- Ichinen Sanzen -
"The mind is its own place,
and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.
--- John Milton, Paradise Lost
It was a quiet Saturday morning when the telegram arrived.
John was sitting at the kitchen table sipping his coffee
and reading the morning paper. Across the table, Jane read
a magazine. A lazy morning sun beamed quietly through the
The tranquility was broken by the front doorbell. John
returned to the table with a telegram 'in hand.
As he read it, Jane saw the changes take place. John's
pupils dilated and his jaw tightened. His face became flushed
and his hands tightened into fists. Suddenly the whole room
seemed transformed. The temperature seemed to rise, the
air seemed stifling and the sun beaming through the window
became a harsh intrusion. Without hearing a word, Jane knew
it was upsetting news. If we freeze-frame this scene and
examine it, we can observe the mysterious workings of life
as it changes from moment to moment. Whatever was in the
telegram obviously angered John. But it could just as well
have been wonderful news triggering extreme joy, or one
of a myriad different emotions.
Just what all these potentials are and how they work are
defined in the Buddhist philosophy of life, ichinen sanzen,
which states that a single moment of life possesses
three thousand realms.
Ichinen means "one thought" or "one
mind," which arises from the ultimate reality or true
aspect of life that exists at each moment 'in human (and
all) life. Sanzen means "three thousand"
and refers to the variety of experiences life produces in
relation to the environment.
John's experience of the news in the telegram changed not
only his inner life but his immediate environment as well.
All the variations of life experience are manifestations
of the one Law or entity of life.
Our consciousness of "self' forms the framework whereby
we support our worldview. Our perceived division of the
universe into two parts - self and other, or internal and
external - arises from our awareness of self. This consciousness
likewise gives rise to other dualities: for example, the
duality of mind and body (in which we regard the mind as
being our true self whereas the body is not), the duality
of the material and the spiritual, or the duality of humankind
and nature. Dualistic thinking like this has underlain the
evolution of modern civilization, but it is also the root
of many of modern civilization's present crises.
Buddhism points the way to the resolution of such crises
by demonstrating the truth that our lives are not limited
to the self alone but encompass other people, the world
and even the universe. Perhaps nowhere do we find a better
explanation of this idea, that the individual and the cosmos
are inseparable, than in the principle of ichinen sanzen,
which has it that an individual moment of life possesses
three thousand realms.
The philosophical system of ichinen sanzen was developed
in China by that outstanding Buddhist teacher of the sixth
century, T'ien-t'ai (formally given the tide Great Teacher
by the Imperial Court in China). He based his ideas on the
Lotus Sutra, which in eastern Asia gradually came to be,
partly due to his efforts, revered as the highest teaching
of Shakyamuni Buddha. Ichinen sanzen constitutes
a worldview that explains the mutually inclusive relationship
of all phenomena and the ultimate reality of life.
Of course, there are vastly more than three thousand phenomena
in the universe, but here the number is taken to indicate
the multitude of phenomena within which the ultimate reality
shows itself. The figure of three thousand is derived from
a multiplication of ichinen sanzen's component principles,
which will be discussed in detail later. Here, though, we
can note that those components consist of, first, the ten
worlds, or states of life. Each of these possesses all ten
within itself, so that one hundred worlds are constituted.
Each of these worlds is endowed with ten factors: simple
multiplication gives us one thousand factors. Finally, each
of these factors operates in three realms - and so we arrive
at our total of three thousand realms.
THE PHENOMENAL WORLD AND THE ULTIMATE REALITY
So we see that the principle of ichinen sanzen reveals
the moment-by-moment interaction between the phenomenal
world and the ultimate reality of life. It teaches also
that all phenomena, without exception, exist within each
moment of q n individual's life, and that every such life-moment
therefore contains infinite potential.
In "On Attaining Buddhahood the Daishonin writes:
"Life at each moment encompasses both body and spirit
and both self and environment of all sentient beings 'in
every condition of life, as well as insentient beings -
plants, sky and earth, on down to the most minute particles
of dust. Life at each moment permeates the universe and
is revealed in all phenomena" (MW-I, 3).
His point is that the individual's ichinen -the
individual's life at each moment - simultaneously permeates
the entire universe and encompasses within itself all the
laws and phenomena of the universe. It is, therefore, literally
coextensive with the universe. This relationship between
the microcosm of human life and the macrocosm of the universe
is mysterious -and marvelous.
If we look at the physical world, we can easily see that
even infinitely small. things contain vast potential. All
of the vast universe had its origins in a 64 cosmic egg"
that physicists believe to have been almost indescribably
small - perhaps the size of a subatomic particle. The fusion
of minuscule nuclei can produce the vast energies of the
hydrogen bomb. Hundreds of millions of "bits"
of information are stored in a gene too small to see through
the microscope. The human brain is believed to contain about
14 billion neurons, each of which spreads its dendrites
to perhaps a thousand other neurons, forming a network of
From a temporal standpoint, life at each moment might be
thought of as a cross-section of an unbroken continuum,
stretching from the infinite past 'into the infinite future.
