifting, are the lens through which our behaviors and actions are shaped and influenced even before our conscious mind gets hold. When we refer to the concept of “life condition,” we are referring to the Ten Worlds. The first six are most common in which people live all of the time. They are commonly known as the “six lower worlds.” Each of us has a “central aggregate tendency” associated with some combination of them. That is, there is a particular life condition that you will always go back to whenever there is a lack of internal or external stimuli to activate a different one. So then, to describe them, they are:

Hell (Jap. Jigoku).
This state of life is characterized by a feeling of hopelessness; sadness, depression, lack of confidence, tiredness, and the sense that nothing will change for the better and that there is nothing anyone can do to change it. This state can manifest as uncontrollable rage, not to be confused with anger, but a desperate and deep self-hatred.

Hunger or Hungry Ghosts (Jap. Gaki).
This is a feeling of insatiable desire. It could be a desire for food, but usually denotes a “need” for some external stimulus the person in this world thinks will result in their happiness. Examples of things a person might hunger for are cars, houses, money, drugs, alcohol, someone, etc. The moment you are in the world of hunger, you are, a slave to your desires.

Animality or Animals (Jap. Chikusho).
A person in this world behaves like an animal in that they prey on those whom they perceive to be weaker than them and cower before those whom they perceive to be more powerful than them. Work environments are perhaps the most common places where behaviors arising from this world occur. A person in this world may pretend to willingly do everything that their boss tells them and to respect their boss’s authority while treating their own subordinates in a high-handed or authoritarian manner. Another description of Animality is contained in the common phrase “the law of the jungle.” The struggle for power becomes all consuming and fear of others with more power than you debilitate you for the moment when you are in this world or life condition.

Anger or Asuras (Jap. Shura).
The world of anger is perhaps the most deceptively named of the Ten Worlds. It is a condition of egotism and self-righteousness, backstabbing and manipulation. Like Animality, it is a condition that is focused on power. Wars start from the collective life condition of a nation centered in the world of anger. The concept that was once popular in our country propounded, “We are America. We are the best country in the world. We must fight to make the world safe for democracy so that all others can be just like us.” Dogmatism about religion, politics, relationships, etc. comes from this life condition. All others are to believe you because of who you are (your status and previous accomplishments) not because what you are saying is necessarily reasonable or correct.

These four lower worlds, or life conditions, are known as the four evil paths. That is because they tend to lead individuals down to the lowest condition — the world of hell. Those in the world of hunger, for example, after they have exhausted all efforts to obtain what they desire and cannot do so, quickly plunge into the condition of hell or hopelessness. This is especially true if they believe that their desire is the only means of attaining happiness for themselves. As for the condition of Animality, you also begin to feel helpless and hopeless unless you have found a way to become the “top dog” in the most important aspects of your daily life. Then you become entrenched in the world of anger, thinking yourself superior to all others and forcing your will on everyone around you. At that point, those with more power will meet your unrelenting, yet egotistical attitude. Or you may be faced by those who can clearly point out your errors and cause others, from whom you obtained your power of anger in the first place, to lose respect and quit following you. Rich people who flaunt their wealth, such as newly rich athletes, begin to feel so powerful that they actually become outraged when some authorities point out that they cannot break the laws about use of drugs or other things no matter who they think they are.

Humanity or Human Beings (also called Tranquility, Jap. Nin).
This is another world that is somewhat difficult to describe. This state is often mistaken for enlightenment (research Ch’an or Zen) even by Buddhists. This is a life condition of stasis, where the perception is that nothing changes. It is a condition where you can use rational judgment. You can carry on conversations and have dialogues without becoming distraught about concerns for your own life or the lives of others. This condition is actually the goal of many people. This is what they strive for. They believe that if they could just become tranquil, then they wouldn’t need anything else in their lives. One of the problems with this world is that while in it, you really can’t accomplish much of anything at all. Desire causes people to take action, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad. When people are in the world of humanity, they are absent from desire. This can be a good thing, and usually feels good to the person experiencing it. However, desire goes beyond selfishness sometimes and extends to helping others. For instance, one might feel a desire to stop animal abuse. In the world of tranquility however, such a desire would be absent. So it becomes difficult to get much accomplished while in this state, either for oneself or for others. So much effort is put forth to avoid emotionalism or passion that, despite what you would think at first view, this world is actually exhausting in that it is impossible to remain in without just shutting out the realities of your life and the lives of others.

