Buddhists use chanting beads or juzu (in Japanese) while meditating.
They were used for counting by early Buddhists, but the current predominant
and enduring use is as a tactile sensory focus and stimulus while
chanting. They have much symbolism and are an important tool to use
while meditating. Notice that I said "important" not absolutely
necessary. How important, though? Well, let me put it this way, anything
that enhances the effectiveness of chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is
extremely important. The very act of chanting is a significant ritual.
During the chanting meditation you strengthen and elevate your life
condition. Access to one's life condition is by means of your senses.
Using the beads engages an important one, the sense of touch. That's
their primary purpose and using them actually helps many people focus
better while chanting. As well, there is a lot of symbolism of the
beads that is meaningful for your meditative practice.
|Tassels - They're not just for priests.
If you currently belong to a Nichiren Buddhist organization other
than NBAA, you will be "discouraged" from using meditation
beads with tassels. Instead, you will be asked to buy beads with ridiculous
looking little pom-poms. Those other Nichiren Buddhist organizations
currently say that only priests are "allowed" to use beads
with tassels (or pom-poms with extended tassels) because this denotes
their "status as teachers of the Law and to share their benefit."
They further explain that the balls or pom-poms that all people other
than priests must use symbolize the spread of Buddhism world-wide
(aka kosen rufu). The idea, I suppose, is that the pom-poms extend
their ends in every direction from the center, and this indicates
spreading Buddhism. Nice thought, until you consider what "center"
they're alluding to. Presumably it's the sangha, which specifically
means the group of monks and nuns who renounced secular life and dedicated
themselves to Buddhist practice night and day but more generally includes
all Buddhist practitioners: monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen; collectively,
the grouping of all Buddhist practitioners. If, in fact, that is what
the pom-poms mean then why don't they mean the same thing for priests
who should be part of this sangha? What they're really saying by enforcing
the use of only pom-poms for non-priests, is that priests are really
special and should be treated with more respect than you deserve.
Both Buddhists (laity & priests) should have the same kind of
Buddhist practice, according to Nichiren. He advocated that there
should "be no distinction" between those who practice Buddhism,
presumably referring to the thought that there should be no distinctions
of the status of each person rather than differences in the personal
mission of each. Priests perform ceremonies such as weddings and funerals.
Laity do not (usually). Laity have more opportunity to talk with others
about Buddhism than priests do, and typically are more effective at
teaching Buddhism broadly within society.
This is Reverend Shiba, a Nichiren Shoshu priest, holding
his beads with tassels
There is a current point of view among some other Buddhist organizations
that Buddhism is best propagated by keeping the roles of laity and
priests distinct and separate. We of NBAA feel that while certainly
there will be different personal areas of emphases for as many individuals,
whether they be priests or laity, as there are, those who practice
Buddhism are not really different from each other at all in terms
of function and purpose.
Then there are people who choose not to directly teach Buddhism
to others but will instead invite friends to attend meetings or
attend their temple to hear a priest. There are still others who
just financially support the priesthood and in this way consider
their offerings as their practice for the accomplishment of kosen
rufu or world wide propagation of Buddhism. There may be circumstances
that people find themselves in which make these methods the most
viable and appropriate for them. Some examples might be that you're
living in a country in which you don't speak the native language
fluently yet. Or you may have certain physical or mental illness
that limits your opportunity to engage with others socially and
you therefore have few opportunities to teach Buddhism. By using
priests or others' ability to teach Buddhism on your behalf, you
can still participate in the spread of Buddhism using these indirect
But if you are capable of teaching Buddhism to others you should
definitely do so. Teaching Buddhism becomes your arena for developing
your compassion, your Buddhahood. The more you teach, and the more
sincerely you teach, the more you, in the process, will learn about
Buddhism and about your own path to the development of Buddhahood.
Certainly it all starts with your own practice of Buddhism. But
almost immediately your practice can include your own sincere efforts
to teach and encourage others as well. There's a quote from the
Lotus Sutra, "Teacher of the Law" (tenth) chapter, that
[O]ne who secretly teaches to another even a
single phrase of the sutra should be regarded as the Buddha's envoy,
sent to carry out his work." Nichiren teaches that "a
single phrase" can mean Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. That phrase is
not only the title of the Lotus Sutra, it's also the essence and
meaning of the entire Lotus Sutra. So teaching someone to chant
Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is teaching Buddhism. The term envoy in the
quote above, refers to a person who acts as an agent for another.