In this respect, we can think of a person's ichinen as
being rather like a television picture. In the space of
a second, thirty successive images flash across the television
screen, merging to form a coherent moving picture. But the
length of a moment, as explained in the Buddhist scriptures,
is far shorter than the duration of one of these images.
The Great Commentary on the Abhidharma says that
there are "sixty-five moments in a single snap of the
In fact, though, the Buddhist concept of a "moment"
implies an almost inconceivably brief duration. Our lifetime
is an accumulation of myriad such minuscule moments, which
flow without interruption from the past through the present
to the future. In a sense, we can view each moment as the
product of all previous moments.
Similarly, the cause made in the present moment will help
determine the nature of each subsequent moment. Therefore,
we can say that past, present and future are contained in
each moment -each moment is the condensation of an entire
lifetime. The most important thing, then, is one's state
of life at each moment. One's state of life from moment
to moment determines the overall course his or her life
We can observe the physical and mental activities of our
lives to a certain extent through such disciplines as biology,
biochemistry, physiology and psychology; but the phenomena
with which all these sciences are concerned are merely expressions
of life, not life itself. The ultimate reality of life is
intangible and invisible, unconstrained by time and space.
Nonetheless, in every single moment it manifests itself
in the phenomenal world.
Our physical bodies are composed of many millions of cells,
which are constantly dying and being replaced. Our minds,
too, change, as various emotions and thoughts occur. We
are subject to change, then, both physically and mentally,
and, as time flows by, we continually repeat the cycle of
death and rebirth. The constantly changing circumstances
of our bodies and minds are considered to be the inherent
workings of a fundamentally unchanging reality.
Birth and death are thus natural expressions of the eternal
reality of life; this eternal reality is, in turn, the ever-changing
phenomena of birth and death. Freedom from the suffering
of change comes only at the moment when we waken to the
timeless truth manifest 'in our ichinen. Then, as
the Daishonin says, "we repeat the cycle of birth and
death secure upon the earth of our inherent enlightened
nature" (Gosho Zenshu, p. 724).
Although the moments of our lives appear to flit by, we
can see that, from a more profound viewpoint, together they
encompass the ultimate reality. Every single moment transcends
the bounds of space and time to be simultaneously one with
the cosmic life force - the ultimate reality of the universe.
All forms of life interrelate endlessly in the vast totality
of cosmic life, and yet none of them ever loses its uniqueness.
Nichikan Shonin, the twenty-sixth high priest of Nichiren
Shoshu, expresses this idea in his work "The Threefold
In light of the Lotus Sutra, the phrase "three thousand
worlds in a single moment of life" has two meanings:
"to include" and "to permeate." The
entire universe is included in each moment; and each moment
permeates the entire universe. Each moment is a particle
of dust that possesses the elements of all lands in the
universe, or a drop of water whose essence differs in
no way from the vast ocean itself.
RELATIONSHIPS AMONG THE COMPONENTS
Let us turn now to the relationships that exist among the
component principles of each moment, or ichinen sanzen.
These are the ten worlds, their mutual inclusion, the
ten factors and the three realms.
At the beginning of "The True Object of Worship"
Gosho, Nichiren Daishonin quotes a passage from T'ien-t'ai's
Great Concentration and Insight (Maka Shikan): "Life
at each moment is endowed with the Ten Worlds. At the same
time, each of the Ten Worlds is endowed with all the others,
so that an entity of life actually possesses one hundred
worlds. Each of these worlds 'in turn possesses thirty realms,
which means that in the one hundred worlds there are three
thousand realms. The three thousand realms of existence
are all possessed by a single entity of life. If there is
no life, that is the end of the matter. But if there is
the slightest bit of life, it contains all the three thousand
realms" (MW- 1, 45).
When T'ien-t'ai writes, "Life at each moment is endowed
with the ten worlds," he means that in every single
moment of life there exists the potential for ten conditions:
Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity (or Tranquillity),
Rapture (or Heaven), Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva
and Buddhahood. None of the ten worlds is fixed. Life in
any of the ten worlds contains all the other worlds within
it; in other words, a person in any world has the potential,
in each moment, to manifest any of the other nine worlds.
