Ikeda Wisdom Academy

Ikeda Wisdom Academy: July 2017

The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series: Chapter 2

Chicago. Photo: Jordan Stalker.


The Doctrine of Three Thousand
Realms in a Single Moment of Life

Ikeda Wisdom Academy is an SGI-USA youth division movement to engage youth leaders in advanced study. A new cycle of the academy began in May, focusing on The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series. This month, academy members will study the second chapter of this lecture series. While the Ikeda Wisdom Academy is a youth leaders study program, all SGI-USA members are invited to utilize this section of Living Buddhism as a guide for their personal study of “The Opening of the Eyes.”

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Syllabus – July 2017
The Opening of the Eyes:
SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series Chapter 2
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The “Teaching Hidden in the Depths of the Sutra”—The Supreme Law That Opens the Path to Buddhahood for All People

Nichiren Daishonin identifies the key for the enlightenment of all people as “the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life,” which is found implicitly in the “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra. This doctrine clarifies that within the lives of ordinary people who experience their own karma and suffering exists the eternal life state of Buddhahood, which can be ceaselessly manifested through chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. This chapter further explores the doctrine of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”

The Crucial Importance of the Doctrine
of “Three Thousand Realms in a Single
Moment of Life”

In discussing the three thousand realms teaching, there is a tendency for people to become fixated on the number three thousand,[1]Three thousand: The number three thousand here comes from the following calculation: 10 (Ten Worlds) x 10 (Ten Worlds) [mutual possession] x 10 (ten factors) x 3 (three realms of existence). Life at each moment manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for each of the other nine within itself, and this “mutual possession” of the Ten Worlds is represented as one hundred possible worlds. Each of these one hundred worlds possesses the ten factors, making one thousand factors or potentials, and these operate within each of the three realms of existence (the realm of the five components, the realm of living beings and the realm of the environment), thus making three thousand realms. but the heart of this principle in fact lies in the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds—that is, the one hundred worlds.

After referring to the teaching hidden in the depths in the above passage, Nichiren Daishonin writes, “The doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life begins with the concept of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” (The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 224). In subsequent passages, he explains at length the principles “original cause and original effect” and “true mutual possession of the Ten Worlds,” stressing that they are the essential principles for the attainment of Buddhahood.

Further, when it comes to the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds in the actual practice of the three thousand realms teaching implicit in the “Life Span” chapter, it is specifically the principles “inclusion of Buddhahood in the nine worlds” and “inclusion of the nine worlds in Buddhahood” that hold great importance. This is as Nichiren indicates when he writes, “[Shakyamuni Buddha] expounded the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, explaining that the nine worlds have the potential for Buddhahood and that Buddhahood retains the nine worlds” (“The Selection of the Time,” WND-1, 539).

The reason for focusing on this mutually inherent aspect of the nine worlds and Buddhahood is that it lays the groundwork for the idea of ordinary people attaining enlightenment. It clarifies that the pure and limitless life force of eternal Buddhahood can function dynamically within the lives of ordinary people wracked by earthly desires, karma and suffering.[2]Earthly desires, karma and suffering (the three paths): These are called “paths” because one leads to the other. Earthly desires include greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt. Karma refers to evil actions of a mental, verbal or physical nature that arise due to earthly desires. The effect of this karma manifests as suffering. Suffering aggravates earthly desires, leading to further misguided action, which in turn brings on more evil karma and suffering. The three paths function to prevent a person from attaining Buddhahood. Given that in the pre-Lotus Sutra teachings the lives of beings of the lower nine worlds were depicted as impermanent, this represents a dramatic transformation of the Buddhist view of life, which is analogous to “changing poison into medicine.”[3]Changing poison into medicine: The principle that earthly desires and suffering can be transformed into benefit and enlightenment by virtue of the power of the Law. The phrase appears in a passage in Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom that states, “[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who can change poison into medicine” (“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 146). In The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai expands on this quote, saying, “That persons of the two vehicles were given the prophecy of their enlightenment in this sutra means that it can change poison into medicine” (“On Curing Karmic Disease,” WND-1, 631).