This signifies that teachers are envoys of their own and others'
Buddha nature and that their own Buddha nature is revealed and brought
out in the act of compassionately teaching another person about
Buddhism. You're acting as an envoy of your own Buddha within. So
being a teacher of the law is not outside the grasp of everyone.
So for NBAA members, each has taken vows to devote their entire
lives to the practice and study of Buddhism. In this regard they
are no different from priests (and some in fact are priests). They
accomplish the task of fulfilling their vows while remaining within
society. That is, they hold jobs, raise families, and otherwise
carry on normal lives.
There are various bead makers and vendors who sell both beads with
tassels and beads with pom-poms. NBAA is the only Buddhist organization
today that encourages its members to use only the tassel beads.
But anyone, regardless of organizational affiliation should consider
using tassel beads. And they should consider taking vows as well.
In this way we hope to encourage more and more individuals to become
teachers of the Law and individuals who are on the path to Buddhahood.
|Five Strands - The meanings relate to our lives
and Buddhist practice
are five strands of beads that extend off from the main loop or circle
of beads. This is the most obvious distinction between Nichiren Buddhists'
beads and beads used by other forms of Buddhism who typically use
two end strands (or sometimes four) on their beads. As you look at
the various symbols of Nichiren Buddhist beads, all of the symbolism
used refers back to the individual Buddhist practitioner and the relative
significance of this specific form of Buddhism. The following are
some of the symbolic reasons for using chanting beads with five strands
instead of the two used by other Buddhists.
Human Body - If you lay out the beads on a table with a single
twist in the middle of the large circle, it's easy to see how they
give shape to a symbolic human. The three tassels become a head
and two arms. The twist in the large circle of beads becomes a waist.
The two tassels become two legs. All of Buddhism relates back to
the individual and the individual's practice to eliminate all sufferings
in both themselves and others. All references of the symbolism of
the chanting beads to humans is significant and instructive. It's
important to always keep that in mind. It is never about a deity
or external power, rather it is about your subjective life and how
to transform yourself into a Buddha.
Five Components - Centuries ago, Buddhists came up with the hypothesis
that each individual human being has come into existence through
the temporary uniting of five components. The theory tries to describe
both the physical and spiritual aspects of human life. The five
are: form, sensation, idea, choice, and cognition. (1) Form means
the physical aspect of life and includes the five sense organs -
eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body - with which one perceives the
external world. (2) Sensation is the function of receiving external
information through the six sense organs (the five sense organs
plus the "mind," which integrates the impressions of the
five senses). (3) Idea is the function of creating mental images
and concepts out of what has been perceived. (4) Choice is the will
that acts on the idea and motivates action. (5) Cognition is the
conscious function of discernment or reasoning that integrates the
components of sensation, idea, and choice. Form represents the physical
aspect of your life, while sensation, idea, choice, and cognition
represent the spiritual aspect. Because the physical and spiritual
aspects of life are inseparable, there can be no form without cognition,
and no cognition without form. All life carries on its activities
through the interaction of these five components. Their workings
are colored by karma previously formed and at the same time create
new karma. We acknowledge that these five components are coming
together in the moment we begin chanting.
Five Impurities - The practice of chanting meditation is an act
of purification. The five impurities or defilements is a concept
that appears in Shakyamuni's "Expedient Means" (second)
chapter of the Lotus Sutra where it says, "The Buddhas appear
in evil worlds of five impurities
." (1) Impurity of the
age includes repeated disruptions of the social or natural environment.
(2) Impurity of desire is the tendency to be ruled by the five delusive
inclinations, i.e., greed, anger, foolishness, arrogance, and doubt.
(3) Impurity of living beings is the physical and spiritual decline
of human beings. (4) Impurity of thought, or impurity of view, is
the prevalence of wrong views such as the five false views (see
next explanation). (5) Impurity of life span is the shortening of
the life spans of living beings. Simply put, this indicates that
our Buddhahood is made manifest amid the impurities of whatever
age we live in. There is no need to change all of the evil in the
world before we can attain happiness and enlightenment. But at the
same time we acknowledge that as we chant, the five impurities influence
us away from our goal of developing the compassionate Buddha within.