This concept is the mutual inclusion, or "mutual possession,"
of the ten worlds. Again, because each of the ten worlds
has all ten worlds within it, we have a total of one hundred
T'ien-t'ai's expression that "each of these worlds
in turn possesses thirty realms" is explained by understanding
that each of the ten worlds 'includes the ten factors of
life, and each factor in turn possesses the three realms
of existence. This could be taken to mean that the ten worlds
together have three hundred realms; however, since each
of the ten worlds contains the other nine in addition to
itself, the total is three thousand realms. The ten factors
of life are: appearance, nature, entity, power, influence,
internal cause, relation (or external cause), latent effect,
manifest effect and, finally, their consistency from beginning
to end. The three realms of existence are: the realm of
the five components of life (form, perception, conception,
volition and consciousness), the realm of living beings
and the realm of the environment. Three thousand is not
a number chosen at random, then; rather, it is an expression
of a set of principles that reflects the immensity and diversification
Throughout history, people have realized that all natural
phenomena are elusive and uncertain, and so they have set
out to seek the eternal, unchanging truth of life. Different
teachers have offered different explanations of the relationship
between this absolute truth and the ephemeral world we experience.
Some have suggested that the ultimate truth governs this
world from a higher plane; others, that it lies beyond or
behind phenomena, or that phenomena are in fact mere illusion
and that the ultimate truth alone is real. A similar dualistic
tendency is found in some of the Buddhist teachings predating
the Lotus Sutra; these generally hold that the mind is the
basis of A phenomena, and that all phenomena arise from
By contrast, the principle of ichinen sanzen, based
on the Lotus Sutra, has it that the mind (or each moment
of our lives) and the phenomena of the universe are "two
but not two. " All phenomena are manifestations of
the ultimate reality, and the ultimate reality exists only
in changing phenomena: in other words, neither can exist
independently of the other. Thus all of the events in the
universe, being manifestations of our ichinen, are
integrated to form a single entity, so that every individual
being is directly connected with everything else in the
Every moment of each being's life pervades the three thousand
realms, and the three thousand realms are encompassed in
every one of those moments. It is as a result of their interrelation
that all of the phenomena of the universe derive their form.
Under the principle of ichinen sanzen, every human
being has the potential to become a Buddha, awakened to
the eternity and boundlessness of life. However, what people
actually experience is rather different from this potential.
The principle, thus, can be further broken down into two
types: theoretical ichinen sanzen and actual ichinen
sanzen. Theoretical ichinen sanzen, refers to
the lives of common mortals, or unenlightened people, through
the nine worlds from Hell to Bodhisattva, in which Buddhahood
remains dormant. By contrast, actual ichinen sanzen indicates
the life of Buddhahood; that is, the life in which Buddhahood
is fully active and manifest.
The ichinen sanzen described in "Hoben,"
the second chapter of the Lotus Sutra, is identifiable as
theoretical because it explains Buddhahood as a potential
inherent in people of the lower nine worlds. The ichinen
sanzen indicated in the sixteenth chapter, 'Juryo,"
is described as actual because it presents Buddhahood as
a reality manifested in Shakyamuni's life. According to
Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, however, even the version
of ichinen sanzen described in the sixteenth chapter
is incomplete, because it is explained only as an effect,
that is, as the enlightenment Shakyamuni attained in the
Since the description of ichinen sanzen in this
sixteenth chapter fails to reveal the cause that enabled
Shakyamuni to attain his original enlightenment, it falls
short of a full clarification of the ultimate reality. Nichiren
Daishonin was the person who identified the original cause
of Shakyamuni's enlightenment - and, indeed, of the enlightenment
of all Buddhas - as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or the Mystic Law.
In "The Essence of the Juryo' Chapter," he writes:
"Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the heart of the Juryo chapter,
is the mother of all Buddhas throughout the ten directions
and the three existences of past, present and future"
The question we must ask is: How can common mortals of
the lower nine worlds awaken to and manifest their latent
Buddhahood? T'ien-t'ai's Buddhism was, and is, extremely
difficult to understand, and the meditation practices it
prescribes for "observing the mind," or perceiving
the three thousand realms within oneself, were hardly feasible
for the vast majority of people, being suited only to a
small monastic elite.
Furthermore, these practices focused solely on the inner
workings of life and had little relevance to the outer world
-the lives we all have to live in society. Nichiren Daishonin,
on the other hand, sought to establish a way of realizing
ichinen sanzen that would be open to all, a practice
that would not only illumine the inner realm of life but
would also transform the world we live.
Accordingly, he embodied his enlightenment to the law of
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo 'in the form of a mandala. called the
Gohonzon, which, in his teaching, is the fundamental object
of worship. The Daishonin teaches that belief in the Gohonzon
and the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in themselves constitute
the "observation of the mind" or the attainment
of Buddhahood. So, through the inscription of the Gohonzon,
he established a way whereby all people, equally, could
realize ichinen sanzen and attain Buddhahood in their
To use an analogy, we may know nothing about electronics
or the workings of a television set, but we can still enjoy
watching television simply by turning on the set. Faith
in the Gohonzon is analogous to the act of turning on the
television and selecting the 'Channel; the picture we then
watch can be likened to the Buddhahood we enjoy as it manifests
itself from within our lives.
Nichiren Daishonin, therefore, gives concrete and practical
expression to the Buddhist philosophy taught by Shakyamuni
and later systematized by T'ien-t'ai.
