Practitioners of Nichiren Buddhism who chant the powerful Lotus Sutra, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo, would be delighted to share their knowledge of The Ten Worlds that exist in each one of us. With this article, it is my attempt to share this delight with everyone who wants to know what really are these 10 worlds and do they really exist within each one us ?!
The reason that we experience a range of emotions every moment, our lives are considered to be constantly changing! In Nichiren Buddhism, this is explained through a concept known as “The Ten Worlds”.
As per this concept in Nichiren Buddhism, at any given point in time, a human being can be in any of these Ten “Worlds” or Ten “Life States“.
In order of the least desirable to the most desirable, these Ten Worlds are listed below:
A. The FOUR EVIL PATHS :
characterized by their destructive energy & negativity
1. HELL: a feeling of complete helplessness, extreme suffering, despair and depression. A very weak life force is exhibited by people in this world.
2. HUNGER or Hungry Spirits: Extreme hunger for all the material possessions. There is no control over such cravings that originate from an endless desire for extreme wealth, fame and pleasure at any costs.
3. ANIMALITY: “Law of the Jungle” plays very high in such a life force. Hence, one fears the strong but bullies the weak. The human being in this world therefore lacks wisdom, morality & ethical values.
4. ANGER: Ego & Excessive Pride characterize a person in this life state. He/ She feel superior to everyone else, which prevents them from seeing the other’s point of view or even their own true self. Hence,the need to surpass everyone at any cost leads to Anger in such human beings.
Other two paths are:
5. HUMANITY: A tranquil state wherein a human being exercises his/her ability to reason and make calm judgement. This is done by controlling one’s desires and impulses with reasons. Such a person acts in harmony with one’s surroundings and people. But since it’s a passive state of life, there are chances that one might drift away into the lower four worlds when faced with negative situations in life.
6. RAPTURE or Heavenly Beings: Upon successful accomplishments of goals and desires, a human being may feel a sense of joy and contentment over his/her victories. However, this state of joy is temporary and highly influenced by the ever changing situations or circumstances.
Hence these 6 Worlds, as described above, are called SIX PATHS or SIX LOWER WORLDS. These are basically a reaction to changes in our external circumstances. Here, we are highly influenced by the external life forces and there is very little self-control, inner awareness, autonomy and freedom.
B. The FOUR NOBLE PATHS:
The remaining Four Worlds, wherein a human being makes a conscious effort to live with integrity, freedom, compassion and wisdom.
The first two are referred to as The TWO VEHICLES. Although these lead to a person’s conscious self-development yet in these states, people are more inclined towards creating a beautiful life for themselves than for the happiness of fellow human beings.
7. LEARNING: In this life state, an individual makes a conscious effort to learn from the knowledge and experience of others. Hence, one can create a better and beautiful life for oneself.
8. REALIZATION: In this life state, one makes a conscious effort to free himself/herself from the sufferings of the Six Paths (mentioned above). This is because they are now able to use their sense of realization through careful observation and concentration.
Last 2 Worlds:
Finally, one can achieve these last 2 Worlds, which are considered beneficial not just for oneself, but for the welfare of other fellow human beings as well:
9. BODHISATTVA: This life state of a human being refers to one who seeks enlightenment not just for himself/herself but also with an aim to lead others to the same. “BODHI” means “enlightenment” and “SATTVA” means “person”. Hence, such an “enlightened person” reaches a state of compassion in which he/she thinks and works for the happiness of others as well. Finally, the ego is overcome as one works tirelessly for the welfare of others.
10. BUDDHAHOOD: The ultimate state that one can achieve in this lifetime. It is characterized by absolute happiness, purity, freedom, compassion, courage and boundless wisdom to recognize the ultimate reality of our lives. One does not become an extra special being in this state of life. Instead, one develops the wisdom, compassion and courage to transform all difficulties into opportunities and causes for growth. This is done by consciously working against, and defeating the negative functions and forces in his/her life.
“Mutual possession of the Ten Worlds” :
Each of these Ten Worlds contains all the other Worlds within itself, at any moment of time. Our life does not remain permanently fixed in any one of these life states. While one of the ten worlds is manifest in our lives, the other nine remain dormant.
This happens for the reason that our relationship with the external world influences us to keep shifting from one state to the other, from Hell to Buddhahood.
But the beauty lies in realizing the fact that “no matter what lifestate we maybe in, we have the potential to manifest a state of Buddhahood”.
A Buddha, therefore, is not separate from ordinary people but possesses the nine worlds too!
The purpose of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is to establish Buddhahood as our “basic life force”. As we exert ourselves in Faith, chant Daily Gongyo & Daimoku, participate in Gakkai activities and do our Human Revolution, we will gradually be able to change our basic life force.We will become increasingly positive, hopeful, peaceful, wiser and joyful.
Therefore let’s come together to chant Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo and help elevate ourselves & others to a higher lifestate of Buddhahood in this lifetime !!
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
This article is not a replica of but inspired by the information available in the book, “Basics of Buddhism 2014” as well as through my own experience of the practice of chanting NMHRK over the last few years.
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