Buddha is Life


The word “Buddha” has two meanings:


  1. -Buddha as a person (who achieved enlightenment, such as Shakyamuni Buddha),

  2. -Buddha as a state of life, or the state of Buddhahood.


The state of Buddhahood is revealed in the Nine Worlds, which are the state of life in reality of existence in all living beings:


“In teachings based on the Lotus Sutra, in particular, the realm of Buddhahood

is not viewed as a realm apart from the nine worlds,

or from the desires and sufferings of life in the real world”.


Nichiren explains that the word “Buddha” as a state, describes the mind of all living beings:


“Again,the word “Buddha” refers to the single mind of the individual,

to the various minds of the Ten Worlds

and three thousand realms”.       The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings (p. 222-223)



“... the Buddha mind is inherent in the nine worlds.

If we think of this, we realize that Buddha in fact is the living beings of the nine worlds.”

[Chapter Two: Expedient Means] The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teaching (p. 29)


Toda’s realisation: The second President of the Soka Gakkai, Josei Toda, endured imprisonment during the II W W - for his rejection to accept the demands of Japan’s militarist authorities for compliance.  He spent most of his imprisonment time immersed in Buddhist study and contemplation. One passage in the Sutra of Infinite Meanings (Muryogi) attracted in particular his attention. It describes the “Entity of Buddha” - in form of negations:


“...neither existing nor not existing, neither caused nor conditioned, neither self nor other, neither square nor round, neither short nor long, …neither crimson nor purple nor any other color."


This passage raised questions in Toda’s mind about what “Buddha” really is:


Mr. Toda deeply contemplated these questions and sought to resolve them.

It was then that the word “Life” suddenly flashed through his mind. He perceived that the Buddha is Life itself:  “Life is neither existing nor not existing, ...neither caused nor conditioned, ...neither short nor long, ...”.


Toda’s enlightenment, that “Buddha is Life”, also clarified the title of the Sutra of “Infinite Meaning” itself- in a most comprehensible way:


Life” is a straightforward, familiar word we use every day. But at the same time it can express the most profound essence of the Buddhist Law, a single word that expresses ‘infinite meaning’.

All human beings are endowed with life, so this word has practical, concrete meaning for everyone. In this way, Mr. Toda's realisation made Buddhism comprehensible to all”.


The concept of “Buddha is Life” (or Buddha is the Lifeforce of the Universe) - explains also a profound passage, which Nichiren cited from The Flower Garland Sutra: “


The Flower Garland Sutra says,

‘The mind, the Buddha, and all living beings —

these three are without distinction”  WND1 p 1013


This passage indicates that the “mind of the Buddha state” encompasses the collective life of “all living beings”, or simply of all “Life” - as it clearly equates the “Buddha” with ‘Life of all what exists’.


This profound vision of the connectedness of “all existing lives” - as being the manifesting the Lifeforce of the Universe - is also found in the concept of Ichinen Sanzen, which integrates all possible states of life and the environment at each moment.


Equating the term ‘Buddha state’ with ‘Universal life’ - provided a modern understanding of Buddhism, an understanding rooted in our reality of daily life and its environment - as being a state of Buddha, having the great potential of harmony and enlightenment.


The importance of clarity: Clarity is most important in the difficult task of introducing Buddhism to people.  Instead of the traditional obscure explanations about the meaning of “entity of Buddha”, described sometimes as “beyond comprehension of ordinary people”, “unfathomable” and “transcends the power of language”– Toda provided a clear and meaningful explanation to that profound text of what the “entity of Buddha” is: simply “Life”. 


The concept of “Life is Buddha” is beneficial for us in awakening to the fact that our own ordinary daily life is essentially a life of continually striving entity of “Buddha”, and hence - our potentials for creating value are unlimited.

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