I am a fukushi. I am really proud of having been brought up within this Buddhism and to have all these years of experience in faith.
Often the years of experience mean very little. I am now 27. This means that I have chanted my first daimoku more than 26 years ago and I have been doing gongyo regularly for 15 years.
And yet, only a few weeks ago did I really understand (and experience) the principle of transforming your karma through your buddhist practice.
In buddhism, we believe that at some point in the distant past, we have been sitting at a ceremony, called the Ceremony in the Air, with Shakyamuni Buddha and countless other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In that occasion, we have made the great vow of becoming absolutely happy and teaching others to do the same.
In order to fulfil this vow, we have all chosen, allow me to repeat, we have CHOSEN a certain karma, laden with specific challenges. We have made this choice in order to be able to transform this particular karma and, by doing so, to provide example to others and lead them to the path of happiness.
To make a very crude example: I have chosen the karma of being poor. I have transformed this karma and I now enjoy quite a favourable financial situation. This allows me to inspire other people struggling with negative financial karma to start chanting the daimoku of the Lotus Sutra so that they, too, can transform their negative karma. Repeat example for any other type of karma.
Let me, once again, stress out that we have chosen to be in whatever conditions we are now. We have courageously chosen our karma, both in the positive and in the negative, because that is the ONLY way that we can fulfil our vow.
If we actually believe this principle, the natural consequence is that there is no point, when obstacles arise, in complaining and asking ourselves why should we suffer so. We must face obstacles in order to become happy. Not just that, we must fearlessly face obstacles in order to inspire others to become happier as well.
So, at some point in the distant past, when Shakyamuni proposed me to be reborn as one of his Bodhisattva, I somehow decided to pick up this particular bundle of karma. In the years I have been practising I have gotten better and better at identifying the areas of my karma that really need some serious transforming.
It goes in stages. When we are in our deluded stage, we are completely prey of the ten worlds and we sway from one to the other without having much chance to truly influence our life state. In this stage, we can easily mistake the external cause (e.g. lack of money, to keep with the original example), for the internal one. We may think that the solution to our suffering is to change our job / find a rich partner / move to a different country / etc… so that we can get that material gratification.
At this point, if we practise, we might chant for this to happen. Many people unconsciously sabotage themselves at this stage, and never actual reach that material gratification (I know a few… *sighs*). Why, you may ask? Simples.
If you do find that perfect job which pays the amount you need, but you haven’t done any work on the internal cause, then chances are you will have to face what is REALLY ailing you. The internal cause.
THAT is what we really have to chant for.
It could be that in your heart of hearts you feel worthless, so you don’t think you deserve money. Or it could be that you feel you need money in order to be appreciated/accepted by others or to find love. It could be all manners of things, the point is that until we find that “one evil” and really chant to transform it, whatever benefit we may have in our lives will be short-lived or will prove ultimately unsatisfactory.
Finding your one evil and facing it is one of the most important steps in our Human revolution.
All our problems, all our suffering, can be traced back to this one evil.
With our chanting, we start peeling back one layer of karma after the other, transforming it and deepening our wisdom, until we finally get to that one evil. I have more to write about that, and I will in my next entry.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about a very important, intermediate step.
One of my dear buddhist friends once sent me an experience of hers, about what she calls “left-out karma”, i.e. the feeling of being constantly left out. Life goes on for the others, they stick to each other, while I can only watch from the sideline and am not really living as such.
Left-out karma takes a very specific form for me, which has repeated itself with shocking accuracy throughout the years.
I don’t feel I belong. I feel left out. I don’t think I’m cool enough and I constantly feel I have to prove myself and my stand in the group. Consequently, I resent the group itself. This is paired up with the fact that I usually try and get into entirely the wrong group, I pine after people who are not really interested in me and overlook the ones that are.
In my desperate attempts to be liked, I do something. It always is an incredibly small action, perceived at the time as completely innocent. Very often, it’s a favour to someone else.
Then, somehow, that small action creates a completely unexpected reaction which escalates to the point that someone (often more than one person) is hurt.
If we analyse the ins and outs of it, the reality of all the separate occasions was that the “victims” had only to blame themselves or, at a stretch, the one person who asked me the “favour”. Yet, somehow, everyone would choose to blame me instead.
I would be criticised, sometimes incredibly harshly, an element of intentional malice would be read into my actions, I would be shunned and excluded by the group. In short, I would be used as a scapegoat, and my demise would make the group stick together even more.
(I have briefly mentioned one such occurrence in a previous post).
This “left-out” karma has been a source of great suffering for me throughout the years.
