Friday, 17 February 2012


A couple of years ago, I spent six months in Romania for a European project. It was a very interesting experience and I'm glad I did it, but it was also very challenging. During most of the six months the weather was really rubbish, alternating snow and rain, and the temperature ranged between -12º and -25º.

The worst part was not having Buddhist meetings. At the time there were only a handful of members in Romania and I couldn't manage to contact any of them. Furthermore, I was living in this very small town up north and my Romanian was very basic, so there was really nothing to do. At all.

Luckily I had my mom's Omamori Gohonzon with me, (not being able to carry a Butsudan made it impossible to take my Gohonzon with me), and that made it a bit better. I went home for Christmas and forgot my Gongyo book there, so from January till May I had to chant from memory, which to be fair was great. It meant I had to really focus on what I was doing and couldn't let my mind wander on trivial things, otherwise I would lose the thread and had to start again. The first days I found myself starting Gongyo again five times, then I found my focus.

To make a long story short, I wasn't doing any activity and I was missing it terribly. I missed the discussion meetings, I missed chanting with other people, and most of all, of course, I missed doing lilac. On the plus side, I had loads of free time so I could chant more, but I was longing for something to do.

Then I found this very old photocopy about Ichinen. It was given to me at a discussion meeting in Brescia two years before I left Italy for good, but it was much older than that.

Ichinen is a very important Buddhist concept.

I will post the definition you can find at the SGI Library Online:
[一念] (Jpn; Chin i-nien )
A single moment of life, one instant of thought, or the mind or life at a single moment. Also, life-moment, thought-moment, or simply a single moment or instant. Ichinen has various meanings in Buddhism:
(1) A moment, or an extremely short period comparable to the Sanskrit term kshana. The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom defines one kshana or moment as a sixtieth of the time it takes to snap one's fingers.
(2) The functioning of the mind for one moment. The "Distinctions in Benefits" (seventeenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra speaks of a single moment of belief and understanding.
(3) To focus one's mind on meditating on a Buddha; Shan-tao (613-681), a patriarch of the Chinese Pure Land school, defined ichinen (one instant of thought) as chanting Amida Buddha's name once.
(4) T'ient'ai (538-597) philosophically interprets ichinen in his doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life ( Jpn ichinen-sanze Chin i-nien san-ch'ien ). In this doctrine, ichinen indicates the mind of an ordinary person, which at each moment is endowed with the potential of three thousand realms; its characteristics are: (a) it pervades the entire universe; (b) it includes both body and mind; (c) it includes both self and environment; (d) it gives rise to good and evil; and (e) it encompasses cause and effect simultaneously. Nichiren (1222-1282) embodied this philosophical framework in the form of a mandala known as the Gohonzon. By this he aimed to establish a practical way for ordinary people to manifest Buddhahood from among the Ten Worlds of their own lives.
Particularly important for us is the 4th point. Generally speaking, your ichinen is your determination. Your unstoppable, dynamic conviction to express your Buddhahood in your life, to be happy here and now.

The photocopy summarised the concept of ichinen and the different types of faith with incredible clarity, and I found it of great help during the many challenges I had to go through in my life.
Particularly, for me, I found myself going back to it (I kept my tattered copy folded in my Gongyo book, now it's on my parents' fridge), and reading 
ichinen directed towards the past > regression >  you will think: WHY? > result: you will remain a slave to your destiny
Every time I was deep down in the world of Hell and asking myself, "why do I have to suffer so much?", I read that line and immediately found a new determination. The why is not important. My conviction is. Sod the why, let's actually DO something to make things better.

Obviously, the photocopy was in Italian. Well, I had way too much time on my hands and wanted to do some Buddhist activity, so I translated it and sent it to all my friends. Now I decided to put it on my blog. 

Disclaimer. I did not create this wonderful handout. My original Italian version had no signature on it, but if you happen to know who is the Bodhisattva of the Earth who made it, please give them my thanks and let me know, so I can credit them. Any problem with the translation is my fault.

Below is the embedded PDF file and a link to download it. It works best when printed double-side on an A4 sheet.

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