The Historical Structure of the Eternal: Nichiren's Eschatology
By Makoto Ozaki

Philosophy East and West
Vol. 29, No. 3 (July 1979)
pp. 295-306

Copyright 1979 by University of Hawaii Press


 

Makoto Ozaki is Researcher at the Oriental Philosophy Institute Foundation, Tokyo, Japan.

 

 

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THE HISTORICITY OF THE ETERNAL

For Nichiren, the Absolute Buddha has two different aspects: the actively developing process and the static ground of all beings. Although these two are different from each other, nevertheless, they are at the same time identical with one another. Through the intermediacy of practical human actions, the actively developing process is a self-manifestation of the absolutely Eternal Buddha in history. The Absolute is not only the static ground into which the development of the relative returns, but also that dynamic origin which ceaselessly deepens itself by means of the act of developing and awakens to itself retrospectively by returning to its own source.

    Buddha, in this way, is not merely a Whole wherein the relative is included, but is rather a unity of the dynamic and the static which retraces the developmental movement of the relative by continuously including itself in itself and simultaneously spreading itself outwardly.

    Nichiren's view of history suggests that his relationship with `Saakyamuni and the other great Buddhists is such that Nichiren has the last and ultimate position in all the history of Buddhism. With the appearance of Nichiren in history, the other Buddhists before him, such as Naagaarjuna, T'ien-t'ai Chih-i and Saichoo, are now to be conceived as mere forerunners. That is, unless Nichiren had appeared in history, they could never have fulfilled their own respective historical significance. Nichiren himself is indeed the completed and final person in all the history of Buddhism. He is not an accidental but a necessary appearance in human history. Therefore his understanding of history is no other than the self-confirmation of his existence in the history of Buddhism. The truths of Buddhism are to be developed in progressive stages, and in so doing, the whole Truth of Buddhism reaches its final completion with the appearance of Nichiren. That the self-developmental process of the Eternal has the order of grades and steps, suggests that Buddhism itself is nothing but the history of Buddhism. Consequently, we can now retrospectively see that history before Nichiren is preparatory for his coming, and history after Nichiren begins with him.

    From this point of view, Saint Nichiren is a transmutation in space and time of the Eternal Buddha. Specifically, in the third stage in the evolution of Buddhism, the Buddha takes the form of an Incarnation, but the evolution of history is at the same time its return to its eternal origin. Thus, the highest stage in the evolution of Buddhism, however paradoxical this may seem, is also the return to its own origin. Even though the Eternal Buddha is beyond time and space, it is not a self-inclusive One which transcends human activity but it is the intermediary between eternity and time, the absolute and the relative, and so on.

 

 

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    Although the Buddha as the Absolute itself is incomprehensible and unknown to us, in his moment of self-actualization, he takes a definite form and concretizes himself in the phenomenal relativity of our world. Furthermore, in the developmental process in which the Absolute Buddha is continuous from one buddha to the next, he increasingly deepens his own roots and exhausts his own essence through this emanating and receding. We can see here that Nichiren's sense of historicity is more concrete than that of Doogen's, for example. Even though Doogen has a concept of historicity, it does not leave the level of abstract speculation; Nichiren, however, sets out to demonstrate that the abstract historicity of the Absolute is embodied concretely in various persons throughout history. For Nichiren, the absoluteness of Buddha is to be progressively actualized in relation to the relativity of the phenomenal world. In short, it is shown by him that the activity of Buddha as a formally abstractive structure is concretized into historical fact and materialized into definite form.

    Apprehending a pattern to the development of the Buddha Law, Nichiren comes to realize that he too is an agent in the promulgation and evolution of the Buddha Law. Technically speaking, in the third stage of the evolution of Buddhism, the so-called Mappoo Era or the eschaton for the Buddha Law, the Eternal Buddha has revealed himself as a personal buddha whose name is Nichiren. Fulfilling the work of the previous Buddha manifestations who were his forerunners (`Saakyamuni, Naagaarjuna, Chih-i, Saichoo, and so forth), Nichiren sees himself as playing the role of developing Buddhism and further revealing its essence. For Nichiren, this cannot be a mere self-delusion since it necessarily follows from the analysis of the evolutionary history of the Universal Buddhist Truths.

