ESSAYS ON KARMA
“Plant a thought and you will reap a deed, plant a deed and you will reap a habit, plant a habit and you will reap a character, plant a character and you will reap a fate.” (Indian proverb)
Every human being is born with the divine opportunity to seek the path to enlightenment; to learn, protect and uphold all that is virtuous, brilliant, magical and precious about being human. One necessary endeavor in this incarnation is to “Experience” (As in the Angutara Nikaya—the previous Sutta, The Six Qualities) the Dharma.
Therefore a main task in this incarnation is to strategize your Experience or your liberation in such a way that you are not trapped by the samsara (the progression of rebirths) of the socio-cultural system—that you free yourself of the Karmic life history in the best manner possible.
In the Buddhist theory of Karma, the Karmic effect of a deed is not determined solely by the deed itself, but also by the nature of the person who commits the deed and by the circumstances in which it is committed.
The hidden or overt moral and ethical quality of the intentions of a person’s actions—to cause pain and suffering on another, to exploit and commodify (exploit for commercial profit) a person and Mother Earth; to bring about disease and demise to others, to destroy whole villages and slaughter animals, to give solely with expectations of gaining more than what one deserves in return—comes around and around, manifesting into a countless variety of situations, coming back to the doer, over and over again as Karmic life history.
It is good for us to see that whatever happens to us in this life is likely the effect of our activity at an earlier time in our life, or some previous life. It is not a matter of blind chance, but rather a result of deeds and thoughts we consciously or subconsciously decided on and performed in the past that are stored in the cosmic soup of consciousness.
Thus even with a person living a very pious, humble and proper life he/she can still from Karma they performed thousands of years ago. To justify their suffering in our minds we would most likely conclude that in the past that person had to have acted or thought immorally. Although some teachers believe it is better not to think that way, such as Sharon Saltzberg . .
“If you see someone in the gutter, you should never say, ‘that’s his Karma’. You should use it for your own investigation.”
Maybe how I contemplate that person in the gutter will influence his Karma. Maybe I have a hand in his destiny. Or maybe the person in the gutter will contemplate the inherited code hidden within his suffering and decide on a different way to live that deactivates that Karma in the future. Maybe he sees me and feels some inspiration about himself. . . He may or may not have a choice to prevent any number of obvious events that could cause that Karma from reoccurring in the future. One of those events may be how the man sees himself, or the prolonged attachment to a past situation of defeat. Or it is possible that from that man’s point of view or level of consciousness he is hardly suffering at all—lying on the ground might be a comfort to him, an escape from a much more torturous situation. Or maybe the cause of his karma is just too suppressed in his subconscious, too far from his awareness and sense of reality that he has no motivation to live, and has little care for his life.
How I choose to approach whatever suffering comes my way right now, will determine my journey ahead. I can either collude with suffering as a permanent part of who I am, advance it deeper into my body and emotions as I get older, compounding its effects on me, or focus on making it disappear. This depends on the extent of my awareness, the value I put on life, and the power of my intention to confront life totally, honestly and with the appropriate discernment necessary to be free and empty of one or more actions that cause discomfort and future Karma. This is when I consciously decide not to ever allow suffering to happen again. Thus, I am accepting the Experience as an observer, a director, an active defender and protector of my life and not as a passive, oppressed victim of my past deeds and thoughts. . . . In other words, I choose to not give in to the past Karma, if I possibly can.
Living life is more than just blindly participating in events that take place throughout each day. We must also control the events with our thoughts and actions. Although our Karmic life on earth is influenced by a broad variety of cosmic and planetary energies which influence the inseparable chain of actions and reactions, the power of our Right Intention can be even more dynamic in bringing about the most beneficial effects at this very moment or at a time in the future. It is like a long movie with different scenes that take place throughout each person’s day; different characters, different moods that happen so quickly, they are hard to catch, and are hard to control—unless one’s consciousness is there, present and ready to “Experience” the Dharma of it all.
The Choice Is Yours
When a child is born, his present incarnation can be understood as a continual play made up of a series of actions, mini-dramas, dreams and colorful visions. At birth he may either have to relive, re-experience again the same adventures, hardships and lessons, or carry on from the previous incarnation, where he/she left off, with new very different experiences in order to evolve.
As he proceeds on his journey toward awakening he starts to realize that his thoughts and actions determine the outcomes of numerous situations, where he gradually starts to become more thoughtful, more mindful. He is doing as Buddha advised: he is choosing to work out his life with diligence.
“Be a lamp unto yourself.” Buddha said, “Work out your liberation with diligence! Fill your mind with compassion every moment.”
