Lotus Buddhism / FAQ / The Practical Meaning of IchinenSanzen

The Practical Meaning of IchinenSanzen

Safwan Darshams

The principle of Ichinen Sanzen teaches that:“one’s life at each moment” (Ichinen) - “contains many potentials” (Sanzen).
In other words:  “At each moment, one’s life has the power to shape one’s future and influence the environment”. 

Ichinen Sanzen teaches that one’s life has many potentials - the highest of which is Enlightenment. 

The concept of IchinenSanzen can be understood as describing the reality as we know it.  At each moment, all events taking place in the world, from the most miserable situations  of sufferings and conflicts, to others of peace and harmony - all exist side by side at each moment of life.   The reality we observe about the situation of the world, confirms that all of the diverse Ten Worlds of life exist at the same time at each moment.

IchinenSanzen adds to this fact the teaching that no situation is fixed, and that - at each moment  - transformation to higher states of life is possible.

Mindfulness in Nichiren Buddhism:

Our awareness at this moment of time (ichinen) is the state of Mindfulness expressed in Nichiren Buddhism not as a passive awareness of reality, but with a direction to lead our life towards enlightenment.

The present moment contains the future:

Referring to “each moment of life” -  Ichinen Sanzen implies that the future is not fixed nor is determined by the past.   Each moment, whether at present or at any other time in the future - is always filled with many potentials

From the Ten Worlds perspective, at ‘each moment’ (Ichinen) we experience a certain state of mind.  Our mood at present affects our relationships, and influences the life of people in our surroundings.  The latent effect of our current actions are to be expressed in the future.  At any moment, one can make causes to accumulate good fortune, directing own current reality towards the highest life state of Buddhahood. 

The concept of IchinenSanzen is then a striking departure from Pre-Lotus Mahayana teachings requiring lifetimes of purification of one’s karma to reveal one’s Buddhanature.

According to the principle of Ichinen Sanzen, it is the ‘power of determination at this moment’ (Ichinen) that can direct the present into realising the desired scenarios (or goals) we truly want. The essence of the future depends solely on our wholehearted determination at each moment (Ichinen).  By raising our state of life, and attracting favorite circumstances, we can definitely realize our future goals.  P.Ikeda explains:

"’What kind of future do I envision?’ you may ask yourself. ‘What kind of self am I trying to develop? What do I want to accomplish in my life?’

Paint this vision of your life in your heart as specifically as possible. This “painting” becomes the design for your future. The power of the heart enables you to actually execute a wonderful masterpiece in accordance with that design.

This is the doctrine of [this] life-moment possessing 3,000 realms.

The more specific and detailed the blueprint we have in our hearts, the better. The point is to continue vividly painting the target we have and to advance toward that goal single-mindedly. Then, at each instant, the reality of our lives will gradually approach the painting that is our aspiration.

Everything depends on what is in our hearts. Heartfelt prayers will definitely be answered. If we decide that something is impossible, then, consistent with our minds in thinking so, even things possible will become impossible.

On the other hand, if we have the confidence that we can definitely do something, we are already one step closer to achieving it.

In accordance with the principle of a life-moment possessing 3,000 realms, pessimistic thoughts or feelings take form, just as they are, in reality, [if not challenged], producing negative results. People who have negative thoughts create effects in reality for themselves that perfectly match their thinking.

So it is important to be optimistic. There is no such thing as pessimism in Buddhism. The Lotus Sutra gives us the key that enables us to possess great confidence and burn with hope even amid circumstances that appear despairing. Nichiren Daishonin proved this”.


The Principle of Ichinen Sanzen speaks about this moment (ichinen) as being the decisive moment which conditions our future.  What about the burden of our impediments and past karma, in having effect on our future?


Generally speaking, Traditional Buddhism (Pre-Lotus) regards karma as the property of the past.  Nichiren’s teachings explain karma as more of ‘a property’ of the present moment:

-   “Karma is being formed at each moment in the course of life’s perpetual motion. In the present instant also, new karma is being fashioned as it transforms karma from the past”. 

Ikeda and Wickramasinghe, Space and Eternal Life, page 119.

-   “The important thing is right now - the present moment. Our present inner resolve, our determination, enables us to sever the bonds of karmic causality by the strength arising from within - and enter the sure path of happiness”.

-   “The Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin is the Buddhism of the True Cause, the Buddhism of the present and the future. We do not dwell on the past. We are always challenging ourselves from this present moment towards the future. Because we advance with this spirit, we will never be deadlocked.”

 Daily Encouragement, p. 306