 

ACT AND BEING

In Buddhism the concept of time implies the evolution of it in the course of history. Thus, it is inescapable to relate it to the appearance of buddhas in history. Buddhism completes itself only if it is a process in which it continues from one buddha to the next. In this respect, Buddhism itself exists only where the absoluteness of Buddha appears through the action of the double negation of Buddha himself; by means of its negative mediation the content of the Buddha is transmuted into the empirical world.

    The continuous development of the Absolute Buddha in relative beings is nothing else than the way of accomplishing buddha in our natures, thereby becoming part of the reverse moment of return to the origin from which Buddhism advances; the advance is in accordance with restoration or reversion and vice versa. Nichiren comprehends the basic structure of time as "the Eternal Now" in which both movements of the advance and the reversion in time are grounded in eternity.

    Consequently, we must consider further the relation between time and eternity. The notion of physical time, as essentially transparent and uniform,

 

 

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is possible only if it is recognized to be an abstract moment of the truly concrete historical time. In contrast to the objective notion of time, Nichiren's Buddhistic concept of it is very subjective and diverse in orientation. In particular, time is reversible. Were it not so, the Eternal could not present itself in time. By virture of time's reversibility, the absolute past beyond the ordinary sense of past can appear in the eternal present, and the absolute future beyond the ordinary sense of future can also appear in the eternal present, at that point wherein past and future are united with each other.

    Even though the Eternal Buddha is prior to human beings, He comes into existence and reveals His essence through the mediacy of human action; without this mediacy, there could be no Buddhahood and no buddhas. Becoming a buddha is made possible not by intuition or meditation but by putting into practice the mediation between the Absolute and the relative in such a way as to negate oneself and return to the source of one's existence. This forms the content of becoming a buddha and at the same time constitutes the return of the Buddha to its origin beyond history.

    The advance into the historical world is paradoxically coincident with the retroaction to its origin in eternity. The Buddha's appearance as a person within history is the opposite side of the coin to the simultaneous return to its eternal principle. In the movement of advance and retreat there is revolving development in the course of history, and its revolution does not circulate at the same point as before, but as a dynamic spiral, deepening into its inner core and advancing to its endless end. Even if every circle is complete by itself, the retroaction continuously produces a new further advance, and in doing so, by including itself in itself continually enriches its content. To complete is in turn not to complete; having already reached is simultaneously not yet having reached. A reach is one and the same with nonreach, for at the next moment it is superseded by a new, higher stage.

    In this way, the retroaction or reversion is in accordance with the advancement or development, and this double commutation makes Buddhism an evolution, converting the static transcendence in eternity into the dynamic process in history, a vertical as well as a horizontal movement. This is the reason one who has accomplished buddhahood should again descend into the human world and engage in salvation. It follows that while every buddha is already accomplished in his particularity, he is not yet perfectly identified with the Absolute Buddha himself, but stays in the state of the imperfection as a self-restriction of the Absolute, remaining always finite and relatively associated with the Absolute.

    Despite his purity in principle, the buddha is still incomplete and has to go toward an endless purification in the phenomenal world. It is in this sense that although the Eternal Buddha is in himself completely universal, nonetheless, he continuously manifests himself as an individual being in history; the Absolute universal Buddha has to restrict himself as the individual and in doing so,

 

 

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cannot fulfill his own absolute whole or totality. Hence there is a way of conciliating the endlessly active development of the universal truths in the historical reality with the retroaction to the eternal ground.

    As compared with Doogen, for example, Nichiren is more explicitly concerned with this unifying of historical reality and transcendent ground. Buddha, as the Incomprehensible Static One as well as the dynamic process, develops and exhausts its original oneness (suchness) as the multiple continuum of space and time in the transitory world; what is inexpressible and inexplicable mutates into something expressible and explicable. Its mutative process is not a straight line but a revolving and rotary motion, circumscribing the original center. Therefore the notion of "rising up" does not only mean the rising up to the summit but also the falling down into the bottom of history, the pre-historic source or the very beginning in eternity. Both rising up and falling down are mutually convertible in an instant of mind. A descent from the eternal origin to the historical world arises in accordance with an ascent or elevation from history to the primordial root, eternity, in the vertical dimension. Through such contrasting orientations, Buddha can renew himself in personal forms, each succeeding and surpassing the former ones. Moreover, returning to his deeper source and retracing himself back to his bottomless depth, Buddha still emanates himself outwardly for the salvation of mankind. This reciprocal conversion or commutation, this elevation and descent, epitomizes for Nichiren intermediative unity of contraries.

