How does one avoid personal calamity and cultivate longevity?In Buddhism, karmic causes and effects are natural forces working towards a balance in our lives. Disaster and good fortune are both forms of retribution based on the causes and effects of our actions. The reward for good deeds is good fortune, nobility, and longevity, while the result for bad deeds is calamity, illness, and hardship. So the best way to avoid personal calamity and achieve longevity is to do good deeds and avoid doing evil.
The basic principle for preventing calamity and cultivating longevity is to repent past misdeeds, and to vow to change for the better. Any karmic retribution that one deserves should be willingly accepted; and as one begins to repent and vows to change, some not yet received retribution may change accordingly. It is like a trial in which the accused admits guilt, expresses remorse, and is willing to comply with the law, and as a result, the judge may reduce the sentence. In the old days, there were examples of “redeeming oneself with good service”; today there can be probation without a jail term, delaying the sentence, or settling out of court. This analogy shows how remorse can change consequences, even though there has been wrongdoing.
In the spirit of repentance, those praying to disperse misfortune and prolong life should not engage in bad deeds. Performing Buddha activities – reciting sutras, repentance prostration, giving alms, and making offerings, are also ways to disperse misfortune and prolong life. This is to use Dharma to enlighten our karmic debtors and foes in our past lives that have fallen into the realm of ghosts and spirits, enabling them to leave suffering and to not seek repayment of old debts. Furthermore, due to the power of our vows, the factors in forming karmic retribution for latent events will also change. However, if we continue doing bad deeds, they will resonate as causes for calamity. On the other hand, if we give up bad deeds and embrace the good, they in turn will disengage calamitous factors and thus dissipate future calamity and misfortune. Therefore, making vows, studying Dharma, and cultivating good deeds will change one’s destiny.
Certainly, this involves the inconceivable power of Dharma. According to the sutras, one who accepts the Three Jewels will have thirty-six benevolent devas as guardians. Therefore, one who has taken refuge and prays to avoid calamities and to prolong life, will indeed be protected by devas. Since time without beginning, the cycles of good and bad karmic causes and effects continue without end. It is extremely complex: feelings of gratitude and resentment are all interweaved regarding who owes what to whom. Ordinary people, even arhats, have difficulty comprehending this, but if we can be guided and shielded by the power of Dharma and the guardian devas, some of our originally deserved karmic retribution can possibly be averted.
Just as a wealthy man should not harass an impoverished person for prompt payment of a small loan, one’s karmic debt also diminishes when karmic foes are liberated from suffering. When karmic foes are liberated, the mutual hatred they harbor will dissipate, and they won’t be seeking settlement from each other. In principle, this is how calamities are prevented and lives are prolonged.