First of all, thanks for asking those questions! I don't think they are trolling, and I took a look at the other responses before answering. No-one has provided the intellectually rigorous answers you were hoping for, so I think I should step in and do it!
But if I'm to explain it, first some background. In the text of this article, there's the story of Shakyamuni Buddha. One of his last works was the lotus sutra - a controversial teaching where he declared that all previous teachings had not revealed the complete truth about buddhism, but that he thought no-one would believe him if he had started by saying exactly what he thought, so basically, through his life he taught teachings following the wisdom of the people.
The lotus sutra was different: It was aimed at his followers then, but also at people living in the "latter day of the law" - which he prophesized to be some 3000 years later, at a time when no-one alive would have been able to be in his presence, and thus attain enlightenment simply through being taught by Shakyamuyni himself or one of his followers. We're still in this time now. This is because he didn't think it was the right time for people to know that they could be buddhas too, in their current lifetime.
A few hundred years later, The Tendai School began in China, when Tientai, a buddhist scholar wrote commentaries and analysis of the lotus sutra, and formulated a way to reach enlightenment in this present life. But it took a long time to reach the concentration needed (His main book explaining it was called "great concentration and insight"!). It was inaccessible for anyone but a monk, but very thorough in it's analysis of the lotus sutra's concepts and the world view they created.
Enter Nichiren Daishonin, a 13th century Japanese Priest - who was a student in a Tendai temple. He entered into a profound study of all the kinds of buddhism present in his day, and elaborated on the then corrupt tendai faith, which had added elements of other faiths to Tientai's original practices. Nichiren condensed the complex ritual of enlightenment into a simple and accessible chant: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.
Okay, that was a lot of explaining to answer your question, but here is the answer, and in Nichiren's own words:
While deluded, one is called a common mortal, but once enlightened, he is called a Buddha. Even a tarnished mirror will shine like a jewel if it is polished. A mind which presently is clouded by illusions originating from the innate darkness of life is like a tarnished mirror, but once it is polished it will become clear, reflecting the enlightenment of immutable truth. Arouse deep faith and polish your mirror night and day. How should you polish it? Only by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
This is from a letter to one of Nichiren's followers, called "On Attaining Buddhahood" - it explained in simple terms how one could become aware of his buddha state - his buddhahood innate inside, and be a buddha equal to Shakyamuni and all other buddhas. Saying that you can't remember a past life, and therefore doubt that you had such a past life at all, then you are unaware of your buddha nature. As Nichiren says, this makes you a common mortal. So for all intents and purposes, you have no past life. But you only need to chant to change this. The speck of faith that you need to chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the speck of faith in your buddhahood - that you are a buddha too, and have always existed, and will always exist.
Phew, that was the first and second question! If you spoke out Nam Myoho Renge Kyo you just achieved enlightenment too! But if you want to progress beyond the first phase of simply having some slight belief that you can be a buddha, and see this belief flourish, you need to study and have faith. You can't do without any of these three practices: Faith, Buddhist practice (chanting and Gongyo - our prayers) and Study. This will end up making Buddhahood your fundamental state,
as opposed to whatever state you are currently in. Before I was a buddhist I think my main state was humanity(number 6 in the list of worlds that's in the article) - I was "humane" and able to solve my problems through my wisdom, and able to grow, but lazy and sometimes unable to confront obstacles in my life. I don't think it's the world most people are in usually though, as it says in the article: My partner always says her main world is Anger - since she's done a lot to try and bring the good side out of this. Also lots of people are in hunger. Typically, addicts.
The descriptions in the list are a bit "esoteric" for my tastes - people fluctuate between the ten worlds at all times in the day. I go to the lower worlds more frequently than I'd like!
Likewise, many academics - like one person who answered on this thread, as well as many open minded people are stuck in the world of realisation and learning - which are high worlds to be in, but limited because they appear to be the highest state. Sad to say, but I think my parents are there.
Okay, now you're third question: If you are aware of your real life-span, and
I imagine you also mean if you're aware of all the other things that make
someone a buddha, then why aren't you striving for buddhahood? Well, if you're
aware, then of course you are! We do loads for buddhism to grow, for more
people to practice, and for world peace - both through my organisation's
affiliation to the UN and in my case, as an ex-refugee, to support asylum seekers in the UK, to support anti war protesters (by chanting, and once by
babysitting!). Each person does whatever fits with their particular mission -
most of these things are simply the ones I feel I should be doing. I think it's a valid point that if some day no-one at all,
in the world, was practicing, or was aware of their buddhahood, we wouldn't
have any reason to be around anymore. Life is a fragile thing, and by being
buddhists we fight for life, all life, to grow.