THE TEN WORLDS
The ten worlds, the first of the component principles of
ichinen sanzen, are the ten states or conditions
of life we experience. The ten worlds, taken together, make
up an analysis of the conditions an individual life manifests
over the course of time. The idea of the ten worlds describes
the subjective sensations experienced by the self at the
most fundamental level of life. As we have seen, the ten
worlds - from the lowest to the highest - are: Hell, Hunger,
Animality, Anger, Humanity, Rapture, Learning, Realization,
Bodhisattva and Buddhahood.
The idea of the ten worlds had its origins in a cosmological
theory; that is, it was thought that there were ten distinct
realms into which people were reborn, the particular realm
being determined by the nature of an 'individual's accumulated
karma. For example, Humanity denoted the world of human
beings; Animality, the realm of beasts; Rapture, the dwelling
of the gods; and Hell, an underground prison.
However, in the doctrine of ichinen sanzen, the
ten worlds are viewed not as physical locations but rather
as states or conditions inherent in each of us, and which
we experience moment by moment through our interaction with
Nichiren Daishonin discusses this view of the first six
worlds in "The True Object of Worship": "When
we look from time to time at a person's face, we find him
sometimes joyful, sometimes enraged, and sometimes calm.
At times greed appears in the person's face, at times foolishness,
and at times perversity. Rage is the world of Hell, greed
is that of Hunger, foolishness is that of Animality, perversity
is that of Anger, Joy is that of Rapture, and calmness is
that of Humanity (MW-I, 52).
The four higher worlds are likewise inherent in life. According
to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism, Hell, Rapture and even
Buddhahood are potential conditions in life: "As to
the question of where exactly hell and the Buddha exist,
one sutra says that hell exists underground and another
sutra says that the Buddha is in the west. However, closer
examination reveals that both exist in our five-foot body"
As we can see, all of the ten worlds exist within our ordinary
THE TEN WORLDS CONSIDERED INDIVIDUALLY
The first world, Hell (Jigoku), indicates a state utterly
devoid of freedom, a condition of extreme suffering and
despair in which one is spurred by rage to destroy oneself
and others. Buddhist sutras describe various kinds of hells
- such as the eight hot hells, the eight cold hells and
the sixteen minor hells.
Much in the same way as Dante described in his Divine
Comedy the nine levels of Hell, the nine levels of Purgatory
and the ten levels of Paradise - a scheme typical of medieval
Christian cosmology - the twenty-sixth high priest, Nichikan,
likewise refers to traditional cosmology when he writes
in his "The Threefold Secret Teaching": "Hell
is a dwelling of red-hot iron and Hunger, a place 500 yojana
beneath the human world. Those 'in Animality live in
the water, on the land and 'in the air. Anger dwells at
the ocean-side or on the sea floor. Humanity is life on
Earth, and beings of Rapture reside 'in a palace."
However, as we have noted, the concept of the ten worlds
can be viewed not only as a cosmological system but as a
schema of the potentials inherent in all life. In this sense
the statement that "Hell is a dwelling of red-hot iron"
may be understood as describing the 'inescapable torment
we suffer when we are in the state of Hell.
The second world is Hunger (gaki). In this state,
we are governed by constant cravings for objects or certain
experiences, such as wealth, fame, power and pleasure. The
causes of this state are to be found in such tendencies
as greed, miserliness and jealousy. Originally the world
of Hunger was viewed as a realm inhabited by the spirits
of the dead, who were thought to be suffering from starvation
as karmic retribution for the greed and selfishness they
had displayed while alive; in art they are often depicted
with distended bellies and needle-thin throats. In his "Treatise
on Accordance with the Correct Doctrine," the Indian
scholar Samghabhadra, who lived during the fifth century,
describes three kinds of hungry spirits, each of which is
further subdivided into three; the Sutra of Meditation on
the True Law lists thirty-six kinds. The realm inhabited
by these hungry spirits was said to be located 500 yojana
beneath the surface of the Earth. (A yojana was
a unit of measurement used in ancient India: estimates as
to its length vary from 9.6-24 km.) The image of a dark,
narrow dwelling, deep underground, vividly conveys the restrictions
of the state of Hunger, in which we are imprisoned by our
The third world is that of Animality (chikusho). In
this state we are like an animal driven by survival instincts,
lacking any restraining virtues such as reason or morality.
People 'in this state observe only the "law of the
jungle." They take advantage of those weaker than themselves
and submit to those who are stronger.
Fourth of the worlds is Anger (shura). The first
three states - Hell, Hunger and Animality - are collectively
known as the "three evil paths"; life in these
states is dominated by instinctive desires and passions.
