Nichiren Buddhism and the Teaching of Karma
Karma is the “history of one’s actions”. We make our history of actions through our behaviour, speech and thoughts. The motivations, which drive us to actions – reside in our subconscious mind, as powers influencing our thinking, speech and behaviour.
Karma and the Psychology of the individual
Psychology is the study of behaviour and motivations that drive us to act (and to feel the way we do). This is exactly the field of Karma, which also explains that we attract from the environment certain patterns of events. The study of psychology and the teachings of Karma perfectly coincide. The concept of Subconsciousness, where our karmic tendencies are stored – supports also what Buddhism explains as individual and collective karma (or tendencies of actions).
The more we repeat a certain action, the deeper its essence becomes recorded through the working of the mind. Neuroscience explains that each type of action we do is associated with a relevant neuro-path, and that frequently repeating certain action makes its neuropath more dominant. Habits, tendencies and motivations reflect the essence of what we did in the past.
The record of the motivations and tendencies we have is called Karma. Correctly understood, Karma is the storehouse of the driving forces in our psychological domain, it is a mental energy, which attracts patterns of events we encounter – and influences our life and its future events.
Karma is a work in progress
At each moment in time, we are adding something to our personal history of actions, or our karma. Karma is a ‘work in progress’. The storehouse of information about our tendencies and actions is never static, as we are always driven by intentions and continuous thinking. This means that Karma is not fixed.
If we make some dedicated efforts towards new quality of action – then we can change the orientation and direction of our intentions and create a shift towards a more positive and beneficial history of action, forming thus a good account of Karma.
The Mechanism of Creating Karma:
As Mahatma Gandhi explained:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your future path or destiny.”
The mechanism through which karma is created follows the working of the Law of Cause and Effect. This Law is described in the Lotus Sutra, and it teaches that any action we do has two kinds of results:
– a directly visible effect (Nyoze Ho), and
– a latent effect (Nyoze Ka), a future potential for repeating the same event.
This latent effect (Nyoze Ka) is added to the storage of Karma: a latent possibility for future occurrence – or a tendency to attract the same essence of action.
Repeated actions of a certain trend will create a deeper tendency and a stronger attraction of the same nature of events or motivations, becoming the driving force influencing the future of our life. As such, we become psychologically prone to certain patterns of events. The mental energy of Karma becomes like ‘inner magnet’ – attracting from the environment that which matches and fits its nature, good or bad.
The important thing here is that karma is not fixed, but is constantly added-to at each moment by our actions.
Karma and Diversity of Newborns: “The circumstances into which we are born, as well as our faces and our shapes and sizes are infinitely varied. This is clearly the result of accumulated karma each of us in born with. […] If we pursue the question of where our karmic tendencies come from thoroughly, we realise its source cannot possibly be found in this life alone. We have to acknowledge that life is eternal”. D. Ikeda, New Human Revolution, Vol.3, Ch.1 Western Transmission 27.
Taking responsibility for one’s life
Because actions lead to creating karmic tendencies, Nichiren Buddhism, regards karma as a beneficial mental power for creating the future. Setting a certain goal (for example : overcoming a certain weakness in one’s behaviour – such as emotionalism, immaturity, greed, egoism, etc…) and making a determination at the present moment to realise one’s goals – this would create a shift towards transforming our inclination.
In this perspective, the mechanism of creating karma becomes a powerful means by which we consciously reprogram our file of karmic tendencies . Taking command of our intention at the present moment can open a path toward a desired future.
Karma is not about dwelling into the past.
Nichiren Buddhism is concerned with transforming one’s karma into a positive energy of action, because the present moment is the decisive factor for creating beneficial conditions for our future.
Some Buddhist schools seem to be obsessed by theories of karma and past life, explaining whatever event or hardship one faces in life as a punishment for “bad karma”. In Nichiren Buddhism, however, hardships are considered as fuel for gaining inner strength – and everything we encounter is regarded as an opportunity for winning over our own weaknesses.
While we are not responsible for other people’s actions towards us (their action is their own responsibility) – we are, however, responsible for our own reaction towards others. Seeking a better way of reaction in daily life (which would ensure benefit of self-and-others), we need to take command and direct our actions – rather than letting our immature reactions or past habits or tendencies take the lead.
Having the interest in improving the quality of our actions – in itself is a good karmic tendency. Nichiren practice of chanting is an action of using the power of the Law of Cause and Effect for transformation of our life into the highest state possible, creating thus a karma of seeking enlightenment, happiness and lifeforce.
Author; Safwan Zabalawi (Darshams)