The Teaching Of The Six Great-Elements
Through Shingon Buddhism a person knows of the Buddha?s great
life force that exists in the entire universe, realizes that in
meditation it will be seen to be of the same essence as that of
ourselves. And further it has doctrines that teach practices
for achieving this realization. Kobo Daishi, in order to explain
the Buddha?s life force in a way that would be easy for us to
understand, spoke about the expression of the Buddha-Nature through
the Six Great Elements (Rokudai).
The formation of the world according to Buddhism is through the
process of causal origination. This is the Buddhist view of the
world by which everything in the world comes to be and continues
to live in this world because of a great life force that is invisible
to the eye. This life force takes on many different forms and
manifests itself as the individual life of each thing.
The basic doctrine of the Shingon Esoteric Buddhism established
by Kobo Daishi is called "The Causal Origination of Things Through
the Six Great-Elements." It is a view of both the world, as well
as human beings, and it teaches us about the true nature and formation
of the world.
The causal origination of the world through the Six Great-Elements
asserts that human beings along with everything else come to be
because they possess the six characteristics and functions of
earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness. This is not
simply the coming together of physical symbols, but in the sense
that each element of earth, fire, water, wind, space, and consciousness
has the activity of the great life force, they are expressed as
the Six Great-Elements. We can clearly understand this by speaking
of the life of the earth, the life of water, the life of fire,
the life of the wind, the life of space, and the life of the mind.
In his work, "The Meaning of Becoming a Buddha in This Body,"
Kobo Daishi says,
This teaches us that the universal life force, which is comprised
of the Six Great-Elements, forms the basis of all things that
have life as we do, and that we are in a state of harmony in having
the same essence as that of the life of the Buddha.
The great element that is the earth refers to how the Earth is
the Mother of life on earth. The great element of water is the
water of life that gives moisture to all things and nurtures the
power of life. The great element of fire is the energy that is
possessed by fire, and is the working of life that gives heat
and vitality to living things. The great element of wind is best
thought of as the breath of the entire universe, it is constant
movement. Each breath we take is life itself. The great element
of space is the vast and eternal life of the universe that envelops
all things. The great element of consciousness is the life of
the spirit that is in all things and is the functioning of wisdom.
©1998,1999 Shingon Buddhist International Institute