In the western world you tend to think that you are influenced by conditions outside and separate from yourself. Have you ever heard yourself say any of the following?
- She made me feel angry, sad, anxious etc
- My mother wouldn’t let me so
- He wouldn’t change so I couldn’t….
- The economy is bad so I can’t get a job.
Buddhism has a different view of the relationship between you and your environment. Instead of being separate, you and your environment are seen as inseparable like a person and his shadow. The shadow, your environment, is dependent on the person, you.
How You Create Your Environment: The Buddhist Point of View
When you think, speak or act, you are simultaneously setting a seed in the depths of your life, which will produce an effect when the environmental conditions are right. Good causes can show up as good fortune and pleasurable experiences. Bad causes can show up as obstacles and suffering in life. These effects also show up in oneself as tendencies, habits and inclinations.
In Buddhism, the environment is not a single place where everyone is born into and lives. Rather, each person has their own unique environment in which the good and bad effects of their past actions appear.
According to Nichiren Daishonin, the founder of Nichiren Buddhism, there is no escaping our past actions. We carry the future effects in the core of our lives for good or bad.
How Does The Environment Reflect Us
Let’s look at two rooms. The first room is very messy. Books, clothes and personal belongings are strewn everywhere. In the second room the inhabitant has set up a way to keep everything perfectly organized. The rooms reflect the inner lives of the person living there.
If either person is unhappy with their room, maybe the messy one can’t find things, or the perfectionist wants to be more relaxed, they would have to change something in themselves to alter the environment in their room.
The implications of this are profound. To alter circumstances in your environment, you must change yourself.
How Carrie Altered Her Circumstances
Carrie’s husband was having chronic problems trying to run his own business. He didn’t want to work for anyone else, but as he tried one business after another, he was unsuccessful in each one. His failures threw the family into financial chaos. Initially sympathetic with his desire to be independent, Carrie became less sympathetic as the financial strain mounted over several years. She chanted about the problem. She tried to influence him to work for someone else but was unsuccessful.
One day, while chanting for insight, she saw that she wouldn’t be able to influence him to change unless he wished to do it himself. She realized she had been passive while waiting for it to happen. She saw there was another alternative. Instead of trying to get him to change, she could assume the full responsibility of taking care of herself and the children.
She knew her income wasn’t enough to cover the family expenses, even with very careful money management. That’s why she’d waited for her husband to take responsibility.
She resolved to ask her boss for a raise. Anxious, she chanted for courage. Two weeks later she had the raise in hand.
Then she talked to her husband and told him she couldn’t live with the chaos anymore. He had to have a job and stabilize his income in three months or she would leave him. When nothing changed, she followed through.
It wasn’t easy. She had to retrench and stretch every penny. As she took responsibility, the financial situation shifted, and the chaos settled down. Through making the inner changes necessary to change her circumstances, she had taken charge of her life.
How You Can Change Your Circumstances
- Chant for insight
- Decide what you want to have happen
- Take action
One of the great promises of Nichiren Buddhism is that you can take your life circumstances and and alter them for the better. You no longer have to be at the mercy of the waves of life.