Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / What are the Shared Factors of Life?

What are the Shared Factors of Life?

Despite the huge diversity among individuals, and differences in their life conditions, intellect, etc… all people share certain essential features.  The factors that are common among people are referred to in the Lotus Sutra as the True Aspect of Existence (Shoho Jisso)

The “common truth”:

The Lotus Sutra was preached in response to the question: “what is the truth of life?’ posed earlier by the Buddha’s disciples.  The Buddha’s answer was that the Ultimate Truth is that which is shared and experienced by all people in reality of their daily life:

  • Preaching the principle of the True Aspect of Reality revealed that ordinary people and Buddha share the same physical and spiritual aspects (called the Ten Factors).

In other words, the teaching of the True Aspect of Reality - where the Ten Factors were described  -  revealed that there is no physical or spiritual barrier or separation between a Buddha and an ordinary person. 

Because the Ten factors are common to all people, then everyone can become a Buddha.  This was a revolutionary teaching that revealed the “Equality of Buddha and Ordinary Beings”.  When hearing this, Shariputra, the first disciple to realise that there is no gap and no hindrance to prevent him from becoming like the Buddha - rose from his seat and danced with joy.

  • Another significant teaching derived from the True Aspect of Life - is the principle of Causality:

The dynamism of life, describing how events take place in reality.   Events take place in reality not only because of “external conditions” that trigger their occurrence, but because of “internal causes” attracting events to happen. As a result of the power of inner cause (or desires) and the existence of matching external conditions – an event takes place with two types of effects:  an immediate effect and a laten effect (or future consequences). This was the declaration of the Law of Cause and Effect – the truth that applies to the actions of all people and all phenomena.

The concept of “suchness”:

  • The Sutra mentions the teaching of the common factors among all people by using the words: “Nyo Ze” – which means “As Such”, or “As It Is”. 

Through using the concept of “suchness” or “as it is”, the Buddha was describing something so

essential and absolute that cannot be further analysed.

The deepest truth or The Ultimate Truth of Life – can be best described by “being as such” –

because it is the ultimate reference, having no further reference to explain it. (Shoho Jisso)

What are the Ten Factors of Life ?

Buddhism teaches that a living entity is the oneness of the spiritual and the physical aspects of life.  Some of the common factors among people are physical (such as having form or appearance), while others are mental (such as having feelings and intellect):

•    Form (physical nature): Nyo Ze So

All living beings share the truth of having a physical form, distinguishable by the senses.

•   Mind (mental nature): Nyo Ze Sho

This is the spiritual essence of a living being, character, temperament, feelings, and intellect.

•    Entity (Nyo Ze Tai)

The physical and mental aspects together integrate into one unique identity of a living being.

•    Energy (Nyo Ze Riki)

An entity of life has its own level of power or lifeforce. The level of one’s life-energy differs depending on whether one is in a low state (depression, for example) or a high state (Bodhisattva or Buddha) - nonetheless, to be alive one essentially possesses a certain level of own life-energy.

•   Influence (Nyo Ze Sa)

A living being is interconnected with its environment, and any action made will produce influence on its surrounding.  The way we influence our surroundings is decided by our attitude - bringing us benefit or regret. The generator of our attitude or motivation is the factor of: inner cause.

•    Inner Cause (Nyo Ze In)

Desires, motivations, tendencies and aims - are the driving cause of influence or actions.

A “cause” can be created in three ways: thinking, speaking and through deeds.  Repeated causes of action lead to forming a related tendency, which drives one to further actions.  Inner Cause (or motivation) becomes a force that acts on the subconscious level of mind, creating a “karmic drive” for actions, whether positive or negative.

•   External Condition (Nyo Ze En)

The external factor is what the environment offers. When the environment offers conditions that attract or match one’s inner desires -  then an event takes place in reality.

•    Manifest Effect (Nyo Ze Ho)

When we attract by our internal cause (Nyo Ze In) an outside trigger (Nyo Ze En) – then an event directly takes place, with observable effects. The Manifest Effect is perceived by the senses.

•    Latent Effect (Nyo Ze Ka)

In addition to the manifest (or directly visible) effect of an occurring event, another effect is recorded in the memory as a latent result (Nyo Ze Ka) – also called Karmic effect. 

The latent effect (or karmic consequences) is the future result of the event that took place in the past.  It resides as a “potential” in the subconsciousness, a force of attraction of events from the environment - fitting and matching its quality.

Being a dormant power within one’s history of actions (or karma) - it drives one to repeat the same pattern of events in the future.  The long term impression of one’s actions becomes like the motivation or the Inner Cause, a tendency that feeds itself through repetition.  This is the mechanism of creating karma.

•    Consistency (Nyo Ze Hon-ma-kukyo-to)

All the mentioned factors without exception operate in all situation of life, and in all cases, whether one’s actions are good or bad, whether one is happy or sad - or whatever “world” of mind one is feeling. 

The working of the mentioned common factors we all share is consistent and universal.  One’s intention can be different, but the same mechanism of action that creates good karma also creates bad karma – because it is the impartial power (or principle which binds causes and effects).  Because the common factors consistently operate in all situations of life of all individuals, they are called strict law of Cause and Effect.


Implications of the teaching of the Ten Factors

1/   The wisdom of equality

The teaching that all people share the same truth of the Ten Factors was a revolutionary teaching of the equality of the Buddha and ordinary people.

It revealed that there is no physical or mental obstacle that can prevent any person from revealing and experiencing the state of Buddha: the highest state of life

2/  The Ten Factors encode the Universal Law of Myoho-Renge-Kyo

The Ten Factors describe the dynamism of the life of the individual human being. The entity of the individual (Nyo Ze Tai) comprises the mental aspect (Myo) and the physical body (Ho), having the capacity to act and influence the environment.  This influence or action of the individual occurs according to the bond of Cause and Effect described in the other factors. 

Being a truth that applies to all living beings, the Ten Factors describe the Universal Law of Life, which mechanism operates through Cause and their Effect.  The bond between Cause and Effect is symbolically referred to in the sutra’s title by the word (Renge), indicating the lotus flower. Being a principle strictly consistent in all situations of life, it is called a Law (Kyo). 

The Ten Factors of Life can be referred to as MyohoRengeKyo.

3/  Shaping one’s life through the Inner Cause (Nyo Ze In)

The Inner Cause depends solely on the individual.  At each moment one is able to create inner desire, thoughts and motivation to improve one’s life – this is the essence of one’s prayers. A prayer is a desire and determination for action (to realise a certain goal). 

Because the main factor, which shapes our life is our inner motivation: or the “inner cause” – then using our voice in chanting is a conscious act of activating one’s inner desire (Nyo Ze In) towards taking full responsibility and leadership of one’s course of action (and future consequences).  This way we can exert a shift and a change in the direction of our life.

4/  Activating one’s “Inner Cause” leads to creating a new future

Chanting employs voice, thoughts and desires -  it integrates the physical and mental aspects of the individual.  Chanting is effective only if it is earnest, determined and wholehearted.

-  “As the Daishonin says, “A candle can light up a place that has been dark for billions of years.” Similarly, the moment we offer prayers based on daimoku, the darkness in our lives vanishes.

This is the principle of the simultaneity of cause and effect.

At that very instant, in the depths of our lives, our prayer has been answered. 

The inherent cause (Nyoze in) of a deep prayer simultaneously produces a latent effect (Nyoze ka), creating thus new possibilities for the future.

While it takes time for this effect to become manifest, in the depths of our lives, our prayers are immediately realised. The lotus flower (renge), in blooming and seeding at the same time, illustrates this principle of  simultaneity of cause and effect.”  P. Ikeda