Five False Views - The Buddhist scholar T'ien-t'ai (538-597) of
China held that there are five false views or ways of thinking that
give rise to desires. The five false views are: (1) Though the mind
and body are no more than a temporary union of the five components,
one regards them as possessing a self that is absolute; and though
nothing in the universe can belong to an individual, one views one's
mind and body as one's own possession; (2) the belief in one of
two extremes concerning existence: that life ends with death (disregarding
the vestigial traces and historic influences), or that life persists
after death in some eternal and unchanging form (as an intact identity
of your former self); (3) denial of the law of cause and effect;
(4) adhering to misconceptions and viewing them as truth, while
regarding inferior views as superior; and (5) viewing erroneous
practices or precepts as the correct way to enlightenment. By utilizing
the practice and study of Buddhism and by pursuing scientific inquiry
into natural laws that affect our lives, we can change the five
false views that we hold. As we chant, when we recognize desires
that arise in our minds as having come from these five false views,
we can adjust our way of thinking and meditating. To always advance
and continuously correct erroneous views of life that we may find
ourselves settling for, we acknowledge that the study of life is
a necessary aspect of our Buddhist practice. The five false views
reminds us to diligently use scientific inquiry, Buddhist meditation,
and compassionate practice in order to remain on the path to Buddhahood.
This requires much humility, courage, and determination.
Fivefold Comparison - Nichiren (1222-1282) in his writing titled
The Opening of the Eyes developed the fivefold comparison as a way
of demonstrating the superiority of his teaching of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo
over all other teachings. The fivefold comparison ranks teachings
according to the effectiveness of each at bringing about the enlightenment,
that is, absolute happiness and fulfillment, of the individual.
To fully understand these five comparisons, the reader is encouraged
to read this profound writing. The fivefold comparisons, briefly
(1) Buddhism is superior to non-Buddhist teachings. In Nichiren's
day in Japan, the common non-Buddhist teachings he was dealing with
were Confucianism and Brahmanism. He said that Confucianism and
Brahmanism are not as profound as Buddhism in that they do not reveal
the causal law of life that penetrates the three existences of past,
present, and future. Today, non-Buddhist teachings abound and are
well known, with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam being the most
(2) Mahayana Buddhism is superior to Hinayana Buddhism (aka Theravada).
Hinayana (lesser vehicle) Buddhism is the teaching for people of
the two vehicles. These vehicles are the teachings used by the so-called
voice-hearers (Skt. Shr?vaka) and cause-awakened ones (pratyekabuddha)
to their respective levels of enlightenment. The voice-hearers used
the four noble truths; the cause-awakened used the vehicle of causal
relationship via the teaching of the twelve-linked chain of causation.
The pratyekabuddhas lived apart from other humans, and along with
the voice-hearers were renounced by provisional Mahayana Buddhist's
for seeking their own enlightenment without working for the enlightenment
of others. In contrast, Mahayana Buddhism is the teaching for bodhisattvas
who aim at both personal enlightenment and the enlightenment of
others; it is called Mahayana (great vehicle) because it can lead
many people to enlightenment. So in that sense, Mahayana teachings
are superior to Hinayana teachings.
(3) True Mahayana is superior to provisional Mahayana. True Mahayana
is defined by Nichiren as relating to the teachings of the Lotus
Sutra, while Provisional Mahayana refers to pre-Lotus Sutra teachings.
In the provisional Mahayana teachings, the people of the two vehicles,
women, and evil persons are excluded from the possibility of attaining
enlightenment; in addition, Buddhahood is attained only by advancing
through progressive stages of bodhisattva practice over incalculable
periods of time. In contrast, the Lotus Sutra reveals that all people
have the Buddha nature inherently, and that they can attain Buddhahood
immediately by realizing that nature. Furthermore, the provisional
Mahayana teachings assert that Shakyamuni attained enlightenment
for the first time in India and do not reveal his original attainment
of Buddhahood in the remote past, nor do they reveal the principle
of the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds, as does the Lotus Sutra.
For these reasons, the true Mahayana teachings are superior to the
provisional Mahayana teachings.
(4) The essential teaching of the Lotus Sutra is superior to the
theoretical teaching of the Lotus Sutra. The theoretical teaching
consists of the first fourteen chapters of the Lotus Sutra, and
the essential teaching the latter fourteen chapters. The theoretical
teaching takes the form of preaching by Shakyamuni who is still
viewed as having attained enlightenment during his lifetime in India.
