ageless beauty glimpsed,
a faint chill teases the spine,
a tear rims an eye.
I wonder what will happen when we can all stop seeing the world with a conditioned mind, and see it all just as it is perfectly. In that state it must be like being born every single moment, the wonder and vastness of everything alive for us, a tree will no longer be what we have made it, a bird will no longer be what we have named it, …….. Everything will just be. A world born strait from enlightened mind.
I hope we all reach the Goal
NAMU MYO HO REN GE KYO
The emergence of the 4 Bodhisattvas from the Underground. Their names are Purified Life, Steadfast Life, Infinite Life, Distinguished Life — representing the 4 Virtues of (ageless) beauty, (stable) bliss / satisfaction, constancy, and (authentic) self.
Someone pointed out to me that progress does not happen when we are satisfied. People did not learn to control fire because they were warm. In Soka Gakkai, we talked about the concept of “earthly desires are enlightenment.” I now see that as a sort of catharsis, purification, or un-distortion / straightening process. The 4 virtues are the reversal of the 4 distortions — ugliness, pain, transience, and pretense.
The process seems to be gradual because the conditioning gradually falls away, but the unconditioned is always present ‘under the ground.’
Thanks for your input Robin, I’m really enjoying your website, it’s great to see such a wealth of knowledge and insight available online.
On this note I’d like to ask you something. In light of what you’ve written above, that the unconditioned (Nibanna) is present under the the ground, … could the “earth” which the bodhisattvas spring from represent the five Skandas or aggregates spoken of in the Pali Suttas?
That is an excellent question and I definitely think you are on the right track. I would point more specifically to what is given, iirc, as the 5th skandha — that of consciousness. This consists of 6 consciousnesses; the 5 sensory consciousnesses and the mind. Note that Mahayana (used in a loose, general sense in case Ryuei is reading) tends to sub-divide the 6th (mental) consciousness into 3 layers or levels of mind. If I recall correctly, the 8th or Storehouse Consciousness is sometimes called the ground consciousness?
Another consideration (just to throw around some ideas), could it be possible that the four bodhisattvas named above also represent the four Jhana states ? …. Considering Jhana are the peaceful abiding states that gradually phase by phase allow the being to temporary retreat from the net of DUKKHA.
By the way I’m in no way knowledgable enough to understand fully what you wrote above so I’ll try to keep up as best I can. I’m 24 and fairly new to Buddhism.
And I also saw one of your other posts about how pure land teachings could have been methods to acheive the jhana states(if I recall your article correctly). This I agree with as it was a notion I had a few days before I encountered your website, because I thought maybe contemplating amida Buddhas light may have stemmed from contemplating a Kasina object as practiced in theravada.
You are ahead of where I was at age 24, definitely asking the right questions. Rather than linking the 4 Bodhisattvas from Underground with the jhanas, I’d point more to the 4 bases / foundations of mindfulness. The 4 bases of mindfulness are body, feelings, mind, and mental phenomena. If I understand correctly, Theravadia may already connect these with overcoming the 4 distortions. The 4 virtues; which the 4 Bodhisattvas personify, are the reversal of the 4 distortions.
The four virtues as translated from the Chinese are usually given as eternity, joy, true self, and purity. The original sanskrit translates better as constancy, bliss, self, and beauty. The four distortions are seeking constancy in the inconstant, bliss in dukkha, a self where there is no self, and beauty in ugliness.
Mindfulness of body overcomes seeking beauty in ugliness, mindfulness of of feelings overcomes seeking bliss in dukkha, mindfulness of mind overcomes seeing constancy in the inconstant, and mindfulness of mental phenomena overcomes seeking a self where there is no self.
Ah very good point this makes more sense than attributing the bodhisattvas to the Jhanas. And Thank you for the kind encouragement. I first got into Nichiren’s Buddhism properly a couple of years ago, not joining any organization but seeking what information I could. It was around the time I was studying the Gosho that I found out about the Pali Suttas wanting to know what the oldest strain on Buddhism had to say. Well what I found formed the opinion I have now, that, the lotus sutra is compilation and refining of many crucial and deep teachings found in the Pali (theravada and Mahayana have more in common than they assume). I see the Lotus sutra as the cream so to speak. Seeing this I realised there had to be more to Nichiren than I was hearing and reading about in the mainstream. It made me look at the Gohonzon in a new light, seeing its potential, that it was all encompassing and not limited. I could the Gohonzon flood all of the worlds of gods and men with METTA, …. I could form a deliberate relationship with the shoto zenjin (Deva sangha) which the Buddha told the monks to do in the Pali, and also which Nichiren did himself. I could go on and on with this, but yes, the Gohonzon should not be limited, and Nichiren was has more about him than I first thought in the light of the information available to me at the time. That’s why it is a blessing to have found your website, because it’s along the lines of ideas that were shaping me, and still are.
