THE BUDDHA WRITINGS OF NICHIREN DAISHÔNIN
by Martin Bradley
The word Namu is the Chinese version of the Sanskrit word Namas. The apt translation of this word is based on the Universal Teacher Tendai's definition of it which is ‘to consecrate and found one's life on'. In Japan this expression of devotion or dedication is to be found inscribed on the images of every kind of bodhisattva, deva or Shinto divinity. But nothing could be more deeply meaningful than consecrating and founding our individual lives on the very essence of life itself. This is the particular significance of the recitation of Nam myôhô renge kyô. This is the lion's roar as the Daishônin expresses it in his Oral Transmission, ‘The lion's roar is the Buddha's exposition of the dharma, the exposition of the dharma is the Dharma Flower Sutra and in particular it is Nam myôhô renge kyô .'
According to the teachings of the Schools of Nichiren, sentient beings possess nine modes of cognition (kyûshiki). The first five correspond to our faculties of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touch: (i) the cognition of sight (kenshiki) depends on the organ of the eye and its function is to discern shape, colour and form, (ii) the cognition of hearing (nishiki) depends on the organ of the ear and its function is to discern and pick out sounds, (iii) the cognition of smell (bishiki) has the function of discriminating odours, fragrances and stenches, (iv) the cognition of taste (zesshiki) depends on the tongue whose function is to discern various tastes and flavours, (v) the cognition of touching (shinshiki) and feeling depends on the body whose rôle is to discern every variety of physical contact, (vi) the cognition of conscious mental activity (ishiki) is the consciousness and the awareness of what we are feeling and perceiving with regard to what is going on around us and within us. The first five cognitions have their own organs to detect whatever they are supposed to sense whereas the cognition of mental activity (ishiki, manashiki) is dependent on the mind as a faculty of thought. Perhaps one could say I know I am seeing but that, in fact depends on the mind. (vii) The cognition of the mind as a faculty of thought (i, mano). This cognition is in fact a little more complicated, since it has a strong power of attaching itself to the result of its own thinking. This cognition constantly perceives images, sounds, tastes etc., even if they are only imagined, all of which induce this cognition to presume that it is the controller of the body and the part of us that makes decisions. It also sees itself as being independent by nature. The cognition of mind as an organ of thought first wills, then it discriminates (funbetsu) in order to judge. The process of judging entails an awareness of the individual particularities in concepts, ideas and in matters and things. Hence this cognition's habit of firmly attaching itself to a subjective and objective view of existence. The cognition of mind as an organ of thought is always functioning even during our sleep, unconsciousness and comas etc. As a result unenlightened people such as we, are always prey to illusions and ideas about our own existence. Which to all intents and purposes belong to the nine realms of dharmas (kyûkai) that constitute our unenlightenment in the world of the dream. (viii) The storehouse cognition (arayashiki) strictly speaking is not a cognitive faculty and has no discerning powers of its own, rather its rôle is accumulative. This storehouse cognition is the source of the previous seven cognitions which are produced from ‘messages' (shûji) that are implanted in it. This storehouse is a sort of universal unconscious that stockpiles every conceivable dharma that is available to us, whether it be physical or mental, including the concept of our own bodies. When this storehouse cognition receives the outcome of the messages from the other seven cognitions it passes these messages on to the cognition of conscious mental activity (ishiki), which in turn holds onto these impressions and discerns them as being real. In this sense the storehouse cognition is the basic element of the individual who mistakenly interprets the cognition of conscious mental activity as the sum total of the self. On this account we have the tendency to think that we are what we know. The storehouse cognition is also the part of us that stores up the whole of our past and present karma. This deepest basement of our personalities also accompanies us through all our cycles of living and dying, it is through the distorted notion of being what we know, that we become susceptible to deep traumas in the intermediate existence between death and rebirth which tend to create distorted archetypes in our psyches. The scars of these deepest traumas from previous deaths may even assist in obscuring any intuition we may have with regard to our original enlightenment. At any event the storehouse cognition hoards up the whole of our existence whose real identity is (ix) the immaculate cognition (amarashiki) which is the fundamental of life itself.
This ninth cognition is not really a way of perceiving since this particular cognition is the origin of all dharmas and mind, at the same time it is the track upon which our lives roll. The object of most Buddha teachings suggests through one practice or another that the people who carry out these practices should shake themselves free of the storehouse cognition that is tainted with illusions and return to the original state of the superlative and absolutely pure real suchness, which is the immaculacy of pure mind as the self nature of existence. In other words it is the cognition of the Buddha which is the original enlightenment. This immaculate cognition is also seen as the sovereign of the mind and the foundation of all its workings. By being the real suchness, it is what life really is and completely inalterable. All things both sentient and insentient are endowed with this quality. In the teachings of Nichiren Daishônin this ninth and immaculate cognition is the Sutra on the Lotus Flower of the Utterness of the Dharma. To be a little more explicit but perhaps not simpler this sutra consists in the vertical threads of the loom where existence takes place into which is woven the filament of the simultaneousness of cause and effect of the entirety of life itself. The Daishônin defines this dimension of ourselves as the ninth cognition that is the capital of the real suchness and the sovereign of the mind. Since this aspect of ourselves is not merely an emptiness filled with light but is also replenished with all the archetypal urges that pulsate throughout existence. It is through Nichiren Daishônin's all embracing compassion for all sentient beings that made him draw up a mandala which includes all our primordial forces set in perfect proportion and in perfect relation to each other just as they are in the Dharma Flower Sutra. In this way ordinary people who are burdened with karma as we all are, can discover that this ninth cognition is our real identity. The Daishônin's intention was to show us a pathway that would lead to a real individuation which is referred to in Buddhist technical language as the opening up of our inherent Buddha nature with our persons just as they are. This psychologically alchemical process can be set about through reciting Nam myôhô renge kyô in front of this mandala which for those people who follow these teachings is the Fundamental Object of Veneration.
Martin Bradley, The Buddha Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, ISBN: 2-913122-19-1, 2005, Introduction, p. 76