In contrast, the essential teaching takes the form of preaching
by Shakyamuni who has discarded this transient status and revealed
his true identity as the Buddha who attained Buddhahood in the remote
past. This revelation implies that the eternal condition of Buddhahood
is an ever-present potential of human life. This is called the essential
teaching and is superior to the theoretical teaching in that it
points to the ever-present potential for Buddhahood rather than
Buddhahood being considered merely a historic occurrence.
(5) The Buddhism of sowing is superior to the Buddhism of the harvest.
Nichiren got this comparison from T'ien-t'ai's concept of sowing,
maturing, and harvesting in his writing The Words and Phrases of
the Lotus Sutra. The seed being referred to here is the seed cause
for attaining Buddhahood.
Helping each other was a survival mechanism that early humans had
in order to endure the ravages of the environment as well as competing
animals and other competing human tribes. As time passed, humans
developed more cognitive capabilities as well as more sophisticated
tools and machinery that allowed survival of individuals who had
little concern for those outside their family. The current age continues
with this disconnecting of humans from one another and interferes
with the compassion that is so necessary for Buddhahood to develop
within our lives. Surprisingly, though, when an individual does
go against the trend of the times and does develop compassion beyond
their family unit, that compassion is further-reaching than their
ancestors' compassion. Compassion that drives bodhisattva caring
in modern times tends to be a more universal compassion than the
clan-concerns of early times. Through better forms of communication
we've had individual lives who are no more than remotely evolutionarily
related to us brought to our attention. We find ourselves weeping
in concern for those subjected to religious atrocities such as the
beheading of Islamic apostates and stoning of violators of Islamic
sexual codes of conduct. We see other species of animals suffering
from the effects of human corruption of their environment and feel
empathy and pity for them. We have learned to care for other life
without the expected reciprocation that our predecessors hoped for
when supporting others of their clan.
This caring or compassion when consciously evoked or strengthened
through the Buddhist practice of chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo is
vastly superior to the practices that preceded it that involved
family and ancestral lineages. This practice is limitless and timeless.
While there is no "bad" or inconsequential amounts of
compassion, and while all compassion supports the development of
one's Buddhahood, the more selfless caring we can muster, the more
powerful a force it becomes. In modern times we are able to see
beyond our immediate world and honestly and passionately care about
ending the suffering of all beings around the world. This is an
act of planting the seeds for Buddhahood in our own lives, then
nurturing that seed until it matures. Finally, and within our own
lifetimes, it is possible to realize an end to our own suffering
that is rooted deeply in our compassion for many, many others. This
is the highest form of Buddhism and is called the Buddhism of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo,
the Buddhism of sowing.
In summary, people in this age don't believe that there is any
practice that will lead to enlightenment in this lifetime. They
have become jaded, lost hope, and don't focus their lives on developing
compassion and altruism, what's known as a bodhisattva practice.
Therefore they don't plant the seed for attaining Buddhahood in
their lives. In other words, they have no hope-seed of Buddhahood
in this lifetime. Nichiren described Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo as the
seed of Buddhahood that people of our times can implant into their
lives and in one lifetime mature and harvest it. Ultimately, Nichiren
says that there was nothing in the Lotus Sutra or pre-Lotus Sutra
teachings that can give realistic seed-hope for the attainment of
Buddhahood. The cause of the bodhisattva practice is contained in
chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. As Nichiren puts it in his writing
titled The Teaching for the Latter Day, "Now, in the Latter
Day of the Law, neither the Lotus Sutra nor the other sutras lead
to enlightenment. Only Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo can do so."
|Two Large Beads - Fusion of objective reality
and subjective wisdom
the two larger beads on the main loop of beads. These represent objective
reality (bead with two strands coming off it, held on the left hand
looped over the third finger) and subjective wisdom (bead with three
strands, held on the right hand over the third finger).
The concept of the fusion of objective reality and subjective wisdom
is analogous to the process of attaining Buddhahood. It considers
that there exists truth, or objective reality, and that this truth
can be obtained or realized subjectively through the development of
our compassionate wisdom. It further posits that objective reality
is otherwise known as the law or principle of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo.