 

THE BUDDHA AS BECOMING

As we have seen, for Nichiren the Buddha is originally pure in its essence, yet ceaselessly purifies itself through its historical appearance. This dual structure makes Buddha develop historically in such a way as to manifest himself as manifold despite his transcendent Oneness. His manifestation in the relative world is conditioned by human will and conduct. That the reality of Buddha is in process means that Buddha is not merely a meditation object, a calm transcendence, but the Buddha's reality is also a subjective dynamism operating to connect the ever-changing world with the permanent true reality. Through the intermediacy of his self-denial, the Buddha is active in becoming real and actual in space and time, and coincidentally human beings too are operative in approaching and attaining the true reality at hand by means of their practical acts and behaviors. The transcendent Buddha is immanent in human beings, and human beings are also in the act of overcoming the limitations and restrictions toward the perfect state of self and the universe. The perfect state of self and the universe is to be attained not by meditation but by practice in such a way as to unify the relative and the Absolute in the direction of negative mediation.

    Thus it might be said that the completion of the way of transcendence toward the Absolute is essentially no different from the way of returning from

 

 

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the ever-changing world to its profoundly bottomless ground, the prehistoric origin, the principle in eternity. These conflicting orientations are at one with each other in every moment. In other words, the identification of man and Buddha is possible only when the reality of Buddha and human praxis are united. For, even though the Buddha is vertically complete, it is always impossible for him to complete his essence horizontally in the direction of historical development. In short, Buddha always remains incomplete in his process of developing. In this incomplete state, the Buddha must constantly fulfill himself so as to unite the relative and the absolute. To come into contact with the original principle, man must take the imperfect and incomplete as an expedient medium for reaching nirvaa.na, the perfect unity of self and the universe. So the actualization of the absolute essence immanent in our beings takes place in space and time, the evolutionary world of mankind. Man is capable of reconciling himself with Buddha, and this arises partially but not completely in every moment of mind.

    As the eternal becomes historical, the original reality in eternity comes into being as the self-identification between the relative and the Absolute in a praxis, rather than through the transcendental self-identity of them in meditation. By putting a praxis into operation within our historical world, the origin in eternity becomes active, manifesting itself as a real unity of opposites in space and time.

    To reach the perfect unification of transcendence and immanence is at once out of our reach as well as within it, that is, the origin in motionless eternity contains in itself that process of development which will revert and retrace itself in reduplicative movement. In this way, the attainment is ultimately reversed to the root cause or origin, and vice versa.

    The implications of this are highly significant for the Nichiren school's conception of the relation between Buddha and the empirical world through incarnation as well as transcendence. For the Buddha who transcends completely the sphere of relativity is nevertheless bound to incarnate in order to exist within the space-time structures of this world. The fact that the eternal Buddha is once and for all embodied in the person of Nichiren signifies that while the Eternal Buddha is not limited by space and time, the reality of space and time is dispensably necessary for Him in the actuality of His relations with us. Therefore, only within the space-time structures of this world do we have the possibility of attaining the perfect unity of the original reality and the phenomenal world through the praxis which intermediates those historical structures in a limitless futuristic progress. Man's immediate contact with Buddha is impossible. It is only through the intermediacy of the just described double negation that man can contact the Buddha in the realm of empirical relativity. Thus, through the reversion to the eternal origin, the intermediative unity between the relative and the absolute arises and originates in the shape of a personal being within the evolving world of our existence. Thus, Nichiren's

 

 

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appearance in the Mappoo Era, the third stage of the evolution of Buddhism, is understood to be the incarnation of the Eternal Buddha. Consequently, without his appearance Buddhism would have ceased. In other words, Nichiren is identical with the Eternal Buddha, and the latter is historically mediated by the former through the praxis of annihilating himself continuously. Nichiren acted as a mediator between human beings and Buddha, and established the norm for all human beings after him. Therefore, Nichiren says that eternity was projected and duplicated upon his body exactly. [1] This means that eternity and historical time were conjugated in his body through the act of his attaining Buddhahood, and the previous events of attainment were duplicated in him. This is Nichiren's concept of the "Eternal Now," in that eternity is manifested in the now and the now is exalted to the level of eternity. In the moment of the eternal now, the advance is identical with the retirement; the elevation is reversed as the descent. The transcendent origin beyond space and time is in contact with the human world at that moment, and thereby originates the concrete being personalized in individuality. Hence, through Nichiren the retirement to the origin is coincident with the advance of history; one is no different from the other.

