A thought popped into my mind as I prepared to leave home Saturday afternoon to go downtown: “I have a date with destiny.” No logical reason to think that. And especially no logical reason to then think: “I’m going to meet a man.”
The winter sunshine felt pleasant after days of pale grey sky as I drove south on the highway. Fewer cars than usual moved briskly along. Out of nowhere I heard a loud BANG. A dark-coloured car had driven into the passenger side of my car. And then, just as suddenly, it moved away.
I felt too surprised and shocked to even swear. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened from one moment to the next.
I pulled over to the side as soon as I could, and the other car stopped behind me. Long story short, the driver, a very nice man, apologetically took responsibility for not checking his blind spot before he changed lanes. (There’s a reason the French call it by a somewhat different name – l’angle mort, the “dead angle.”)
We were both shaken up. Some minutes later, away from the highway on a quiet residential downtown street, we started to exchange information. He remarked with appreciation how calm I was. I said, “I practise Buddhism. It goes with the territory.”
After the gentleman and I parted company I tried to continue with my plans for the afternoon, but realised I was in no shape to do so.
I also watched my mind start to go down the “if only” path. “If only I hadn’t left my apartment building exactly when I did.” “If only I hadn’t returned to my apartment before I got on the elevator because I’d forgotten something, I wouldn’t have been at exactly that spot at exactly that time, and I could have avoided the whole thing.”
Oh really? And what about the date with destiny, pray tell?
Fortunately, I have an ever-increasing capacity to observe my thoughts and question them, thanks to my spiritual practice and recent listening to an audiobook about cognitive therapy. So I nipped those thoughts in the bud and closed off the neural pathway they occupied by telling myself what I’d tell any Buddhist practitioner: Nothing can happen to you unless it’s your karma.
Buddhism teaches that nothing happens by chance. ~ SGI President Daisaku Ikeda
Let’s talk about karma. We make causes every time we think, say or do something. And because of the simultaneity of cause and effect, every cause has its own effect embedded within it. Accumulate enough causes of a certain kind and they form a strong latent inner energy that attracts a certain type of circumstance. And when the circumstances are right, the latent effect becomes a manifest effect. An event or a situation. Like being side-swiped.
Far beyond blame or fault or guilt, this presents a freeing and empowering taking on of responsibility – response-ability.
I recognise with gratitude yesterday’s collision as a lessening of my karmic retribution, one of the many benefits of Nichiren Buddhism. It’s like having a huge debt, a million dollars, that you owe. But due to the benefits of your sincere practice you get to pay back just $10,000.00, and that’s an end to it.
Here’s another analogy. Your negative causes are like the stars in the night sky, too many to count (if you’re away from city lights). Practising Nichiren Buddhism has the effect of the sun coming out in your life. When the sun rises and shines, you no longer see the light of the stars. They’re still there, but their effect is greatly diminished.
So my intuition got it right. I did have a date with destiny, and I did meet a man. A man with the same name as my father, moreover. (What are the chances of that?!)
I met a man with integrity who made a mistake, which, heaven knows, I have done so many times myself. And as it happens, he’s recently become interested in meditation and is now open to finding out more about Buddhism, given how calm I remained yesterday. (I was shaking inside though!)
I’m due to visit my local body shop tomorrow to get an estimate. My car is quite badly scraped but I don’t believe it’s dented. And anyway, that’s far from being the main point of this story.
This incident has enabled me to enjoy and appreciate my inner journey of growth. To borrow an expression from Dr. David Burns, the author I’m currently listening to, I’m moving from the dreadful habit of moping, to coping.
And I’ve paid off a karmic debt.
Photo by Simon Maage on Unsplash
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Thank you so much!!