Everyone typically looks at life from the surface standpoint. They
see superficial cause and effect and think that's all there is to
life. But Buddhism reveals a hidden, deeper level of life and of
cause and effect. And it is this, deepest level of life that we
must deal with if we are to make fundamental changes to our life.
In the last chapter we hopefully decided that we would challenge
ourselves to become Buddhas in this lifetime. In this chapter we
will learn some of the philosophical tools that we can utilize to
accomplish this daunting task. Let me remind the reader, though,
that this is not about intellectualism. What we're about to discuss
can only truly be understood by someone on a mission, a mission
to use Buddhist theory; A mission to become a Buddha.
Buddhist theory, unused, is by definition Buddhist theory misunderstood.
So even if you "know" these theories, until you challenge
yourself with at least a 90-day chanting challenge, you will not
know the real meaning of them. And this goes for all of us
we who have been acquainted with Buddhism for years. Without efforts
to dig deep, using our chanting and determination to overcome all
suffering as motivation, we will not really understand these seemingly
simple concepts either. To coin a phrase from Richard Dawkins book
"The Blind Watchmaker" we must now put on our intellectual
running shoes. We may appreciate the theories without such efforts,
but we'll never truly understand.
How to See Your Own Life
When we change our karma, meaning the cumulative cause and effect
of life, at the deepest levels of our individual life, the effects
of those changes "bubble up" to the visible surface level
of our perception and of our environment. In other words, the changes
happen at the subconscious level where they are unseen, but eventually
work their way up to our conscious and visible level. Our visible
level of perception about who we are and how we are is therefore
insufficient for us to use in understanding our own lives correctly.
To make any sense of this, we will first have to introduce the concept
of Life Condition into the discussion.
Life Condition is perhaps the most useful way ever devised to look
at our moment-to-moment life, and do so in the clearest, truest
and deepest way. Yet Life Condition is an elusive reality. Up to
this very moment you may have seen yourself as being 'one way';
as in 'I'm generally a happy person.' Or 'My whole life just sucks!'
Or some other characterization of how you 'are'. Yet with just a
bit of reflection you'll recognize that some days you wake up, and
for no apparent reason, you seem happier, more alert, more in control
of yourself, and other days - well, not so much so.
Other, more troubling scenarios might be the observations of those
with life-threatening diseases, for which no known cure has yet
been found. Clinical observations comparing the progression of such
diseases in different individuals have shown stark contrasts. Some,
with a low life condition and weak will to live, succumb to a physical
state within their body that in others, with a strong life condition,
merely precede years of fulfilling life or even remission of the
disease. It has already been proven to many clinicians that an assertive
or even aggressive life condition in a patient yields a marked difference
in their recovery. (There may even be some truth to the adage "only
the good die young" - it all depends on how you translate "good."
My great grandmother, for instance, was known to be so mean and
contemptuous to everyone, including her closest family members,
that when she was given only weeks to live they all just knew that
the doctors didn't know what they were talking about - she would
live for years more. And, of course, they were right. She lived
years longer. Maybe there should be a corollary adage: "too
mean to die.")
Do you get a feel for the concept of life condition now? Hopefully
you do. But Buddhism isn't just about observation of others' lives,
nor about being mean. Buddhism takes the concept of life condition
and goes beyond the static concept into a utilitarian one.
A concept devised by the Chinese philosopher T'ien T'ai (considered
by many to also be a Buddha) elucidates the principle of the ever-changing
Life Condition. He, basing his conclusions on Shakyamuni Buddha's
Lotus Sutra, came up with a concept loosely interpreted as Life
Condition, the Life Moment, and the Mutual Possession of the Ten
Worlds. (For those of you who speak Japanese it's called ichinen
sanzen.) It is a concept that is crucial to one's understanding
of Buddhism and of one's own life. If you don't understand the concept
of Life Condition, it's going to be very hard to understand what
an enlightened Life Condition - one with no suffering, full of hope
and passion - is; and that, after all, is what the practice of Buddhism
is all about.
In order to have any grasp of what Life Condition is, you must first
understand the relationship of time to life. This is termed the
Life Moment. Each moment has, so to speak, all the potential of
the future and all the history of the past, within it. That is to
say, each moment is the cause for an infinite line or path of causation,
and it is also the effect of an infinite history of cause and effect
that has already taken place. Both past and future are thereby "contained"
within the present moment. Another way of putting it is that you
only have the present moment; there is no "real" past
or "real" future.