    Since the eternal is embodied in a personal being, it is impossible for us to seek the Buddha apart from Nichiren. And at that moment when the historical time has returned to the eternal beginning, we can retrace the root origin in eternity and from that origin start a new course of historical evolution. The culmination of the development of `Saakyamuni returns to its original source in eternity, and this represents the upward line from advance to retreat. In contrast to this, Nichiren represents the downward line from retreat to advance in which a new advance is initiated from the root origin in eternity, emanating itself toward the future. It is in this sense that Nichiren is understood to be the embodiment of the eternal principle.

 

NICHIREN'S RETROSPECTIVE VIEWS OF `SAAKYAMUNI

`Saakyamuni-buddha is symbolized in two ways: as the eternal `Saakyamuni beyond space and time and as the historical `Saakyamuni, the embodiment of the former in space and time. How does Nichiren understand his relationship to these two senses of `Saakyamuni?

    Despite their difference as particulars, `Saakyamuni and Nichiren are considered identical, insofar as they originate from the one ultimate reality that subordinates all phenomenal buddhas to itself. In spite of their essential identity, Chih-i and Saichoo are understood to be superior to Kaa`syapa and Aananda, and they are all surpassed by Nichiren in the successive process of development of the Buddha Law. They are all identical in their essence but different in their appearances. [2] Let us examine more closely how they are seen to differ.

    Here we must consider the horizontal and vertical reduplication of the act of transcending and returning. By this process the individualization and

 

 

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differentiation of the self-identity occurs among the persons in the sphere of historical progress. In the case of a buddha, for example, as soon as `Saakyamuni culminates in the act of transcending, he reverts to his own original source and from that a new buddha comes out in a new and distinct name and form. In the perspective of history, the historical realization of the Eternal Buddha is raised up by the instrument of the act of transcending, which is in accord with the act of returning from the eternal origin. In mutual reversal the original Buddha in eternity becomes productive of the dependent buddhas in history. The development of individualization and differentiation is constituted by the double movement of advance and reversion which are reduplicated in the progress of history, and consequently `Saakyamuni and Nichiren are in harmony with each other.

    The relation of Nichiren to the eternal `Saakyamuni divides into the two directions of advance and retreat, which also constitute two views of history: a retrospective view and a developmental view. They are reciprocally dependent and interrelated and Nichiren says that the beginning of the Mappoo Era is primary and the previous eras subsidiary. [3] Only in the Mappoo Era can human beings effect the original cause in present actuality and insofar as the present is to be retraced to its cause in the original past, everyone is based upon the absolute transcendent origin. Nichiren's principle of the historicity of the eternal, as contrasted with the concept of a timeless eternity, is crucial in understanding the evolution of Buddhism. Nichiren explains this conception as "eternity coming into existence in the person and being of buddha at every moment." The Buddha's saving action is at work for all mankind and forever unfinished insofar as the history of mankind is not yet finished. Hence, mankind is always open to the absolute future, that is, whenever the Buddha completes one cycle of advancing, he directly commences a new cycle. The perfect effect (the state of emancipation from suffering) is caused by the reversal to the original source, the ground of being; were there no original source, there would be no Buddha. What is meant by the word "Buddha" is that state in which the true reality of self and the universe is realized and established in contemplation or praxis by man, that is, Being's actively becoming present and manifest in personality through the instrumentality of human practice.

