The reality of cause and effect

Short Talks From Venerable Master Chin Kung

In recent years, our world has become beset with calamities and our lives increasingly filled with suffering and unhappiness. As times goes on, these adversities will become more and more severe. Someone asked how the Great Compassionate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas liberate all people from their pain. We need to understand the real meaning of liberation. It does not mean that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will deliver food when we do not have enough to eat, or clothes when we do not have enough to wear.

Then how do they help us? By teaching us how to overcome greed, anger and ignorance so that our minds will no longer be deluded, but awakened. By teaching us of the Law of Cause and Effect. To end our suffering, we first have to know what causes it. As human beings, we undergo the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death. We suffer hard ships, do not attain what we seek, are parted from our loved ones and find ourselves in the presence of those whom we resent or even hate. We are surrounded by all these with no apparent way of being truly free.

In addition, we need to understand that catalystic conditions or circumstances have to exist for a cause to generate an effect. By controlling these catalystic conditions, we can have some influence on our consequences. We need to practice good deeds during our lifetime to generate good karma. Then we will then truly appreciate that living a happy and fulfilling life isthe karmic result generated from a good cause and good condition. And this is the way to help us to attain liberation from suffering and to attain happiness.

Today, many of us feel the weight of our negative karma as we witness the disasters around us. This negative karma is selfish and erroneous behavior, benefiting ourselves at the expense of others. How do we remove this negative karma? How do we prevent further disasters? By practicing what the Buddha taught. By dedicating ourselves to helping and benefiting society, by not protecting ourselves while harming others.

Some of us have the sub-conscious desire to control other people, animals and inanimate objects. But by letting go of this attachment, we can be liberated. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas live their lives with great ease. They fulfill their responsibility of advising and educating the beings by explaining to them the true reality of life and universe, the Law of Cause and Effect. Whatever people decide to do, it is their choice, their consequence. We simply accord with the condition as we educate them and then leave the rest up to them. By doing this, our mind will remain serene, as it generates the concentration and thus the wisdom to effectively interact with people, matters and objects. The benefits that can be derived from such practice are infinite and boundless. Not only can our present suffering be resolved, but our negative karma accumulated over infinite life times can be eliminated as well.

Why then are we unable to realize the true benefit? Because we are obstructed by our own negative karma, unable to see what is right before our eyes. We are constantly reminded by the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Constantly prompted by our reciting the sutras. Impelled by our daily chanting of the Buddha’s name and listening to the dharma talks. Yet we still are unable to truly comprehend the teachings and are still unable to apply the principles in our daily living.

We cannot blame the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for not helping. In fact, they are trying to. We are not paying attention. We have a wondrous and rare chance to encounter Buddhism, which is about to slip by us. Allowing this to happen will be a tragic mistake that is entirely our fault. To prevent this from happening, we need to reflect and truly repent our mistakes. This is a learning process that will enable us to overcome our afflictions and worldly habits and thus to remove our negative karma.

What is this negative karma? A part of it is afflictions and worldly habits. How do we overcome these? By choosing and practicing any one of the eighty-four thousand methods that the Buddha taught. From all these infinite ways he told us that in this Dharma Ending Age the Buddha Name Chanting Method is the most convenient, simple and effective. It can generate the positive effect and thus the strength needed to eradicate our afflictions and bad karma.

Why do we not yet feel the results from our daily chanting? It is not because the chanting method is ineffective. Some practitioners have achieved remarkable results and successfully eliminated their negative karma. If we are not feeling the results it is because our daily practice does not accord with the teachings, We are not doing what we are advised to do for our own good, but are doing what we are advised not to do. For example, are we refraining from killing any living creature, refraining from stealing? Are we refraining from committing the mental, physical and bodily misconducts such as sexual misconduct, lying, abusive language, bearing tales, seductive words, greed, anger and ignorance?

