Each person’s life contains infinite potential; this is the core belief of Nichiren Buddhism. The Buddhist concept of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” serves to give us some idea of quite how much possibility exists in each instant of our lives.
While it may be possible to accept this idea of infinite potential in theory, in reality we tend to feel limited in our possibilities, often resulting from a narrow view of ourselves and the world. Our sense of values or purpose, what we tend to focus our energies on or how we define happiness all affect how we perceive and experience our environment. We can exist quite comfortably within a limited view of ourselves and the world, but when challenged by a problem or obstacle, we may suffer as a result of feeling overwhelmed, helpless or afraid.
Three thousand realms in a single moment of life is an analytical explanation of how differences in values, sense of purpose and view of happiness appear as differences in one’s environment. It is a teaching that expounds how the quality of one’s environment is determined in response to what one considers happiness to be and the kinds of desires one holds.
The practice of Nichiren Buddhism enables us to draw on inexhaustible inner reserves of courage, hope and resilience to surmount challenges and go beyond what we thought was possible. We are also able to help others do the same. “Buddhahood” describes this dynamic, compassionate life condition, and a Buddha is someone who has firmly established this condition as their predominant life state. Most people, however, are unaware of this possibility or how to actualize it.
The Lotus Sutra reveals the ultimate truth of Buddhism, that everyone can attain this state of Buddhahood. Based on its teachings, in the sixth century in China, Zhiyi (the Great Teacher Tiantai) developed a philosophical system to explain why this is possible, which he termed “three thousand realms in a single moment of life” (Jpn. ichinen sanzen). The principle reveals that each individual life is a microcosm of the universe and the life condition of an individual at any point in time is reflected in all aspects of their life, including the society in which they live and the natural environment.
The number three thousand refers to the multitude of laws through which the ultimate reality is manifested.
Attaining Buddhahood does not mean eradicating the lower nine worlds. Instead, under the influence of our inherent Buddhahood, the positive aspects of these worlds become manifest, contributing to the construction of happiness for ourselves and others.
The Ten Factors of Life
Together with the Ten Worlds and their mutual possession, the next component of the three thousand realms is the principle of “the ten factors of life.” While the Ten Worlds describe life’s differing expressions, the ten factors describe elements common to all things. It explains how the law of cause and effect activates any of the Ten Worlds.
All life equally possess the same ten factors, regardless of which of the Ten Worlds it manifests. The ten factors are (1) appearance, (2) nature, (3) entity, (4) power, (5) influence, (6) internal cause, (7) relation, (8) latent effect, (9) manifest effect, and (10) consistency from beginning to end.
The first three factors (appearance, nature and entity) describe the life entity, which manifests the Ten Worlds. The next six (power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect and manifest effect) describe the law of cause and effect—the way in which the Ten Worlds become manifest in the entity. Thus, a life “entity” has attributes that can be perceived by the senses (appearance) and attributes that cannot (nature).
The tenth factor, consistency from beginning to end, means that the ten factors are consistent for each of the Ten Worlds. Most saliently, this means that Buddhahood, a life state of unwavering happiness, is inherently present in our lives as an internal cause, and when we come in contact with a “relation” that opens that internal cause, we fully flower and harness the workings of the world of Buddhahood in our lives.
The Three Realms of Existence
The final component of the three thousand realms is the principle of the “three realms of existence.” This concept views life from three different standpoints and explains the existence of individual lives in the real world.
The three realms are (1) the realm of the five components (form, perception, conception, volition, and consciousness; form corresponds to the physical aspect of life, the other four components to the spiritual aspect), (2) the realm of living beings (the individual living being, formed of a temporary union of the five components, that manifests or experiences any of the Ten Worlds), and (3) the realm of the environment (the individual environment that supports the existence of the living being).
The three realms, then, represent the actual world of the individual. They are not separate but, rather, are an integrated whole which simultaneously manifests any of the Ten Worlds.
In this way, one’s life condition at any given moment is determined by three elements: the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds (10 worlds × 10 worlds = 100 worlds), the ten factors of life and the three realms of existence. Therefore, the dimensions that exist in this world are the number that results from multiplying these elements, or 3,000. This also means that any single life has the potential to express 3,000 dimensions.
The Boundless Possibilities of Each Person
The philosophical system of the three thousand realms in a single moment of life provides a basis for hope, for it posits that our reality at each moment is a function of our life state, that when our life state changes, the world itself appears in a new light. Furthermore, it is a philosophy that promotes engagement with others and with the challenges of society and empowers one to squarely face and surmount obstacles.
Life is dynamic—each moment is rich with myriad seen and unseen possibilities. Most crucially, the world of Buddhahood is universally inherent in all beings, and when this becomes our manifest reality, life’s most profound possibilities, humanity’s most sublime hopes, come into reach.
Nichiren described the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life as the heart and core of the Buddha’s teachings and established a practice to enable all people to experience the life state of Buddhahood in their daily lives. This practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with faith in our inherent Buddha nature actualizes the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life in the life of the practitioner.
Source from Soka Global