three mystic principles ［三妙］ ( san-myō): The true cause, true effect, and true land, indicated in the “Life Span” (sixteenth) chapter of the Lotus Sutra. The first three of the ten mystic principles of the essential teaching (latter half of the sutra) formulated by T’ien-t’ai (538–597) in the part of The Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra in which he interprets the word myō, meaning wonderful or mystic, of Myoho-renge-kyo, the title of the Lotus Sutra of the Wonderful Law.
The true cause is the practice that Shakyamuni Buddha undertook to reach his original enlightenment. The true effect is the original enlightenment that he attained. The true land is the place where the Buddha has been expounding his teachings since his original attainment of enlightenment. The fact that the “Life Span” chapter teaches these three together is called the integration of the three mystic principles. The mystic principle of the true cause is expressed in the passage of the “Life Span” chapter that reads, “Originally I practiced the bodhisattva way, and the life span that I acquired then has yet to come to an end.” The mystic principle of the true effect is shown in the passage, “Since I attained Buddhahood, an extremely long period of time has passed.” The passage that indicates the mystic principle of the true land is, “Ever since then I have been constantly in this sahā world, preaching the Law, teaching and converting.”
In his 1273 treatise The Object of Devotion for Observing the Mind, Nichiren explains the significance of the three mystic principles: “He [the Buddha of the theoretical teaching] revealed the hundred worlds and thousand factors inherent in life, but he did not expound their eternal nature. . . . The difference between the theoretical and the essential teachings is as great as that between heaven and earth. The latter reveals the eternity of the Ten Worlds and, further, the realm of the environment” (368). The true cause signifies the nine worlds eternally inherent in life, and the true effect, the Buddhahood eternally inherent in life. Together they reveal the eternity of the Ten Worlds. The true land signifies the realm of the environment, which is also eternal. These three represent “the actual three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”