The Concept of the Law

in Christianity and in Buddhism



Christian literature refers to the concept of “Law” in sense of morality as well as in sense of the objective natural principles created by God:


“Everything in the universe, every plant and animal, every rock, every particle of matter or light wave, is bound by laws which it has no choice but to obey. The Bible tells us that there are laws of nature—“ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). These laws describe the way God normally accomplishes His will in the universe.

God’s logic is built into the universe, and so the universe is not haphazard or arbitrary”.


The abovementioned Christian view comes very close to the Buddhist perspective on reality of existence of all phenomena.  The Buddhist perspective, however, views the two concepts of “God” and “Law” as inseparable.  Both, the Divine and the Law are one existence, which is called the “Eternal Life”:


“Life at each moment encompasses the body and mind and the self and environment of all sentient beings, as well as all insentient beings, in [all realms of existence], including plants, sky, earth, and even the minutest particles of dust. Life at each moment permeates the entire realm of phenomena and is revealed in all phenomena’. WND1 p 3


According to Nichiren, living beings cannot exist without inanimate matter, and both constitute an all encompassing existence of ‘Life’.  What we consider as inanimate, such as rocks, metals or water - are far from being static, as their inner structure (on the molecule and atomic levels) exist in a continuously active exchange of dynamic particles and energy levels.  There is no line of separation between the laws acting on inanimate matter and the laws acting on living organisms.  On the macro scale, the same laws through which the physical world operates, operate also within the body of living beings: gravity, fluid mechanics, etc..  These natural laws make no distinction between living beings and the environment, and their impartial nature creates the background of one great existence: Life’s diverse phenomena. 


The complexity and interconnectedness of infinitely diverse functions in Life’s phenomena - is beyond explanation, and Buddhism refers to this inscrutable essence of life as “Myo”, (which means: beyond explanation, mystic and wonderful). The physical manifestation of Myo is what we observe by the senses, and it is called “Ho”.  Any observable thing then - is Myoho.  Each of us is “Myoho”, a living organism - integrating both mind (Myo) and body (Ho) into one entity.  Christianity considers the inner spiritual essence of being (the Myo) as separable from the physical manifestation (the Ho).  In this Dualistic perspective, God (the spiritual) and Universe (the physical) are separate, as God is presented to be unconditioned and existing without the Universe.  Buddhism views both God and the Universe as inseparable.


What comes first?


There are three major perspectives in philosophy regarding the problem of Mind and Matter:


  1. -Mind first: the view that Mind (or the intellectual/spiritual aspect) existed before matter, and then (the universe) was consequently created. (Christian view).

  2. -Matter first: the materialists view that Matter originally existed, then the Mind developed or evolved. (Materialists view) 

  3. -Mind-Matter indivisible: Buddhism unifies both of the above opposing views into that of “Inseparability of Mind and Matter”.


The Buddhist view on the existence of Mind-Matter is that of Non-duality. Neither matter nor mind comes first nor next. Instead of viewing matter and mind as two separate aspects, Buddhism uses the word “Life” which combines both. 


The Concept of Law in Buddhism


From one perspective, the “Law” in both Christianity and Buddhism covers the spiritual and physical principles - through which the world operates.  The word “Law’ implies also the “Truth” or the way the Truth is manifested in all phenomena.  The “Truth” is referred to also as the Dharma.  The word Dharma has two meanings: the Ultimate Truth or the Law, and also the Buddhist Dharma -implying the “teachings” of the Buddha. In Nichiren Buddhism, the “Truth” or the Dharma is described as the “Law”, being the “Reality of Life”, or the “True Aspect of All Phenomena”. This “Reality” is called The Law of Cause and Effect:


“The Mystic Law of cause and effect governs both spiritual and material existence, which we must comprehend non-dualisticallyIkeda-Dewey Dialogue


The Mystic Law of Cause and Effect, which operates all phenomena - is not static, as reality of life, expressed by this Law - manifests a spectrum of states, some constructive while others destructive.  The highest state of the Law of Life is that of the state of Enlightenment:


Buddhism sees the cosmos itself as being the Law.

A Buddha is someone who has recognised his identity with this cosmic Law.

This is much different from postulating an absolute deity who creates and dominates the Law.” (Ikeda: Life, an Enigma, page 80)


In this perspective of Nichiren Buddhism, the essence of all laws of nature as well as the patterns of relationships, tendencies and principles in the realm of human mind with all its contradicting motivations - all operate according to the Law of Cause and Effect”, which can manifest ignorance and sufferings or enlightenment and harmony, depending on the awareness and intention of the individual.  In effect, each individual is a manifestation of the Universal Law, in its various states of existence.       

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