So before we get into describing the present moment's general descriptions
known as the Ten Worlds, let's take a moment to reflect on the fact
that we don't really comprehend all of the potentials of each and
every moment of our life. We all look with disdain at our present
moments and think: "There's not much potential for change or
for creating good in this present moment." We misunderstand
our own life's potential. It's no wonder, then, that we do not live
up to our life's full potential. We're always waiting for a "future
moment" to deal with changing our lives. Seeing our own nature
through the Ten Worlds gives us a handle on what our life is really
like and what we need to do to develop it.
People who believe they already understand what their life is really
like underestimate the influence of their life's past causes. Most
of our present moment choices are actually predominantly made as
invisibly influenced effects of past cumulative choices. So just
understanding our own Ten Worlds, the Life Moment, and the concept
of Life Condition does not change us, but it does give us a look
at how we can go about changing ourselves, by ourselves. And that's
how change, if it is to occur, will ever occur: By us more deeply
understanding our own cause and effect relationships and taking
the kind of actions in the present moment that transcend the influences
of our past causes.
The Ten Worlds
The Ten Worlds are not physical places, but are nonetheless real.
They are momentary states of life that each person can exhibit at
any given time. The first six are ones in which most people live all
of the time. They are commonly known as the "Six Lower Worlds."
Each of us has a "Central Life Tendency" associated with
one of them. That is, there is a particular Life Condition that you
will always tend to go back to whenever there is a lack of internal
or external stimuli to activate a different one. Keep this in mind.
There will be a test on it later. Or rather, there will continually
be tests on your Central Life Tendency as you learn more about it
and begin the challenge of changing it. And you will be the one conducting
these tests and measuring your grade against the scale of Buddhahood.
But that's getting ahead of ourselves.
So then, to describe the Ten Worlds, they are:
Hell. This state of life is characterized by a feeling of hopelessness,
sadness, fear, depression, lack of confidence, tiredness, the sense
that nothing will change for the better and that there is nothing
anyone can or will do to change it. And these feelings are not necessarily
limited to people in desperate situations. People in the midst of
"the good life" can become hopeless and depressed, even
dwelling on or committing suicide
the ultimate expression of
the World of Hell.
Hunger. This is an overwhelming feeling of desire. It could
be a desire for food, but usually denotes a "need" for some
external stimulus that the person in this World thinks will result
in their happiness. Examples of things that a person might Hunger
for are sex, companionship of a loved one, money, cars, houses, an
addictive craving for drugs or alcohol to relieve your pain, and the
list goes on and on. In the moment you are in the World of Hunger,
you are, so to speak, a slave to your desires. Everyone alive experiences
this World, just as they experience all of the other Six Lower Worlds,
from time to time.
It has been said that desire is the root of suffering. Yet desire
is necessary for life to be sustained. The World of Hunger, like the
other nine Worlds of the Ten Worlds, has the potential of all the
others within it (hence, the term Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds).
So the World of Hunger looks different on different people who have
a different Central Life Tendency. It even looks different at different
times to you. But let's go on.
Animality. A person in this World behaves like an animal in
that they prey on those whom they perceive to be weaker than them
and cower before those whom they perceive to be more powerful than
them. Work environments are perhaps the most common places where behaviors
arising from this World occur. And the military might just be the
easiest work environment in which to see it. A person in this World
may pretend to willingly do everything that their boss tells them
and to respect their boss's authority. Then, when the opportunity
arises, they wind up treating their own subordinates in a high-handed
or authoritarian manner. Another description of Animality is contained
in the common phrase "the law of the jungle." The struggle
for power becomes all consuming and fear of others with more power
than you debilitates you for the moment when you are in this World
or Life Condition. In the Life Moment when you are in the World of
Animality you perceive life in terms of nothing but power. "Who
is more powerful? How do I become more powerful? Do others recognize
my power? What do I need to do to express and sustain my power?"
These are some of the thoughts of a person in this World.
Anger. The World of Anger is perhaps the most deceptively named
of the Ten Worlds. The reason it's deceptive is that many have mastered
an ability to have a smile on their face while in it. It is a condition
of egotism and self-righteousness. Like Animality, it's a condition
that is focused on power. Wars start from the collective Life Condition
of a nation centered in the World of Anger. Dogmatism about religion,
politics, relationships, etc. comes from this Life Condition. All
others are to believe you simply because of who you are (your status
and previous accomplishments) not because what you are saying now
is necessarily reasonable or correct. The most familiar example of
this world might be parental anger over the failure of a child to
blindly obey an unreasonable demand. The parent becomes enraged that
their authority is being challenged. They then lash out, yell, hit,
or in other inappropriate ways, threaten others into obeying. If they
still cannot force others to become subservient, they become embarrassed
and humiliated over the incident. This humiliation may fuel further
acts of Anger.
