Oneness of Self and Environment
People live in different environments. Although one’s environment may appear to look the same, there are always slight changes that take place from day to day. It is also true that one person may look at something and feel differently from another person.
For example- there may be people who look at an apple falling from a tree and be reminded of Newton’s law of gravity. There may be others who think of its being delicious. There could be merchants who may think how much it could be sold for. As ten people have ten different views ,every person has his or her own unique way of perceiving things. People create their own lives spurred on by their environment. In this sense people cannot exist without the environment in which they live and the environment cannot exist without them. Buddhism looks into this relationship of life and environment and explains the principle of esho-funi that is- oneness of life and environment. Esho is the combination of eho and shosho. Eho means the environment and shosho means life. Funi means two but not two. This means although we perceive things around us as separate from us, there is a dimension of our lives that is one with the universe. At the most fundamental level of life itself, there is no separation between us and the environment
Buddhism teaches that life manifests in both a living subject and an objective environment. Nichiren wrote, “Life at each moment encompasses both self and environment of all sentiment beings in every condition of life as well as insentient being plants, sky and earth on down to the minutest particles of dust.
Life means that the subjective self that experiences the effects of past actions and is capable of creating new causes for the future, the environment is the objective realm where the karmic effects of life take shape. Environment here does not mean one overall context in which all living beings live. Each living being has his or her own unique environment in which the effects of karma appear. The effects of one’s karma both good and bad, manifests in the environment because these are two integral phases of the same entity.
Since both life and its environment are one, whichever of the ten worlds an individual manifests internally, will be mirrored in the environment. For example- a person in the state of hell will perceive the environment to be hellish while a person in the world of animality will perceive the environment as a jungle, where only the strong survive.
According to Buddhism’ everything around us, including work and family relationships, is the reflection of our inner lives. Everything perceived through the self and alters according to the individual’s inner state of life. Although the outside world can be sunny or cloudy, what really matters is how we feel inside.
Because individual and surroundings are fundamentally one, whatever the state of life we will manifest in the environment. will simultaneously manifest in the environment. That is what Nichiren meant when he wrote ‘environment is like the shadow; and life is the body. If the body wanders the environment does, too’. If the body shows respect then the environment respects in return.
When nichiren stated that “you should not think the law is outside yourself” he meant to seek the source and solution to ones suffering in the environment. To compare ourselves continually with others, whether we evaluate ourselves positively or negatively, or to think that other people are responsible for our happiness, or that we cannot be happy unless someone else changes or that our bank balance must increase in order to feel self worth.
These are all examples of seeking the law outside our selves.
It is not very easy concept to accept, because it goes against our ingrained prejudice to blame the circumstances for our problems.
For example if an individual finds other people unfriendly, it is often because he or she is provoking that reaction. Similarly if this person becomes friendlier the people around will begin to react differently. There are people who can walk into a room and immediately lighten things up and lift every body’s spirits. similarly, it might be difficult to imagine being held responsible for something like having a terrible boss.you didn’t make your boss a bad one. It’s not your fault that the boss is bad. You are however responsible for being and staying there. Almost all bosses no matter how demanding and arrogant they may be, usually have a stable of favourites, employees who do their bidding and get along with them fairly smoothly. Why aren’t you one of these people? Have you chosen not to be out of high mindedness or some other motive? Whatever may be the reason it was your choice. In fact if we examine any situation in life using the buddhaistic eye of clarity and wisdom the more we realize that we are indeed responsible for all choices and thus for our experiences with our environment for better or worse
Sometimes we are not responsible for the behaviour of others- that’s their responsibility- we do need to be responsible for our own behaviour. This includes taking responsibilities for being in the circumstances we find ourselves in, no matter how difficult and arbitrary such circumstances may seem.
Yet Buddhism explains that when viewed from the perspective of eternity of life and the myriad of good and bad causes we have made, we did, in fact make causes to be where and who we are in this life. It is entirely the results f our own actions over the many lifetimes. All of us are ultimately responsible for everything about our lives.
For example people who compliant of not having enough money, but as Josei Toda, the second president of SGI, once pointed out, that money is all around us, like the air we breathe. The real problem is that just as some people are asthmatic, so others have a problem in their inner lives which restrict their ability to attract money into their outer lives. We really are the architects of our existence and our surroundings do reflect precisely what we have built.
The principle of karma according to nichiren daishonin’s Buddhism is absolutely precise; there is no escaping of our past actions. The law of cause and effect permeates our life through the past, present and future existences. Nothing is erased, forgotten or missed.
It is a mistake to think that we can leave all our problems behind & simply move from the bad situation to some good place and live a carefree life that is- change our environment. We carry karma with us like a suitcase everywhere we go. As long as we remain unable to redress our own weaknesses, we will be miserable no matter where or to whom we may take flight. We can never become truly happy unless we ourselves undergo a personal transformation.
Nichiren writes, “If the minds of living beings are impure , their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure so is their land. There are not two lands pure and impure in themselves. The difference is solely in the good or evil of our minds. There are no accidents according to Buddhism and these are no coincidences. There is only the strict law of cause and effect that is – nam myho renge kyo.
When you adopt the Buddhist view, when you deeply internalize this law within your life, you begin to gain tremendous power over yourself and over your relationship with the world outside
Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism enables us to transform the place where we are now into “land of eternally tranquil light” and thereby construct a place of happiness. In order to do that we have to transform our life condition. When we change our own state of life our environment will naturally start changing as well. This is principle of oneness of life and its environment. A grand palace of happiness exists within our own heart. Faith is the key that opens the door to that palace.
One of the immediate benefits of chanting NMRK is that our own perception changes and our sense organs become purified. Thus we begin to see ourselves and our environment in a different light. This may result in us no longer seeing our circumstances are hellish or in our percieving, that we have the power to change them in a positive way. By altering the core conditions of our lives we gradually move towards a life where our Buddha nature, a state where we feel hopeful, stronger and more confident, is increasingly dominant. Thus we develop the qualities of courage, compassion and wisdom and we can start to overcome our negative and destructive tendencies, which previously we may not even have been able to see. Making the concept of oneness of self and environment, a core principle in our life gives us courage and hope because as we chant and see our potential to overcome. Negativity, we realize that we have the power to alter the progress of our society.
The single most positive action we can make for the society and the land is to transform our own lives, so that they are no longer dominated by anger, greed and fear. When we manifest wisdom, generosity and integrity, we naturally make more valuable choices and we will find that our surroundings are nurturing and supportive. Often we cannot foresee the long-term results of our actions and it is hard to believe that one individual’s choice can really affect the state of the world, but Buddhism teaches that through oneness of self and environment everything is interconnected. And the more we believe that our actions do make a difference, the greater the difference we find we can make in our own lives and thereby causing a ripple effect in society.
This means that the collective cause made by human beings start to reflect a more positive life state, in which the dignity of all lives is more important than satisfying a never ending demand for profit. In this scenario societies will learn how to develop a harmonious relationship with the natural world, taking only what the need to survive, that is- sustaining ecological balance with the universe.
Therefore from the problem of war to the ongoing threats to global ecosystem, real lasting change depends upon bringing forth the enlightened nature of uncountable individual.
Establishing within ourselves and our society, the humane philosophy that Buddhism puts forth is an effective way to peace, joy and harmony.
Sensei says, “Its not environment that alters the human being but forces within the individual. Buddhist practice is the way to polish, strengthen and change ourselves for the better.”