In this next state, Anger, there is an awareness of ego
- but it is a ravening, distorted ego, determined to succeed
over others, whatever the cost, and seeing everything as
a potential threat to its survival. This state was said
to be characterized by asuras, contentious demons
found in ancient Indian mythology. As we saw, High Priest
Nichikan wrote that "Anger dwells at the ocean side";
the crashing waves of the ocean and its fearsome potential
to overwhelm anything 'in split seconds can be thought of
as representing the belligerent and overbearing ego that
is the hallmark of Anger. In this state we value only ourselves,
holding everyone else 'in contempt. We believe we are superior
to everybody else and cannot bear to be found inferior to
anyone in any respect. The three evil paths, taken together
with Anger, are called the "four evil paths" or
the four lower worlds.
Fifth of the ten worlds is that of Humanity (nin). This
world is symbolized by the stability of the vast, flat Earth.
Humanity is a state in which we can use reason to control
our instinctive desires so that the more truly humane qualities
such as love and benevolence can emerge. People in the state
of Humanity experience peace of mind, and in general live
a calm existence.
The sixth of the worlds is that of Rapture (ten). This
state can best be understood by thinking of the intense
joy we experience when, for example, we have the satisfaction
of attaining something we have long desired, or when long
term suffering has finally been relieved. Although it is
intense, the joy experienced in this state is short-lived
and extremely vulnerable to external influences.
These first six states, from Hell to Rapture, are collectively
called the "six paths," or the six lower worlds.
All of them have 'in common one thing: they are brought
about through either the fulfillment or the thwarting of
various desires and impulses. Their appearance or disappearance
is therefore governed by external circumstances. Buddhism
points out that most people spend their lives; shuttling
back and forth among these six states without ever realizing
they are completely at the mercy of their reactions to their
environment. Any happiness of satisfaction that we may gain
in these states is entirely governed by circumstances and
is therefore transient. But when we are trapped in the six
lower worlds we fail to realize this, instead basing our
entire happiness - indeed, the whole of our identity - on
external factors that are by definition beyond our control.
However, when we recognize that everything experienced
in the six lower worlds is impermanent, a recognition that
prompts us to begin a search for lasting truth, we enter
the next two states, Learning and Realization. These two
states, along with the final two, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood,
are called the "four noble worlds." Unlike the
six paths, which in essence constitute our passive reactions
to the environment, these four higher states are attained
only through deliberate and continued effort.
In the state of Learning, we seek truth vicariously through
the teachings or experiences of other people. The Japanese
word for this state, shomon, can be translated as
"voice hearer." Originally, it was used for those
of the Buddha's disciples who had heard him preach in person.
Beyond Learning is the eighth world, Realization (engaku).
This state is similar to that of Learning, except that
here we seek the truth not through other people's teachings
but through our own direct perception. The Sanskrit word
for this state, pratyekabuddha, denotes a person
who arrives independently at an understanding of Buddhist
truths. Learning and Realization are together described
as the "two vehicles." In these states, having
realized the impermanence of all things, we have won a measure
of independence: no longer are we slaves to our reactions
to the environment, as we were when traveling in the six
But things are far from perfect. People of the two vehicles
are often contemptuous toward those who have yet to reach
their level of understanding - that is, those who are still
trudging along in the six paths. In addition, their pursuit
of truth is largely a matter of self-interest; so people
in these two states may retain a measure of egotism.
Beyond them is the ninth world, that of Bodhisattva (bosatsu).
This state, in contrast to the two vehicles, is characterized
by compassion and altruistic behavior. Bodhisattvas, although
they aspire to supreme enlightenment, at the same time are determined
that all other human beings, too, should reach the same understanding.
Conscious of the bonds that link us to everyone else, when we
are in the Bodhisattva state, we realize that any happiness we
enjoy solitarily is illusory and only partial, and so we devote
ourselves to alleviating other people's suffering - even if it
should cost us our lives. When we are in this state we find that
our greatest satisfaction comes from altruistic behavior.
Nichiren Daishonin pinpoints the aim and spirit of the
Bodhisattva in one sentence of the "Record of the Orally
Transmitted Teachings": 'Joy means that both oneself
and others rejoice" (GOSHO ZENSHU, P. 761).
Dr. Hans Selye, in his book The Stress of life (1956),
emphasizes the importance of expanding one's personal horizons;
he says 'in effect that transforming one's selfish impulses
into altruistic deeds, thereby arousing a sense of gratitude
in other people, is the path to true inner security. This
concern for others is characteristic of the state of Bodhisattva.
The states from Hell to Bodhisattva are collectively known as
the "nine worlds" The term is often used to indicate
the unenlightened condition of common mortals, as contrasted with
the tenth of the ten worlds, Buddhahood (butsu). The state
of Buddhahood implies a condition of perfect and absolute freedom,
the supreme state in which we are awakened to the perfect and
ultimate truth that is the reality of all things. The ten epithets
or honorific tides of the Buddha, which appear in Nagarjuna's
Commentary on the Ten Stages, are believed together to
describe the great power, wisdom, virtue and competence unique
to those in the state of Buddhahood.
