BASIC BUDDHIST TERMS
OCTOBER 2014 (PP.72-75)
Karma is a transliteration of the Sunskrit word, karman. It refers to all actions based on thoughts, words, and deeds. Karma is the cause of both positive and negative effects in life.
There are two types of karma. The first one, shukugo, is the karma from causes accumulated in past lives and the other is gengo, which is karma accumulated this life. From the standpoint of karma, there are good deeds and evil deeds.
Thus, people accumulate karma from both good and evil causes from past lives. They receive effects from their own karma as the result of cause and effect. Good actions lead to good rewards and negative causes lead to suffering.
Karma Accumulated from Past Lives
Karma is the cause of the differences between living beings at birth.
We all have differences in our abilities, appearances, places of birth, family backgrounds, and so on. What causes these differences? In Buddhism, all living beings are born into their own life conditions depending on karma from their past lives:
Nichiren Daishonin states the following:
Both the blackness of the crow and the whiteness of the heron actually derive from the deep stains of their karma from the past. (Gosho, p.581)
The Daishonin teaches that the reason why crows are black and herons are white is due to the karma from their past lives. In the same way, we have differences from the time we are born, because we all have different karma.
Some people are not satisfied with their own appearance or the situations of their lives and complain that they were born into such circumstances because of their parents. This, however, is an incorrect view. According to the Law of cause and effect, our own life circumstances are the results of the karma that we created ourselves. They were not given to us by other people. In other words, everything that happens to oneself actually is caused by oneself.
By understanding this, we can accept our own circumstances and we can think positively about what needs to be done in the future.
The time when we receive karmic retribution
Karmic retribution can manifest at different periods of time. There are three classifications of the time when we will receive the effects of the karma that we created in this lifetime.
- Jungengo: Receiving retribution from karma that is created in this life during this same lifetime.
- Junjishogo: Receiving retribution from karma that is created in this life during the next lifetime.
- Jungogo: Receiving retribution from karma that is created in this life during lifetimes after our next life.
We repeat the cycle of birth and death and accumulate karma through our various causes. Then we receive the effects of this karma in this lifetime or future lifetimes.
Immutable karma and mutable karma
Nichiren Daishonin states the following in the Gosho, “On Prolonging Life”:
Karma also may be divided into two categories: immutable and mutable. (Gosho, p.760; MW-1, p.229)
We have both immutable and mutable karma. Immutable karma is considered to be unchangeable and the karmic effects, both positive and negative already are determined. For example, a person who was born blind in this lifetime has this particular immutable karma.
On the other hand, mutable karma is changeable and the effects are not determined. For example, a moderate illness that can be cured by the right treatment is mutable karma. All people are influenced by their own immutable and mutable karma. There are many individuals who can’t even overcome the effects of mutable karma, and they suffer from it. Immutable karma is even more unchangeable.
Common mortals in the Latter Day of the Law have deep negative karma
The Daishonin states:
The slanderers of Buddhism who were people of incorrigible disbelief were people of incorrigible disbelief were still being confined there by the guards of hell. They proliferated until they became the people of Japan today. (Gosho, p.581; MW-1, p.34)
In other words, the Latter Day of the Law is the era when sentient beings who slandered the Law of true Buddhism and accumulated negative karma are born. Everyone who is born in the Latter Day of the Law must receive major sufferings in their present and next lives as retribution from slandering the Law.
The great benefit of the mystic Law (Myoho) can change immutable karma
How can we expiate our negative karma from slandering the Law and avoid suffering? The Daishonin states the following in the Gosho, “Attaining Enlightenment at the Initial Stage of Faith through the Lotus Sutra” (“Hokke shoshin jobutsu-sho”):
…a man who stumbles and falls to the ground, but who then pushes himself up from the ground to rise to his feet again. (Gosho, p. 1316; MW-6, p.175)
He further states in “On Immutable and Mutable Karma” (“Kaenjogo gosho”)
Sincere repentance will make even immutable karma vanish. How much more is this so with mutable karma! (Gosho, p. 760)
In other words, heavy negative karma can be eradicated faith in and practice of the true Law. Those who deeply repent of their past evil deeds in front of the Gohonzon and have faith in it can eliminate not only their mutable karma but also their immutable karma through the tremendous power of the Gohonzon.
Nichiren Daishonin teaches in “Consecrating an lmage of Shakyamuni Buddha Made by Shijo Kingo” (“Shijo Kingo Shakyabutsu kuyo-ji”):
Concerning the phrase “acquire the five types of vision” in this sutra, this refers to the eye of common mortals, the divine eye, the eye of wisdom, the eye of the Law and the eye of the Buddha. These five types of vision are naturally acquired by one who upholds the Lotus Sutra. (Gosho, p. 992; MW-6 p. 159)
One who is born blind can acquire the mind’s eye, which is the divine eye, the eye of wisdom, the eye of the Law and the eye of the Buddha –which is superior to the physical eye– as a benefit of having faith in the Gohonzon. It is explained that one can gain the ability to see everything correctly.
Thus, the people in the Later Day of the Law, who have heavy karma, can receive the great benefit of eradicating even immutable karma through repentance of past slanders of the Law in front of the Gohonzon– which is the very entity of the enlightened life of the True Buddha– and chanting Daimoku.
We all must receive retribution from our own karma. However, people who have faith in the Daishonin’s true Buddhism and strive in their practice can change their karma without fail and attain the tranquil state of enlightenment. Let’s devote ourselves to our daily practice and do shakubuku, so that we can share this great benefit with other people.