In a book by an old teacher of mine, Samsara is described as “the conditioned mind”. Human and all sentient life entwined and impossibly snared in the illusion of materialism, which draws us ever deeper in and perpetuates our predicament – the cycle of birth and death. Karma could be described as the spiritual currency – generated by our efforts to help ourselves – that tethers us to and keeps us invested in the system.
So I try not to take all this suffering personally. Because, after all, it’s just the universe doing its thing. Dispensing justice without prejudice.
When you realise the power of the consequences of your actions, even the actions that seem insignificant but quite probably contribute towards the pain and even death of others, it becomes a bit easier to accept what’s coming.
Christians talk about Eschatology – the science of the final things – judgement by God for our transgressions and the impact that we’ve had on His Creation.
This resonates with me to a certain point, but I like to think of this as a system of cause and effect, rather than a journey to some personal judgement from a punitive Higher Power. Individual and collective Karma crystalizing on the physical plane, and, if we’re awake enough, providing the catalyst for release from the cycle of pain and death.
Whether we are the manifestation of the apocalypse, which marks the death throes of this incredible organic universe, or vehicles for transcendence into higher states, the immutable fact of suffering remains.
It’s useful to have a practice that we can use to reduce the impact of suffering on our lives and it’s great to feel held and loved by a Buddha or some other Divine Deity, but it’s also important to acknowledge the origins and causes of this predicament that we’re in as Human beings in a Samsaric Universe.
As long as there is conscious life there will always be Karma and as long as there’s karma there will always be Samsara. So when this physical universe ends – which, by the laws of impermanence it must – our individual and collective karmic deficits will be carried over into a different system. And who is to say what that might look like!?
I consider this relationship with Amida and Buddhism in general, the ripening of my good karma, as accumulated through previous good deeds and accomplishments over uncountable lifetimes in unimaginable timeframes. Although the practice of calling Amida seems quite easy and convenient, the journey to reach salvation has been incredibly long and very difficult!
Nembutsu is the loving arm of Amitabha, reaching back through beginingless time to guide us into his care and away from the eternal pitfalls of the suffering realms.