The ten epithets are:
- "Thus Come One" - This refers to someone who
has come from the world of truth. A Buddha embodies the
fundamental truth of all phenomena and grasps the law
of causality that permeates past, present and future.
- "worthy of offerings" - This means a person
who is qualified to receive offerings from both human
and heavenly beings.
- "right and universal knowledge" - This implies
one who comprehends all phenomena correctly and perfectly.
- "perfect clarity and conduct" - This tide
describes a person who understands the eternity of past,
present and future, and who carries out good deeds to
- "well gone" (or "goodness attained")
- This means a person who has reached the world of enlightenment.
- "understanding of the world" - This implies
a person who, through his or her grasp of the law of causality,
understands all secular and religious affairs.
- "unexcelled worthy" - A person who stands
supreme among all other human beings.
- "trainer of people" - This tide describes
someone who instructs and leads all people to enlightenment.
- "teacher of human beings" - In other words,
a teacher who can guide all human and heavenly beings.
- "Buddha, World-Honored One" - This title signifies
a person endowed with perfect wisdom and virtue who can
win the respect of all people. Buddhism constitutes a
practical system of teachings that together provide a
means for realizing this ideal state of Buddhahood.
Today, we see evidence everywhere of the remarkable achievements
of science and technology over the past few decades, and
yet, ironically, these same advances often work to restrict
our freedom, leaving the impression that we are just cogs
in the huge machine of a bureaucratic society. Moreover,
illnesses born from the nature of our modern civilization
-such as the stress-related diseases and various emotional
disorders - are endemic. Despite our gains, then, we have
yet to free ourselves from the sufferings of the six lower
Buddhahood entails the wisdom to recognize the ultimate
reality of our lives, infinite compassion, a perfected eternal
self, and a total, incorruptible purity of life. According
to Buddhist teachings, it is only when we -have established
as our basis this highest state, Buddhahood, that we can
bring about a reformation of our entire existence, directing
all the physical and mental activities of our nine worlds
toward altruistic and valuable goals.
MUTUAL POSSESSION OF THE TEN WORLDS
Nichiren Daishonin, in "The Opening of the Eyes (I),"
writes: "The concept of ichinen sanzen begins
with an understanding of the mutual possession of the Ten
Worlds or states of existence" (MW-2, 80). Mutual
possession, or mutual inclusion, means that each of the
ten worlds encompasses all of the other worlds within itself.
We can interpret this to mean that all ten states are inherent
in every individual; a person experiencing the state of
Humanity 'in one moment may, in the next, either remain
'in that state or manifest one of the other nine worlds.
What this principle tells us, then, is that life is not
fixed in any one of the ten conditions but at any moment
can manifest any of the ten, and also that life in any one
of the conditions possesses all of the other conditions
latent within itself.
The idea of mutual possession explains the interrelationships
of the ten worlds as one or another of them moves from dormancy
to active manifestation or from active manifestation back
to dormancy. For example, at one moment we may be experiencing
the joy of Rapture, but in the next moment some factor in
our surroundings may suddenly change so that we plunge into
the depths of Hell. But this does not mean that the state
of Rapture in us has ceased to exist; it has simply shifted
from a manifest state to a latent one and, with the appropriate
external stimulus, will emerge again from dormancy.
In such a way, the ten states from Hell to Buddhahood can
be activated by our relationship with the external world,
manifesting themselves in both the physical and spiritual
aspects of our every activity. Within a single individual
the ten worlds, although they are of course each different
from the other, are at the same time unified in their potential
to shift from dormancy to activation and back again.
We can see, then, that the idea of the mutual possession
of the ten worlds is a concept that describes the dynamic
structure of life in an all-embracing way. Nichiren Daishonin
explains the concept in his "The True Object of Worship":
"Even a heartless villain loves his wife and children.
He too has a portion of the Bodhisattva world within him"
(MW-1, 53). Thus the state of Bodhisattva - like all the
other states - exists even in the world of Hell.
Konrad Lorenz (an Austrian behavioral scientist) pointed
out that although animals normally act solely in accord
with their instincts, some will assist an ailing fellow
creature. We can take this as an example of the world of
Bodhisattva existing in the world of Animality.
Which of the ten worlds will manifest itself at a given
moment depends not only on external influences but also
on one's basic tendencies. A given external influence will
not necessarily bring out the same world in two different
people. Of course, our conditions fluctuate from one moment
to the next but, from a broader perspective, there is always
one condition or set of conditions around which our activities
center and to which we most likely revert. For example,
some lives revolve around the three evil paths, some shuttle
back and forth among the six lower worlds, and some people's
primary motivation is the quest for truth, which characterizes
the two vehicles.
Ultimately, the concept of the mutual possession of the
ten worlds - which clarifies the fundamental equality and
infinite potential of every human being -explains that every
individual possesses the potential to elevate his or her
basic tendencies. In other words, through continuing effort
in Buddhist practice, we can gradually raise our basic tendencies
until we eventually establish the supreme state of Buddhahood
as our foundation.
