BASIC BUDDHIST TERMS
“THE FOUR VIEWS OF ONE BODY OF WATER” (Issui shaken)
One Perception Differs According to One’s Life Condition
There is a proverb that says, “There are those who ride on the palanquin, those who ride carry it, and those who make the straw sandals.” This means that the world is made up of various types of people. In Japanese, there is the expression, junin toiro, which indicates that people have different thoughts, tastes, and characteristics.
Thus, there are many types of people in the world; so naturally, there are many different perceptions that people have. For example, a car is tangible asset for the owner and also a means of transportation. For people who sell cars, it is a commodity or inventory, and for those who use their car at work, such as taxi drivers, a car is an important business tool.
Even the same object can vary in value and perception depending upon the viewer’s position and circumstances. Buddhism explains the principle of the “four views of one body of water.” This term shows how people’s perceptions differ according to their life conditions.
What are the “Four Views of One Body of Water” (issui shaken)?
Nichiren Daishonin states in the Gosho, “Reply to Soya Nyudo” (“Soya nyudo dono gohenji”):
Hungry spirits perceive the Ganges River as fire, human beings perceive it as water, and heavenly beings perceive it as amrita. The water itself is the same, but it appears differently according to the karmic capacity of individuals. (Gosho, p.794; MW-5, p.163)
Based on the principle of the four views of one body of water:
The heavenly beings see sweet nectar;
Human beings see water;
Fish see their habitat; and
Hungry spirits see raging fire.
Thus, according to the karma and life condition of the observer, the same object appears differently to different people. The Daishonin states the following in “The Izu Exile” (“Funamori Yasaburo moto gosho”):
The difference between delusion and enlightenment is like the four different views of the grove of sal trees. (Gosho, p.262; MW-2, p.56)
The principle of the four views of the sal grove refers to an ancient story expounded in the Sutra on the Explication of the Middle Day of the Law (Zobo ketsugi kyo) about four individuals who visited the grove of sal trees where Shakyamuni entered nirvana. The first person perceived the place to be a land of earth, sand, and stone walls overgrown with weeds. The second person perceived it to a sacred land solemnly adorned with gold and silver. The third person perceived it to be a precious place where the Buddha conducted his practice.
The fourth person is said to have perceived the mysterious life condition of the Buddha and the true Law. This story also teaches us that the appearance of something will be perceived differently according to people’s life conditions.
The Dai-gohonzon is the Entity of the True Buddha’s Enlightened Life
The Daishonin states the following in “Reply to Soya Nyudo”:
Each character of this [Lotus] sutra is without exception a living Buddha of supreme enlightenment, but we ordinary people, viewing the sutra with the eyes of common mortals, see it as a mere succession of characters….The blind cannot see characters of this sutra. To the eyes of common mortals, they are but written words. People of the two vehicles perceive them as the emptiness of space. Bodhisattvas look on them as innumerable teachings. However, the Buddha recognizes each character as a golden Lord Shakyamuni (Gosho, p.794; MW-5, pp.163-164)
He teaches that the characters of the Lotus Sutra also are perceived differently, based on the karmic effects and life conditions of common mortals, people of the two vehicles, Bodhisattvas and the Buddha.
To the naked eye of common mortals, even the Gohozon, which the Daishonin established, may seem only like characters engraved on wood. However, the Daishonin states:
I, Nichiren, with sumi ink, have infused my life [into the Gohonzon]. So believe in it. The will of the Buddha is the Lotus Sutra, but the spirit of Nichiren is nothing other than Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo. (Gosho, p.685)
Though [the Daimoku of ] this Mandala is written in but five or seven characters, it is the teacher of all Buddhas throughout the three existences and the seal that guarantees the enlightenment of all women….It is the teacher who leads all people to enlightenment. (Gosho, p.689; MW-3, p.55)
He teaches that the Dai-Gohonzon is the ultimate entity of the enlightened life of the True Buddha, himself, and it will guide all mankind to enlightenment.
The Daishonin writes in “The Five Types of Vision” (Gogen gosho”):
It is expounded that, although the votary of the Lotus Sutra possesses the physical eye, he will manifest the divine eye, the eye of wisdom, the eye of the Law, and the eye of the Buddha. (Gosho, p.1674)
We will be able to foresee all things correctly and be able to attain Buddhahood by chanting Daimoku sincerely to the Gohonzon with strong faith. Then, we can acquire not only the eye of a common mortal, but also the eye of the Buddha, which includes all the other four perceptive faculties.
The “Five Types of Vision” (gogen)
The five tyoes of vision are:
1. The eye of common martals—the ability to distinguish color and form;
2. The divine eye—the ability of heavenly being to see beyond the physical limitations of darkness, distance, or obstruction.
3. The eye of wisdom—the ability of those in the two vehicles to perceive the emptiness of all phenomena;
4. The eye of the Law, by which bodhisattvas penetrate all teachings in order to save the people and
5. The eye of the Buddha, which perceives the true nature of the spanning past, present, and future. The eye of the Buddha also includes all the other four perceptive faculties.
People are faced with many difficulties in life. Therefore, it is important how one deals with adversity. In the Gosho, “On the Buddha’s behavior” (“Shuju ofurumai-gosho”), the Daishonin explains:
When one looks at one’s present world, one can see that it is not one’s friends but one’s formidable enemies who will help him grow. (Gosho, p.1063)
Furthermore, in the “Reply to Myoshin ama” (“Myoshin ama gozengohenji), the Daishonin expounds:
Illness can motivate one to pursue the path to supreme enlightenment. (Gosho, p.900)
When we face adversity, we should recognize that this is our great opportunity to deepen our faith and to eradicate our negative karma. If we continue with this determination, we always can overcome our difficulties. Moreover, we should understand that fortunate people in the world, and those who commit evil acts are suffering due to the negative karma they created in the past. And with a heart filled with compassion, we can save those people by guiding them to the Gohonzon. By carrying out a correct practice, we can acquire the eye of the Buddha, and thrive in the face of any adversity.
High Priest Nichinyo Shonin gave us the following guidance:
Very often, we see things with our own bias or emotion…..We tend to see things with distorted views and feelings. However, when we practice the Daishonin’s Buddhism, these are gone, and we can acquire a clear mind, correctly seeing the truth of things. (Kotoku yobun, p.61)
Let’s keep this guidance in mind and practice correctly with strong faith, so that we can see everything with the eye of the Buddha. Let’s continue to devote ourselves to do shakubuku with compassion, and lead the people to attain Buddhahood.
Nichiren Shoshu Monthly, February 2017, p. 21 – 23