An Essay on the Chain
Jûni In.nen Goshô
The first year of Kôgen  at 35 years of age
If we are to talk about becoming Buddhas in a general way, then it is through knowing what our persons consist of, and that we are able to become such. What is said to be knowing our own persons is to know that they are Buddhas from the very origin. All sentient beings including such creatures as crickets, ants, horseflies and mosquitoes are all endowed with bodies that are comprised of the eighteen ways of understanding through the six organs of sense, (i) the eyes, (ii) the ears, (iii) the nose, (iv) the tongue, (v) the body, (vi) the mind. The six objective realms of these senses that are the fields of (vii) sight, (viii) sound, (ix) odours, (x) flavours, (xi) touch and (xii) ideas as well as the capabilities of (xiii) seeing, (xiv) hearing, (xv) smelling, (xvi) tasting, (xvii) touching and (xviii) a consciousness of any one or all of these events are taking place. Hence all sentient beings are incarnations of the five aggregates that darken the awareness of our original enlightenment through having (i) a physical form which (ii) has ways of perceiving which bring about ways of (iii) thinking which lead to ways of (iv) behaviour which results in (v) all these aggregates amounting to how this sentient being sees himself in relation to his own existence. Among the explanations it says, ‘By giving a name to the combination of these five aggregates we refer to a sentient being.' The combination of these five aggregates that darken our original enlightenment are therefore the chain of the twelve causes and karmic circumstances that run through the whole of sentient existence.
This chain is made up of (i) a fundamental unenlightenment which leads to (ii) dispositions that are inherited from former lives. Then, (iii) the first consciousness after conception takes place in the womb whilst (iv) the body and mind are evolving which leads to (v) the five organs of sense and the functioning of the mind as it makes (vi) contact with the outside world. This becomes (vii) the receptivity or budding intelligence and discrimination from six to seven years old onwards which evolve into (viii) the thirst, desire or love at the age of puberty; (ix) the urge of sensuous existence which (x) forms the substance of future karma. Then (xi) the completed karma is ready to be born again as it takes its direction towards (xii) old age and death. This chain of the twelve causes and karmic circumstances are said to be spread over the two levels of cause and effect which are understood as past cause and present effect and present cause and future effect. Also this chain is carried over from the past to the present and on to the future. The first link of this chain of causes and karmic circumstances is our fundamental unenlightenment, the eighth link is a thirst, desire or love at the age of puberty and the ninth link is the urge for sensuous existence, these three links are seen as troublesome worries. The second link is made up of the various dispositions inherited from our former lives and the tenth link is the substance of future karma, these are understood as being the workings of karma. The first spark of consciousness that takes place in the womb after conception, the body and mind that evolves in the womb, the five organs of sense and the functioning of the mind, contact with the outside world, receptivity or budding intelligence and discrimination from six to seven years onwards, the karma that is completed and ready to be born again, as well as old age and death, all these seven links in the chain are seen as suffering. The chain of the twelve causes and karmic circumstances that run through the whole of sentient existence consists of the three paths of troublesome worries, the workings of karma and suffering. The two links in the chain of fundamental unenlightenment and the various dispositions that are inherited from former lives have their causes in the past. The five links of the consciousness that originates in the womb, the body and mind that also evolved there, the five organs of sense and the functioning of the mind, contact with the outside world and the receptivity and intelligence and discrimination that evolved from six years onwards are five visible effects that are now in the present. The three links in the chain that are (i) the thirst, desire for love that starts at the age of puberty, (ii) the urge for sensual existence that forms (iii) the substance of karma are the causes of the present state of affairs, whereas the completed karma ready to be born again is already facing in the direction of old age and death of which the outcome is to be seen in the future. As far as our bodies are concerned there are the three bitternesses of taking life, robbery and sexual abuse. As far as our mouths are concerned there are the four oral transgressions of being