UKE January 1995 By Sally Pardo
Ten States of Life
The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin teaches us about the Ten Worlds, or ten states of life that every human being constantly expresses. The first six, known as the lower worlds, are Hell, Hunger, Animality, Anger, Humanity (or Tranquillity), Rapture (or Heaven),. In varying degrees, these are the worlds which influence our day-to-day lives, emerging automatically in response to the environment in which we live. Whilst in these six lower worlds, our happiness or suffering depends entirely on external factors: we cannot change until they do.
By contrast, the other four worlds – Learning, Realization, Bodhisattva and Buddhahood – known as the four noble paths’, can only emerge through our deliberate efforts. In these worlds we are not so dependent upon our environment, and our ability to achieve happiness is much more within our own control. All of the nine worlds from Hell to Bodhisattva have both positive and negative aspects, while Buddhahood is completely positive.
Everyone has natural inclinations towards one or two of these states, and in the absence of any strong external influence we naturally revert to these predominant worlds. We view and interpret our lives through whatever life-state we are in, most usually our predominant ‘worlds’. For us, this habitual way of seeing things in reality and helps form our world.
For example, a person dominated by Anger will tend to be very critical of others and will find her life full of conflict. Even if she does not express her criticisms, those around her may very well sense her feelings and so try to avoid her. In her increasing isolation, her negative opinions of others are, to her eyes, confirmed; at the same time she might turn her critical nature back on herself. Either way, she is unlikely to be able to form better relationships with others, and her Anger will probably become deeper and more pronounced.
In this way, our dominant life-states create the environment in which we live, strongly infrluencying the choices we make in all areas of our lives. If the negative aspects of these states are strong, we will create a cycle of misery. In the state of Hunger, for instance, we may feel a great desire to diet, but our Hunger will also make us want to eat all manner of sweet things. Denying that urge makes us unhappy, but giving in to it prevents the desired weight loss. The result is that we often despise ourselves, feeling trapped, helpless and confused about what we really want.
Clearly, we need to find a way of transforming our inner lives so that we can fulfil ourselves here and now, while creating a positive future both for ourselves and for the world around us. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, Nichiren Daishonin taught, does just this. But how?
To be continued