part of nichiren daishonin’s “on the selection of the time”

ichinen sanzen

(ichinen sanzen chart: three thousand realms in a single moment – click to enlarge)

“In a secular text it says ‘a sage is one who fully understands those things that have not yet made their appearance’, & in the Buddhist text it says, ‘a sage is one who knows the three existences of life—past, present & future.’ Three times now I have gained distinction by having such knowledge.” (WND-I/578-79)

“This is the all important doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life taught in the Lotus Sutra.” (WND-I/579)

With these quotes from the forth & last part of our study material on Nichiren Daishonin’s gosho “The Selection of the Time,” President Ikeda explains that Nichiren believed that he had a responsibility to relieve the sufferings of Japan. The three times Nichiren speaks of are:

1. When Nichiren submitted the treatise “On Establishing the Correct Treatise for the Peace of the Land.” This was where Nichiren called for the Zen & Nembutsu schools to be abandoned & that if his suggestion was not to be followed great “…trouble will break out within the ruling clan, & the country will be attacked by another country.” (WND-I/579)

2. The second warning was made around the time of the Tatsunokuchi persecution of 1271. First, Nichiren stated that Hei-no-Saemon was making a mistake to behead the ‘Pillar of Japan’ (Nichiren). It was again warned that the wayward Zen & Nembutsu schools were guilty of leading the people off the path & into erroneous teachings, thereby slandering the law—the Mystic Law.

3. The third remonstration came after Nichiren’s exile on Sado & was again with Hei-no-Saemon later on in 1274. This is when Hei-no-Saemon offered to build a temple for Nichiren, only if Nichiren promised “…to conduct prayers on the government’s behalf for the defeat of the Mongol forces.” (LB/50) Basically Nichiren said no way & is quoted with: “Even if it seems that because I was born in the ruler’s domain, I follow him in my actions, I will never follow him in my heart.” (WND-I/579) This was showing that Nichiren wasn’t about to bow-down to authority, especially if that meant to compromise his values of propagating the Mystic Law & seeking to denounce the devilish forces.

It is said that with this prediction (that the Mongols would in fact invade Japan), Nichiren was able to not only stand up to authority with steadfast conviction & determination, but also, that he was relying on the wisdom found in the Lotus Sutra, that was exemplified in the life state of the Buddha who is one with the Mystic Law. As Ikeda explains this, it not only underscores the utmost importance Nichiren placed on the teachings of the Lotus Sutra, additionally it highlights T’ien-t’ai’s elucidation of it as it’s found where Nichiren says: “This is the all important doctrine of the three thousand realms in a single moment in life.” (WND-I/579)

Let us believe that when the Daishonin mentions the concept of Ichinen Sanzen, that he’s trying to tell us that this idea is based on documentary proof from one of his mentor’s texts, T’ien-t’ai’s “Maka Shikan” (“Great Concentration & Insight”), where Ichinen Sanzen is the crystallization that “a single life moment possesses three thousand realms.” (DB/77) We already know that Ichinen Sanzen represents the “…mutually inclusive relationship of the ultimate truth & the phenomenal world.” (DB/77) The ten worlds are multiplied by their mutual possession, then multiplied by the ten factors, & then multiplied by the three realms of existence (10 x 10 x 10 x 3 = 300). One critical lesson to be learned by the concept is that “…T’ien-t’ai showed that all phenomena—body & mind, self & environment, sentient & insentient, cause & effect—are integrated in the life moment of a common mortal.” (DB/77) So, the emphasis is on the spiritual/actual co-relationship with the mind & its environment, instead of the traditional idea that the two are somehow separate.

