"Many are the plans in a person's heart, but it is karmic retribution that prevails." - Daito-Osho
No one can avoid difficulties or problems. Buddhism encourages us to build happiness in the midst of reality, to grow, improve and become stronger while facing life’s challenges. Buddhism enables us to change every aspect of our lives for the better, permanently. The process called “changing karma” entails securing unwavering happiness by revolutionizing our lives at the very core.
Some of our problems and sufferings are caused by actions and decisions we have made in this life. But for some we can find no apparent cause. These may make us think, I’ve done nothing wrong, so why is this happening to me?
Buddhism teaches the principle of karma—that many events and conditions we experience in this lifetime result from actions we have made in previous lives. Karma is a Sanskrit word that means “action.” It explains the workings of cause and effect that span the boundaries of life and death. Our actions of thought, speech and behavior are like seeds that become implanted in our lives. These causes can remain dormant as “latent effects” in the present and future. At certain times under certain conditions, however, these reveal themselves as “manifest effects”—results, or karmic rewards, we experience in a tangible way. Karma, then, is the accumulation of actions from previous existences that remain dormant within us until they appear as effects in this lifetime. This karma can be either good or bad, though people tend to view “karma” as bad results stemming from bad actions in the past.
Buddhism teaches that life is not just a matter of the present, but a continuum of past, present and future lives—the “three existences” of life. Our actions at any moment become part of the continuum of cause and effect that spans these three existences. Bad causes in past lives or the present, such as disparaging or hurting others, stealing or lying and so on, express themselves in present or future lives as bad effects, bringing us suffering and problems. This is the principle of cause and effect that Buddhism and most Eastern philosophies generally teach. We call this the “general law of cause and effect.” And while this principle is important to understand, being aware of it alone is not enough to change our lives.
Adopting this view would require that, in order to rid ourselves of bad karma, we negate every bad cause we have ever made by making a good cause in its place, one at a time, over countless lifetimes. Of course we would have to refrain from making any more bad causes as well. There would be no way to transform our sufferings arising from karma directly or quickly in this lifetime.
The scriptures tell us that Buddha rains down the Buddha Dharma on all beings in all worlds, past, present, and future. There are none that do not have buddha nature and cannot awaken to the supreme enlightenment.
Though we may not know it, we already possess it. Our Buddha nature is our very existence. Yet, unless we learn to make use of it and put it into daily practice the goal of realizing it, it remains very distant from us. Some people mistakenly believe that they must rely upon the favor or grace of a supreme deity, that we cannot accomplish any good thing of our own efforts. In Buddhism we call this a misguided belief in “other power”. As practicers working towards awakening to our innate buddha nature we cannot accept this radical dualism of self and other power. The power within each of us, our buddha nature is always both our own power and the power of the Buddha embodied in us.
Our four part Bodhisattva vow: to save everyone, to remove all hindrances to awakening, to study all the teachings, and to attain the Buddha way of supreme awakening is what we have devoted ourselves to pursuing through integrating these four bodhisattva vows into our daily life. Indeed, it is a fundamental tenet of our Mahayana Buddhism that we should live a life of helping others- that our very salvation is a matter of sharing the buddha dharma.
This constitutes the correct teaching that all people can reveal their inherit Buddha nature, the principle of respect for the value and dignity of the human being and the standard of striving for one’s own happiness as well as the happiness of others. When we understand and live Bodhisattva Vows, “then the host of sins, like frost or dew, can be wiped out by the sun of wisdom“.
Through the benefit of devoting ourselves and leading others to the Buddha Dharma, the heavy consequences of our karma can quickly be lightened. That is, we can effectively rid ourselves of all our negative karma in this lifetime by experiencing its results in much lightened form as obstacles and troubles we challenge for the sake of kosen-rufu (to declare and spread widely the teachings of the Buddha). For this reason, Buddhism teaches that through the benefit of lessening karmic retribution, “The sufferings of hell will vanish instantly”. Difficulties, then, are important opportunities for ridding ourselves of bad karma and developing and strengthening ourselves. By persevering in faith despite hardships and thereby changing our karma, we find deeper meaning in living.
In the Buddhist Lotus Sutra the idea of “voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma” is introduced. It explains that bodhisattvas voluntarily give up the good karmic rewards due them as a result of their pure actions in past lives. Out of compassion, they choose instead to be born in an evil age so that they can teach people the principles of the Lotus Sutra and save them from suffering.
Such bodhisattvas experience suffering just as those who do so because of bad karma they formed in the past. Viewing ourselves as having made this choice—of voluntarily meeting and overcoming difficulties through faith out of compassion for others—gives us a new perspective on problems and suffering. We can see facing problems as something we do to fulfill our vow as a bodhisattva to save suffering people.
Only by dealing with hardships in life can we come to understand and empathize with people’s suffering. With every problem we overcome through Buddhist faith and practice, we create a model for winning in life, a genuine experience through which we can encourage many others.
We all have our own karma or destiny, but when we look it square in the face and grasp its true significance, then any hardship can serve to help us lead richer and more profound lives. Our actions in challenging our destiny become examples and inspirations for countless others.
In other words, when we change our karma into mission, we transform our destiny from playing a negative role to a positive one. Those who change their karma into their mission have ‘voluntarily assumed the appropriate karma.’ Therefore, those who keep advancing, while regarding everything as part of their mission, proceed toward the goal of transforming their destiny.
Daito- Oshō, director SZC