foul mouthed, double tongued, recounting wild fantasies and the use of false flowery language which bring about the workings of karma. Then with regard to the mind there are the three kinds of troublesome worries of indulgence, hatefulness and unprofundity. If you hold to and believe as in the same way you would in the dharma in this particular chain of the twelve causes and karmic circumstances that run through the whole of sentient existence, then there is no doubt that you will become aware that your own inherent Buddha nature is not separate from what you are now. What this amounts to is that if a person vilifies and destroys this sutra through his unbelief, then he will cut off all his Buddha seeds throughout all the existential spaces. Outside of our own persons there exists neither a separate Buddha nor a Dharma Flower Sutra. The cause of existence brought about by karmic circumstances or not coming into existence as a result of karmic circumstances are brought about by two of the twelve zodiac branches that refer to the past [The animals of the twelve zodiac branches are the rat, ox, tiger, hare, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, boar]. To come into existence as a result of causes due to karmic circumstances or not coming into existence brought about by karmic circumstances are brought about by two of the twelve zodiac branches that refer to the future. The other eight of the twelve zodiac branches that are suspended between the past and the future all have the cause of their existence brought about by karmic circumstances as well as having come into existence as a result of causes due to karmic circumstances. Not coming into an existence caused by karmic circumstances and not having come into existence as a result of causes due to karmic circumstances are dharmas free from causation. Now if we think of the chain of the twelve causes and karmic circumstances that run through the whole of sentient existence in terms of the past, present and future, then our fundamental unenlightenment is when our pasts have become completely solidified. Dispositions inherited from the past refer to every single disposition we ever had. When the first consciousness takes place in the womb is when we inherit a mind that is consistent with our surroundings. When the body and mind are evolving in the womb is the time when we receive the continuity of life even though the capabilities of seeing, hearing, smelling and tasting are not yet developed or the five organs of sense and the functioning of the mind are not yet coherent. The five stages within the womb which [are seen as the growth of the formation of a stupa which originally was a tower like reliquary which represents the dharma body in three dimensional form. Later this representation of the dharma body became the pagodas of China, Japan and Korea.
In the esoteric symbolism which the Daishônin refers to, proceeding from the base upwards is a square, a circle, a triangle, a moon shaped semi circle and a jewel in the shape of a flame called a mani which is a symbol for the wisdom of the Buddha. The square symbolises matter, the circle symbolises cognition, the triangle represents mind, the new moon shape stands for the dharma and the flame for the Buddha nature.] The first stage is karara [Skt.: kalala] which represents the first sequence of seven days, this is defined as a union of the sperm and ovary and the following development. The second stage is called abudomu [Skt.: arbuda] which is translated as a bud and represents the second week after conception. The third stage, heishi [Skt.: peshî], is understood as an agglomeration of flesh and blood. The fourth stage is kennan [Skt.: ghana] which denotes bodily growth from the fifth week onwards. The fifth stage, barashakya [Skt.: prâshakhâ], is when the foetus is fully formed to bide its term until birth.
This is followed by the foetus leaving the womb and becoming a human being, this means to be a sentient being. In the Broad Elucidation of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly it says, ‘The head is round just like the heavens and the feet are square just like the earth. Within the body there are empty cavities which are like empty space. The warmth of the bowels is comparable to spring and summer. The hardness of the backbone is like that of winter. The four limbs of the body are like the four seasons and the twelve major joints throughout the body are like the twelve months of the year. The three hundred and sixty lesser joints throughout the whole body are comparable to the three hundred and sixty days of the year. When we breathe in and out through our noses it is like the wind that blows down from the mountains, over the marshes and through the ravines and valleys. The breath that comes in and out through our mouths is like the wind that blows through empty space. The eyes are comparable to the