Although the state of Buddhahood is impossible to describe -
impossible even to imagine - we can think of it as a condition
of absolute joy and confidence experienced in the very depths
of our beings, and expressing itself through the nine worlds of
During the process of raising our basic tendencies, our
perceptions and values are certain to change. In a letter
to his disciple Soya Kyoshin, Nichiren Daishonin writes:
Hungry spirits perceive the Ganges River as fire, human
beings perceive it as water, and heavenly beings perceive
it as amrita (divine nectar). The water itself is the
same, but it appears differently according to the karmic
capacity of individuals. (GOSHO ZENSHU, P. 1050)
The Daishonin is saying that a life in the state of Hunger
perceives the waters of the Ganges as if they were its own
self-consuming flames of greed, whereas a life in a different
state has a totally different perception. Although the passage
refers only to perception in the states of Hunger, Humanity
and Rapture, the same principle obviously applies to all
the other states as well. In the final analysis, then, when
we establish Buddhahood as our immutable foundation so that
our individual lives fuse with the Buddhahood of the cosmos,
we will be certain to create a life of limitless joy and
THE TEN FACTORS
Each of the ten worlds has its own unique characteristics
-Hell, for example, being very different from Learning.
The ten factors (junyoze), on the other hand, are
the mechanism by which one state changes to another with
each passing moment. Life in Hell, Hunger, Animality or
any of the other ten worlds, possesses the same ten factors.
The word nyoze, literally "like this" is
prefixed to names of the ten factors as recited in the "Hoben"
chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The ten factors explain how
life shifts from one of the ten worlds to another.
The ten factors are:
- Appearance (nyoze-so): Those aspects that can
be perceived or discerned from the outside. Appearance
includes such attributes as color, form and behavior,
and in the terms of human beings points to the physical side
of our existence, including the body and its functions.
- Nature (nyoze-sho): The inherent disposition
or those qualities that cannot be discerned from the outside.
In terms of human life, nature indicates such spiritual
aspects as mind and consciousness.
- Entity (nyoze-tai): The entity or essence of
life that manifests itself as external appearance and
inner nature but is itself, neither. It is the entity
of life in any of the ten worlds.
These first three factors describe life from a static viewpoint.
They analyze what life is and also form the theoretical
foundation for the Buddhist concept of the oneness of body
and Mind (shiki shin funi).
The next six factors analyze the dynamic functions of life.
Power and influence describe life's workings in terms of
space, while internal cause, relation, latent effect and
manifest effect all deal with causality and explain life's
functions in terms of time.
- Power (nyoze-riki): Life's inherent capacity
to act, its potential strength or energy to achieve something.
Each of the ten worlds has its corresponding power Life
in the state of Anger has the power to destroy value,
while life 'in the state of Bodhisattva has the power
to alleviate others' suffering.
- Influence (nyoze-sa): The action or movement
produced when life's latent power is activated. It is
the exertion of influence, whether good or evil, in thought,
deed or action.
These two factors, power and influence, presuppose the
existence of some external object toward which movement
or action is directed. Entity, when accompanied by the dynamic
factors of power and influence, may be thought of as an
autonomous self that can act 'in relation to other existences.
Furthermore, power and influence are not necessarily proportional
to each other. One's inherent power may be great, but the
influence small; or one's inherent power small, but the
influence great. A person of great talent (inherent power)
who is in a state of Hell where the life force is negligible,
will exert very little influence on the environment. Whereas,
a person who may have average talent but is in a higher
state of life such as Humanity or Bodhisattva will reveal
a greater proportion of his or her inherent power and impact
the environment to a greater degree.
The next four factors explain how the actions of the self
cause it to shift from one of the ten worlds to another.
- Internal cause (nyoze-in): The cause latent in
life that simultaneously contains a potential effect.
Good causes produce good effects and bad causes, bad effects.
- Relation (nyoze-en): The auxiliary cause or environmental
stimulus that helps karma (internal cause) to produce
its effect. Though also called external cause, it is not
the environment itself but the connection between life
and the environment. When activated by relation, an internal
cause undergoes a change and Simultaneously produces a
new latent effect. It is also through the function of
relation that latent effects become manifest.
- Latent effect (nyoze-ka): The potential effect
produced in the depths of life when the internal cause
is activated by relation. Since both internal cause and
latent effect are dormant in the depths of life, there
is no time gap between the two such as that which often
occurs between an action and its perceivable result.
- Manifest effect (nyoze-ho): The concrete, perceptible
result that emerges after the passing of time as a consequence
of internal cause and latent effect.