We would do well to follow the Buddha’s guidance and repent for our mistakes. This will help to decrease our negative karma. Our chanting, our daily practice and our goals need to accord with the principles in the teachings. Our recitation of the sutras is to remind us of the teachings and to accord with them to correct our erroneous ways. Failure to do so will increase our negative karma. Our goal is the mind of sincerity, purity, equality awakening and compassion. Only with this mind will we be able to solve all problems. They cannot be solved by physical force, by war. They are solved with lovingkindness toward others. It is in our best interest to be rid of the desire to control, for it will only result in our committing further transgressions, thus increasing our negative karma. No one can truly control another. History provides us with many examples of countries
that tried to use force to control another country; Hitler’s invasion of Europe, the Japanese invasion of China, the Russian invasion of Afghanistan and the United States’ interference of Iraq and Vietnam. All failed.

On the other hand, our work in propagating Buddhism throughout the world, especially in China where we freely distribute tapes and books to teach people to practice good deeds has resulted in over two billion people listening to the teachings. We did not have to spend much to gain this kind of result. Instead of those countries spending huge sums of money on warfare, they could have spent the money on caring for, loving and supporting people who were suffering hardships. In this way, they would have peacefully and easily won them over. Or they could have used the money to educate their own citizens, to help them be self-sufficient, to pay more attention to internal needs instead of constantly interfering with external affairs.

This is the way to truly influence people with loving-kindness. Using physical force to try to solve problems will not only create enemies but also generate the cause to go to the hell realms. By practicing in accordance with the teachings we will achieve results. In this way we will transform our minds. Since everything is a reflection of our mind, everything can be transformed by our mind. When we accord with the teachings, our thoughts will change, our actions will be proper and correct.

We would do well to let go of selfishness, to only have thoughts to benefit others. Instead we are wrapped up in our own concerns, thinking only of protecting our own interests, our countries’ interests. This way of thinking has led to conflicts among people, feuds among families and wars among countries. It has led to massive damage on both sides; the tragic loss of lives, the excessive monetary cost, the disastrous destruction of land, the final destruction of friendships and peace and the grave consequences that will be incurred due to the Law of Cause and Effect. Our complete lack of concern for the plants, living and non-living creatures of our natural environment, result in the destruction of our natural environment. In truth, it is we ourselves who suffer for this negligence and lack of compassion. We are all one entity, one being, all interrelated closely with one another. Everything, including us, arises from the coming together of causes, so to harm others is to harm ourselves.

Once we thoroughly comprehend this, we will have no more problems. Being overly concerned with our own interest and those of our country, is the root cause of all disasters and misfortunes. Taking care of this problem solves everything else. When we practice accordingly, with caring and correct conduct, we will see an increase in our good karma and a decrease in our bad karma. In turn, our suffering will be reduced or eliminated. In other words, we will experience a favorable change in our environment.

When we give rise to one single bad thought of inequality, we turn a favorable situation into an unfavorable one. When we give rise to one single good thought of equality, the Buddha realm will appear in that moment. When we give rise to one single thought of the Six Paramitas, the Bodhisattva realm will appear. Likewise, with one thought of greed, anger or ignorance, our daily lives will become unsettled and unmanageable. However, with one thought of purity, our lives will become harmonious and peaceful. Thus the world in which we live will be like that of the Western Pure Land.

Our life is short. However, we are unbelievably fortunate to have been born as humans, able to listen to the Buddha’s teaching, able to understand a little of its profound and incomparable truth. The Law of Cause and Effect is unchangeable, is permanent. We reap what we sow. By planting good causes we bear good consequences: planting bad causes we bear bad consequences. Even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot alter this reality.

However, with the causes that we have already planted, we can learn how to alter our catalyst condition before it comes into effect. Furthermore we need to refrain from committing any more bad deeds and to commit more good deeds, to distance ourselves from adverse conditions. In some cases it reduces or eliminates the bad effects. In this way we can control our own consequence, transforming our environment and changing the direction in which we are currently headed.

We are learning of more and more prophecies that speak of upcoming disasters, of the end of the world. These prophecies also tell us that the great disasters could either be reduced or delayed if we replaced our incorrect ways with those that were good, with those that benefited others and not ourselves. But if we do not turn back then it will be very hard to avoid these disasters. It is crucial that people understand that using physical force cannot solve problems, for even if we totally destroy a country, even if we detonate enough bombs to wipe out the face of the earth, it still will not solve our problems. We cannot waste this opportunity but need to cultivate in a sincere and diligent manner, to apply the principles with unselfish thought and behavior. To be good, to be warm, to be sincere, to put all our efforts into helping others. In this way all that is good will come our way.