These four lower Worlds, or Life Conditions, are known as the Four
Evil Paths. They are called this because they tend to lead individuals
down to the lowest condition - the World of Hell.
Those in the World of Hunger, for example, after they have exhausted
their efforts to obtain what they desire and cannot do so, quickly
plunge into the condition of Hell or hopelessness. This is especially
true if they believe that their desire is the only means of attaining
happiness for themselves. As for being in the condition of Animality,
you also begin to feel helpless and hopeless unless you have found
a way to become the "top dog" in what you consider to be
the most important aspects of your daily life. Then you become entrenched
in the World of Anger, thinking yourself superior to all others and
forcing your will on everyone around you. At that point, your unrelenting
and egotistical attitude will be met by those with more power. Or
you may be faced by those who can clearly point out your errors and
cause others, from whom you obtained your power of Anger in the first
place, to lose respect and quit following you. Rich people who flaunt
their wealth, such as newly rich athletes for example, begin to feel
so powerful that they actually become outraged when some authorities
point out that they cannot break the laws about their use of drugs
or other things 'no matter who they think they are.' So much for the
Four Evil Paths. Now on to the fifth World.
Tranquility (also called Humanity). This is another World that
is somewhat difficult to describe. This state is often mistaken for
enlightenment, even by some contemporary Buddhists. It is a condition
where you can use rational judgment. You can carry on conversations
and have dialogues without becoming distraught about concerns for
your own life or the lives of others. This condition is actually the
goal of many people. This is what they strive for. They believe that
if they could just become tranquil, then they wouldn't need anything
else in their lives.
One of the problems with this World is that while in it, you really
can't accomplish much of anything at all with your life. Desire causes
people to take action, sometimes for good and sometimes for bad and,
most often, somewhere in between. When people are in the World of
Tranquility, they are momentarily absent from desire. This can be
a good thing, and usually feels good to the person experiencing it.
However, desire goes beyond selfishness sometimes and extends to helping
others. For instance, one might feel a desire to stop animal abuse.
In the World of Tranquility however, such a desire would be absent.
So it becomes difficult to get much accomplished while in Tranquility,
either for oneself or for others.
So much effort is put forth to avoid emotionalism or passion that,
despite what you would think at first view, this World is actually
exhausting in that it is impossible to remain in it without just shutting
out the realities of your life and the lives of others. And shutting
out reality doesn't really help at all. In fact, efforts to remain
in this world most often lead a person straight to the World of Anger,
characterized by an element of smugness over having escaped sufferings
that others around them still endure. (Ever have someone shout at
you, "Look, I just don't care! Leave me alone!"?) In this
way, the person in the World of Tranquility, now Anger, falls prey
to the same cycle of the Four Evil Paths described earlier. Or, at
another extreme of the World of Tranquility, one may develop the hollow,
emptiness of a catatonic-like state of life. While this temporarily
relieves suffering, it does not allow joy. Absence of suffering is
not joy, as we shall see with the next World.
Rapture. The condition of Rapture, as the name implies, is
one of elation or ecstasy. It can be the result of a positive outcome
within the World of Hunger. Obtaining what you wanted brings about
a feeling of elation that consumes you for the moment. A main negative
characteristic of this condition is that, while enjoyable, it is short
lived. And because it is short lived, it tends to plunge your life
condition deeply into the Worlds of Hell or Hunger in the instant
it is over. Soon, there is a tendency for one in the World of Rapture
to instantly start "looking over their shoulder" in anticipation
of the fall from this condition of relative happiness. Experience
has taught that it is short lived, yet they know of no other experience
of happiness in their lives than when they are experiencing this Life
Condition or World. They can't even conceive of pleasure that is more
durable and enjoyable than the pleasures of the World of Rapture.