To clarify how the first three factors (appearance, nature
and entity), which make up a human life, demonstrate the
subsequent six factors from power to manifest effect, take
the example of a fledgling sculptor. Her capacity for artistic
dedication (power) finds expression in actual efforts (influence)
to perfect the use of hammer and chisel. Through her interaction
with wood or stone (relation), her innate artistic ability
(internal cause) is stimulated (latent effect), and in time
she will become a master artist (manifest effect).
- Consistency from beginning to end (nyoze-honmatsukukyo-to):
The integrating factor that unifies all the other
nine factors at each moment in a single entity of life.
Where there is one factor, all the other nine will invariably
be present. Regardless of which of the ten worlds one
is in, the tenth factor states that all the other nine
will be consistent with that state. The first three factors
are the entity (beginning) and the next six factors are
its function (end). Both the beginning and end, that is
the entity and function of all phenomena, are inseparable.
THE THREE REALMS
The three realms are the last of the component principles
of ichinen sanzen. They are the realm of the five
components, the realm of living beings and the realm of
the environment. We can look at the three realms as being
the three dimensions of the phenomenal world in which the
ten worlds manifest themselves.
The five components combine to form a living being. Living
beings are individual beings that manifest the ten worlds.
And the environment is where living beings carry out their
The five components are:
- Form (shiki): The physical aspect of life that
possesses such attributes as shape and color. Form also
'indicates the five senses -sight, hearing, smell, taste
and touch -through which one perceives the outer world.
- Perception (ju): The function of receiving external
information through the six sensory organs (the five senses
plus the mind, which integrates sensory impressions).
- Conception (so): The function by which one forms
an idea or concept about what has been perceived.
- Volition (gyo): The will to take action toward
what has been perceived. (Action itself would be classified
as "form ")
- Consciousness (shiki): The discerning function
of life that can make value judgments, distinguish good
from evil, and so forth. Consciousness also functions
to support and integrate the other four components.
Form corresponds to the physical aspect of life and the other
four to the spiritual aspect. However, since Buddhism holds that
the material and spiritual aspects of life are inseparable, there
is no form without perception, conception, volition and consciousness,
nor can there be consciousness without form, perception, conception
and volition. The five components must be understood as a whole
and grasped in terms of their interaction.
The differences of the ten worlds are reflected in the
workings of the five components. For example, in the state
of Hell, one perceives and reacts to a given phenomenon
quite differently than he or she would in the state of Bodhisattva.
The karma one creates thereby will also differ. In this
way, the five components are colored by individual karma
formed in successive lifetimes, and they also work to accumulate
The second realm is that of living beings. All living beings,
from those in the state of Hell to those in the state of
Buddhahood, are formed by a temporary union of the five
components - temporary because it will disintegrate at death.
Whichever one of the ten worlds underlies the workings of
the five components, it will also be manifested in the living
being formed by those five components.
Since living beings are viewed as a temporary union of
the five components, the question arises why a separate
realm should be established for them apart from the realm
of the five components. The answer is that these two realms
view the living being from different angles. The realm of
the five components analyzes the living being into component
physical and spiritual workings, while the realm of the
living being views one as an integrated individual capable
of interaction with the environment. The realm of living
beings can also be interpreted in the plural to mean a group
of living beings.
In this sense, the realm of living beings indicates the
truth that we live in a state of perpetual interrelation
and mutual dependence with other living beings. However,
we often fall under the illusion that the "self"
is somehow absolute and independent of all others. Buddhism
teaches that all suffering ultimately stems from this egocentricity.
The idea that "living beings are no more than a temporary
union of the five components" was intended to help
break this attachment to the idea of oneself as fixed and
The third realm is that of the environment, the place where
living beings dwell and upon which they depend for survival.
It includes insentient life forms such as grass, trees,
mountains, rivers and so on. Whichever of the ten worlds
a living being manifests, that world will also be manifested
in the environment.
As explained earlier, the ten worlds were originally conceived
of as distinct physical environments. Hell was thought to
be below the ground, Heaven atop the mythical Mount Sumeru
and so forth. According to the theory of ichinen sanzen,
however, the land itself, like living beings, possesses
all ten worlds. The only difference is that the environment
has no independent life-condition; it manifests one or another
of the ten worlds in response to the life-condition of the
living beings inhabiting it. For example, those in Hunger
will experience a given environment 'in a different way
than they would in a state of Humanity The most significant
implication here is that the human beings can transform
the environment by elevating their own states of life. There
is no special realm where the Buddha dwells. Rather, by
bringing forth their innate Buddhahood, human beings can
make the immediate environment a Buddha land.
While the ten worlds and ten factors are common to all
beings, the three realms explain that no two beings are
alike. The most basic differences expressed in the three
realms are those of the ten worlds. However, there are further,
individual differences. Even among living beings in the
same world of Learning, no two will have exactly the same
physical form, and no two will perceive, conceive and respond
to the world in exactly the same way. Nor will they have
exactly the same environment, for each person interacts
uniquely with the rest of the world.