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Making "Life" The Keyword.....

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Posted by Glenn on June 13, 2003 03:56:30 UTC

Life is a straightforward, familiar word we use every day. But at the same time it is a word that can express the most profound essence of the Buddhist Law, a single word that expresses infinite meaning. All human beings are endowed with life, so this word has practical, concrete meaning for everyone.
Life also has enormous diversity. It is rich and full of energy. At the same time, it operates according to certain laws and has a defined rhythm. The doctrine of a single life-moment possessing three thousand realms (ichinen sanzen) describes this harmony in diversity, and one who has perceived the essence of this principle is a Buddha.

Life is also free and unfettered. It is an open entity in constant communication with the external world, always exchanging matter and energy and information. Yet while open, it maintains its autonomy. Life is characterized by this openness to the entire universe and a harmonious freedom

Though we speak of 'life throughout the three existences,' or 'eternal life,' it is something that no one has ever seen." Still, I think it's worthwhile to try to sketch even just an outline of the concept of eternal life as a point of reference. Here's one perspective. Each of us has a "self" inside. That "self" continues, even after we die. That "self" is the entity of life.

Well, I don't think of it as formless and amorphous, like a soul, anyway... Our Late Pres. Toda had something to say on this matter:

We use the word self [to refer to ourselves], but this word actually refers to the universe. When we ask how the life of the universe is different from the life of each one of you, the only differences we find are those of your bodies and minds. Your life and that of the universe are the same.

We tend to think of the universe and human beings as separate entities, but Mr. Toda declares that they are identical in that both are entities of life. Mr. Toda's thesis on the philosophy of life states that the universe is life itself, and that life, together with the universe, is eternal and everlasting. He said, "Just as we sleep and wake and then sleep again, we live and die and then live again, maintaining our life eternally." He also stated:

When we wake up in the morning, we resume our activities based on the same mind as the previous day. In the same way, in each new existence we are destined to live based on the result of the karmic causes created in our previous lives.

Let us suppose there is a tall tree, and that we call this tall tree the universe. Countless leaves and flowers grow on it. Could we perhaps regard individual lives as resembling the leaves and flowers of this tree?There was someone who once asked Mr. Toda a similar question. This was Mr. Toda's answer:

I don't think it's correct to say that our lives grow forth from something [like buds or shoots on a tree]. Let's suppose the water in this tea cup in front of me is the universe. When the wind blows, it creates ripples on the water's surface. Those ripples are our lives. They also represent one of the workings of the life of the universe. Therefore, if the wind disappears, the ripples, too, will disappear, and the water will return to its original state."

In other words, he says, when we liken the universe to the ocean, our lives are like the waves that appear and disappear on the surface of the ocean of the universe.The waves and the ocean are not separate entities. What Mr. Toda was saying is that the waves are but part of the ongoing activity of the ocean.That reminds me of a remark by the British philosopher Alan Watts:

"There is no separate "you" to get something out of the universe... As the ocean "waves" so the universe "peoples"... What we therefore see as "death," empty space or nothingness is only the trough between the crests of this endless waving ocean of life."

I guess this means that our life is fused with the universe.But Mr. Toda said: "Rather than 'fused' with the universe, we are the life of the universe itself. And that life itself causes changes."

Some people say our life is like a flowing river. It flows continuously, always changing, until it finally merges with the ocean.But doesn't our life have a deeper dimension? Mr. Toda described it as "the very basis of all things, which we perceive as changing and flowing." However, the true nature of life, he said, is actually "neither flowing nor still; it is like empty space." It is an entity which is simultaneously the infinite macrocosm and each of the microcosms that represent countless individual living beings. It is an enormous life-entity, always undergoing dynamic change and, at the same time, eternal and everlasting. The Buddha and the Mystic Law are names that we give to this undeniable entity--cosmic life. We are all embodiments of this sublime entity.

The Lotus Sutra teaches "the true entity of all phenomena". "All phenomena" refers to each individual living thing. The "true entity" of this phenomena is cosmic life itself. Mr. Toda expressed this ineffable truth as "the Buddha is life itself." The Buddha is life itself." The word life has a scientific yet warm ring to it.