Rapture or Heavenly Beings (Jap. Ten).
The condition of rapture, as the name implies, is one of elation or ecstasy. It can be the result of a positive outcome within the world of hunger. Obtaining what you wanted brings about a feeling of elation that consumes you for the moment. A main characteristic of this condition is that it is short lived.

Most people tend to cycle through these six lower worlds over and over again without any hope of breaking free from them. For instance, a person may hunger for a certain job; say to be a rock star. They devote their lives to the goal (Namu) for several years. When they reach their goal, assuming that they have the fortune to do so, they at first live in the world of rapture. They may then lose their stardom or become tired of it and the lack of privacy. They will then fall into the world of hell or back into hunger for some other circumstance they think will bring them happiness. Another example would be of yearning for a new car. After working hard to get the car and living in the world of hunger, the person will switch to the world of rapture once they achieve their goal. After a while, the good feelings about having a new car fade. The person may then enter tranquility or even hunger again. That is the constant cycle of the six lower worlds. Their environment easily manipulates the person, and their happiness relies heavily upon their external success.

The preceding examples are cases of people with pretty good fortune or who have made reasonably good causes in their present or previous lives. A person who has made bad causes may have a very difficult time ever escaping from hell or hunger. Such a person will make further bad causes by committing crimes or perhaps even suicide. We see such examples every day. That leads to the next concept of the Ten Worlds. As we had mentioned earlier, most people stay around a single world most of the time. The world that a person hovers around is known as their central life tendency. The central life tendency of most humans is tranquility (a.k.a. humanity). The important thing to understand about the concept of the Ten Worlds and life condition is that it is relatively easy to obtain external goals, but to change one’s central life tendency is quite difficult. Even after obtaining a new car, a person will shortly fall from the world of rapture into their old feeling or life tendency. So, to be able to maintain a high life condition, or central life tendency, is the most fortunate thing a person could have. To raise one’s life condition, or central life tendency, is also the most difficult thing a person can do. Many people think that the fifth and sixth worlds (tranquility and rapture) are the happiest states of life that anyone can achieve. They strive to maintain one of these two worlds as much as they possibly can. The fortunate ones are capable of staying in one of those two worlds most of the time. Some people, on the other hand, realize that there must be more to life and strive for an even higher state of life, or life condition. That leads us to the next worlds.

Learning or Voice Hearers (Jap. Shomon).
As the name of this world implies, the world of learning is exhibited when you are gaining knowledge about the world around you or your life itself. To begin to learn, that is to be in the world of learning, you must exert effort. It is said that a seeking mind is the key to wisdom, and you’ve probably heard teachers say that without effort on the part of their students, learning will not take place. Put another way, your external environment cannot make you learn. It can provide great circumstances to learn, but it cannot make you learn or be in the world of learning.

Realization or Cause-Awakened Ones (Jap. Engaku).
The world of realization takes learning one step further. It requires even more effort. Perhaps the easiest way to describe what takes place within the world of realization is to look to the arts. Just because you know the notes that a guitar can make doesn’t make you a great musician. Similarly, your learning and knowledge about painting does not make you a great artist. By internalizing the knowledge and adding something of yourself and your creativity to it, you can take your learning a step further and actually go beyond the level of your teachers.