For each of you this means that as you gain more and more mindful awareness, you acquire the wisdom that encompasses more compassion in your “Dharma Experience”. This is where you are provided with an opportunity to be “Witness to the World”, and to see and act from a point of universal Oneness that continually—moment to moment, day to day, month to month, year to year—prompts you to redefine the perspective you have of yourself and your relationship with life.
As the Experience progresses you see who you were in the past is not who you are now—you spontaneously disassociate and let go of the illusive permanent ego-self that perpetuates the Karmic life history, that attaches to an exclusive, hyped-up alienation, socially acceptable although spiritually devoid of taking responsible control of ones Dharma or Karma.
It is the Experience called LIFE which lets you know you have an opportunity, you have free will
Dealing with this problem of variation of Karma, in the Atthasalini, which translates as “The Expositor” or “Providing the Meaning”, a commentary of the Dharmasangani (a book from the Abhidharma text of the Theravada Pali Canon), Buddhaghosa states:
“Depending on this difference in Karma, appears the differences in the birth of beings, high and low, base and exalted, happy and miserable. Depending on the difference in Karma appears the difference in the individual features of beings as beautiful and ugly, high-born or low born, well-built or deformed. Depending on the difference in Karma appears the difference in worldly conditions of beings, such as gain and loss, and disgrace, blame and praise, happiness and misery.” http://www.buddhanet.net/t_karma.htm
This is Karma from a Buddhist point of view; where our present mental, moral intellectual and temperamental differences are, more or less, due to both our past and present actions, thoughts, behaviors and tendencies.
However if we compare the Buddhist concept of Karma with the Hindu concept of Karma we see hazy confusing differences as well as hazy confusing similarities. Hazy differences first: Buddhism attributes this variation to Karma, as being the chief cause among a variety, it does not, however, assert that everything is due to Karma, as in the Hindu religion . . . more to come.
“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
The law of Karma, important as it is, is only one of the twenty-four conditions described in Buddhist Philosophy.
Refuting the erroneous view that “whatsoever fortune or misfortune experienced is all due to some previous action”, the Buddha said:
“So, then, according to this view, owing to previous action men will become murderers, thieves, unchaste, liars, slanderers, covetous, malicious and perverts. Thus, for those who fall back on the former deeds as the essential reason, there is neither the desire to do, nor effort to do, nor necessity to do this deed, or abstain from this deed.”
It was this important text, which states the belief that all physical circumstances and mental attitudes spring solely from past Karma that Buddha contradicted. If the present life is totally conditioned or wholly controlled by our past actions, then certainly Karma is tantamount to fatalism or determinism or predestination. If this were true, free will would be an absurdity. Life would be purely mechanistic, not much different from a machine. Being created by an Almighty God who controls our destinies and predetermines our future, or being produced by an irresistible Karma that completely determines our fate and controls our life’s course, independent of any free action on our part, is essentially the same. The only difference lies in the two words God and Karma. One could easily be substituted for the other, because the ultimate operation of both forces would be identical.
Such a fatalistic doctrine is not the Buddhist law of Karma.
According to Buddhism, there are five orders or processes (niyama) which operate in the physical and mental realms.
- Utu Niyama – physical inorganic order, e.g. seasonal phenomena of winds and rains. The unerring order of seasons, characteristic seasonal changes and events, causes of winds and rains, nature of heat, etc., all belong to this group.
- Bija Niyama – order of germs and seeds (physical organic order), e.g. rice produced from rice-seed, sugary taste from sugar-cane or honey, peculiar characteristics of certain fruits, etc. The scientific theory of cells and genes and the physical similarity of twins may be ascribed to this order.
- Karma Niyama – order of act and result, e.g., desirable and undesirable acts produce corresponding good and bad results. As surely as water seeks its own level so does Karma, given opportunity, produce its inevitable result, not in the form of a reward or punishment but as an innate sequence; this sequence of deed and effect is as natural and necessary as the way of the sun and the moon.
- Dhamma Niyama – order of the norm, e.g., the natural phenomena occurring at the advent of a Bodhisattva in his last birth. Gravitation and other similar laws of nature. The natural reason for being good and so forth, may be included in this group.
- Citta Niyama – order or mind or psychic law, e.g., processes of consciousness, arising and perishing of consciousness, constituents of consciousness, power of mind, etc., including telepathy, telaesthesia, retro-cognition, premonition, clairvoyance, clairaudience, thought-reading and such other psychic phenomena which are inexplicable to modern science.
Every mental or physical phenomenon could be explained by these all-embracing five orders or processes which are laws in themselves. Karma as such is only one of these five orders. Like all other natural laws they demand no lawgiver.
