From day to day, moment to moment, our state of life is susceptible to change. We may wake up feeling full of joyful anticipation at the thought of the approaching weekend, only to be thrown into a state of rage in the traffic on the way to work. Arriving late at the office, we cower at the thought of our boss’ disapproval. Then, saddled with an unexpected work assignment and the thought of our weekend disappearing under a pile of paperwork, we begin to feel trapped and resentful. But noticing the stress and unhappiness of a colleague, we offer them encouragement and assistance and begin to feel better ourselves.
Buddhism categorizes this seemingly infinite range of life states into ten inner “worlds.” This concept of the “Ten Worlds” offers a useful framework for understanding both the changeable nature of our moods and the basic nature or tendencies of our character. More significantly, it provides us with a sense of the great possibility inherent in life at each moment.
The principle of the Ten Worlds forms the foundation of the Buddhist view of life. The worlds are, in ascending order of the degree of free will, compassion and happiness one feels, the worlds of: (1) hell, (2) hungry spirits, (3) animals, (4) asuras, (5) human beings (6) heavenly beings, (7) voice-hearers, (8) cause-awakened ones, (9) bodhisattvas, and (10) Buddhas.
At one time in ancient India, it was thought that these were distinct, separate and fixed realms into which beings were born, in accordance with the good or evil they had performed in past lifetimes. It was thought that they endlessly repeated the cycle of birth and death confined to one of the first six worlds (from the world of hell to heavenly beings), also known as the “six paths.”
Buddhism developed in this context as a practice offering the possibility of transcending and freeing oneself from these six paths.
Among the teachings of Buddhism, the Lotus Sutra further revolutionized this paradigm, teaching that the Ten Worlds are ten states of life equally inherent within each living being at each moment.
The pre-Lotus Sutra teachings taught that it is possible to be born in a higher or more enlightened life state depending on one’s actions, specifically by carrying out acts of good and practicing the Buddha way. By accumulating good acts, one offsets the balance of evil acts one may have accumulated.
The Lotus Sutra, by contrast, teaches that the life states of all of the Ten Worlds, including that of Buddhahood, are inherently present in one’s life. Life at each moment manifests one of the Ten Worlds. And each of these worlds possesses the potential for all ten within it (the principle of “the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds”). Therefore, it is possible to open up any of these life states, including Buddhahood, at any moment through contact with an external stimulus that enables one to do so.
The stimulus that opens the world of Buddhahood is the teaching that expounds the truth of the Buddha’s enlightenment, namely that it is possible to immediately open this world within oneself. Nichiren embodied this teaching and principle in the physical object of the Gohonzon—a scroll inscribed with Chinese characters. He taught that by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to the Gohonzon with faith in our inherent Buddhahood, we are able to open the world of Buddhahood within us and harness the Buddha virtues such as wisdom, compassion and courage.
This concept of the “Ten Worlds” offers a useful framework for understanding both the changeable nature of our moods and the basic nature or tendencies of our character. More significantly, it provides us with a sense of the great possibility inherent in life at each moment.
Although the life state of Buddhahood is originally inherent in each of us, it is difficult to manifest in our daily lives. The Buddhist practice established by Nichiren (that of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, or devotion to the Mystic Law) is revolutionary in that it provides a means for all people to bring forth the world of Buddhahood at any time, regardless of their circumstances.
This life state of Buddhahood can be described in contemporary terms as a state of absolute and indestructible happiness unaffected by circumstantial changes or difficulties. Although this does not imply freedom from sufferings and problems, it does indicate possession of a vibrant, sturdy life force and abundant wisdom to challenge and overcome all the sufferings and difficulties we may encounter. Most importantly, however, in the words of Daisaku Ikeda, attaining Buddhahood means “to solidify in our lives a spirit of yearning for the happiness of oneself and others, and to continuously take constructive action with that spirit.” It is a life state of ultimate hope and fulfillment.
Source from Soka Global