I lost count of how many nights I spent crying, with the feeling of a cold hand clutching my stomach, obsessing over that little action and desperately wanting it to go away, just go away. Also, I would find any and all ways to create a narrative within which I not only was completely innocent, but I had reason to feel like a victim of cruel persecution. Trust you me, people, sometimes the gift of eloquence and dialectic abilities is a supreme pain in the neck.
As you can see, no value whatsoever was created in any of these occurrences. After lots of tears and more or less successful attempts to find solace in other people’s soothing words and confirmation that I, indeed, was innocent, I would normally, finally find the way to my Gohonzon and realise some sort of compromise with myself, on some occasion obtaining some little victories, on some others truly making steps forward.
But the anger, that would always be there. And the inane questions: why oh why would all this happen to me? Anyone who knows me even just a little bit knows there are two things I just don’t do: lying and hurting people intentionally. I’m simply hopeless at either and I find them morally wrong. So how on Earth could anyone believe I would intentionally hurt someone? I would just go crazy with these thoughts.
So, fast forward to after the most wonderful course on Earth. I’m going out of school, listening to music on my phone and minding my own business. And it happens, all over again.
Someone asked me a favour, which at the time sounded just some harmless banter. The person in question doesn’t have a malicious bone in their body, so I did it and thought nothing of it.
The day after I noticed some odd behaviour from another colleague, but decided I was being paranoid and went on with my day. I had an awesome day, as it happened, and even managed to go home early and have sushi in a new place.
I get back home, and I found a trail of emails detailing that my little action had actually profoundly hurt that colleague, so much so that they had decided to quit their job effect immediate. They had subsequently been convinced to stay, and I was being summoned for a meeting with a senior member of staff! Oh, and of course, the person who had actually instigated the action wasn’t mentioned anywhere, as if they had had no part in it.
And this, ladies and gents, is where history is NOT repeating.
For the first time, I stared at the situation without feeling that cold clutch in my stomach. I was calm, collected and absolutely determined. This time, I would take the Buddha action and unequivocally create value out of the situation.
This time, instead of obsessing about that little action, Nichiren’s words of encouragement to Shijo Kingo echoed in my mind: “Buddhism is reason. Reason will win over your lord.” (WND, The hero of the world, p.839)
The first thing I did was to write a comprehensive apology to the person I had unintentionally hurt. I explained exactly what had happened but without trying to shift the blame.
Then I chanted for sometime, after which I launched myself in some work for Kosen Rufu. I had had the great fortune and privilege to be asked to support four prospective Dedicated Lilacs in their application meetings and shortly after finding the trail of emails I received their contacts and information about the meetings. It was a clear sign. I completely put my ego and suffering aside and dedicated the rest of the evening to calling the four Young Women to encourage them. I did tell one of them what I was going through that very moment, and I told her how much I was looking forward to the next day and to the complete victory I was going to have. She said she couldn’t wait to see me at application meeting day so that I could share my victory with her.
I went to bed and had a very relaxing night sleep.
The day after, I went against my Union’s advice and had the meeting I was summoned into. I poured my heart into creating the most meaningful dialogue with this senior teacher I didn’t know. Instead of resenting their asking to meet with me I decided to seek the Buddha and open my heart completely. At the end of the meeting, they commented that by talking to me, they could see without doubt that I would never hurt anyone intentionally and that of course there was not going to be any consequence. They also said that they weren’t happy about asking me for a meeting via email, but they had no choice due to the nature of our building. Victory #1.
I then went to apologise to the person that had been hurt but my action. It was a very difficult meeting, during which they were in evident pain and said a number of very hurtful things to me, implying that I had been malicious. Normally this would have enraged me. This time, the anger just wasn’t there. Compassion had completely taken its place. I once again completely opened my heart to them, and I managed to have an incredibly deep dialogue. All the while I would keep firmly in my head this guidance I received from my WD leader: “There are two things you can and won’t ever fathom. One is the depth of someone else’s suffering, the other is the depth of someone else’s karma.”. Throughout the entire meeting, I didn’t once judge their pain or reactions, and told them I would chant for them to change the real cause of the pain. At the end of the meeting they were still suffering, but told me that they could now see they could trust me completely.
I then realised that the person who had started the whole thing was completely unaware of the situation. I was unsure as to what to do, and in the end settled for simply informing them and leaving them free to decide on the course of action.
Their decision? They went to all the parties involved and more and urged them to discharge me of any responsibility and to consider me totally innocent. AND they apologised to ME for putting me in the situation in the first place!
Transformation of “left-out karma”: achieved.
“left out karma”: annihilated.
Did you like my experience?