When all people manifest the life state of Buddhahood, that is to say, when they reveal the supreme value of their character, there will be neither war nor hunger in the world.

The “Life Span” chapter of the Lotus Sutra refers to Shakyamuni’s original attainment of enlightenment in the remote past. In this teaching, Nichiren discerned the means for attaining Buddhahood without having to discard one’s body as an ordinary person of the nine worlds—in other words, the means for actualizing the principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.

Faith in the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, as well as prayer and action based on that faith, are key to transforming a life state in the nine worlds—steeped in earthly desires, karma and suffering—into Buddhahood. The Lotus Sutra describes how Bodhisattva Never Disparaging, while remaining an ordinary person, could transform his karma, attain the benefit of purifying his six sense organs[4]Purification of the six sense organs: Also, purification of the six senses. The six sense organs or faculties of awareness are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. Their purification means that they function correctly and become pure, free of influence of earthly desires. and finally attain Buddhahood, as a result of dauntlessly maintaining his belief in the Buddha nature inherent in his own life and others, and continuing to treat everyone with respect based on that belief (see The Lotus Sutra and Its Opening and Closing Sutras, pp. 308–13).

With pure, strong faith in our own Buddha nature and that of others, we can break through fundamental ignorance and illusion. With deep, earnest prayer, we can tap the life force of Buddhahood that is one with the Mystic Law. And through continuing to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, we can ceaselessly manifest the power of Buddhahood in our lives and set ourselves on a course toward attaining enlightenment in this lifetime. In this way, Nichiren secured the means for actualizing the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds by establishing the “actual practice of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.” This actual practice, encompassing faith from our hearts, prayer through our voices and the action of continuously chanting, spans the three categories of action—thoughts, words and deeds.

Nichiren Daishonin inscribed the Gohonzon, the embodiment of the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo inherent in his own life, as a means to help us cultivate our own faith and belief in the Buddha nature in ourselves and others, which is indiscernible to the eye. (The Opening of the Eyes: SGI President Ikeda’s Lecture Series, pp. 24–27)

The Teaching “Hidden
in the Depths” Reveals
the True Intent

But when people become caught up with “text” and “principle”—words and their literal meaning—they inevitably become attached to the image of Shakyamuni as the lord of the teachings who reveals the aspect of “original effect”[5]Original effect: The original enlightenment that Shakyamuni attained countless aeons before his enlightenment in India.—that is, as a Buddha adorned with superhuman features and characteristics. They then succumb to the mistaken belief of seeking to be saved from without by this Buddha. This quickly devolves into faith characterized by an abject reliance on an absolute being. Adherents to such a belief cannot attain true enlightenment, which is achieved by manifesting the world of Buddhahood from within.

Hence, the Shakyamuni that is presented in terms of the literal meaning of the “Life Span” chapter reveals the power of the eternal Mystic Law as the “Buddha of original effect.” In contrast, the teaching hidden in the depths of the chapter (the Buddhism of sowing) focuses on the ordinary person Shakyamuni who carried out bodhisattva practice in the remote past, and it clearly establishes the “teaching and practice of original cause”[6]Original cause: The practice that became the cause for Shakyamuni to attain enlightenment in the remote past. The fundamental practice for attaining the Buddha way. for ordinary people.

In terms of its text, or literal meaning, the “Life Span” chapter gives no explicit explanation of the enlightenment of ordinary people and the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds. But in terms of its intent, the essential teaching for ordinary people to attain enlightenment can be clearly discerned hidden in the depths of the chapter. (Lecture Series, p. 28)

Maintaining the All-
Important Religious Spirit

The religious spirit is to see the eternal and absolute in human beings and to wish to make people’s lives shine. Nichiren’s Buddhism of sowing, based on the supreme Law hidden in the depths of the Lotus Sutra, is a teaching directly founded on this religious spirit.