They have no experience with much of anything outside of these Six
Most people tend to cycle through these Six Lower Worlds over and
over again without any hope of breaking free from them. For instance,
the person in a war zone may hunger to return home to the relative
Tranquility and peace of their hometown or perhaps they Hunger for
the affection of the ones they love. While these desires drive them,
they can think of nothing else and they can actually become consumed
by their World of Hunger. When they do finally reach their goal and
leave the war zone for their desired environment, they at first live
in the World of Rapture. To whatever degree of Hunger they exhibited,
their Condition of Rapture now seems to correspond in intensity. But
Rapture, as we have discussed, is short-lived, and the glow of the
changed environment soon fades. The same problems they had before
they were in the war zone seem to now start up to a greater degree
than they ever did before. Believing now that there is no escape from
this new-found suffering that seems frustratingly based in the sufferings
they had left behind for the war zone, the person then will fall into
the World of Hell or back into Hunger for some other circumstance
they think will bring them happiness. Or perhaps they'll center their
lives on the World of Anger or Animality, focusing on those around
them, now that they're 'back home,' who fail to appreciate or support
them after they've been through the intensity and struggles of war.
This can even result in domestic violence or criminal social violence
that puts the person in jail or to death as a result of their hopeless
suffering - ironically, upon leaving the environment of the war zone.
Or if the hungry-to-escape-the-war-zone-person does get a good new
job and honor and reward for their efforts during the war, such praise
will generally lead them to center on Anger and self-indulgent egoism.
From the World of Anger they continue cycling through the Six Lower
If the person, prior to leaving the war zone, is in the World of Hunger,
but not so overcome with desire to leave as in the previous examples,
they can expect less dramatic suffering upon the fulfillment of this
desire. Yet the karma, the causes that led them to be there in the
first place, is always with them. A constant desire for Tranquility
now can insidiously overtake the person without them consciously being
aware of it. Hunger for Tranquility seems to be the main thing that
causes this person to take any action at all. And during those moments
when they reach Tranquility, either through shutting out anyone and
everyone around themselves, or through, perhaps, the use of drugs,
they sooner or later then sink into the hopelessness of the World
These are hypothetical examples of the constant cycle of the Six Lower
Worlds that occurs in all people. People make choices and make causes
based on the Life Condition they're in at the moment. We tend to believe
we're in charge of making our life choices, but in fact, our Life
Condition is the greatest influence over our choices. We are slaves
to our own Life Condition and the cyclical nature of the Six Lower
If one simply observes either their own life or the lives of those
around them with these characterizations of Life Condition in mind,
they will certainly see the trap of the Six Lower Worlds. Not a pleasant
cycle at all, is it? It's no wonder Shakyamuni sought out an end to
sufferings that we humans endure.
Now as you look around yourself with an understanding of the Six Lower
Worlds, it's important to reflect on the original intent of Buddhism.
Buddhism exists only to relieve suffering. Outside rules and precepts
don't work to change which of the Six Lower Worlds you are in at any
given moment. And good deeds don't necessarily carry you on the path
to Buddhahood any more than killing, stealing, or any other negative
deeds necessarily prevent you from successfully pursuing the path
to Buddhahood. Eliminating suffering then, is something that is done
on a much deeper plane than any "good deeds" you can perform
within these Lower Six Worlds.
The things that work to eliminate your suffering and the suffering
of those around you will become clearer as we discuss the next four
Worlds. These Lower Six Worlds we've just discussed are painfully
familiar to all of us. While the next Worlds are more pleasant to
discuss, they're far more difficult to really understand.
Buddhism requires a strong sense of responsibility, self discipline
and a seeking mind. But know this, you will never have to become subservient
to a mentor or follow monastic rules in order to break the cycle of
the Six Lower Worlds and become a Buddha. Your self-disciplined practice
of Buddhism, chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo every single day, will
provide a clear understanding of how to focus your efforts. Your seeking
mind will then direct you in the most appropriate way toward becoming
a Buddha, being in control of your life, and accepting total responsibility
for your life.
From now on, as a Buddhist, the only rules you must never break: Self-responsibility
for developing the compassion and wisdom of the Buddha within; Responsibility
for breaking the chains of your karma that keep you trapped in the
suffering cycle of the Six Lower Worlds; Responsibility to start chanting
and keep chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo to reach your destination.
These are summed up as one rule: Do whatever it takes to become a
I warmly and wholeheartedly encourage you to start this amazing journey
right now. Trust me on this: you won't miss being trapped in your
life's suffering. Fight against your own karma with chanting. Can
you do an hour per day before you read the next chapter? Each and
every effort to do so will bring you that much closer to becoming