Also I can see Abhidamma in the Lotus Sutra, (I can only say this based on the words of others and commentaries, wish I could read the Abhidamma for real lol)
~~~~Another consideration (just to throw around some ideas), could it be possible that the four bodhisattvas named above also represent the four Jhana states ? Considering Jhana are the peaceful abiding states that gradually phase by phase allow the being to temporary retreat from the net of DUKKHA.
The 4 form absorptions (jhanas) actually correspond to the Form Heavens, also known as the Fine Material Realms. There are supposedly 16 Fine Material realms. The 5 ‘highest’ are the Pure Abodes. According to Theravada teachings, the non-returners are reborn in the pure abodes and attain unbinding / become perfected there. This seems to be a foundation for the Pure Land teachings of Mahayana.
To continue on that, according to the Mahayana Nirvana Sutra, the 4 Virtues are attributes of Nirvana. They are un-acquired, unearned, and innate. In symbolic terms, the 4 virtues were ceded to us, via an act of grace, by the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha, in the remote past. They are uncreated, non-arisen, unconditioned, and unborn. These same virtues are also personified by the leaders of the 4 Bodhisattvas who emerge from under the ground.
Amazing stuff Robin, you’ve got me googling and book raiding with all this info. I’m afraid to go off Topic so I’ll keep myself steady. But I need to ask a question which has kept on at me recently. It’s with regards to the nature of, let’s say, “embodying Nirvana”. As far as my understanding serves me (please correct me if I’m in error at all) that according to the Pali Suttas when a being attains enlightenment, upon the death of that being its mind stream enters Nibanna, and has no need anymore for a body to support it), yet we find in the writings of Nichiren that everything in our environment possesses the Buddha nature, therefore it must have within it the purity of Nirvana, because the Buddha stated not only in the Pali (subtly), but also the famous Flower Sermon that he possessed the “mind of nirvana, the true form of the formless” This would seem to suggest that Nirvana, the unconditioned and supreme joy can dwell in form without the need of being without a body. I may not have made sense here but what I’m getting at is, considering the being is one with body, mind, and environment maybe it’s possible that material nature can surmount and “evolve” beyond DUKKHA, until Nibanna is something manifested in form, living bodies. Seems that Nichiren and the Sutras (and subtly within the Pali) speaks of a turnaround where the body becomes a support for Nirvana? Perhaps ichinen sanzen makes it possible for form to be the vehicle of Nibanna. I’m just speculating, I’m probably way off track.
Again please excuse my lack of knowledge, I don’t want to sound naive, but I am open to criticism in order to learn.
And agreed about jhana and pureland. Here’s a quote from Bhante Henepola Gunaratana’s Beyond Mindfulness:” In jhana there is also an experience similar to visual light but not a product of the ordinary material senses” he goes on to say that there is light and vision (amida Buddha) in correct jhana and that it allows the aspirant to perceive things as they are (insight can be a product of jhana). So it’s nice see that maybe the pureland sutras were manuals developed for people to attain those states. I’d like to see a commentary written perhaps with a title along the lines of “Pureland: in the light of the Pali suttas”.
~~~~ Seems that Nichiren and the Sutras (and subtly within the Pali) speaks of a turnaround where the body becomes a support for Nirvana?
Also, Mahayana has the concepts of Saṃsara eva Nirvana — the Cycle of Birth and Death is the Unbinding — and Afflictions (kleshas) are Awakening (bodhi)
Robin I found this which may be of interest to you. It claims to be an unlisted Gohonzon, if so could you make a translation of the characters which appear on it and perhaps verify its authenticity?