By fusing the subjective law of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo by chanting it
and thereby subjectively "activating" it, with the external
law of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo in its environmental reality, each individual
can gradually attain Buddhahood.
relationship of self to objective reality is also represented by Shakyamuni
Buddha (subjective wisdom) on the right hand and Many Treasures (aka
Taho) Buddha (objective reality) on the left hand. The historical
existence of Shakyamuni Buddha who developed the subjective wisdom
that enabled him to become a Buddha symbolizes the same potential
in each one of us to manifest that wisdom with our Buddhist practice.
The mythical existence of Many Treasures Buddha first appeared in
the "Treasure Tower" (eleventh) chapter of the Lotus Sutra.
The fusion of Shakymuni and Many Treasures Buddha represents the application
of wisdom to the objective world, the application of an enlightened
perspective on natural phenomena. While the objective world remains
the same, our spiritual relationship to it can be either positive
and fruitful or negative and destructive. Many Treasures Buddha represents
the concrete outcome or result of happiness within reality. That is,
it is happiness amid the reality of life in all its manifestations.
This affirms that the inevitable result of chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo
with great subjective compassion results in happiness within our present
These two beads are also sometimes referred to as the "parent
beads". This is another symbolic and analogous representation
of the process of offering our subjective compassion and love while
chanting and having that cause result in giving birth to or obtaining
the result of happiness that's been thereby awakened within our lives.
We remind ourselves that unconditional, parental compassion for other
living beings is just the kind of compassion that we attempt to summon
up in our practice of chanting. It is the kind of compassion that
led Shakymuni, in the "Life Span" (sixteenth) chapter of
the Lotus Sutra, to declare "I am the father of this world, saving
those who suffer and are afflicted."
|One Hundred and Eight Beads - Earthly desires
and their relationship to enlightenment
main loop of beads is made up of 108 beads (interspersed with four
smaller "bodhisattva beads" which will also be explained)
which represent all categories of ways that desires affect us at
any given moment.
This number is derived at by the following calculations:
(1) Six senses are the main means by which desires affect us. These
are analogous to the sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch,
and the mind that receives sensory input.
(2) Six senses are multiplied by the three aspects of time: past,
present, and future. [6 senses x 3 aspects of time = 18 aspects
(3) Two characteristics of good or evil intent within our mind affect
our desires. Good intent is associated with desires that benefit
ourselves or others or society at large, while evil intent relates
to the desire to cause deliberate harm to another or to society.
[18 aspects of desires x 2 kinds of intent = 36 aspects of desire]
(4) Three levels of attention or preferences that we have at any
moment affect our desires. We can like (intend to act on), dislike
(intend to not act on), or be indifferent to (momentarily ignore)
any of the multitude of desires that bombard us at any given moment.
We tend to quickly rank our desires within these categories and
thereby multiply the affect of any of the 36 aspects calculated
thus far. [36 aspects of desires x 3 levels of preference = 108
aspects of earthly desires]
Early Buddhists perceived the connection between desires and suffering.
There's a direct connection. So their early attempts were to use
ascetic practices to cut off their desires and thereby eliminate
suffering. These were some of the first crude attempts at attaining
Buddhahood or the elimination of suffering. The logical errors contained
in such efforts finally dawned on those who attempted to deprive
themselves of sexual relations, family and social relationships,
and even food and drink. Extinguishing all desires in order to attain
enlightenment would paradoxically include the desire for enlightenment
itself and even the desire to live. It's clear to us that such efforts
are futile and foolish to the point of absurdity.
The Mahayana teachings deal with earthly desires entirely differently
than the Hinayana (early) teachings do. Hinayana teachings held
that earthly desires and enlightenment are two independent and opposing
factors, and the two cannot coexist. Mahayana teachings turn that
Hinayana principle over and say that earthly desires cannot exist
independently on their own; therefore one can attain enlightenment
without eliminating earthly desires. Mahayana Buddhist teachings
say that these 108 categories of earthly desires are actually one
with and inseparable from enlightenment. This is because all things,
even earthly desires and enlightenment, are manifestations of the
unchanging reality or truth - and thus are non-dual at their source.
