Also, fundamental ignorance or primal ignorance. The most deeply rooted illusion inherent in life, said to give rise to all other illusions. Darkness in this sense means inability to see or recognize the truth, particularly, the true nature of one's life. The term fundamental darkness is contrasted with the fundamental nature of enlightenment, which is the Buddha nature inherent in life. According to the Shrimala Sutra, fundamental darkness is the most difficult illusion to surmount and can be eradicated only by the wisdom of the Buddha. T'ient'ai (538-597) interprets darkness as illusion that prevents one from realizing the truth of the Middle Way, and divides such illusion into forty-two types, the last of which is fundamental darkness.
This illusion is only extirpated when one attains the stage of perfect enlightenment, the last of the fifty-two stages of bodhisattva practice. Nichiren (1222-1282) interprets fundamental darkness as ignorance of the ultimate Law, or ignorance of the fact that one's life is essentially a manifestation of that Law, which he identifies as Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. In The Treatment of Illness, Nichiren states: "The heart of the Lotus school is the doctrine of three thousand realms in a single moment of life, which reveals that both good and evil are inherent even in those at the highest stage of perfect enlightenment. The fundamental nature of enlightenment manifests itself as Brahma and Shakra, whereas the fundamental darkness manifests itself as the devil king of the sixth heaven" (1113). Nichiren thus regards fundamental darkness as latent even in the enlightened life of the Buddha, and the devil king of the sixth heaven as a manifestation or personification of life's fundamental darkness. The Record of the Orally Transmitted Teachings reads, "Belief is a sharp sword that cuts off fundamental darkness or ignorance."