Part 1: Happiness; Chapter 2:
Developing a Life State of Happiness [2.6]
2.6 Activating the Limitless Life Force of Buddhahood
President Ikeda explains the nature of the world of Buddhahood, the highest life state of the Buddhist analysis of life articulated in the principle of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, and how we can manifest it.
Life, which is constantly changing from moment to moment, can be broadly categorized into ten states, which Buddhism articulates as the Ten Worlds. These consist of the six paths—the worlds of hell, hungry spirits, animals, asuras, human beings, and heavenly beings—and the four noble worlds—the worlds of voice-hearers, cause-awakened ones, bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. The true reality of life is that it always possesses all ten of these potential states.
None of the Ten Worlds that appear in our lives at any given moment remain fixed or constant. They change instant by instant. Buddhism’s deep insight into this dynamic nature of life is expressed as the principle of the “mutual possession of the Ten Worlds.”1
In his treatise “The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind,” Nichiren Daishonin illustrates clearly and simply how the world of human beings, or life state of humanity, contains within it the other nine worlds:
“When we look from time to time at a person’s face, we find him or her 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 hungry spirits, foolishness is that of animals, perversity is that of asuras, joy is that of heaven [heavenly beings], and calmness is that of human beings.” (WND-1, 358)
The nine worlds are continually emerging and becoming dormant within us. This is something that we can see, sense, and recognize in our own daily lives.
It is important to note here that the teachings of Buddhism from the very beginning were always concerned with enabling people to manifest the noble and infinitely powerful life state of Buddhahood. And, indeed, that should always be the purpose of Buddhist practice. Focusing on this point, the great teaching of Nichiren Daishonin, by establishing the correct object of devotion [the Gohonzon of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo], sets forth a practical means for revealing our inner Buddhahood. As such, Nichiren Buddhism is a practice open to all people.
A look at history to this day shows that humanity is still trapped in the cycle of the six paths, or lower six worlds. The character for “earth” (ji) is contained in the Japanese word for “hell” (jigoku; lit. earth prison), imparting the meaning of being bound or shackled to something of the lowest or basest level. Humanity and society can never achieve substantial revitalization unless people give serious thought to casting off the shackles of these lower worlds and elevating their state of life. Even in the midst of this troubled and corrupt world, Buddhism discovers in human life the highest and most dignified potential of Buddhahood.
Though our lives may constantly move through the six paths, we can activate the limitless life force of Buddhahood by focusing our minds on the correct object of devotion and achieving the “fusion of reality and wisdom.”2
Buddhahood is difficult to describe in words. Unlike the other nine worlds, it has no concrete expression. It is the ultimate function of life that moves the nine worlds in the direction of boundless value.
Even on cloudy or rainy days, by the time a plane reaches an altitude of about 10,000 meters [33,000 feet] it is flying high above the clouds amid bright sunshine and can proceed smoothly on its course. In the same way, no matter how painful or difficult our daily existence may be, if we make the sun in our hearts shine brightly, we can overcome all adversity with calm composure. That inner sun is the life state of Buddhahood.
In one sense, as the Daishonin states in The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings: “‘Bodhisattva’ is a preliminary step toward the attainment of the effect of Buddhahood” (OTT, 87). The world of bodhisattvas is characterized by taking action for the sake of the Law, people, and society. Without such bodhisattva practice as our foundation, we cannot attain Buddhahood. Buddhahood is not something realized simply through conceptual understanding. Even reading countless Buddhist scriptures or books on Buddhism will not lead one to true enlightenment.
In addition, attaining Buddhahood doesn’t mean that we become someone different. We remain who we are, living out our lives in the reality of society, where the nine worlds—especially the six paths—prevail. A genuine Buddhist philosophy does not present enlightenment or Buddhas as something mysterious or otherworldly.
What is important for us as human beings is to elevate our lives from a lower to a higher state, to expand our lives from a closed, narrow state of life to one that is infinitely vast and encompassing. Buddhahood represents the supreme state of life.
From On Life and Buddhism, published in Japanese in November 1986.
The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace brings together selections from President Ikeda’s works under key themes.
- *1Mutual possession of the Ten Worlds: The principle that each of the Ten Worlds possesses the potential for all ten within itself. “Mutual possession” means that life is not fixed in one or another of the Ten Worlds, but can manifest any of the ten—from hell to Buddhahood—at any given moment. The important point of this principle is that all beings in any of the nine worlds possess the Buddha nature. This means that every person has the potential to manifest Buddhahood, while a Buddha also possesses the nine worlds and in this sense is not separate or different from ordinary people.
- *2Fusion of reality and wisdom: The fusion of the objective reality or truth and the subjective wisdom to realize that truth, which is the Buddha nature inherent within one’s life.