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 teaches that any action we do 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 latent possibility for future occurrence - a tendency to attract or repeat 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 updated at each moment by our actions.

Taking responsibility for one’s life

Because karma is created at each moment, Nichiren Buddhism, regards karma as a beneficial mental power for creating the future. Determination at the present moment to realise our goals creates a powerful karmic tendency for transforming our reality aiming for realizing a path of inner freedom, happiness and creating value. Karma is about creating the future through present causes - it is not about dwelling into the past.

Nichiren Buddhism is about 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 any difficulty or hardship one faces in life as a punishment for “bad karma”.  In Nichiren Buddhism, hardships are fuel for gaining inner strength and are welcomed as opportunities for transformation, turning poison into medicine and winning over our own weaknesses.

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 or tendencies take the lead.


Author; Safwan Zabalawi (Darshams)

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