Nichiren Buddhism has many powerful teachings, or should I refer to them as enlightened teachings, that reflect the mystic law of the universe, Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, the foundation of the Lotus Sutra and Nichiren Daishonin’s teachings. None of the teachings stand alone but are inter-related. As such, it is difficult to discuss one teaching without referring to one or more additional teachings. Today my seeking spirit is leading me to explore and challenge one of my favorites concepts, Oneness of Life and Environment, also known as Esho Funi in Japanese. This teaching states that your environment is a reflection of your life condition and is closely connected to the teaching of cause and effect which essentially conveys that all thoughts, words and actions create an effect in your life and your environment. Buddhism teaches that life and the environment are not two independent entities but are tightly connected and interdependent. Your environment is your shadow and no matter how hard you try, you cannot separate from your shadow. The same is true of your environment. On the surface this sounds like a harmonious concept that you might expect from Eastern philosophy. However, it is profoundly empowering if well understood and practiced in real life.
Imagine having the power to change your work, home or any environment that you experience during the course of a day. People spend a lot of time trying to change people in their environment with the idea that if they could change the people everything would be better for them. A wife or husband tries to change their spouse or kids. A manager tries to change his staff. The intention for desiring to change people is irrelevant. What is relevant is people spend a lot of outward energy trying to change people with the idea that it will make their life and their environment better and more enjoyable. What they fail to recognize is that the most expedient means to change ones’ environment is to change themselves.
The environments in our lives are a reflection of who we are emotionally and intellectually and the corresponding thoughts, words and actions that we have compiled over time, our karma is reflected in our environment. Karma is not a predefined fate but rather the destiny that is created through thoughts, words and actions and the environments that you experience in your life every day are a reflection of your karma. In other words, your thoughts, words and actions create the circumstances in your environment. That also means that you can positively impact your environment by changing yourself and the way that you interact with your environment.
I encourage that you test this universal law in your own life. If you wake up and start out the day treating your spouse extra special or having a particularly good mood at work, how will your spouse or your colleagues respond? Will they respond differently than if you woke up moody and expressed that moodiness with them? This is an easy test. Think of all the situations where you may have been impatient, stubborn or even angry. Next time try to patient, considerate, flexible and nice. Do you think that your environment will respond differently? How would the people respond differently? If they become more supportive of you you have just created a supportive environment.
What if you have either a boss that you do not get along with, or you have staff that you do not get along with for some reason. It does not matter if you are the manager or the staff, if you work to change how you deal with them, the environment between you will change without fail. If there is some heavy karma it may take a few days, a few months, or it could be immediate. But without question, it will change.
You can test this in almost every situation you encounter in a day and observe the result. Even better, there is a side benefit to the broader environment. That is the ripple effect. If you express joy in seeing someone and make them feel good about themselves, the are apt to carry that good feeling to their next encounter. So kind acts can lead to more kind acts that ripple throughout the day and you have the opportunity to be the one initiates the ripple.
In all seriousness, if you are facing a dark situation and something looks hopeless. If you realize that you can change the situation by changing yourself. What does that mean? How do you change yourself? That is a good question and the answer is always unique to the person and situation. In Buddhism we chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, meditate, to awaken our Buddha nature or highest life condition and inner wisdom. If a person chants to understand what they need to change with deep sincerity, and not blame anything in their environment, they will make the change in themselves and the environment will change.
It is important to realize that if you just leave a current environment that is bad and do not go through any self human revolution, you will over time recreate the same situation over again. So running from a problem does not help. To be clear, there are cases where changing oneself means having the courage to leave a physically abusive relationship. But to find a truly healthy relationship, a human revolution in oneself (change) needs to take place so that you attract people that will treat you well. And once in a new relationship, you will need to continue the human revolution and build positive karma in your relationship and in your environment through your thoughts, words and action.
One final comment on this topic, though I could go on much longer, chanting in itself is a positive cause that starts to change your environment. Chanting about changing your karma, changing yourself, is very powerful. Chanting to change someone else is less powerful. In theory, if you chant enough eventually you will recognize that it is you that needs to change in order to change the environment. So please always chant to understand what you need to change about yourself to create change in your environment. And never blame yourself for being in a bad environment for there is no positive or redeeming value to do so. Rather focus on the power that you have to make change and when you change how you view something and how interact with your environment, your environment will change without fail.
As always, do not just believe but rather try it and see for your self. Test it, challenge it, but do so with a seeking spirit to understand.