sun and moon and their opening and shutting are like day and night. Our hair is like the stars and other heavenly bodies. The eyebrows are like the seven stars of the Big Dipper. Our veins and arteries are like the rivers and streams, our bones can be likened to gems and stones, our flesh is like the soil and the earth and the hairs on our bodies are like the thickets and woods. The five viscera are like the five planets Venus, Jupiter, Mercury, Mars and Saturn or these five viscera are like the five sacred mountains on earth that mark the boundaries of China [Taisan (Taishan in Shandong), Kôsan (Hengshan in Hunan), Kasan (Huashan in Shanxi), Kôsan (Hengshan in Hebei) and Sûsan (Songshan in Henan)].' The flesh on our bodies is symbolised by the element earth, the runny marrow in our bones is seen as the element water, blood is symbolised by the element fire, the skin is symbolised by the element wind and the muscles are understood as being the element wood. Now when it comes to the five organs of sense and the functioning of the mind, the eyes are for seeing shapes and colours, the ears are for hearing sounds, the nose is for smelling odours, the tongue is for tasting flavours and the body suffers pain and discomfort when it is touched by heat, cold, coarseness and things that irritate it. It is easy to see with our eyes how these five senses work. As for the sixth sense which are the workings of the mind, is a propensity that is to be found within the bodies of all sentient beings, but they do not know its totality. This is something I cannot see and know nothing about, how is it then, for those superior to humankind? At the present time is there anybody capable of knowing the totality of mind? It is said that the mind of the Buddha cannot be thought out nor deliberated upon, then why should it not be so for those with lesser propensities? Because what people do not know is that this totality is separate from being long or measuring less or being round or square in shape, it is neither cerulean, yellow, vermilion, white or black, it is a dharma that is beyond any verbal expression or pondered thought. It cannot be compared to walking, standing, sitting or lying down which are understood as the four noble positions of the Buddha, nor any other state, it silences anything that is composed by words or any manifestation of cause and karmic circumstances. It is not something that could be depicted by painting a picture, nor is it anything that can be learned through study, nor is it something that comes from the Buddha's foretelling when a disciple will attain enlightenment, nor from any oracular message from the gods, nor is it anything that can be handed down from one's parents or teachers. It does not rain down from heaven nor does it spring up from the earth. It is something so utterly all embracing that it is impossible to ponder over or deliberate upon.
In response to such charlatans that claim to be enlightened, the two holy personages Tendai and Myôraku in the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower and the Explanatory Notes on the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower, say, ‘The mind is as elusive as the sparks of fireworks which, when burned out, only remain as remembered words, but on naming these illusions we call them mind. As you would expect some people will insist that these sparks existed and when they say so they perceive neither their colour nor their inherent qualities. Naturally there are other people who say these sparks do not exist and when they say so only their memory comes to mind. You should not even go as far as wondering whether something exists or not because it is the imponderable quality of utterness. That which acts in the same way as the utterness of mind is referred to as the dharma(s). The dharmas of the mind are not the cause nor are they the fruition. If you contemplate this matter in the light of it being a fundamental principle, you will come to understand that cause and effect are simultaneous; this is what we call the lotus flower. Then when you have contemplated this matter as being the oneness of mind and pass this concept on to other minds in order to teach them then this is what we call a sutra.' In the Explanatory Notes on the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower it says, ‘The instant it is said something exists it does not mean to say that the totality of existence is not there. So why should it not be the quality and appearance of all the ten realms of dharmas? When it is said something does not exist, then again three thousand thoughts come to mind which do not exclude the actual instant of reflexion on the realms of dharmas at hand. You should not bother yourselves as to whether anything exists or not, since one instant of mental activity is simply the way the middle way is. Because as you already know, mind is utterness itself.'