So from a practical standpoint, we still acknowledge the harmful
effects of giving ourselves over to desires. Through the means of
fusing our subjective wisdom with objective reality (as symbolized
with the two large beads) we come to transform our harmful desires
while maintaining the supportive ones that allow us to fully embrace
our lives as well as the suffering lives of others. With the compassionate
meditative practice of chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, our overriding
desires for the happiness of others become directly connected to
and result in our own attainment of Buddhahood. As Nichiren put
it, "Today, when Nichiren and his followers recite the words
Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, they are burning the firewood of earthly desires,
summoning up the wisdom-fire of enlightenment."
|Four Small Beads - Four bodhisattva characteristics
leading to Buddhahood
you look among the 108 beads in the main loop you'll see four different
sized and sometimes different colored beads. These four beads represent
the four leaders of the bodhisattvas of the earth. These bodhisattvas
represent characteristics that you acquire as a result of chanting
and teaching Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. In the "Emerging from the
Earth" (fifteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni tells
a story about the earth splitting open and bodhisattvas in countless
numbers coming forth. Their bodies are golden and they possess the
thirty-two features that characterize a Buddha. They are led by four
bodhisattvas - Superior Practices, Boundless Practices, Pure Practices,
Firmly Established Practices - and Superior Practices is the leader
of them all. This analogy was used to indicate the bodhisattva practice
of compassion that directly leads to Buddhahood.
As an aside, it's interesting to note that the question as to where
these four bodhisattvas came from and who they are led straight to
the "Life Span" chapter, considered to be the heart of the
Lotus Sutra and a description of enlightenment. In other words, even
in the construct of the text of the Lotus Sutra, the four bodhisattvas
led the way to the highest stage of enlightenment.
The four bodhisattva leaders signify the Buddha conditions or virtues
of (1) true self, (2) eternity, (3) purity, and (4) happiness.
These four bodhisattvas, or aspects of Buddhahood, are associated
explicitly with the Lotus Sutra, and more specifically with the teaching
of Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. These four bodhisattvas are said to be so
much superior to the bodhisattvas associated with other Buddhist teachings
that the other bodhisattvas, although seemingly magnificent and wonderful
in isolation, pale by comparison to Superior Practices, Boundless
Practices, Pure Practices, and Firmly Established Practices. Nichiren
likens the comparison to a scene in which humble mountain folk are
seen mingling with nobles or humble fishermen appear in an audience
before the emperor. Such a statement is obviously intended to suggest
the superiority of the results attained from a Buddhist practice based
on these four principles.
True self, eternity, purity, and happiness are both the leaders of
all people to the enlightenment of the Lotus Sutra as well as descriptions
of the kind of enlightenment attained by this practice. We can use
them as guides for our desired state of mind as we chant - in other
words, objects of focus.
True self refers to the Buddha nature within, the Buddha you. Eternity
refers to the eternal aspect of the Buddha nature inherent within
all things and the eternal aspect of yourself. In essence, it means
that all things have the potential to become Buddhas or lead others
to enlightenment. This potential lies eternally dormant, in potentia,
throughout the whole of the universe (or universes). As one cannot
be totally fulfilled and happy while others suffer, Buddhas don't
exist outside of their struggle to lead others to enlightenment.
In practice, all four bodhisattvas are related to compassion. After
all, they are all bodhisattvas, representatives of the life condition
of bodhisattva, the internal condition of compassion.
Superior Practices can be said to symbolize the unswerving determination
to save all others from suffering. It is a self-confidence grounded
in compassion that leads all others to Buddhahood. In his writings,
Nichiren refers to himself as Bodhisattva Superior Practices incarnate.
Boundless Practices relates to the enduring life condition of Buddhahood
which results from a vow and commitment to the bodhisattva practice
of compassion. Pure Practices describes the process of purification
that results from devoting oneself to the bodhisattva practice of
compassion for all species, and indeed all living beings. When we
internalize the reality that we are an aspect of the universe, as
one's view of "self" expands to incorporate all of the natural
world, caring and concern for others progresses to include more and
more individuals of various species. The life condition that results
is thereby purified to include a broader and broader definition of
self. Conversely, being only concerned about selfish desires pollutes
the flow of one's practice and leads to stagnation. Firmly Established
Practices describes the condition where happiness continuously arises
within a person who devotes their entire life to establishing a compassionate
The placement of the four bodhisattva beads among the 108 desires
has important symbolism. If we are to effectively deal with our desires,
we must develop other, freeing and noble, aspects of ourselves. As
we chant, true self, eternity, purity and happiness naturally surface
and give rise to the development of caring and compassion for others.