Why isn't the world fighting for enlightenment? I don't see why they logically
should? I thought we were here as buddhists, on this world, and in this time
so we could show people about buddhism. If they were all buddhists already, what would be the point of being here?
I think you confuse enlightenment with awareness simply of a past life... A
bitmore on buddhist concepts of death etc. Also, you seem to take very
literally the word "rebirth" as if you, and exactly the same you, no
different, was born again, hiding somewhere all the memories and experiences
you'd had before. Nope. Sorry. We're eaten by worms, and our brain is too.
Maybe something stays some other way of our memories, and somehow all our
actions and dreams are not forgotten, but until I see a scientist or a
buddhist prove it, I don't think our conscious self survives after death in
the form of a soul. There is a bit that survives though - more on this later.
I see life as something that is always there, whether you see it or not. As
Shakyamuni himself said (Lotus Sutra, Chap 16
Since I attained Buddhahood
the number of kalpas that have passed
is an immeasurable hundreds, thousands, ten thousands,
millions, trillions, asamkhyas.
Constantly I have preached the Law, teaching, converting
countless millions of living beings,
causing them to enter the Buddha way,
all this for immeasurable kalpas.
In order to save living beings,
as an expedient means I appear to enter nirvana
but in truth I do not pass into extinction.
I am always here preaching the Law.
I am always here,
but through my transcendental powers
I make it so that living beings in their befuddlement
do not see me even when close by.
(Kalpa = very long period of time. Different interpretations abound on the internet as to how long it is) So life is simply something that's not always in a manifest state. It can
become dormant, but you're always "alive". This is explained better in the
writings of Daisaku Ikeda, and here's a page that explains more on it:
http://www.geshu.org/study/uk/kekuchu.shtml - but it's complex and I won't go
into it now.
So you ask about the "extra people" and where souls come from... Sorry - Wrong
religion! But you obviously have some trouble understanding the buddhist
concept of death. The most important aspect of this is so that you can
understand when a loved one dies, that your faith can answer the question of
whether they are alright, where are they? Will you ever see them again?
Everyone is constantly taking different kinds of action. I take action in
writing you, which I hope is a positive action, which will give me good karma.
The sum of the positive and negative actions you have taken adds up to the
Karma, which is stored in your eighth conscousness - the karmic storehouse,
which is explained here:
When you die, this karma carries on to the next life. Some people say that
Hitler negates buddhism because he died a relatively peaceful way compared to
the trouble he caused. I think he can't escape what he did, but I have to hope
that he can achieve buddhahood in whatever existence he's in now.
I believe Hitler died in a Hell state. I may be wrong, but it was surely one
of the lower worlds. When I die, I hope to be in a buddhahood state - so that
when I'm born again, I can be born into surroundings that also have buddhahood
(another buddhist awareness is the oneness of one's self and surroundings).
When buddhists die, we say they are able to choose to be born into families of
practicing buddhists. We also tend to be born around the same people - since our lives are intertwined beyond any particular lifetime. The roles may change though. And while we are not coming back into a new life, we
rejoin the accumulated buddhahood that's in the universe. We call this eagle
peak - the place where shakyamuni preached the lotus sutra. Here is a passage where Nichiren speaks of this way:
When I reach Eagle Peak, I will first tell how Shijo Kingo, like Nichiren,
resolved to die for the Lotus Sutra.
This is from "The persecution at tatsunokuchi" - a letter written at a time when Nichiren had incurred the anger of the japanese government because of his views, and as he was led to his execution, a follower vowed to die alongside him. At eagle peak, you're supposedly in presence of all other buddhas, but I see it as a chemical or physical state rather than some kind of heaven.
I hope my answers have been satisfactory, and I'm sorry I can't explain these
things without going so deep into buddhist theory. But I think your questions
are very deep questions, and hopefully you'll be happy with the rigour
employed. And on a side note, I hope those of other buddhist faiths are able
to offer up their own interpretations of these concepts in answer to your
questions as well. Please feel free to ask more questions like these! Some more links to FAQs on my particular strand of buddhism:
[ Parent ]