    As soon as we have arrived at the culmination of the upward line of transcending, we are forced to go back along an already traversed path. This means that the going is nothing but the coming and vice versa. Nichiren says, even though the Laws and truths of the temporal buddhas were always profound and recondite, they lacked the concept of process as an element in the system of Buddhism. [4] One can say that as the preexistence of Jesus Christ became actualized in history, so the preexistence of Nichiren in eternity became actual in the historical process. In the equation of end and beginning, a new development comes forth again from the ultimate root. Thus, with the death of `Saakyamuni, Nichiren was already predestined to come into play in the future of

 

 

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mankind. At the culminating point the end and the beginning are one and the same, being eternal without beginning or end. And in the beginningless beginning the contrary movements vanish into nothing, and there is the transposition of causality.

    We must now explain the relationship between the other buddhas preceding `Saakyamuni (for example, Diipamkara, Amitaayus and Amitaabha, and Mahaavairocana) and the original `Saakyamuni in the eternal past. Altogether they constitute branches of himself. Past buddhas and present buddhas are entirely ascribed and attributed to the original `Saakyamuni in eternity, whose appearance in the Mappoo Era, the third step of the history of the evolving world of ours, is none other than Nichiren. Hence, the eternal `Saakyamuni is, so to speak, the exalted One only insofar as He is the humiliated One. Retrospectively, the particular buddhas are the self-manifestations of the eternal `Saakyamuni, though in various degrees and grades. For that reason, the ultimate essence of the original `Saakyamuni in eternity remains imperfect and incomplete and must be reserved for further manifestation in the most sufficient and fullest form. It is therefore pointed out that Vi`si.s.tacaaritra Bodhisattva will spring out of the groundless ground and will appear as a historical person in order to save all mankind in the future. This prophesy is understood to be fulfilled by Nichiren.

    The principle of the advance qua reversion is realized and fulfilled in fact only through the intermediacy of human praxis between the relative and the absolute in evolving of human history. But the converse must also be valid: the reversion or retirement is also advancement or development. Both are conditioned by dependent-origination and reflect each other. Owing to this, the Eternal Buddha himself can undergo changes in others, in human beings. The saving work of Buddha effects a total reversal in the life and destiny of man, a complete turning or revolution, in which the advance is displaced by the retreat, in which the reversion is replaced by the development. In addition, the Eternal Buddha in his concrete manifestation is motivated to incarnate himself in human flesh and return man to the origin through his infinite mercy.

    Attainment of Buddhahood by man is made possible through the mediacy of the act of transcending and returning whereby the historical actuality is positively intervened. By the instrumentality of practical actions, advancement qua retirement can develop and function while maintaining both dimensions of movement, in a true dialectical relation. Consequently, Buddhahood and the historical actuality are brought into a line by the instrument of the interventional acts of transcending and returning.

    Because the relative and the absolute, time and eternity, are not in immediate or direct contact, they are indirectly intervened by a medium or agent in the process of the continuum as the discontinuum reduplicated in every moment. Therefore, it is clear that the forms of manifestation of the Buddha in the future cannot be allowed to be determined by the criteria of the predecessors, so that it is inescapable that the Buddha will continue to manifest himself

 

 

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in individuality. In particular, such future phenomena will surely tend to integrate further ethics and culture with religion in unexpected ways.

 

THE REAL BECOMING OF THE BUDDHA FROM TIME IMMEMORIAL

The Eternal Buddha, according to Nichiren, has a dual character of principle or truthful body and factual or actual body. The principle or truthful body, as eternal, is beginningless and endless, while the factual or actual body is really formed as an event in space and time. Nevertheless, in essence, they are not different. The concept of the bodhisattvas issuing from the earth is the very key to understanding the relationship between the two. Since the relation between time and eternity involves that of finitude and infinity, their opposition is only united with the help of the central notion of the active and subjective, that is, conscious, beings. In other words, a factual or actual body arises through the efficacy of action and becomes a real event in the space-time existence of the world. Eternity becomes historical time through the agency of the praxis of the Bodhisattvas Issuing, and we can find thereby a concrete buddha personalized in history; that is the conception of a factual or actual body as a real event in space and time.