This is the place where your hands touch together. This is where the
action is. Knowing theoretically that the fusing of subjective wisdom
and objective reality leads to Buddhahood is not the same as actualizing
or realizing it. In order to realize Buddhahood one must commit to
the attainment of these four aspects of our lives and become more
compassionate by means of a bodhisattva practice. There is no need
to isolate oneself from others or even from our own desires. The four
bodhisattva characteristics, as symbolized by the four small beads,
remind us that we need to determinedly vow to put ultimate meaning
and significance into our own lives.
|Ten Beads In A Loop - Signify the Ten Worlds
you look at the left hand Many Treasures bead, the one with two long
strands extending from it, you'll notice a small circle of ten beads.
These ten beads symbolize the mutual possession of the Ten Worlds
or ten life conditions that a person can exhibit at any given moment.
This categorization of life condition is a component principle of
three thousand realms in a single moment of life, which T'ien-t'ai
(537-597) established in his work titled Great Concentration and Insight.
The important aspect of this principle is that the World of Buddhahood
or enlightenment, is found within the reality of our lives in the
other nine Worlds, not somewhere separate. This is why the Ten Worlds
bead circle appears on the left or "Objective Reality" side
of the beads. The mutual possession of the Ten Worlds is also symbolized
by the touching together of our ten fingers while using the beads.
Here is a brief explanation of the Ten Worlds. (1) The world of hell.
Hell indicates a condition in which living itself is misery and suffering,
and in which, devoid of all freedom, one's anger and rage become a
source of further self-destruction. (2) The world of hunger. A condition
governed by endless desire for such things as food, profit, pleasure,
power, recognition, or fame, in which one is never truly satisfied.
(3) The world of animality. It is a condition driven by instinct and
lacking in reason, morality, or wisdom with which to control oneself.
In this condition, one is ruled by the "law of the jungle,"
quivering in fear of the strong, but despising and preying upon those
weaker than oneself. (4) The world of anger or animosity. It is characterized
by persistent, though not necessarily overt, aggressiveness. It is
a condition dominated by ego, in which excessive pride prevents one
from revealing one's true self or seeing others as they really are.
Compelled by the need to be superior to others or surpass them at
any cost, one may pretend politeness and even flatter others while
inwardly despising them. (5) The world of humanity. In this state,
one tries to control one's desires and impulses with reason and act
in harmony with one's surroundings and other people, while also aspiring
for a higher state of life. (6) The world of rapture or sometimes
called the world of heaven. This is a condition of contentment and
joy that one feels when released from suffering or upon satisfaction
of some desire. It is a temporary joy that is dependent upon and may
easily change with circumstances. These six worlds are called the
six paths. Beings in the six paths, or those who tend toward these
states of life, are largely controlled by the restrictions of their
surroundings and are therefore extremely vulnerable to changing circumstances.
The remaining four states, in which one transcends the uncertainty
of the six paths, are called the four noble worlds: (7) The world
of learning. In this state, one dedicates oneself to creating a better
life through self-reformation and self-development by learning from
the ideas, knowledge, and experience of one's predecessors and contemporaries.
(8) The world of realization. In this condition one perceives the
impermanence of all phenomena and strives to fee oneself from the
sufferings of the six paths by seeing some lasting truth through one's
own observations and effort. People in the worlds of learning and
realization are given more to the pursuit of self-perfection than
to altruism. (9) The world of bodhisattva is a state of compassion
in which one thinks of and works for others' happiness even before
becoming happy oneself. The term bodhisattva consists of bodhi (enlightenment)
and sattva (beings), meaning a person who seeks enlightenment while
leading others to enlightenment. The condition of bodhisattva is an
awareness that the way to self-perfection lies only in altruism, working
for the enlightenment of others even before their own enlightenment.
(10) The world of Buddhahood is characterized as a state of perfect
and absolute freedom in which one realizes the true aspect of all
phenomena or the true nature of life. One can achieve this state by
manifesting the Buddha nature inherent in one's life. Attaining this
condition does not mean becoming a special being, separate from the
other conditions of life. Mutual possession of the ten worlds indicates
that within each of the other nine worlds the world of Buddhahood,
or tenth world, can manifest itself. In this state one still continues
to work against and defeat the negative functions of life and transform
any and all difficulties into causes for further development. It is
a state of complete access to the boundless wisdom, compassion, courage,
and other qualities inherent in life; with these one can create harmony
with and among others and between human life and nature.
|Thirty More Tassel Strand Beads - Signify three
thousand realms in a single moment of life
the long tassel strands there are thirty more beads remaining that
have not yet been discussed. On the ends with two strands there
are five beads each, and on the end with three strands there are
five beads on two of them and ten beads on the remaining one. (These
beads are far easier to observe than explain their location.) This
is a complex philosophical system established by T'ien-t'ai (538-597)
of China. The theory states that three thousand realms, or the entire
phenomenal world, exists in a single moment of life. A "single
moment of life" is also translated as one mind, one thought,
or one thought-moment.
