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Changing Karma Now
by Carola Chard.
One of the most misunderstood concepts in Buddhism must be that of Karma ---- sometimes interpreted as a heavy burden to carry as part of this lifetime's destiny, like a shackle to keep people in their place until their next lifetime. But the true meaning of Karma is simply ACTION ---- nothing more, nothing less. To be precise, it entails the accumulations of all the actions taken in this and all out past lifetimes.
In simple terms, we can look at it as our bank account with the universe ---- holding both credit and debit ---- good actions are credit and bad actions debit. So, is it enough to make a strong determination to do good deeds from now on, have only pure thoughts and take positive actions?
Not really --- the fact is we are human beings and even with the very best intentions, we will inadvertently slip into lower life states where our vision is blurred by delusion and actions tainted by this will create negative effects. And let's not forget the millions of negative thoughts that race through our minds. Nor do we know what causes we have accumulated in our many past lifetimes and the effects that will manifest throughout this life.
When people are struggling with a major issue, they often say that their karma is very heavy. This has always puzzled me ---- if karma is an accumulation of actions we are seeing the effect manifested. How do we know? Can we weight karma? Is it really that the karma is heavy? Or is it we are weak?
I fondly remember a lesson President Toda once taught one of the leaders in Japan. Suggesting him to lift the table in his office, the leader answered that he tried but the table was too heavy. President Toda concluded that the table is whatever weight it is. The inability to lift it is due to the leader's lack of strength and not due to the table's weight. So perhaps we need to view our karma from the same perspective ---- our inner strength and resolve (or the lack thereof) determines how heavy it appears to us. Aside from physical pains ---- is it not our thoughts and the attitude when facing challenging moments that really make us suffer so much?
Being human, we tend to compare ---- and when we are in the midst of problems, our own suffering always appears to be the greatest ---- this is human nature. Others seem to have less of a tough time ---- they may appear healthier, wealthier, happier especially when we are in a low life condition. However, we can never know what another person is going through. Furthermore, how well or how poorly others are doing is totally irrelevant to our own circumstances.
How do we change our Karma? Nichiren promised that by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo we can tap into the highest life state, the state of Buddhahood, and instantaneously melt away the negative karma from the past like dew drops in the sun, while simultaneously making great causes for our future.
This sounds wonderful, and very promising, but almost too good to be true. Could it be so easy to change karma? There must be a catch somewhere, otherwise would we not have already overcome all of our problems and sufferings already? After all, we chant.
SGI President Ikeda wrote the following in his April editorial for the Daibyakurenge:
"To not only be resolved to surmount every obstacle we encounter, but also to elevate our life condition to new heights as a result of positively transforming adversity ---- this is the joyous drama that all of us without exception can enact in our lives through the principle of 'changing poison into medicine' based on faith in the Mystic Law.
"Referring to Nagarjuna's Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom and the Great Teacher T'ien t'ai's Profound Meaning of the Lotus Sutra, Nichiren Daishonin declared for the sake of all people living in the defiled age of the Latter Day of the Law: What does it mean to change poison into medicine? It means to transform the three paths [of earthly desires, karma and sufferings] into the three virtues: the Dharma body, wisdom and emancipation' (WND2, pg 743). In other words, the supreme power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo enables us to transform any deluded impulse, any karma and any suffering into Buddhahood, wisdom and benefit. There is no negative karma that we cannot change. This is a brilliant source of hope. As a result, we need not lament or despair.
The promise is clear ---- there is no negative karma that cannot be changed.
So what stops us from achieving this lofty goal? There seem to be a few requirements we need to adhere to in order to fully benefit from our prayers.
Buddhism is the teaching of observing one's mind ---- so that's the place to watch. We chant and we will no doubt achieve benefits. The extend of those benefits, however, depends on our own attitude and the actions we take when we finish our prayers. How do we learn to really fully utilize this wonderful tool and make our life shine with victory after victory? How do we change our karma from this moment onwards?
There are some vital ingredients to make our chanting effective:
1) The most fundamental is to get ourselves in front of the Gohonzon and chant, no matter how bad we feel. When we are facing a challenging situation where we have the opportunity to break through, this will seem the hardest to do, so watch out.
2) Take full responsibility for our own lives, embrace the situation as it is and chant with hope and absolute conviction that we have the power to change ourselves from deep within, and through that change our circumstances.
3) Drop destructive thoughts like blaming oneself and others for the situation. Feeling like a victim of circumstances, resentment, anger, despair and hopelessness drags us into the lowest life states, and belies our inherent Buddha nature and the ability to take charge and change our Karma.
4) Develop appreciation for others rather than comparing ourselves with them. Stop keeping a checklist of what you lack and want to have; this will remove further obstacles in your path.
5) Our perception of our own circumstances is another important factor. We must realize that our current problems are our chosen mission in this lifetime. Transforming karma into mission means that we have made a vow in the distant past to overcome our problems to give actual proof of the validity of this Buddhist teaching. By chanting and taking correct action, giving proof of the power of this Buddhism to change one's karma.
6) When in a high life state, we can be strong and see any situation as a challenge and an opportunity to polish our lives and to create a more positive and stronger self. Our emotions when facing challenges can greatly effect the outcome of the situation --- in brief we may think of it like an equation.
Challenge + negative emotions = suffering.
Challenge + positive emotions = breakthrough
Chanting will enable us to face the challenge with a positive outlook and break through to victory.
To comprehend the deep meaning of our Buddhist practice, and to recognize our own unique mission, studying and living Nichiren Daishonin's teachings and President Ikeda's guidance is vital. Attending study lectures, discussion meetings and sharing with seniors in faith give us a good foundation in our faith and provides a support network of good friends for crucial moments.
We're definitely changing our karma when we truly let go of all negativity, embrace our life as the life of the Buddha, and treat ourselves and others with utmost reverence and respect. It is a journey, not a destination.
KARMA CHECK LIST
WATCH OUT AND STOP:
(courtesy of Harmony, July 2010)
Harmony is a SGI-HK(Hong Kong) publication
I very appreciate your notes GREAT FOR MEETINGS !
Great article. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you, Carol Chard for such informative guidance on "Changing Karma Now." I will keep a copy by my side for reference when I need it.
Deep guidance ! let's change our karma now. NMHRGK. Thanks very much !!!
If one’s heavy karma from the past is not expiated within this lifetime, one must undergo the sufferings of hell in the future, but if one experiences extreme hardship in this life [because of the Lotus Sutra], the sufferings of hell will vanish instantly. (WND, pg 199)
Thanks for the post. This is a teaching that never gets old. It really encouraged me to face my challenges with fresh perspective!
Beautiful Article. Thank you !!!
Thank You So Much.
Very nice thank you
thank you for sharing, this is wonderful.
how inspiring thank you for sharing : )