With the word Buddha, the image of a supreme being tends to dominate people's impression; it evokes a feeling of the Buddha being somehow distant and separate from them. With the word Law, the impersonal, as in "rule" or "phenomenon," is emphasized, and it doesn't evoke much warmth. Essentially, the Buddha and the Law are not two different, separate things--the word life encompasses both.

All people are endowed with life, and life is immeasurably precious. No one can deny this. The declaration that "the Buddha is life itself" reveals that the very essence of Buddhism--the Buddha and the Law--is in our own life.

You qoute:

"What is preserved is not your consciousness but only your Karma in the broadest sense. However, this is still contrary to the Tibetian Buddhist view that consciusness is continuous from death to rebirth. "

Let me expound these things. In the principle of the Lotus sutra called "Myoho" means "mystic law," expresses the connection between life and its infinite manifestations. It explains the relation and reciprocal influence between life and all its phenomena. Myoho is the universal principle, according to which the energy of life has its effects on a human being. Myoho also refers to the eternal rhythm of life and death. and "Renge", which means lotus flower, is the law of the simultaneousness of cause and effect The lotus flower is considered the symbol of the simultaneousness of cause and effect, because it produces seeds and flowers at the same time.

The concept of cause and effect is one of the basic principles of the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin. According to Buddhism, there is no effect without cause and each cause must have an effect, independent of the time it takes for it to appear. However the Buddhist notion of causality goes far beyond scientific observation of the connection between cause and effect. It implies a deep analysis of the essence of life and takes into account the possibility of "an intrinsical cause" and a "latent effect" interacting with the environment. Buddhism thus distinguishes between two types of causes and effects: on the one hand an "external cause" and a "manifest effect" and on the other hand an "interior cause" and a "latent effect".

Buddhism,as expounded in the lotus sutra, teaches that on a deeper level, cause and effect are simultaneous, because the present instant is the result of all causes, which have been defined since the infinite past, and the beginning of everything which will happen in the future.

Tightly linked with the law of cause and effect is the concept of karma. "Karma" is a Sanskrit word meaning "action". It indicates that as a consequence of the law of cause and effect, each action creates a future action, and this produces an uninterrupted eternal chain. On the one hand we put our karma into existence through thoughts, words, and deeds. On the other hand, each thought, each word, and each deed expresses our karma. Some effects of these causes are latent, they still have to come to the surface, whereas those which have already appeared represent our present situation. Karma, therefore, is not a force which lies outside us, because it is in fact the totality of causes and effects which we have established in the past and which have a deep influence on our present actions.

In the human psyche, according to Buddhism, nine levels of consciousness exist. The first five correspond to the five senses and are called: eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, tongue consciousness, body consciousness. The remaining four are levels of mind consciousness. The sixth level of consciousness controls the perception of the outer and material world. The seventh level concerns our inner and spiritual world and guides our capacity for thought and judgement. The eighth level is the "store" of karma (alaya). The ninth level of consciousness is the basis of all spirituality and is called Amala, which means pure and uncontaminated.

According to the principle of the eternity of life, Buddhism declares that the eighth level of consciousness not only contains the experiences of this life, but also those which the essence of our existence has accumulated in the eternal past. When we sleep the first seven levels of consciusness fall asleep with us, and are replaced by the eighth. We forget the outer world and lose consciousness of space and time. The more the conscious psyche relaxes, the more thoughts, words and deeds, stored in the eighth consciousness, escape from conscious control and constitute the dream. However, during sleep, a level of unconsciousness seems to exist, which is even deeper than the one we live in dreams. This could be, according to Buddhism, the proof of the existence of a ninth level of consciousness, a state which expresses the essence of our life, the pure and inexhaustible vital energy of the Universe. In other words, according to Buddhism, the ninth level of consciousness represents the source of energy for all our spiritual and pychic activity and supports us for the eternity.

Also according to Buddhism, there is no division between physical and psychological aspects of life. The experience of the one influences the other. The life of each human being is eternal, because it is part of the Universe, which exists eternally . No human being can therefore be created or destroyed. The Buddhist concept of eternity of life is equivalent to the physical law of the conservation of energy and matter, according to which they are never dispersed, but are transformed into different forms. Buddhism furthermore affirms that the Universe has neither been created by an original cause nor moves towards a goal. Due to the capacity of regeneration, immanent in life itself, the universe has always existed.


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