The number three thousand comes from the following calculation:
10 (ten worlds) x 10 (ten worlds - within the previous ten) x 10
(ten factors) x 3 (three realms of existence) = 3000. Life at any
moment manifests one of the ten worlds. Each of these worlds possesses
the potential for all of the ten within itself, and this "mutual
possession," or mutual inclusion, of the ten worlds is represented
as 10 x 10 = 100 possible worlds. Each of these hundred worlds possesses
the ten factors, making one thousand factors or potentials, and
these operate within each of the three realms of existence, thus
making three thousand realms.
The ten factors are descriptions of spiritual aspects of life or
reality. They are: (1) Appearance: attributes of things discernible
from the outside, such as color, form, shape, and behavior. (2)
Nature: the inherent disposition or quality of a thing or being
that cannot be discerned from the outside. T'ien-t'ai also refers
to the "true nature," which he regarded as the ultimate
truth or Buddha nature. (3) Entity: the essence of life that permeates
and integrates appearance and nature. [These first three factors
describe the reality of life itself. The next six factors explain
the functions and workings of life.] (4) Power: life's potential
energy. (5) Influence: the action or movement produced when life's
inherent power is activated. (6) Internal cause: the cause latent
in life that produces an effect of the same quality as itself, i.e.,
good, evil, or neutral. (7) Relation: the relationship of indirect
causes to the internal cause. Indirect causes are various conditions,
both internal and external, that help the internal cause produce
an effect. (8) Latent effect: the effect produced in life when an
internal cause is activated through its relationship with various
conditions. (9) Manifest effect: the tangible, perceivable result
that emerges in time as an expression of a latent effect and therefore
of an internal cause, again through its relationship with various
conditions. (10) Their consistency from beginning to end: the unifying
factor among the ten factors. It indicates that all of the other
nine factors from the beginning (appearance) to the end (manifest
effect) are consistently and harmoniously interrelated. All nine
factors thus consistently and harmoniously express the same condition
of existence at any given moment.
The three realms of existence are (1) The realm of the five components:
An analysis of the nature of a living entity in terms of how it
responds to its surroundings. (2) The realm of living beings: The
individual living being, formed of a temporary union of the five
components, who manifests or experiences any of the ten worlds.
(3) The realm of the environment: The place or land where living
beings dwell and carry out life-activities. The state of the land
is a reflection of the state of life of the people who live in it.
A land manifests any of the ten worlds according to which of the
ten worlds dominate in the lives of its inhabitants. These three
realms are not to be viewed separately, but as aspects of an integrated
whole, which simultaneously manifests any of the ten worlds.
A single moment of life means life as an indivisible whole that
includes body and mind, cause and effect, and sentient and insentient
things. A single moment of life is endowed with the three thousand
realms or possibilities within it. Nichiren advocated that by chanting
Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo one can "see" or observe the existence
of the realm of Buddhahood within their own life and within the
lives of others from among any other of the possible realms.
|The Jars - Signify the accumulation of benefit
and the process of attaining Buddhahood
the ends of four of the five strands you'll find tube or jar shaped
beads. These signify vessels to accumulate fortune through one's practice
of chanting Namu-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. They have a pass-through hole for
the tassels to be attached, and this is indicative of the flow of
Buddhahood. Attaining Buddhahood is a process rather than a point
in time. As you chant and develop your bodhisattva practice of compassion
for others, the merits of your efforts accumulate in your life. Sometimes,
you're so focused on helping others attain Buddhahood you scarcely
notice your own happiness that has resulted from such efforts. But
whether you notice it or not, happiness does begin to build up from
the very first moment you begin your practice of chanting meditation.
But this happiness is not a static state. It is more akin to a flowing
river the current of which is determined by your efforts to practice
Buddhism. Happiness, thus built up, is difficult to extinguish and
is commensurate with your own efforts to give it to others.