Having turned away from what is essential, atonement is a turning back to ourselves. Having created distance, we close the gap. It’s a seismic shift that can happen at any moment and always happens within a single moment of time, and that time is now. To cease from evil means to drop away old ways that create harm, to dry up those entrenched patterns and to work effectively with the conflicts within our mind. But that’s not enough. Having met the destroyer within ourselves, we have to meet and cultivate the life giver. So we practice good and actualize good for others. Every precept points to both the life affirmer and life destroyer: “Affirm Life,” begins the First Grave Precept; “do not kill.” The Three Pure Precepts challenge us to move beyond just ceasing from harmful actions and to actively practice good and actualize good for others. So how do we cultivate and strengthen the life giver within ourselves?
During fusatsu we chant Namu, which means “being one with.” We begin with being one with the past Seven Buddhas who were, in the cosmology of Buddhism, the predecessors of Shakyamun—the previous lives he spent developing himself toward his realization as a buddha. We could also think of them as our previous lives before engaging in the dharma, which might have included all kinds of wanderings and good and bad decisions but altogether helped bring us to this place. We often feel regret over the mistakes of our past, but those too are responsible for our having found the dharma.