    Furthermore, the idea of the atoms of dust of fifty hundred thousand myriads of ko.tis of worlds or aeons indicate this real event of becoming-buddha in time immemorial, described in the Lotus-Suutra. But the principle body underlying history is eternal without beginning, and absolute Nothingness. Nichiren says, in passages of the Principal Image of Contemplation (Kanjin no Honzon sho) [5], that the `Saakyamuni indwelling in our own minds is the three-bodied One manifested over the atoms of dust of fifty hundred thousand myriads of ko.tis of aeons ago and is no more than the Old Buddha without beginning. [6] This means that the beginningless body of principle ought to be transformed into a personal buddha in history through the mediacy of the deeds of bodhisattvas through which the transcendent eternity underlying history must be subjectively annihilated and restricted as a finite time. It is thus obvious that the Eternal Buddha is of the very character of historical reality in spite of its Indeterminateness. Therefore, also the idea of the atoms of dust of fifty hundred thousand myriads of ko.tis of aeons is not simply a metaphor or hypothesis, but more importantly, a real event which took place in time immemorial. To summarize, the conception of the Eternal Buddha cannot be described immediately as either a principle body of truth or an actual body of fact. Rather these two bodies intermediate each other through the concept of the bodhisattvas issuing from the earth and by whose deeds the transhistorical reality is to be put into motion and transferred into a historial concretization.

    In respect to the Eternal Buddha, because we cannot regard it as a body of principle alone, nor as a body of fact alone, it is supposed to be void (`suunya) of self-nature and substance. Therefore, `Saakyamuni may safely be described as a real occurrence in actuality, though infinitely long ago, as well as the Infinite

 

 

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itself hidden behind the established body. We cannot simply presuppose the existence of the Eternal Buddha from the very beginning, since human agency is needed to make it apparent and effective. The body of principle and a body of fact are not identical in a direct way or independent of practical agency. They are identical through perpetual annihilation or self-denial, cyclically manifest or hidden, coming into and going out of existence. In the process of ever-establishing, the eternal, transcendent Buddha is caused to be immanent and manifest in past, present, and future through the performance of the perpetual emptying by the bodhisattvas.

    In the absence of praxis, the two bodies of principle and of fact are in the quietly indiscriminate tranquility of nonaction but the bodhisattva, as a mediator between the two bodies, is active through realizing the eternal Absolute in the form of a person through his praxis. By mediating the dual aspect of the Buddha, the bodhisattva strives to resume his self-identity with the Eternal Buddha in the world. In this way, at the end of time, the presence of the Eternal Buddha is revealed in the realm of the conjunction of spirit and matter from the causation of cultivating one's own internal source (symbolized as the `Saakyamuni indwelling in our minds from time immemorial). This appearance takes place at every moment of time in which the eternal becomes material and qualitative as a result of the cultivation by bodhisattvas. Accordingly, their cultivating activity has been ever ceaseless and will continue to be reduplicated.

    Through the voiding of the Void in the praxis of bodhisattvas, the Eternal Buddha inexplicably indeterminate in essential content, becomes explicit and determinate in terms of various names and forms. The completed `Saakyamuni, distinct from the One born in India, is the oldest primary form of the Eternal Buddha. In the activity of avoiding the Void through reduplication, the three ages of past, present, and future manifest themselves successively along with the established or manifested buddhas.

    Furthermore, when and where Void is voided, eternity is actualized in time, and time is eternalized, hence the moment of time in which the eternity is present is full of and characterized by the Absoluteness. In the development of such eternalization of time, history takes the form of a dual structure of temporality and eternality.

    The bodhisattva is the willful agent which actualizes the eternal essence of Buddha in the historical world. This actualization is begun but remains ever unfulfilled. Not only is the life of the Buddha immortal, but we may say that the life of the Bodhisattva is also everlasting and immortalized since the Buddha and the Bodhisattva are accompanied by and intrinsically combined with each other through the mediation of human praxis.

    The formation of eternity in time and space takes place in the personal, humanized being, instead of the impersonal Absolute. The limitation of the unlimited is personality, and the personal self is to be merged in an impersonal

 

 

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entity which is without any quality or definition on the principle of the non-duality of spirit and matter. To identify completely one's being with the infinite being which is beyond all perceptible characteristics is possible through the creative act of self-denial of the individual subject who realizes the transcendental consciousness. In mere contemplation, on the other hand, there is no activity by means of which to actualize this identification. There is only the aesthetic feeling of identity.

