Life is in a constant state of change. In every moment that we breathe, some aspect of our lives may be just beginning, reaching a peak, plummeting to an all time low, or reaching an end. This is the ebb and flow of life. One minute you can feel like you are experiencing a slice of heaven and the next find yourself plummeting into the depths of hell. You may wake in the morning feeling happy and rested, but then an unusual amount of traffic promises to make you late for work and suddenly your stress level rises. No longer do you feel rested and happy. Instead you may feel frustration or anger. In Nichiren Buddhism, this is referred to as the ten states of life. There are ten worlds that exist within our lives and we can experience a series of these life states throughout the day. That is why chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is so important. It can transform our suffering and raise our state of life by lifting us out of the world of hell and into the world of Buddhahood.
The following descriptions of the ten states of life are from the book The Basics of Buddhism by Pat Allwright.
1. The world of hell: This state of life is filled with extreme suffering and closely resembles that of a prison. It is a world filled with misery, hopelessness, and helpless rage. In this state of being one may feel trapped and powerless.
2. The world of hunger: Have you ever felt like no matter how much you accumulated and no matter how much you accomplished, you still wanted more? This state of life is dominated by greed.
3. The world of animality: In this world life is dominated by instinct. The weak fear the strong, and the strong prey upon the weak. Human qualities of love, compassion, and mercy are not present.
Note: Collectively, these three worlds are referred to as the three evil paths as they are the source of great suffering.
4. The world of anger: The ego is the great ruler and conflict is a constant occurrence.
5. The world of tranquillity: This world is dominated by the human being. A sense of humanity, peace, sound judgment, and calm state of mind is ever present. However, since the times are so turbulent it is difficult for one to remain here for too long. Folks quickly find themselves plummeting into one of the lower states already mentioned above.
6. The world of rapture: This is a slice of heaven spurred on oftentimes by an achieved desire, physical gratification, or creativity. This experience is short-lived once the euphoria of achievement falls away.
7. The world of learning: Here one has an open mind and seeks a deeper, more meaningful way of life. Learning from others is a primary focus.
8. The world of absorption: This is also a learning state of life. However, the focus is attuned to gaining wisdom and experiencing growth through introspection and intuition. Essentially, it is learning from one’s own life.
9. The world of bodhisattva: One is devoted to caring and helping others. Through this state of life, one can perfect their life by developing compassion, taking action, and overcoming selfishness. Personal development focuses on the greater self of reason, compassion, wisdom, courage, and conscience. Here, one can tap into the creative life force and experience great joy by dedicating one’s life to helping others overcome personal struggles.
10. The world of Buddhahood: This is a state of enlightenment traditionally thought to be superhuman and experienced only by a single person, the Buddha. However, Buddhahood is a state of being that exists in all of us. It is our potential as human beings to overcome suffering and experience true happiness through compassion, wisdom, and service to others. “The essential nature of the universe is compassion, so that in Buddhahood one’s main concern is to save all life from suffering” pg.27.
In reference to the life state of hell and the world of Buddhahood, Nichiren Daishonin states:
“First of all, as to the question of where exactly hell and the Buddha exist, one sutra states that hell exists underground, and another sutra says that the Buddha is in the west. Closer examination, however, reveals that both exist in our five-foot body. This must be true because hell is in the heart of a person who inwardly despises his father and disregards his mother. It is like the lotus seed, which contains both blossom and fruit. In the same way, the Buddha dwells within our hearts”