Of these five, the physical inorganic order and the order of the norm are more or less mechanistic, though they can be controlled to some extent by human ingenuity and the power of mind. For example, fire normally burns, and extreme cold freezes, but man has walked scatheless over fire and meditated naked on Himalayan snows; horticulturists have worked marvels with flowers and fruits; Yogis have performed levitation. Psychic law is equally mechanistic, but Buddhist training aims at control of mind, which is possible by right understanding and skillful volition. Karma law operates quite automatically and, when the Karma is powerful, man cannot interfere with its inexorable result though he may desire to do so; but here also right understanding and skillful volition can accomplish much and mold the future. Good Karma, persisted in, can thwart the reaping of bad Karma, or as some Western scholars prefer to say ‘action influence’, is certainly an intricate law whose working is fully comprehended only by a Buddha. The Buddhist aims at the final destruction of all Karma.
On our journey through life it is easy for us human beings to unconsciously accept, perpetuate and continually live out the conditions of our cultural upbringing. What we grow up with has become our Karmic life history, stored in the memory of our cells for years—memories of both enjoyable moments as well as very painful physical and emotional traumas. Most people get used to flaunting the pleasurable experiences while burying the painful traumatic events deep inside to get on with life. Both pleasure and pain keep us occupied. We crave the pleasure while distaining the pain. Although, there are those people who constantly distain the pleasure and highly identify with the pain, there are more of the former.
For many people it is convenient to keep the good or bad times going for as long as possible, and the bad times safely hidden from our thoughts, from causing more anxiety. The repressed patterning becomes his/her way of life, in order to hold the two sides apart.
Far away from our inner peace, from the absolute presence that allows us to be whole, and empty of emotional extremes from the past.
The commercial world encourages us to pick up all kinds of unhealthy habits that are acceptable addictions, attitudes, biases, strong judgments, and prejudices. It is common to get involved in unhealthy relationships, take on unproductive responsibilities and choose unsatisfying jobs that put pressure on a woman, drain her energy and spiritual enthusiasm for life. Yet, people can become so stubborn to recognize, focus on and do something about the “band-aide effects” in their daily lives, that eventually their health is negatively influenced;
That over time “suddenly” without watching, the unhealthy unconscious life style creeps up on one, with great force causing an avalanche of self-generated, auto-immune responses throughout the body-mind consciousness
What has happened?
One’s inherent immune sensitivity and intelligence in knowing what is good for him/her and what isn’t has become so highly compromised, and estranged by the conditioned lifestyle of intoxicated-alienation, he/she becomes trapped by it.
In spending many years thinking about what causes this scenario I have come up with four phases:
- From a person’s earliest upbringing he/she is indoctrinated into being an innocent, pure little citizen of a classroom, who is easily trained as a social being, taken on a discriminant ride away from his/her Higher Divine Self, away from the right to learn who he/she truly is. In order to fit into society, most little kids are distracted from him/herself, to become competitive among their peers; consumers, patients when sick and abiding vaccinated servants of the social system. Most young children are taught not to think and ask questions, nor are they encouraged to trust themselves, to take responsibility, or be independent with an alternative direction, off the grid thought, drawing, dress or behavior.
- Once this happens it is easier for parents, governments, guardians, the media, teachers, doctors, priests and other authorities to manipulate and exploit kids further away from their inherent human gifts, from valuing, maintaining and cherishing the divine workings of their inner biology, imaginative nature and spiritual instincts; that they need to empower, protect, heal and support themselves with when the world becomes a threat to their Dharma and divine immune intelligence.
- Eventually, he/she justifies this definition of self as a material participant of the system, without realizing either the traps made for them or the struggles, and sacrifices they must make to fit into the box. Thus many people to survive financially make cruel, unethical, unbalanced, heartless choices that exploit and deceive others in order to compete successfully; acceptable behavior in a society where we are all hurting for love and compassion in harmony with the cosmic laws of the human heart.
- In the end what occurs is separation, alienation from self, bondage, fear, anger, suffering and unhappiness from not sensing the middle of the extremes, not knowing the core center of being, not feeling peace from within. . .
Regrettably most people are trained not to be aware of him/herself and their relationship with the world.
Thus without knowing it, without protection,
They allow the world to get inside of them.
