How to Deal with a Karmic Situation

(Photo above by Mathias PR Reding / Pexels)

Why is this happening to me?—We’ve probably asked ourselves this question, especially when we’re dealing with a situation that seems out of our control.

Buddhism explains that karma has a lot to do with why we find ourselves in our current situation.

People tend to assume that karma is bad but that’s not the case. Nichiren Buddhism explains a liberating and empowering understanding of karma.

The Sanskrit word karma means “to act” or “action.” These actions are broken down in three ways: through our thoughts, speech and behavior. Essentially, our cumulative actions from lifetime after lifetime determine our present circumstances.

People tend to assume that karma is bad but that’s not the case. Nichiren Buddhism explains a liberating and empowering understanding of karma.

From this perspective, karma can also be understood as deeply engrained behaviors or tendencies. The reason we find ourselves in same difficult relationships or struggle again and again with money is because of underlying attitudes we have.

Before Buddhism, the idea of karma existed in ancient India, but almost as an absolute. People were compelled to accept the conditions they were born into or the misfortunes they met with as their “karma.” This understanding of karma left people feeling like their circumstances were their “fate” or unchangeable “destiny.”

Later, Shakyamuni Buddha, or Siddhartha as he is sometimes referred to, taught that our fate is not predetermined; instead, by taking the best actions in the present, we can lead the best life in the future. Also, the influence of our actions goes beyond this present life and carries into future existences.

Essentially, based on the Lotus Sutra, the 13th-century Buddhist reformer Nichiren Daishonin taught that each of us possesses the Buddhability, or the inherent power, to overcome whatever karmic situation we find ourselves in.

After Shakyamuni’s passing, most Buddhists recognized only a general view of causality. Meaning, good causes produce good effects while bad causes produce bad effects. Hearing things like “you’ll get bad karma for that” or “don’t worry, karma will get them” reflects this type way of thinking.

But based on this perspective, it would require lifetimes or eons of intensive practice to cancel out all our bad causes from the past and accumulate enough good ones to tap into our Buddhability. Plus, we wouldn’t be able to make any bad causes in the present, seriously impossible. Have you ever tried driving in New York City? You’re bound to make some bad causes just in traffic alone.

In contrast to this view of karma, Nichiren Daishonin writes that the deepest negative cause is to disregard the Lotus Sutra’s central principle—that all people inherently possess Buddhability and are equally worthy of respect. To deny our own and others’ inherent value is what actually creates negative causes.

On the other hand, the greatest good cause we can make is to believe in the Buddhability inherent in all people’s lives. It is to tap into our own Buddhability by chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and supporting others to do the same.

The Buddhist philosopher Daisaku Ikeda explains:

Just as the light of the stars and the moon seems to vanish when the sun rises, when we bring forth the state of Buddhahood in our lives we cease to suffer negative effects for each individual past offense committed.

August 2003 Living Buddhism, p. 47

So, while our karmic situation doesn’t just magically disappear, when we chant we don’t have to feel at the mercy of karma. We can rise above our deep-seated tendencies and take action based on our Buddhability. In this way, we can use our karma to prove the power of our lives and overcome any and all difficult or seemingly impossible situations.

Taking it one step further, by engaging in this process of tapping into our Buddhability to outshine the negative karmic situation, we also become an inspiration to others.

Ikeda once encouraged a woman who had lost her husband and was left to raise her young children alone, saying:

By regaining vitality and good health, someone who has been battling illness can light a flame of courage in the hearts of those in similar straits. By creating a happy and harmonious family, a person who has suffered great anguish over discord in the home can become a model for others plagued by family problems. Similarly, if you—a woman who has been left widowed in a foreign land where she does not speak the language—become happy and raise your children to be fine adults, you’ll be a shining example for all women who have lost their partners. Even those who don’t practice faith will admire you and come to seek your advice.

The Wisdom for Creating Happiness and Peace, part 2, pp. 85–86

So, the negative karmic situation that we may be dealing with pales in comparison to the power of our Buddhability and the mission we have to open the way for others, for all humanity even, to do the same.

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