Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 2:
Developing a Life State of Happiness [2.4]
2.4 Our Happiness Is Determined by Our Inner Life Condition
Happiness is not determined by our circumstances, but is something each of us creates for ourselves through our inner life condition. Nichiren Buddhism teaches the way to elevate that life condition.
The English poet John Milton wrote: “The mind is its own place, and in itself ‘Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.’”1 This statement, a product of the poet’s profound insight, resonates with the Buddhist teaching of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”2
How we see the world and feel about our lives is determined solely by our inner life condition. Nichiren Daishonin writes: “Hungry spirits perceive the Ganges River as fire, human beings perceive it as water, and heavenly beings perceive it as amrita3. Though the water is the same, it appears differently according to one’s karmic reward from the past” (WND-1, 486).
“Karmic reward from the past” refers to our present life state, which is the result of past actions or causes created through our own words, thoughts, and deeds. That state of life determines our view of and feelings toward the external world.
The same circumstances may be perceived as utter bliss by one person and unbearable misfortune by another. And while some people may love the place where they live, thinking it’s the best place ever, others may hate it and constantly seek to find happiness somewhere else.
Nichiren Buddhism is a teaching that enables us to elevate our inner state of life, realizing genuinely happy lives for ourselves as well as prosperity for society. It is the great teaching of the “actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life,”4 making it possible for us to transform the place where we dwell into the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light.5
Moreover, the good fortune, benefit, and joy we gain through living in accord with the eternal Law [of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo] are not temporary. In the same way that trees steadily add growth rings with each passing year, our lives accumulate good fortune that will endure throughout the three existences of past, present, and future. In contrast, worldly wealth and fame as well as various amusements and pleasures—no matter how glamorous or exciting they may seem for a time—are fleeting and insubstantial.
From a speech at a Wakayama Prefecture general meeting, Wakayama, March 24, 1988.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1John Milton, Paradise Lost, edited by Christopher Ricks (London: Penguin Books, 1989), p. 12.
- *2Three thousand realms in a single moment of life: A philosophical system established by the Great Teacher T’ien-t’ai of China based on the Lotus Sutra. The “three thousand realms” indicates the varying aspects that life assumes at each moment. At each moment, life manifests one of the Ten Worlds. Each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself, thus making one hundred possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses the ten factors and operates within each of the three realms of existence, thus making three thousand realms. In other words, all phenomena are contained within a single moment of life, and a single moment of life permeates the three thousand realms of existence, or the entire phenomenal world.
- *3Amrita: A legendary, ambrosia-like liquid. In ancient India, it was regarded as the sweet-tasting beverage of the gods. In China, it was thought to rain down from heaven when the world became peaceful. Amrita is said to remove sufferings and give immortality. The word amrita means immortality and is often translated as sweet dew.
- *4Actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life: The doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, which is the fundamental teaching for attaining enlightenment, is classified into two as the theoretical principle and the actual embodiment of this principle. These are respectively termed “theoretical three thousand realms in a single moment of life” and “actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life.” The theoretical principle is based on the theoretical teaching (first half) of the Lotus Sutra, while the actual principle is revealed in the essential teaching (latter half) of the Lotus Sutra. However, in the Latter Day of the Law, these are both theoretical; and the Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that Nichiren Daishonin revealed is the actual teaching of three thousand realms in a single moment of life.
- *5Land of Eternally Tranquil Light: Also, Land of Tranquil Light. The Buddha land, which is free from impermanence and impurity. In many sutras, the actual saha world in which human beings dwell is described as an impure land filled with delusions and sufferings, while the Buddha land is described as a pure land free from these and far removed from this saha world. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra reveals the saha world to be the Buddha land, or the Land of Eternally Tranquil Light, and explains that the nature of a land is determined by the minds of its inhabitants