While these two worlds, learning and realization are much “higher” life conditions and allow you much more control than the six lower worlds; they still have their shortcomings. First of all, to remain for long in these worlds you must be somewhat self-absorbed. It is a limited sort of enlightenment that excludes most others. It most frequently leads to the world of anger where the person can’t understand why others can’t just do things as well as they do them. They grow impatient with the entire world around them. They think themselves somehow superior because of their knowledge and the efforts that they had to put out to get themselves where they are now. They have little time or patience for others who won’t or can’t do what they did. People in these worlds don’t care to waste their time convincing others to follow their example. They believe that teaching others won’t help them further their knowledge or the realization of their art and self-expression anyway, so why bother.

Bodhisattva (Jap. Bodhisattva).
The world of Bodhisattva is a naturally occurring condition of life, although most people don’t think it is. Most people think that the term Bodhisattva applies only to Buddhists, but that is not true. It is the life condition where you actually care about another person’s life more than you do your own. Say, for instance, that there is someone in the world who is trapped in a burning building. To make a decision to risk your own life to save another’s is the condition of Bodhisattva. At the moment you decided to do so, you are in the world of Bodhisattva. You may not stay there very long, but it is an extremely powerful good cause to make for your life. Because it is so hard to love, to care, even beyond your own self-protection and preservation, it is a life condition that also yields a great cause and effect within your life. If you were to constantly find yourself in situations that gave you the opportunity to offer your life for the sake of others, and if you constantly gave no thought to yourself or your own self preservation, but freely gave of yourself, you would be accomplishing an extremely difficult feat and would be making an extremely good cause. But actually, in real life, even those people such as emergency workers who have chosen to put their lives in situations where they themselves may die trying to save others, exhibit the life condition of tranquility, anger, or Animality about the career choice they have made. They do not consistently act out of Bodhisattva compassion where it is the love and concern they feel for the person, which instigates their every action. Actually, the only way to consistently experience the world of Bodhisattva is by raising your life condition to the next and highest world — the world of Buddhahood. The world of Bodhisattva actually enhances and strengthens the world of Buddhahood. In other words, they act reciprocally to enhance each other.

To quote Shakyamuni Buddha about this “…Originally I practiced the Bodhisattva way, and the life span that I acquired then has yet to come to an end but will last twice the number of years that have already passed.” (Lotus Sutra) Both the story of heroic Bodhisattva deeds, and the deeds themselves, lives on and on. The world of Bodhisattva strengthens, or you might say lengthens, the condition of Buddhahood.

Buddhahood or Buddha (Jap. Butsu).
This world, or life condition, is the most difficult to explain. It is the condition of life that exhibits infinite wisdom, strong life force and vitality, and tremendous good fortune. Buddha wisdom here does not refer to knowledge. Everyone has inherent wisdom. When you are in the right place at the right time and do the right thing for your life and when your life just kind of “knows” what to do, we say that you are in the world of Buddhahood. When you chant Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, you are instantaneously in the world of Buddhahood. Your conscious mind may not know it at the time, but you are actually there. You exhibit what is known as absolute happiness. Your life condition is not dependent on your environment at that moment. For the moment, you have secured for yourself a condition of pure joy, comfort and freedom, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. Even in circumstances that others would think that you couldn’t help but be suffering, the enlightened life condition of Buddhahood won’t let you suffer. It’s really strange to experience, but quite real and quite wondrous. To quote the teachings of Shakyamuni again, “…This, my land, remains safe and tranquil…. The halls and pavilions in its gardens and groves are adorned with various kinds of gems. Jeweled trees abound in flowers and fruit where living beings enjoy themselves at ease…. My pure land is not destroyed, yet the multitude sees it as consumed in fire, with anxiety, fear and other sufferings filling it everywhere.” (Lotus Sutra) Here, Shakyamuni is referring to the condition of Buddhahood rather than a specific place. He is commenting on the wondrous nature of the condition of enlightenment, as it exists in the real world. The goal in Buddhism is to make enlightenment one’s central life tendency. We mentioned before that a person’s ability to make a certain world their central life tendency is the result of causes that they have made in the past. Some people spend their entire lives striving to break free from a central life tendency of hell. For one to raise their central life tendency at all takes tremendous effort, struggle, wisdom and good fortune. Therefore, for a person to raise their central life tendency to that of enlightenment is an incredible struggle. It is not something that a person can accomplish by simply trying to do it, or even by reading about how to do it. A person needs help in breaking free from the negative causes they have made in the past that keep them trapped in the world, or life condition, in which they presently live. They need something powerful enough to counteract all of the past bad causes that they have made. There is only one cause that is powerful enough to overturn any past negative cause and permanently raise a person’s central life tendency. That cause is to chant Namu-Myoho- Renge-Kyo and teach it to others.

