We ourselves are none other than Thus Come Ones of original enlightenment, who possess the three bodies within a single body. This is made clear in the passage in the Lotus Sutra that speaks of the ten factors of “appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect, manifest effect, and their consistency from beginning to end.”1
First, with regard to appearance, this refers to the appearance manifested by the form and shape of our bodies. This corresponds to the manifested body of the Thus Come One. It also corresponds to emancipation and to the truth of temporary existence.
Next, with regard to nature, this refers to the nature of our minds. This corresponds to the reward body of the Thus Come One. It also corresponds to wisdom and to the truth of non-substantiality.
The third factor is entity, which is the entities of these lives of ours. It corresponds to the Dharma body of the Thus Come One. It also corresponds to the truth of the Middle Way, to the essential nature of phenomena, and to tranquil extinction.
These three factors constitute the Thus Come One of the three bodies. That these three factors represent the Thus Come One of thethree bodies may seem to be an extraneous matter, but in fact it concerns these very lives of our own. One who understands this may be said tohave grasped the meaning of the Lotus Sutra.
These three factors constitute the beginning, or basis, from which emerge the other seven factors, thus forming the ten factors. These tenfactors are the basis of the hundred worlds, the thousand factors, and the three thousand realms. In this way a great number of doctrines are enunciated, which are known collectively as the eighty thousand teachings. But all of these come down to one single doctrine, that of thethree truths. Outside of the doctrine of the three truths, there is no other doctrine.
The hundred worlds represent the truth of temporary existence, the thousand factors represent the truth of non-substantiality, and the three thousand realms represent the truth of the Middle Way. Non-substantiality, temporary existence, the Middle Way—these are the three truths. And although they are elaborated in numerous doctrines such as those pertaining to the hundred worlds, the thousand factors, or the three thousand realms, these are all simply the one doctrine of the three truths.
Thus the three truths expressed in the first three of the ten factorsand the three truths expressed in the remaining seven factors are simply this one doctrine of the three truths. The first three factors and the remaining seven factors are the principle contained within our own lives and are simply one thing, wonderful beyond comprehension. Hence it is stated in the sutra that they are marked by complete consistency from beginning to end. This is what is meant by the words “consistency from beginning to end.”
The first three factors are the “beginning,” and the remaining seven factors are the “end.” These make up the ten factors, which constitute the three truths contained within our own lives.
This one of several works related to the principle of three thousand realms in a single moment of life that Nichiren Daishonin wrote in 1258.
The ten factors are introduced in the Lotus Sutra to define the fundamental reality of life. This reality consists of
- internal cause,
- latent effect,
- manifest effect and
- their consistency from beginning to end.
The Daishonin begins with the conclusive statement that the lives of all people are one and identical with the Buddha, or Thus Come One, of original enlightenment. To make his point, he cites the ten factors of life from the “Expedient Means” (2nd) chapter of the Lotus Sutra, and defines the first three of the ten factors in terms of their correspondence with the three bodies of the Buddha and with the three truths. Thus we have,
- the factor of appearance, the manifested body, the truth of temporary existence;
- the factor of nature, the reward body, the truth of non-substantiality; and
- the factor of entity, the Dharma body, the truth of the Middle Way.
One who realizes that this applies to oneself, he states, is a Buddha and one who does not, is an ordinary person.
The remaining seven factors he states are the “end”. Of these seven factors, six factors explain the functions and workings of life, specifically with regard to the principle of causality.
- Power is life’s potential strength or energy to achieve something, and
- influence is the movement or action produced when this latent power is activated.
- Internal cause consists of the possibilities inherent in our life and the inner karmic tendencies or orientations we have created by our past thoughts, actions and deeds.
- Relation is the external cause which helps “stir up” and activate the internal cause.
- Latent effect is the result produced simultaneously in the depths of our life by this interaction, and
- manifest effect is the visible external result which eventually appears.
The last factor, Consistency from beginning to end means that all these nine factors are perfectly consistent in expressing our life state (i.e., the manifestation of the same world of the Ten Worlds) at any given moment.
SGI President Ikeda on the Ten Factors of Life says:
Let me try to explain the ten factors of life through an example. Your own existence is a phenomenon. Your features, posture and so on comprise the “appearance” of the phenomenon of your life. Again, while invisible to the eye, such traits as shortness of temper, magnanimity, kindness or reticence, or the various other aspects of your personality and temperament, make up your “nature.” Your physical and spiritual totality—that is, your “appearance” and “nature” together—make up your “entity,” the person you are. Also, your life has various energies (power), and these produce various external functions (influence). Your life thus becomes a cause (internal cause) and, activated by conditions internal and external (relation), changes arise in your life (latent effect), and these eventually appear externally (manifest effect). Moreover, these nine factors interweave your life and your environment without any inconsistency or omission (consistency from beginning to end). This is the true aspect of the ten factors of your life. Each of us lives within the framework of the ten factors. No one can say that he or she has no “appearance.” Such a person would be invisible. Similarly, no one can truly claim not to have a personality, not to have any energy or not to carry out any activity. Nor could there be a situation where the appearance is one person, the nature someone else and the entity another person still. There is consistency among all factors, and together they make up the irreplaceable totality of your being. People in each of the Ten Worlds are endowed with the ten factors according to their state of life. For example, people in the world of hell have the dark and depressed appearance of those overwhelmed by suffering. Since their nature is filled with suffering and anger, their power and influence tend to also mire those around them in darkness. Those in the world of heaven are typically bright and smiling in their appearance. In their nature, since they feel uplifted—as though “ascending into the heavens,” as it were—anything they see makes them happy. Their power and influence tend to make those around them too feel buoyant and cheerful. Similarly, each of the Ten Worlds has its own factors of appearance, nature, entity, power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect and manifest effect, and there is consistency from beginning to end. This is the true nature of all phenomena. Second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda explained this as follows: “Suppose there is a thief in front of us. He is a thief from appearance to manifest effect. That’s consistency from beginning to end in a thief ’s life. There is no discontinuity.” Rather than simply looking at surface appearances, understanding the true aspect of all phenomena means to grasp the vastness and profundity of life in its entirety. The ten factors of life are not limited only to human beings. Flowers blooming on the roadside, for example, have the appearance, nature and entity of beauty. They also possess power, influence, internal cause, relation, latent effect and manifest effect, without any omission. And in their totality, all of these factors are coherently integrated with the life of the flower. The same is also true of inorganic things. A pebble, the sky, the moon, stars, the sun, the sea with its salty scent, rugged mountains, skyscrapers overlooking noisy streets, houses and cars and every piece of furniture or utensil—the ten factors of life describe the existence of all things. This is the wisdom of the true aspect of all phenomena that the Buddha has attained. In other words, when observing any phenomenon, the Buddha understands its true aspect. When looking at people, the Buddha understands their state of life and sees their Buddha nature within. When looking at something in nature, the Buddha can sense its noble brilliance. And, considering social phenomena, the Buddha can deftly discern their underlying significance. It might be said that the wisdom of the true aspect of all phenomena is the ability to discern the true nature of all things.