In Buddhism all matter is believed to be composed of the five elements: earth, water, fire, wind
and
ku. These are known as the "five great elements," and in fact the five-storied pagoda is
symbolic of these five elements which a person is restored to after death.
The word engi is a shortened form of the expression in-nen sho-ki. This four-character phrase
means that everything has cause and condition. "Cause"
(in) would be the factors that directly
bring about a result. "Condition" (
en) refers to factors which complement the primary "cause."
(The cause (
in) combined with the condition (en) equals karma.) The example of a flower is
often used to explain this: A flower blooms because seeds are planted and shoots come forth.
The seed is the direct cause for the blooming of the flower. However, flowers will not grow
simply from seeds, they must be given water and sunshine. In this instance, water and sunlight
are indirect factors causing the flower to bloom, and are, in other words, "conditions."
In the same way that a flower is made to bloom as a result of
the "cause" -- the seed -- and the "conditions" of the water
and sunshine, all existence, including ourselves, are not
realized independently, but rather materialize as a result of
various causes and conditions. Hence all phenomena are
manifested as a result of the mutual relationship of
innumerable causes and conditions. Engi refers to the fact
that when causes and conditions change, the phenomena
too will change. Therefore, this suggests "impermanence"
(all things arise, change and are extinguished), and "no
self" (no existence is absolute and immutable).
To be more specific, human beings are supported by the entire universe. If a person eats a
potato that potato is assimilated into the human body and thus becomes human. Likewise,
when a person eats beef, the beef becomes human. That is why we cannot pray for the
enlightenment of human beings alone, we must also pray for the enlightenment of all living
things. Only the
Lotus Sutra teaches enlightenment for all living beings.  The mergence of
billions of lives coonstitutes "all living beings."
We see plants blooming everyday. The flower dies, but still life remains and the plant will
blossom again. Yet, there is no person "A" who will be reborn as person "A."  If person "A"
were to be reborn as person "A" he or she would have to have the same parents, live at the
same address, have the same classmates and teachers as in this life, otherwise it will not be
the same person "A."  A man who is a good marksman in this life will not be reborn a good
marksman in the next life.

Hate, sadness, love are causes and conditions which impact our karma and determine our
destiny. Chanting
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo is also a cause and condition which affects our
karma. When one dies the spirit will merge with the universe, but it is not certain where in
the universe it will reside. The universe is composed of innumerable lives. From previous
lifetimes these lives have formed connections or relationships. Where a spirit comes to
reside is determined by its relationship with other lives in the universe, or its relationship
with the universe as a whole. For a human being to create a relationship with
Namu-myoho-renge-kyo will make a big difference. When one is connected to
Myoho-renge-kyo it is profound.
CAUSES AND CONDITIONS
By Reverend Raido Hirota
Translated and edited by the Udumbara Foundaion staff.
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the Nichiren Shoshu Shoshin-kai