Changing Poison into Medicine
In its most fundamental sense, "changing poison into medicine" refers to the transformation of deluded impulses into enlightenment. The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom, attributed to the third-century Indian Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, compares the Lotus Sutra to "a great physician who changes poison into medicine." This is because the Lotus Sutra opens the possibility of enlightenment to people whose arrogance and complacency had caused them to "scorch the seeds of Buddhahood."
In earlier sutras such people had been condemned as being incapable of becoming Buddhas. An important implication of this principle, thus, is that there is no one who is beyond redemption. n his writing, "On First Hearing the Teaching of the Supreme Vehicle," Nichiren develops this idea, stating that by using the power of the Mystic Law of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, one can transform the three paths of deluded impulses, karma and suffering into the three virtues of the Buddha, i.e., the Dharma body, wisdom and emancipation.Buddhism teaches that suffering derives from karma, the causes that we ourselves have created.
The Buddhist teaching of karma is one of personal responsibility. It is therefore our responsibility to transform sufferings into value-creating experiences. The Buddhist view of karma is not fixed or fatalistic--even the most deeply entrenched karmic patterns can be transformed.By taking a difficult situation--illness, unemployment, bereavement, betrayal--and using it as an opportunity to deepen our sense of personal responsibility, we can gain and develop the kind of self-knowledge from which benefit flows.
Buddhism teaches that self-knowledge ultimately is awareness of our own infinite potential, our capacity for inner strength, wisdom and compassion. This infinite potential is referred to as our "Buddha nature."This teaching of the possibility of profound trans-formation makes Buddhism a deeply optimistic philosophy. This optimism propels Buddhists as they seek to transform the negative and destructive tendencies within their lives as well as those in society and the world at large.
January 2002 SGI Quarterly