At this point it is well understood our minds are the Dharma Flower Sutra, and the Dharma Flower Sutra is what our minds really are. Through not knowing the Dharma Flower Sutra we cannot know what our persons really are. The idea of moving house and forgetting about one's wife could be used as an analogy for the person who cannot become a Buddha because he has forgotten about the need for the Dharma Flower Sutra for his existence to come. Therefore anybody who goes against and vilifies the Dharma Flower Sutra goes against All the Buddhas, all the devas, their father and mother, lord and teacher, the mountains, the seas, the sun and the moon and everything that exists. The Dharma Flower Sutra has to be all the ten comparisons that the Bodhisattva Yakuô used to show that this sutra is superior to all others, when he said to the Bodhisattva Shukuôke, [‘Just as out of all watercourses, effluents, streams, rivulets, and great rivers the sea is the greatest, so it is the same with this Dharma Flower Sutra which is the most all embracing and profound out of all the sutras that the Tathâgata has expounded. Just as out of all the mountains of soil, black mountains, the lesser ring of iron mountains that surround the world, the larger range of iron mountains that surround the world, Mount Sumeru is the greatest, so it is the same with this Dharma Flower Sutra which is the highest peak among all sutras. Just as out of all the stars the moon as a prince of the devas is the first among the heavenly bodies at night, again it is the same with this Dharma Flower Sutra which shines the brightest out of the thousands of myriads of millions of different kinds of sutric dharmas that exist. Again just as the sun as prince of devas can take away all darkness, so it is the same with this Dharma Flower Sutra that is able to reverse the darkness of everything that is not good. Again, in the same way a holy ruler whose chariot wheels roll everywhere without hindrance is monarch among all the lesser kings, it is the same with regard to this sutra which is the most revered out of all the others. Again, just as the thirty-third heaven of Taishaku is the ultimate of all heavens, so it is the same with this sutra that is paramount among all the others. Just as the Universal King Bonten is the father of all sentient beings, it is the same with this sutra which is the parent of all those who aspire to the mind of a bodhisattva, all those who are holy and wise and all those who are still studying to get rid of their delusions and those who have begun to cast them off. Again, just as those whose practice is beyond the stream of transmigratory suffering or those whose practice requires only one more lifetime before reaching Nirvana or those who have attained the supreme rewards of the individual vehicle or those who realize Nirvana for themselves and without a teacher are foremost among ordinary people, so it is the same with this sutra, whether it be expounded by the Tathâgata or by a bodhisattva or even a person who has heard the Buddha's voice. Among all the dharmas this sutra is superior to all. Also the person who is able to receive and hold to this archetypal sutra takes first place among sentient beings. Just as the bodhisattvas are foremost among the hearers of the Buddha's voice and those who realize Nirvana for themselves without a teacher, so it is the same with this sutra, out of all the sutric dharmas this sutra is superior to all. Just as the Buddha is the sovereign of all dharmas, so it is the same with this sutra that is the most important of all.']. It says in the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower Sutra, ‘The eyes, ears, nose and tongue are the gateway to being free from troublesome worries and distress.' In the Explanatory Notes on the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower Sutra it says, ‘The eternally abiding real aspect of all dharmas is like the sweet dew from the devas that is the elixir of immortality. Now the Utterness of the Dharma has been explained the real aspect of all dharmas is opened up to us, this is why it is referred to as a gateway.' Being free from troublesome worries and distress is the Dharma Flower Sutra. Also the Dharma Flower Sutra is the sweet dew of the devas that is the elixir of immortality. It says in the third fascicle of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly, ‘The bundles of sutric scrolls of the all pervasive wisdom and discernment of the Tathâgata exist in every detail within the persons of sentient beings. But because they are beset by the absurd ideas of ordinary people this wisdom is obscured so that they neither perceive it nor do they think it is true.
What I am saying you must attentively take into deep consideration. You must close your eyes, set your mind completely at rest and fully take this in. All the six organs of sense, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body and mind are all the embodiment of the Dharma Flower Sutra [which is where the simultaneousness of cause and effect of the Utterness of the Dharma occurs]. Have no doubts about the mind being the fundamental substance of the Dharma Flower Sutra and that the other five sensory organs are its embodiment. The mind is king and the five organs of sense are its retinue. Although there is sight in our eyes and our auditive sense is in our ears, it is the mind that really makes us see and hear. Nevertheless the behaviour of the five organs of sense is in accordance with the workings of the mind. Because seeing things is something that is done by the mind, then the eyes are also the Dharma Flower Sutra. Also hearing with our ears is brought about through our minds, hence the ears being the Dharma Flower Sutra. It is also the same with the other organs of sense. When we die five of our organs of sense, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and body no longer function; even though the actual substance of these five organs is dead their outward shape still remains. However because there is no mind, when has a person who is dead ever been able to see or hear? It does not follow common sense. It is exactly the same with those who slander the Dharma Flower Sutra. Since our minds are the Dharma Flower Sutra, to go and vilify it implies losing our minds so that our six organs of sense are incomplete. Does that then mean that by losing one's mind, that is to say the Dharma Flower Sutra, we should establish the teachings that came before it? By vilifying the Dharma Flower Sutra, means that this person no longer has faith in it; and since his mind has gone in the direction of all the schools of all the provisional dharmas of the individual vehicle that were taught prior to the Dharma Flower, this person's mind is indeed that of a dead body.
