Nichiren Buddhism and the teaching of Karma

In Traditional Buddhism, the word karma - in most cases - is associated with a negative meaning of someone having a “bad past”.  However, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that Karma is created at each moment , and - depending on the value of one’s actions - Karma can become a positive energy in one’s life. 

The Mechanism of Creating Karma:

The word “Karma” means “the essence of one’s actions”.  Actions is what we do at each moment - starting with thinking and motivation, speech and behavior   This ‘essence of our action’ becomes a 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 values,
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 by its “Ten Factors” - and which imply that for any event to take place, a cause and a condition are necessary.  One’s inner motivations stand for the Inner Cause (Nyo Ze In) and when this inner desire or motivation meets suitable conditions in the environment (Nyo Ze En) , a relation with the environment is established, and the event takes place. 

For any event taking place, there are two kinds of effects: one is directly visible (Nyo Ze Ho) and the other is an imprint in the mind - a latent effect (Nyo Ze Ka).

Nyo Ze Ka - is a potential of future occurrence or attraction - added to one’s record of Karma.   This imprint (of the essence of experiences) resides in the mind as a driving force: a Karmic energy.

Karma is your Personal History

One’s personal history is created by one’s actions. The record of essence of actions  in time - is simply one’s karma.  We are the product of our past actions. 

Any event we encounter gets recorded in our memory whether we are aware of it or not.  Consciousness (Mano) records the details of events.  The driving force behind the recorded event (or the motivation, tendency of events) - this essence is recorded in one’s Subconsciousness (Alaya), in one’s record of Karma.

The Subconsciousness is the storehouse of past knowledge and tendencies, it has the files and records of the essence of our history - not the particular details, but the spirit behind the actions, (such as compassion, care, or carelessness, ego and jealousy, or broadmindedness and openness - etc).  Repetition of the same trends of actions strengthen the related mental path or tendency and become a major driving force in one’s psychology. 

This essence of motivations and tendencies is one’s karma.  It acts as an mental magnet attracting from the environment what is matching and fitting its nature, good or bad.

The importnat thing is that karma is not fixed, but is constantly updated at each moment by continually occurring actions we are responsible for.

Karma is a “work in progress”: created at each moment in time

According to the traditional teaching of Karma, the present situation of our life is the accumulation of all past causes and karmic tendencies we have created so far.  Nichiren Buddhism takes this concept further: because the present is affected by past karma, then the future is affected by the present. This present moment now - is the past seen (from the perspective of the future). 

This means that we are creating our Karma at each moment in time, because at each moment we employ one or more of the causes of actions: thinking (and desires), speaking and doing. 

Transformation of Karma

Various schools of Mahayana Buddhism employ meditation and observing the precepts to create gradual purification of one’s karma, a process which takes the span of many lifetimes.

According to Nichiren Buddhism, however, it is possible to change one’s karmic tendencies in this lifetime - and hence it is possible to change the direction of one’s “karmic river” - which leads one to potential happenings in one’s future:

Karmic tendencies and desires are recorded in the Subconsciousness level of the mind, what is called the Alaya Consciousness.  It is a storehouse of karmic information, of good (beneficial) or bad (negative) causes - and their effects.

Because Karma is the essence of actions, and actions follow the Law of cause and effect, then employing the Law of cause and effect by us (through chanting of NamMyohoRengeKyo) - is certain to create positive karmic causes emerging from awareness of the power of this Law.  The Subconsciousness (Alaya) is part of the final consciousness of life itself, the consciousness of the Universe (Amala consciousness).

Therefore, based on our awareness or enlightenment to the power of the Law of the Universe (MyohoRengeKyo) - it is possible to harmonise one’s Subconsciousness (or Karma) with this Law, though actions starting with the chanting (of NamMyohoRengeKyo).

Chanting as a cause of action

Chanting unites the three kinds of causes (thoughts, voice and deed) into one action. Chanting includes:

  1.   the thoughts of our mind, desires and motivations - we have during chanting (or prayers),

  2.   the voice of invocation,

  3.   and the action of chanting towards the Gohonzon - manifest the integration of the three causes (of creating karma) in one activity of chanting.

Chanting is called the True Cause (Honin Myo), which penetrates the storehouse of accumulated karma, brings clarity to the mind (about causes and effect of life’s experienced events), and releases inner life force (which one experiences during and after chanting as an elevated state of life).

The key to transforming and elevating our life’s tendencies starts with a determination in our prayers.  This determination is the Inner Cause (Nyo Ze IN), being a goal, to achieve.  The inner cause is a motivation - and it can be for example to eliminate a certain weakness in our psychology, or to achieve strength in our skills or aims (such as finding a solution to a certain problem). 

Overcoming obstacles

The karmic powers which reside in our history of actions may present obstacles and limitations in our psychology, which we have caused by past actions of ignorance.  The formation of obstacles can be so deep in time that we are not aware of how our habits or tendencies were formed in the first place, residing latent in our Subconsciousness (Alaya).  However, stronger than the Alaya subconsciousness is the power of cosmic consciousness (Amala) - which is the same as NamMyohoRengeKyo.

Chanting penetrates the deepest areas of our subconscious mind, and leads one to act to alter the contents of the karmic record of the subconsciousness - through actions in dailylife aimed at self-mastery and freedom from the obstacles of the past.

If we persist in chanting, then this tendency of our determination for self-renewal itself becomes our karma, and forms our reality of enlightened properties :

Happiness (Nam), TrueSelf (Myoho), Purity (Renge) and Eternity (Kyo).


How Does Karma Survive Death?

P.Ikeda Guidance on Karma