The Five Components are an important concept in Buddhism as they are the key to our perception of everything we encounter on a day to day basis. It is through the five components that we sense and begin interpreting the words that are said to us and others; the actions that others take for us and others; the overall environment we experience every day. How we interpret our environment leads to the creation of our karma; our thoughts, words and actions in response to it. For this reason Buddhism teaches the importance of achieving a state of mind, or life, where we sense our environment accurately. Where we are able to see through our insecurities and baggage that we bring to our five components and not just to avoid creating a chain reaction of negative causes and karma but to also contribute to both our own happiness and that of society. Essentially the Five Components are the source of delusions in our life when we are not able to see things from our Buddha nature.
If we interpret words or an action as hostile or condescending toward us it typically will lead to defensive responses. If we interpret something as complimentary or supportive we are apt to respond with warmth and appreciation. Those are our human tendencies or instinctive responses. However, if we meditate and actively pursue achieving a higher life condition we will be more apt to respond positively, or at least in a constructive manner, even when we are actually verbally attacked, but more importantly, we will accurately see the situation for what it truly is as opposed to misinterpreting it. When we do see a situation accurately and if often requires changes in ourselves to effect change.
Before I go on with further explanation of the Five Components, it is important to mention that by meditating/chanting, we tap into our Buddhahood and purify how our five components interpret our environment. We break through our delusions so that we can optimally experience life and generate happiness for ourselves and society. The great thing is that we do not need to intellectually fully comprehend and remember the details of the five components for us to breakthrough the delusions they create in our lives. All we need to do is meditate/chant to overcome a problem, achieve a goal, achieve happiness or whatever else you want in your life. Through chanting we raise our life condition so that we perceive our environment more clearly.
So what are the Five Components of life? They are form, perception, conception, volition and consciousness. For those of you that have studied Nichiren Buddhism extensively, the five components are the elements that constitute a human being and represent “the self” of the three realms of existence. The other two realms of existence are the society and the land. (Outline of Buddhism, edited by Yasuji Kirimura). Understanding each of the components better can help understand the role they play in our lives.
Form: Physical aspects of life and the five sense organs – the eyes, nose, ears, tongue and skin through which one perceives the world
Perception: Receiving external information through our senses and integrating the mind for sensory impressions
Conception: Forming ideas based on what has been perceived.
Volition: The will to take action based on conceptions
Consciousness: Integrates the previous four components to form value judgements, distinguish good from evil.
The first component form, represents the physical aspect of life and the other four represent the spiritual aspect of life. But what is most important to realize is that we frequently misinterpret our environment and peoples intentions and form opinions and take actions and make judgements based on a delusions verses reality. If our perceptions are wrong, and worse yet wrong in a negative way, we form opinions and take actions that create negative cause and negative karma. In other words, our actions work against our own happiness and that of the environment around. This is why it is essentially to always try to break through our ego and insecurities in all situations. I recognize that that is a lot easier said than done. That is why we need to meditate to bring our Buddhahood, our Buddha nature, into our life condition. By doing so, our five components will naturally, without conscious effort, break through our delusions as we experience our lives.
I find this concept vital to meditation/chanting. When chanting about anything, I find greater effectiveness when reminding myself that my perceptions of the situation and my interpretations about how to deal with the situation are key to achieving it. That does not mean that I strategize when I am chanting. It means that I chant to bring up the wisdom to understand what about me needs to change to achieve the result I desire. Do I need to change my approach, do I need to change my attitude, do I need to listen to others better, do I need to be more assertive, persuasive and confident? How I perceive my environment is an essential part of the answer. Remember, our environment is a reflection of our inner state of life. If we are paranoid our five components read our environment from that lens. If we are insecure, our five components read our environment from that lens. If we are arrogant the same is true. So raising our life condition through meditation and helping others is essential to breaking through or delusions. Chanting for others to change or for the environment to change so that you can achieve something is counter to Buddhism. This is why it is so important to understand the essence and importance of the five components.