Now, the school of the Dharma Flower is said to be the Dharma Flower Sutra itself. Since we do not throw our minds away, we do not become like the corpses that have lost their six organs of sense. If the mind is not separate from the five sensory organs and the five sensory organs are not separate from mind, so that when the mind becomes a Buddha our physical attributes will become Buddhas at the same time. Since outward appearances and the mind are not a duality there is the mutual possession of an inner and an external existence. In the Explanatory Notes on the Recondite Significance of the Dharma Flower Sutra it says, ‘The eight petals of the Lotus Flower represent the eight classifications of the doctrines of Shakyamuni [(i) the teachings of the three receptacles, (ii) the interrelated teachings, (iii) the particular teaching, (iv) the all-inclusive teaching, (v) the direct teachings that reveal the Buddha's enlightenment without any preamble, (vi) the gradual teachings where the Buddha reveals his enlightenment in stages, (vii) the esoteric and secret teachings, and (viii) the indeterminate teachings], the calyx of the lotus stands for the one and only doctrine to which all the others relate.
In the one there are eight and in the eight there is one, there is always one and there are always eight. There is only one and only eight. If it becomes one then it becomes eight, there is neither a first nor a last.' In the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly it says, ‘In the single instant of mind there are ten realms of dharmas, even if there is only the tiniest scrap of mind then there are three thousand existential spaces.' In the Broad Elucidation to Support the Practice of the Universal Desistance from Troublesome Worries in order to See Clearly it says, ‘Indeed you should know that the one instant of thought of the self and its dependent terrain contains three thousand existential spaces. Because when we put this fundamental principle of the attainment to the path into words then it becomes the one instant of our own minds being replenished with all the existing realms of dharmas.' In the Recondite Significance of the DharmaFlower we have, ‘Even if you say three thousand existential spaces, or even if you say the realms of dharmas, they are just alternative names for the Dharma Flower Sutra.' In the Chapter on the Original Practice of the Bodhisattva Yakuô it states, ‘There will be a broad propagation throughout the world of humankind.' The world of humankind is the sky, the earth and our fathers and mothers. Also the same chapter goes on to say, ‘The good medicine is for the illnesses of the people of the world of mankind.' The good medicine is the sky, the earth and our father and mother. In this manner we ourselves who are sentient beings are none other than the substance of the Dharma Flower, we like to think that the Dharma Flower Sutra is an entirely different country or another Japan and we think of the sky, the earth, water as other dimensions and other places. In this way we regardlessly end up by throwing our noble selves away, apart from berating ourselves we tend to fall into evil places. How can we be such wretched and sorry beings?
Therefore when we have faith our persons become something unthinkably wonderful, just as it is recounted in the Eighteenth Chapter on the Joys and Happiness and the Meritorious Virtues of Hearing the Teaching of the Dharma Flower. But the adversities we may meet when we vilify our persons is recounted in the Twenty-Eighth Chapter on the Compelling Inspiration of the Bodhisattva Fugen. In the Sutra on Fugen it says, ‘This sacred text of the universal vehicle is the treasure store of All the Buddhas, it is the eyes of All the Buddhas of the ten directions of the past, present and future, it is the seed from whence all the Tathâgatas of the past, present and future come into being, the person who holds to this sutra takes care of the Buddha as well as carrying out his tasks.' In the Third Chapter on Metaphors and Similes it says, ‘If somebody vilifies this sutra through having no faith in it means that this person denies all his Buddha seeds throughout all the existential spaces.' In the Sutra on Fugen it says, ‘All the Buddha Tathâgatas are the offspring of the actual reality of the dharma, through doing the practice of the universal vehicle you will not be denying the seeds of the dharma.'
Nichiren [formal signature]
Martin Bradley, The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, ISBN: 2-913122-19-1, 2005, Chapter 11, p. 245