Who in this world has not experienced tragedy in one form or another? An unexpected illness; a serious accident or injury; a broken heart; loss of employment; the premature passing of a loved one; a family rift; or the loss of wealth or assets? These are all terrible experiences. Sometimes the struggles may not be very serious, but one thing after another doesn’t go your way and you just can’t seem to catch a break.
We are taught that all illnesses and troubles arise from the improper use of our minds. The eight mental dusts have been cited elsewhere in this blog, but each of the dusts have a common component: the self-centered use of mind. When we think only of ourselves and our happiness, without regard to the happiness of others, it becomes easier to accumulate mental dusts.
We become stingy because we want to preserve what’s ours, and don’t want to exhaust effort unless there is benefit for us. We see things that others have and immediately desire it too. We become angry about what people say or do. We discriminate against people because they are different. We treat ourselves and our kids well but not others. We lose the capacity to forgive people. We constantly want more even though we have enough. And, we look down on people, always believing we are right.
Modern science has proven the link between stress, worry, and anger to illnesses such as high blood pressure, ulcers, and weakened immunity. It has also proven that joy and laughter releases endorphins and strengthens our immune system. Thoughts of prayer for others and acts of giving also have very positive physiological effects. So when we relay the words of Oyasama and tell people that the root of all illnesses and sufferings comes from the mind, it should be received quite naturally by all.
If someone were mean an angry towards people, always cheating, stealing, and promoting violence, then all of a sudden becomes ill or seriously injured in a car accident, people might easily surmise that they got what they deserved, or that karma got the best of them. The Tenrikyo term used is innen, or causality.
But often times bad things happen to “good” people. In the past year alone, I have prayed for 8 good, no great, people who were diagnosed with cancer or some other life-treatening illnesses. Each time I think why do these wonderful people have to be afflicted by such terrible diseases?
Oyasama compared the use of mind to planting seeds. Sometimes a seed will sprout quickly, and sometimes it may take a very long time to sprout. Because we have been reborn into this world thousands of times, our souls have accumulated both good and bad innen over our lifetimes. So whatever happens – many people call it good luck or bad luck – is the result of seeds we have planted with the use our our minds at some time in the past.
That being said, Oyasama also stressed that the illnesses and troubles are not to be taken as punishments for bad seeds planted. Rather, they are warning signs and guideposts that God the Parent presents to us out of God’s deep love and desire to steer us in the right direction. When we are faced with troubles or sickness, we must immediately self-reflect on the usage of our minds. If we find that we have been accumulating mental dusts, we should perform the Service daily and vow to change our thinking; cast away our selfishness.
If we have been using our minds correctly, thinking of others and helping others, but still are affected by challenges, then we should accept the situation as God’s timely love and care in allowing bad seeds to sprout and give us an opportunity to cut off our innen. How does this work? By recognizing and joyously accepting troubles and illnesses as the natural effects of causes accumulated in our lifetime or a previous lifetime, we can actually sever the roots of our innen and thereby create a better life thereafter, and for future lifetimes.
Once we come to this realization, our perspective changes entirely. The challenges we once thought to be bad things in our lives actually become good opportunities to cut off our innen by keeping the mind of gratitude and complete satisfaction in whatever occurs. We truly begin to view troubles as God’s love to help us get back on the right path.