Within each of the Ten Worlds is the potential for each of the other nine. This is referred to as the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds. What this means in practical terms is that the potential for Buddhahood exists within each of the other worlds. You don’t have to scratch and claw your way up through each and every one of the worlds to reach the highest or tenth world of Buddhahood. As you become aware of your life’s tendency to cycle among the lower six worlds, you can develop a seeking mind to escape from them. Your efforts even to read this book about Buddhism are the cause for you to break free from the six lower worlds’ grasp. When you take the initiative to have a seeking mind, you ask questions and are in the world of learning. As you internalize this information about Buddhism, you may be in the world of realization, or you may even seek out the means to end suffering for the sake of another and be in the world of Bodhisattva.

If you chant Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as you study this text, you will find yourself in the enlightened world (or Buddhahood) of learning, realization, or Bodhisattva, by virtue of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds and the power of chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. Even if your karma has it that your central life tendency is that of hell, as you chant Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, you will easily and quickly escape the sufferings of hell and find yourself with a renewed hope for your own and others’ future. If you fail to chant Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, though, you can never understand or experience the world of Buddhahood in your own life. Chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is not about Buddha wisdom, it is Buddha wisdom. As Shakyamuni Buddha said, “The true entity of all phenomena can only be understood and shared between Buddha’s.” (Lotus Sutra) Therefore, the only way to do more than intellectualize the concept of the world of Buddhahood is to start chanting Namu- Myoho-Renge-Kyo now and reveal the condition of Buddhahood within. The accomplishment of enlightenment, or in other words, making the world of Buddhahood your life’s central tendency requires Buddhist practice. As we have stated before, the moment you chant Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, your life is in the world of Buddhahood. The moment you stop, your life returns to one of the other nine worlds, which is a process dependent upon your karma. Here an analogy may help you to understand the process of enlightenment. Suppose your life is a piece of steel and chanting Namu- Myoho-Renge-Kyo is like a magnet. The instant the steel (your life) touches the magnet (your chanting) it takes on magnetic properties. While actually physically in contact with the magnet, the steel itself is magnetized. When you release the steel from the magnet, the steel’s magnetic properties go away. But repeatedly rubbing the steel against the magnet causes the steel to retain the magnetic properties even after it is removed from contact with the magnet. The practice of chanting Namu- Myoho-Renge-Kyo and studying and teaching Buddhism to others results in becoming one with Namu- Myoho-Renge-Kyo or, in other words, becoming enlightened. When you chant for the first time, the condition of Buddhahood may still be weak, just as the magnetic properties within the piece of steel are weak after just touching the magnet. Therefore, you may not be able to recognize the effect of Buddhahood.

However, the more time you spend chanting, the more consistently you chant every day, and the more determined you chant, the more you will see the various aspects of enlightenment emerging from your life. You’ll begin to see yourself becoming happier, noticing the things in your environment more, noticing others around you, taking more pleasure in everything you do, enjoying your life more, inspiring others with wondrous new realizations, attracting people to you, changing the way you do things and the way you view the world, smiling more, laughing more, approaching new challenges with fresh determination, being more vital and full of energy, being more productive, feeling more confident, and increasing your inherent wisdom from within, and on and on. There are thousands more benefits that come from chanting, but we can’t list them all here.

As you chant, these traits will become stronger and more noticeable the more you chant. This is what we call a strengthening of life condition.

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