Josei Toda, the second Soka Gakkai president, said: “When all people manifest the life state of Buddhahood, that is to say, when they reveal the supreme value of their character, there will be neither war nor hunger in the world. There will be neither illness nor poverty. Enabling all people to become Buddhas, elevating the character of all people to something of supreme value—this is what it means to carry out ‘the Thus Come One’s work’ (LSOC, 200).”[7]Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1981), vol. 1, p. 306.

Just as President Toda urged, we of the SGI, directly connected to Nichiren Daishonin and giving free expression to the religious spirit, have spread our humanistic religion, the Buddhism of the people, throughout the world. (Lecture Series, p. 30)

The Supreme Teaching To Be Propagated
in the Latter Day of the Law

Nichiren’s real intent in talking about these correct teachers of the Former and Middle Days of the Law—who either “were aware of three thousand realms in a single moment of life but did not bring it forth” or who “embraced it and kept it ever in mind”—is to implicitly indicate that he is the one who will propagate this teaching in the Latter Day of the Law. The second half of “The Opening of the Eyes” details Nichiren’s propagation efforts as the votary of the Lotus Sutra.

The three thousand realms doctrine implicit in the “Life Span” chapter is a teaching of actual practice. The Law is not something that just exists; it must be spread. The value of the Law is only revealed when we teach it to others and thereby not only awaken them to the inner brilliance of their Buddha nature but bring our own lives to shine, as well. It could even be said that unless spreading the Law creates value, there would be no point to the Law’s existence.

In that sense, the crucial question is: Who will propagate the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life—specifically, the doctrine implicit in the “Life Span” chapter—and when? If the teaching implicit in the “Life Span” chapter is explained without mention of this important point, it will serve no real purpose.

The person who actually propagates the true three thousand realms in a single moment of life doctrine during the Latter Day of the Law is one who possesses the three virtues—sovereign, teacher and parent—in this age. And the lord of that teaching is none other than Nichiren Daishonin. To clarify this, Nichiren wrote this passage about the doctrine hidden in the depths of the “Life Span” chapter. (Lecture Series, p. 31)

 

 

(pp. 8–11)

Notes   [ + ]

1. Three thousand: The number three thousand here comes from the following calculation: 10 (Ten Worlds) x 10 (Ten Worlds) [mutual possession] x 10 (ten factors) x 3 (three realms of existence). Life at each moment manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for each of the other nine within itself, and this “mutual possession” of the Ten Worlds is represented as one hundred possible worlds. Each of these one hundred worlds possesses the ten factors, making one thousand factors or potentials, and these operate within each of the three realms of existence (the realm of the five components, the realm of living beings and the realm of the environment), thus making three thousand realms.
2. Earthly desires, karma and suffering (the three paths): These are called “paths” because one leads to the other. Earthly desires include greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance and doubt. Karma refers to evil actions of a mental, verbal or physical nature that arise due to earthly desires. The effect of this karma manifests as suffering. Suffering aggravates earthly desires, leading to further misguided action, which in turn brings on more evil karma and suffering. The three paths function to prevent a person from attaining Buddhahood.
3. Changing poison into medicine: The principle that earthly desires and suffering can be transformed into benefit and enlightenment by virtue of the power of the Law. The phrase appears in a passage in Nagarjuna’s Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom that states, “[The Lotus Sutra is] like a great physician who can change poison into medicine” (“The Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra,” WND-1, 146). In The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai expands on this quote, saying, “That persons of the two vehicles were given the prophecy of their enlightenment in this sutra means that it can change poison into medicine” (“On Curing Karmic Disease,” WND-1, 631).
4. Purification of the six sense organs: Also, purification of the six senses. The six sense organs or faculties of awareness are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind. Their purification means that they function correctly and become pure, free of influence of earthly desires.
5. Original effect: The original enlightenment that Shakyamuni attained countless aeons before his enlightenment in India.
6. Original cause: The practice that became the cause for Shakyamuni to attain enlightenment in the remote past. The fundamental practice for attaining the Buddha way.
7. Translated from Japanese. Josei Toda, Toda Josei zenshu (Collected Writings of Josei Toda) (Tokyo: Seikyo Shimbunsha, 1981), vol. 1, p. 306.