    In the attitude of aesthetic contemplation, the differentiation between all the peculiarities is eliminated but this is a one-sided transcendence. Because of this, the Void is still void and not yet turned into the action of voiding itself through human praxis. Therefore, aesthetic contemplation plays only a preliminary role to the act of emptying or voiding. Only after self-negation or emptying can the Eternal Buddha descend into the relative or empirical world. As a result, the element of practical agency is the most important function for the actualization of the Absolute in the realm of our space-time existence. The bodhisattva represents this functional factor.

    Without surrendering the individuality of the person, a bodhisattva can attain perfect harmony with the Buddha. This harmony entails unity as well as duality between principle and fact or the personal and the impersonal. Buddha and bodhisattva must be one and two at the same time in the human praxis of the void emptying itself in turn. Only in the conversion of Emptiness or Vacuity into the nonempty phenomenon are motion and rest unified. The unceasing energy of human praxis meets at the point where Emptiness itself is emptied; the Eternal Buddha is immanent in an instant of thought. Consequently, we are all in potentiality bodhisattvas. If this potential energy is manifested, it will be expressed symbolically in the form of the bodhisattva.

    Through the process of the reduplication of self-negation of the self-voiding Void, a concrete unity of the individual and the universal is produced. In this formative process, the Absolute takes the relative as an expedient of self-actualization, while in contemplation, they are intimately self-identified in terms of a static nondiscrimination between them. As an expedient, relative beings are required for the concrete unification of the relative and the Absolute; contemplation merely reduces the relative to the Absolute.

    The speculative monism of the Japanese Tendai school of the True Awakening (Nihon Tendai Hongaku mon [a]) contrasts with the preceding. In that system, there is no activity of human praxis within the historical world, so that concreteness is abstracted and removed from the relative beings which are then identified with, or absorbed into the Absolute. The concept of the bodhisattva as a mediative agent between human beings and Buddha is lacking in it. Therefore, one cannot escape making a distinction between the Nichiren and Japanese Tendai schools in their fundamental features and structures of thought.

    Here we should make one final qualification. In the case of religion, the

 

 

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theory of Buddha-body unfolds itself in three ways: the changes or temporary body, the reward or enjoyment body, and the true or essence body. In the philosophical analysis of the Nichiren school, though, it is enough to treat the two concepts of principle-body and fact-body, for both the body of change and the body of enjoyment are embraced in the concept of the body of fact. Thus, in this article, the philosophical way has been taken. In any case, when the Eternal Buddha assumes a manifestation or transmutation within historical personality, it has to assume temporarily a physical body in response to the needs of men and women. At this point a resonance between the secular and the Divine is established. In other words, a unity between the body of principle and the body of fact is the absolute in the phenomenal relativity, that is, in the sphere of personality. Yet, this is also a dynamical drive toward a self-transcendence in the present boundless movement. This is the manifestation of the eternal under the conditions of our spatial/temporal existence. The end of our individual existence leads us to the beginning of the universe, the eternal origin of all the phenomenal worlds.

 

 

NOTES

1. On the One Hundred and Six Doctrines [Hyakurokka shoo [b]], The Collected Works of the Nichiren Sect [c] (Tokyo: The Nichiren-shuu shuugaku zensho Press, 1959), vol. 2, pp. 19, 21. A similar expression is also typically found in the Perfection of the Original Cause [Honnin myoo shoo [d]], The Collected Works of the Nichiren Sect, 2, p. 2.

2. This is expressed chiefly in the Letter of Requital of Kindness (Hoonjoo [e]), Taishoo Tripi.taka [f] vol. 84, p. 271ab.

3. The Principal Image of Contemplation (Kanjin no Honzon shoo), Taishoo, 84, p. 276a. Refer to the later note 5.

4. The Principal Image of Contemplation, Taishoo, 84, p. 275a.

5. Its full title is that the Principal Image of Contemplation which is to begin in the period of the fifth Five Hundred Years after the extinction of the Historical Buddha (Nyorai metsugo gono Gohyakusai ni hajimu Kanjin no Honzon shoo [g]).

6. Taishoo, 84, p. 275a.

 

a  日本天台本覺門

b  百六箇抄

c  日蓮宗宗學全書

d  本因妙抄

e  報恩抄

f   大正新修大藏經

g  如來滅後五五百歲始觀心本尊抄