I am very rusty in that area. I’ll check with The Nichiren Mandala Study Workshop, the publisher of “The mandala in Nichiren Buddhism”
Ok Robin, I look forword to any results which arise about this mandala. I may ask on that blog page what the Kempon Hokke tradition says about this Gohonzon.
Hi Robin, any more insights about that Gohonzon on that blog page?
Hope your well.
Nothing new. It’s a well known Gohonzon. My understanding is Myomanji temple distributes copies of it to followers. I could venture a guess as to the origin of the prints, but that’s about it. AFAIK, no original scroll of this one exists in Nichiren’s hand. I could be wrong though.
Right now, the Nichiren Mandala Study Workshop is the best source in English for information about Nichiren’s Mandalas.
Hi Robin, just wanted to drop you a line and say HI and hope you are well. I recently began reading about the movie 2001 space oddyssey, and I noticed some Buddhist tones contained therein. 1) the similarity between the function of the Gohonzon and the Megalith which draws out a beings higher nature. 2) the transcendence achieved in the form of the star child at the end, a being that had overcome materiality, (Nibanna ?). I did hear a rumour that Stanley Kubrick received a Gohonzon back in the 60s but it was the book writer Arthur C Clarke who came up with the story, and It’s known he was interested in Buddhism for a while. Just thought it was an interesting comparison.
All the best to you Robin
Interesting thoughts on 2001: A Space Odyssey. I recall one of the Soka Gakkai members at the University of Illinois discussing similar ideas back when 2001 was a distant future.
Hi Robin, considering Nichiren himself made prayers to the “gods”, do you think it’s ok for a Nichiren Buddhist to employ the prayers the Buddha himself prescribed, such as the Paritta protective Suttas? I myself have recited the Sutta inviting the Devas to the blessings and found that there was a fairly swift result (a surprising job opportunity). Considering the Buddha encouraged his followers to create a deliberate relationship with the Devas and celestial beings, just as Nichiren did, I personally feel there is no harm in us reciting the Paritta Suttas for our wellbeing. Would be good to read what you think about this.
For the benefit of us Buddhists.
>>>>> I personally feel there is no harm in us reciting the Paritta Suttas for our wellbeing. Would be good to read what you think about this.
I agree. I have already worked a couple of these into my practice several years ago.
Within my own practice I’ve tried to introduce some of the practices taught in the Suttas, namely the Brahma Vihara mental states (I admit I have the desire to be reborn in the Brahma Loka), partitta Protective chanting, and using Odaimoku I’ve been trying to cultivate Insight, Jhana and Samatha. I find Odaimoku has allowed me to knock down the walls of the minds ideas of SELF.
With regards to the Gohonzons when Nichiren intimated that there was possibly previous mandalas used for practice, I have a gut feeling that maybe in the earliest Buddhist tradition (which as you know was extinguished by the Muslim invasion into India, but survived in Thailand, whence Theravada), there could have been such mandalas which contained the blessings of the Devas, and like the function of the Gohonzon the practitioner would maybe chant to draw out the blessings. I believe I’ve seen mentioned in Buddhagossa’s Path Of Purification that there were objects and rituals used by the Devotee (perhaps wrong word here) and that at certain levels such outer objects were no longer needed. Inner and outer mandalas (mental and physical) seem to have been used even in the most ancient form of Buddhism.
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Well it’s allowed me to make some “holes” in the minds idea of self! My above statement was overdone lol
It’s also lamentable to think of what was lost to Buddhism with the Islamic invasion of India at that time.
This may not interest some, but I’ve also been looking at the Jewish Kabbalistic concept of the Ten Worlds or 10 Sefirot, or spheres of existence. The topmost sphere called “keter” or “the Crown” seems to me to conform to the Formless spheres in the Suttas schematic of Samsara, described in the kabbalists sacred text called the Zohar as “the most hidden of all hidden things” and as being filled with compassion (perhaps a brahma realm). Outside of the Sefirot is AIN SOPH which seems to conform to Nibanna as it’s the state outside of the Ladder of Spheres (samsara). While there is very theistic themes in Jewish Kabbalah, the is also the huge theme of formlessness, the void, the state where words and ideas fail to have meaning. Sounds like Nibanna to me. Also the sphere of Chesed translates from hebrew to English as LOVING KINDNESS (Metta). I’m not a Kabbalist but the similarities strike me as something worthy of further investigation.