What other things can be learned from what Nichiren is teaching us here? Well, when Nichiren says the he’s possessed by ‘The Thus Come One Shakyamuni’, we can safely say that he’s embodying the Mystic Law, we might even go as far to suggest that he’s embodying the Mystic Law of cause & effect. We’ve already noted that cause & effect is a key part of Ichinen Sanzen & of course it’s key to Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. If we are to the look at Nichiren’s repeated actions to warn the Japanese people of the impending Mongol invasion, we’ll say that this was a direct form of shakabuku—the correcting erroneous views—this can then be considered Nichiren’s act of Kosen Rufu—the widespread propagation of the Mystic Law. All of these actions are causal, where the internal cause was Nichiren’s realization of his own Buddhist nature, the power to implement it in his own life, the influence he sought to have on his external world & with those around him. This is the awareness of the inherent cause of Buddhism combined with the external causes of his world, enough for him to act with such courage so as to implement the historical manifest effect that we’re looking back on right now. This looking back can then be said to be a latent effect of the actions he made hundreds of years ago. “The Shinjikan Sutra says: ‘If you want to know a past cause, look at the present effect—if you want to know a future effect look at the present cause.’” (LEPJ/152)

We as Buddhist’s can choose to be consciously aware of the causal relationship between our past & present causes (latent & manifest) as they relate to future effects (latent, manifest, external & internal). It is because of this awareness that we’ll bring about causes in our own lives.  We can then observe causality in other’s lives too, sometimes a little easier than we can observe in our own. With this said, it’s safe to say that Nichiren isn’t claiming to be a psychic with his predictions. It’s easier to surmise that he ‘saw it coming’, the circumstances were such that he was in tune with the current affairs of the world around him, just as any intelligent (enlightened) person might see clear problems with any self-serving government today, predicting that it will fail, or that it will be toppled &c. It’s in these attunements to our day-to-day world—whether we look to the affairs of state or in our personal lives—where we need to be truly open & aware enough to be actively involved with the causal relationship we have with people, our actions, our temporal involvement & as we are mindfully engaged in the past, present & future. Once we do this we are better able to help others see that this practice isn’t about chanting for magic to happen, nor is it about pushing away our problems. Rather, this is a practice of actively seeking an enlightenment that will enable us to deal with our problems wisely, with realistic faith & it’s also about clearing away needy delusions while we come to terms with our active causal world. Part of the way this is done is learning about the practice & pulling away from a self-satisfied understanding that obscures the truth of things. Once when the Shakyamuni was asked: what is the cause of suffering & death? He replied: birth.

Let’s now take note of the secular quote where Nichiren says: “A sage is one who fully understands those things that have not yet made their appearance.” (WND-I/578-79) Essentially this is about a conscious awareness, an awareness of what lies underneath the already obvious. The quote indicates that will have to look for these things, as they appear in our phenomenal world. If we are chanting (practicing) with the idea that we can manifest the effect of wisdom enough to see that life is causal, after-all our daily chant literally means devotion to the mystic law of cause & effect as it is voiced, as it is practiced. Mystic can mean (among other things) mystery & that must mean that we cannot understand the mysterious law of cause & effect 100% of the time. The causes we make don’t always effect the results we wish for, this is where we are called upon to have faith & courage to face opposition, even when that opposition is in the seat of authority, even when that obstacle is our own ignorance. This is a way to practice with the same mind as Nichiren, Ikeda & each other, since we are practicing as Buddhas of the Latter Day of the Law. T’ien-t’ai’s Ichinen Sanzen as it was found in the Lotus Sutra, shows us that we are profoundly living in the world, not apart from it. Let us bring the latent effect of this cause into our world, like we are doing right now, as we are manifesting wisdom & telling the world about it. This is an act of Kosen Rufu, this is widespread propagation of the law, this starts with the voice of a Buddha found within me & just as it is found within each of us.

Aurelio Madrid

works cited: (DB) “Ichinen Sanzen”, A Dictionary of Buddhist Terms & Concepts, Tokyo, Nichiren Shoshu International, 1983, pp. 177-79.

(LB) Ikeda, Daisaku, “The Selection of the Time—part 4 of 4”, Living Buddhism, vol. 15, no.3, 2011, pp.42-58.

(LEPJ) Ikeda, Daisaku, “From Hell to Buddhahood”, Life an Enigma, a Precious Jewel, trans. Charles S. Terry, New York, Kodansha International Inc., pp. 91-95.

(WND) Daishonin, Nichiren, “The Selection of the Time”, The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, eds. & trans. The Gosho Translation Committee, Tokyo, Soka Gakkai, 1999, pp. 538-594.

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