The Principle of the Oneness of Life and Its Environment
Recently, abnormal climatic conditions have become prevalent throughout the world. The great earthquake in Japan this year measured a magnitude of 9.0, and it was one of the strongest quakes to rock Japan in all of history. This earthquake, together with the tsunami that followed, caused tremendous devastation. In the affected areas, approximately 20,000 individuals, including those whose bodies never were recovered, lost their precious lives as a result. It is difficult to imagine how many people have been deeply affected by losing their families, homes, jobs, and their hopes for the future.
The opening paragraph of the Rissho ankoku-ron (On Securing the Peace of the Land through the Propagation of True Buddhism) states:
In recent years there have been unusual occurrences in the heavens, and natural disasters on earth. Famine and epidemics rage in all lands beneath the skies and in every corner of the realm. Dead cattle and horses are everywhere, and human skeletons clutter the streets. More than half the population has already perished, and there is not a single person who does not mourn.
(Gosho, p. 234; The Gosho of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 2, p. 1)
The Daishonin graphically describes the tragic conditions in the world at that time. The site of the recent Great East Japan Earthquake closely resembled these conditions in the Daishonin’s time. This shows us that there is little difference in the catastrophic conditions of the world today, even though civilization has made remarkable progress over the ages.
When we look upon these conditions from the perspective of Buddhism, we must ask ourselves whether the happiness and unhappiness of the people are influenced by environmental circumstances, such as natural disasters, or whether the environment, itself, is affected by the hearts and minds of the people. This question is truly significant for people today in our global society. Perhaps the answer already is apparent.
Many people realize that they have gradually harmed their global environment, because they have continued to seek out convenience and increased wealth excessively, based on their covetous natures. The recent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant symbolizes this excess. In other words, our
happiness or unhappiness is not determined by the environment around us. The fundamental cause lies within our rampantly greedy hearts.
The Buddhist explanation for this phenomenon is given through the principle of the “oneness of life and its environment” (esho funi). Miaole, who received the doctrines expounded by the Great Teacher Tiantai, taught the principle of the “ten onenesses” (jippuni mon). The oneness of life and its environment is one of these ten onenesses.
The principle of the oneness of life and its environment signifies the inseparability and solid relationship between the environment (eho) and human life (shoho). Human life refers to the bodies and minds of the people, manifested as the karmic effects of causes made in past lifetimes. The environment, by contrast, represents the surroundings that are familiar to the people. The principle of the oneness of life and its environment (esho funi) describes how the environment and life are contained within the minds and hearts of the people. It also describes how they are inseparable and form a solid unity together. Therefore, the realm of the environment exists without fail wherever there are people. Furthermore, the positive and negative conduct of the people is directly reflected in the environment. Additionally, the teachings that the people embrace in their hearts—whether they uphold true Buddhism or a heretical doctrine—will directly determine the environmental conditions in which they live.
Nichiren Daishonin wrote the following in his Gosho, “Attaining Buddhahood in this Lifetime” (“Issho jobutsu-sho”):
If the hearts and minds of the people are tainted, so is their land. However, if their minds are pure, the land also will be pure. The land, in itself, is not divided into two types. Indeed, whether the land is pure or impure is solely determined by our hearts and minds.
(Gosho, p. 46)
According to the teachings of Buddhism, it may seem as though there are two types of lands: the pure and untainted land of the Buddha and the impure and tainted land of the saha world. In fact, the land is not divided into two types. The Daishonin teaches us that, if the people embrace true Buddhism and maintain correct faith in their hearts, then the land becomes a pure, untainted realm. However, if they uphold erroneous teachings, then the land turns into a tainted, impure land. These were the instructions given by the Daishonin, based on the principle of the oneness of life and its environment (esho funi).
Note: This article can be read in its entirety in the January, 2012 edition of the Nichiren Shoshu Monthly magazine. For more information, please contact your local temple.