earthly desires are enlightenment ［煩悩即菩提］ ( bonnō-soku-bodai): A Mahayana principle based on the view that earthly desires cannot exist independently on their own; therefore one can attain enlightenment without eliminating earthly desires. This contrasts with the Hinayana view that extinguishing earthly desires is a prerequisite for enlightenment. According to the Hinayana teachings, earthly desires and enlightenment are two independent and opposing factors, and the two cannot coexist; while the Mahayana teachings reveal that earthly desires are one with and inseparable from enlightenment. This is because all things, even earthly desires and enlightenment, are manifestations of the unchanging reality or truth—and thus are non-dual at their source.
The Universal Worthy Sutra, an epilogue to the Lotus Sutra, states, “Without either cutting off earthly desires or separating themselves from the five desires, they can purify all their senses and wipe away all their offenses.” T’ien-t’ai (538–597) says in Great Concentration and Insight, “The ignorance and dust of desires are enlightenment, and the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana.” In The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings, Nichiren (1222–1282) states: “The idea of gradually overcoming delusions is not the ultimate meaning of the ‘Life Span’ chapter [of the Lotus Sutra]. You should understand that the ultimate meaning of this chapter is that ordinary mortals, just as they are in their original state of being, are Buddhas,” and, “Today, when Nichiren and his followers recite the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, they are burning the firewood of earthly desires, summoning up the wisdom-fire of enlightenment.”