The teachings that Śākyamuni Buddha taught are known as ‘Buddhism’ today. The foundation of Buddhism is the Law of Cause and Effect. Śākyamuni Buddha’s lifetime was, for the most part, devoted to expounding the Law of Cause and Effect. If you do not understand this foundation of Buddhism, there is absolutely no way you will be able to understand Buddhism itself. You will not be able to understand Master Shinran’s teachings in the slightest either, since they are the essence of Buddhism. In Buddhism, a ‘Law’ is something that runs through the three worlds and the ten directions. A ‘Law’ is a truth that traverses the past, the present, and the future, and remains unchanged regardless of time. It also holds true in all places. Buddhism teaches nothing but the truth that transcends time and place.
So what is the meaning of ‘cause and effect’? In Buddhism it is taught that whenever something happens, no matter what it is, it happens because there is a cause. There is not a single exception to this even once in a million or a billion cases. Of course, there are cases where we do not know the cause. It has been four months since the Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 239 people went missing. Going by signals from the plane, it seems it crashed into the southern part of the Indian Ocean, but there have been doubts that these signals were even from this plane. We don’t know how long it will be before we know the full story.
However, the cause being unknown is completely different from the cause not existing. A tragic occurrence like this accident may have been caused by something like an engine fault or an incident occurring in the cockpit. There was most definitely a cause, whatever that cause was. A plane would never crash without a cause. Every result that occurs in this world, no matter how small, has a corresponding cause without fail. Even if you stumble over a rock and hurt yourself, there was a cause behind this. Any result, whether big or small, strictly has a cause. There is never even the slightest deviation from this eternal law.
Therefore, the basis of Buddhism is always thorough investigation, called ‘taikan’ in Japanese. ‘Tai’ of ‘taikan’ means ‘clearly’, and ‘kan’ means ‘to see’, so ‘taikan’ means ‘to see the cause of an occurrence clearly’. However, the word ‘taikan’ has erroneously come over time to be associated with being resigned to fate. This is because the meaning ‘to see clearly’, which is ‘akiraka ni miru’ in Japanese, gradually warped into ‘akirameru’, meaning ‘to be resigned’, in the public mind. People use the word to mean, “Just quit in the middle and resign yourself to the present.” This negative usage is the polar opposite to the true meaning of ‘taikan’ , and is one example of a huge misunderstanding of Buddhism.
When happiness comes along, we Shinran Followers, who embrace the Law of Cause and Effect, give thanks to the Buddhas and patriarchs and move forward towards the light all the more. When misfortune falls upon us, we deeply reflect upon the cause, see what we did wrong, and make an effort not to let the same thing happen again. For Shinran Followers who believe in this great Law of Cause and Effect, there are infinite opportunities for self-improvement.
Source: The Buddhist Village Times #42 | 2014, There is No Effect Without a Cause
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