Conflict as viewed in Nichiren Buddhism

Nichiren Buddhism is all about conflict resolution internally as well as externally. The way conflict is viewed in NDB is quite unique. It is based on the premise that the conflict we are experiencing is most definitely conflict we ourselves have created. It originates from within our life and perpetuates into the future based on what is termed the ‘law of cause and effect’.

In other words, even though we may be unaware of the original event that has been at the starting point of it all (in psychology we call it ‘the initial sensitizing event’), the practitioner of NDB sees it as a given that s/he has created the causes for this experience in the infinite (or more immediate) past and that s/he is thus responsible for changing the undesired effects (experienced as conflict) into desirable outcomes in the here and now.

The assumption of responsibility is furthermore based on the belief that one’s life has eternal existence, from infinite past to infinite future and thus escaping from the self perpetuating cause and effect relationship of one’s actions is simply impossible.

This way, there is no externalisation of problems, no blaming of others, just a seeking of inner wisdom through the act of practicing mindfulness, focus and meditation (i.e. the chanting of Nam-myoho renge-kyo) as a means to sincerely understand the true purpose of the current experience.

Practicing in this manner the practitioner will eventually come to accept and realize that the perceived undesired experience makes perfect sense in the grand scheme of things.

Buddhism holds that if someone has the desire (knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unconsciously) to achieve a specific goal, the environment immediately provides the perfect circumstances for the desired effect to manifest eventually.

How is this possible?

The problem is of course that we have a habit of not realising that this is actually taking place due to our delusional understanding of many of life’s actual rather than perceived functions. In other words, we find it hard to see the underlying laws that govern the universe and instead are focused on that which ‘appears’ to be a rafter of disjointed events that have seemingly nothing to do with us.

For instance, if you desire to become rich it most likely means that you perceive (believe) yourself as poor (or not rich) at present. If this is your belief, well …. then that’s what you are likely to get. This was highlighted in the widely publicized book ‘the secret’, which if one would take the time to carefully analyse it’s content,  is really only a very limited explanation of the universal law of cause and effect.

The fact is that we are often utterly unaware of our ‘programs’ that run mostly at a subconscious or unconscious level. Therefore, the crux is to uncover first of all what it is that we are really believing at the deepest level of our consciousness in order to effectively change our current circumstances, or as Buddhists would say, change our karma. When we come to think of it, this is usually also the aim of therapy provided in psychological settings with the difference that we are staying within the realms of a limited lifetime spaning from birth to present, rather than taking into consideration that there are no such limits as proposed by Buddhism.

So, using the example I have indicated further above, how can we become rich then, might be a warranted question?

Faith and Manifest Effect

Well, the answer is surprisingly simple and yet a complex one to comprehend as it is related to the most elusive concept that human kind has to offer – faith.   Well… that’s right. The outcome is purely based on faith (belief) alone.

We need to believe that we can achieve our target despite all the negativity that will invariably arise from the depths of our internal being.

In other words, faith brings out hope that one ‘could’ indeed be(come) a rich person. Believing just that, the practitioner of NDB experiences the benefit of ‘possibility’ that this will happen eventually and thus keeps on forging ahead.

This follows that even if one were to have only little ‘faith’ (hope) in the initial stages, through consistent Buddhist practice i.e. the chanting of Nam-myoho renge-kyo mornings and evenings with the goal in mind of becoming rich, a practitioner is well equipped to maintain focus long enough to make what is desired a reality even though life’s inherent negativity is doing its best to stir him or her away from getting there.

The act of faith generates hope, and hope ultimately translates into the motivation of keeping a consistent focus.  Bring into the equation that the ‘eternal’ law of cause and effect is indeed a ‘real’ phenomenon and that we ourselves are entities of that law, the outcome is always certain.

Consistency of focus yields manifest effect – the law of cause and effect

Unsurprisingly, Nichiren Daishonin states that no prayer goes unanswered if one is steadfast in faith.  Thus, there is no doubt that those who are steadfast in their faith will be certain to see actual proof of this belief which in turn proves that the Buddhist law is indeed operational.

In any case, without such consistency of focus we are literally unaware why ‘things’ are happening to us. These ‘happenings’ (often experienced as internal or external conflict) are actually products of our own unfocused mind. In other words, being utterly unaware of our subliminal motivations, we are producing effects that we cannot recognise as being of our own making.

This lack of awareness is called ‘Fundamental Darkness’ in NDB and thus represents the antithesis to ‘Enlightenment’.

In therapy many clients come to realise that a cause and effect relationship between their actions and reactions exists. In fact, most are somewhat keenly aware of this. However, even though they may have repeated various cycles of behaviour that have led to similar (undesired) circumstances or outcomes, they are nevertheless at a loss of how to get a different (desired) outcome in future.

Causes for the erosion of confidence – lack of faith

The problem is, at least in my experience, that in many cases my clients have repeated these cycles of conflict so many times that their confidence in their own ability to do so (getting better outcomes) has seriously eroded, resulting in low levels of self esteem or/and self worth. Thus, they are caught in a self enforcing cycle of disappointment that keeps chipping away on their confidence. In other words, they lack faith that they could indeed get a different outcome from the one they keep so persistently reinforcing.

By doubting their ability to have control over their circumstances they are losing the ‘battle’ that rages between internally conflicting positive and negative forces.

In NDB this struggle is seen from a vastly different perspective. It is seen as an opportunity for growth. In our aim to become enlightened one faces relentless internal conflict, a conflict between belief and doubt. Although doubt is a function that has its place when one is in the company of people who want to tell lies and thus intents of leading us down a path of deception, that very same protection that works so well in an environment of deception all of a sudden has the effect of preventing us from believing the truth, when in the company of those who are honest.

Doubt and belief – two necessary aspects of existence

Doubt appears to be in direct conflict with the innocence of ‘simply believing’ or faith. There seem to be always at least two voices in our mind that are conflicting over what should be done with the information that we are receiving from the environment, and our own internal representations.  Based on that, we are habitually orientating ourselves on past experiences and consequently make future projections of what might and what might not happen.

There is always a right or wrong to consider, a left or right, a good or bad, a hot or cold, the typical yin and yang dichotomous conflict seems relentless. Accordingly, those who have not learned how to cope with such relentless internal conflict due to their lack of understanding of the true nature of life, are most at risk to succumbing to the negative fallout of such struggle. They are thus likely to keep repeating the same unwanted experience, just in different environmental settings.

The intense unbalanced negative self talk potentially leads to increased levels of stress, anxiety physiological illness and eventually to depression (no hope) or other undesired mental health conditions.

In order to avoid such outcomes, it is therefore of the greatest importance to the Buddhist practitioner to first and foremost understand the challenges and opportunities presented through conflict.

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