Nagarjuna said, “First, we improve life after life. Ultimately, we achieve our end goal.”
On the road to enlightenment, we first need to improve our lives gradually, life after life, and then we achieve Buddhahood at the end.
The karma we accumulate happens in between every heartbeat. So if our karma improves, our current and future lives improve. There are no exceptions to this fundamental rule. Buddhism is based on karma. If one says there is an exception, that is not Buddhism. As long as we have planted the correct seed, our end result will definitely be correct. Therefore, in this process, the most important thing is to take control of our karma, and that means to create good and pure karma.
This includes all sentient beings and the environment we live in. We rely on our environment to survive, and at the same time, we create an impact on the environment, and our environment also has an impact on us. Therefore, we need to change our environment if we want a better life.
“Our heart can change our situation, like Tathagata.” That is the goal, but we are ordinary men still! We must recognize our status, and follow the Buddhist teachings closely, in order to attain Buddhahood. So as we practise Buddhism, can we only think of ourselves? It is very apparent that all of us get affected by our environment, so if we do not change it, how do we change ourselves? This is law of the universe, and there are no exceptions.
So what should we do? In order to change our karma, the most important thing is our intention, and the most important thing about our intention is a correct view. When we are able to skillfully use the correct view in everyday life, we can improve on the wrong karma we have created in the past, and turn the bad karma into good karma. This theory is easier said than done, so when we try to practise it, it might be far from perfect. But if we keep this theory in mind, we can feel the difference immediately, thereby improving our karma. And so, if we follow the teachings closely and honestly, our highest goal will eventually be attained one day.
(Excerpt from Master Jihchang “The Road to Buddhahood”)