Nichiren Buddhism and the teaching of Karma

Karma is the essence of one’s history of actions.  We make our history through our behaviour, speech and thoughts. The motivations of actions we do - reside in our subconscious mind, as powers driving us to speak, behave or think the way we do.

The record of our actions - 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 future tendencies. 

At each moment in time, we are adding something to our personal history, or our karma.  Karma is a ‘work in progress’.  The storehouse 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 efforts - 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 mentioned, the word “Karma” means “the essence of one’s actions”, and actions are what we do at each moment - starting with thinking, speech and deeds,

becoming the driving force in our future behaviour. 

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
Your values become your 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 through the concept of the “Ten Factors” - and which imply that for any event to take place in one’s life, a cause and a condition are necessary:

To make an action, an intention is necessary, and this inner intention is te Inner Cause (Nyo Ze In).  The inner cause by itself does not create an event in the physical reality.  There must exist also a proper condition in the environment to fit our inner cause.  When this External Condition (Nyo Ze En) matches our intention, it creates an event, or a relation connecting our inner cause with suitable elements in the environment. 

Buddhism teaches that for any event has two kinds of results:

  1. - a directly visible effect (Nyo Ze Ho), and

  2. - a latent effect (Nyo Ze Ka), a future potential for repeating the same event.

This latent effect (Nyo Ze Ka) is Karma: a potential or possibility for future occurrence - a tendency to attract or repeat the same essence.  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 our future life.

Karma is your Personal History

If we observe our own life since birth up till now, we find that our personal history is the sum of all events and actions we took part in.  One’s actions originate from motivations.  The present state of life we are in now is the product of our past history, which we formed through our motivations and reactions to events.

When an event takes place, our Consciousness (Mano) records the details of the event, such as its images in our memory. In the same time, the driving force behind the event (or its mental essence, such as compassion, love, hatred, jealousy, anger, etc.) is recorded in the Subconsciousness (Alaya).  The driving force behind the event adds to one’s record of Karma.

The Subconsciousness is the storehouse of past motivations and tendencies.  It  contains information about the essence of our history.  Karma is not a detailed record of particular events, but the general spirit behind the actions, (or the mental powers of care, or carelessness, ego or broadmindedness, aggression or reason  and openness - etc).  Repetition of the same trends of motivations strengthens their potential to re-appear, creating a mental path or tendency and a major driving force in one’s psychological makeup. 

As such, we become 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 updated at each moment by continually experiencing our actions, which we are responsible for.

Taking responsibility of one’s life

According to Nichiren Buddhism - our present situation is - of course - affected by past karma, but in the same time it is affected by our determination and action at this present moment as well.  A strong determination at the present moment can override stored karmic tendencies and starts making a shift. 

Nichiren Buddhism is about transforming one’s karma into a positive energy of action, because the present moment is the decisive factor for creating good conditions for our future.

While we are not responsible for other people’s actions towards us (it 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 take the lead.


Author; Safwan Zabalawi (Darshams)

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