A usual progression of health for someone who fits into this scenario is: First the body might have an acute reaction, then another and another; then the mind ignores it, and keeps up the fast pace and busy agenda. Soon he/her becomes depressed or is labeled by others as depressed, but in reality the person is just unhappy with their life. Then the person is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, or prostatitis, or insulin resistance or cancer—because their human and very personal bio-spiritual-rhythms are out of balance; because they are now alienated from him/herself and not able to express how they feel and what the most important priorities are in their life—which are all stuck inside. What has happened is that without paying attention to their priorities and doing something about it, without listening, little by little the immune system stops reacting and attacks the body, not only physically but emotionally and psychically in the form of self-destructive behaviors, depression and chronic fatigue.
For such a long time the pleasurable and painful memories have become who the person is, their body-mind-ego, which has developed into physical, mental and emotional substance, energetic blockages created in the energy field and compounded further by the bad habits of the Karmic History.
This is when one’s ability to protect him/herself has become so compromised, so disengaged from their Higher Divine Self, from their divine immune intelligence, from their present self; so suppressed, weak, consumed and self-destructive, that the original memories (pleasure and painful trauma) dominate who the person is, keeping them in the past, enslaving them— as the person has unknowingly allowed the world entry into every corner of their life—completely unaware that it has taken over who they are, now manifesting as major life-threatening health conditions.
I use to think that all blockages in the body, mind and emotions were memories of grief but I realize now that they are also memories of specific times of great pleasure—which we cling to, which we need to have in order to keep us from being present, in order to prevent confronting our fear of pain, of being alone and grieving, or the fear of truthfully acknowledging our inflated, deluded, reality of happiness.
Paradoxically all that we hold on to as being in duality dominates a negative stream of spontaneous unconscious thoughts and actions of which we constantly move back and forth between–attracting and pushing away . . .
What we need to be aware of is that what we attract, allure and wish for, as well as what we push away, reject and are repulsed by become our reality, and is the dual world we live in. If we hold on to the duality of pleasure and pain then those extremes become our life, and represent dual extremes of all types: happiness-sadness, good-bad, right-wrong; beautiful-ugly, love-hate, rich-poor—where we never see the center present reality in its bare suchness–tatata.
Cosmically speaking, in truth, reality is only the present moment, which is the center of the cosmic (non-local) universe we live in, and that resides within our dharma. Thus when we want to make changes in our life, being empty of the world, empty of dualities—being empty of pleasure and pain—supports the present now where Dharma peace and Oneness reside.
When both, pleasure and pain dissipate into emptiness, The Middle Path is brought to Light
When we know ourselves and how to protect ourselves we are able to distance ourselves from the world. When we live a life of Dharma we are protected.
Happiness is the empty center that expands without dual extremes
One of the most essential aspects of Karma for us to remember is that we can change it—it doesn’t have to be with us throughout every life or throughout this life. One anonymous scholar stated on Wikipedia:
Karma is continually ripening, but it is also continually being generated by present actions. Therefore it is possible to exercise free will to shape future karma.
The idea of “taking control” or free will, or working out your liberation with diligence requires unconditional insight, which brings attention to the “true meaning of the word Karma.” . . .
Karma is moral and ethical intentions, thoughts and attitudes, acts and deeds, causes and effects, over many, many lives and many, many eons, and can be changed.
Changing our Karma means exercising our will. In 1910 Rudolph Steiner the famous anthroposophist said this of Karma:
“Without limiting free will of man, the law of Karma acts back on an entity, from which the cause came, like the law of action and reaction.”
However the cause of the Karma can be abolished. Karma can be eliminated.
One of the most substantially significant ways we can take control of our Karma is through fasting and cleansing your body, mind and emotions. In taking diligent control of your time on earth, you have the opportunity to indulge your mind and heart into ways to eliminate your Karmic life history.
Fasting is a miraculous, exhilarating and transformative practice of which the commitment to fast automatically proclaims your sincere compassion to to seek the Dharma Experience and end reoccurring negativity from the Karmic History.
As the fasting process subtly guides you to your dharma-Dharma, the cause of your Karmic history, of any disharmony, bursts forth from the unconscious to your conscious awareness.
Once this happens, The Karma dissolves.
Cultivating the Intuition
It is miraculous to see that when you seek to know the truth about yourself and take total responsibility for your mind and body, and the world around you everything changes. The knowledge and sensitivity you gain through the fasting experience catalyzes your Buddha nature. This awakening protects you from being trapped by the system, from unconsciously following the present moral conditioning and material existence. When you cultivate the insight and intuition necessary to always seek and be guided to the truth, no matter what, seeing clearly beyond the conditioned reality you grew up in, you are always provided with what you need to move beyond the Karma.
When you practice a life of staying awake your vigilance of inquiry, or truth-discerning awareness, transmutes into emptiness. While the Heart’s inherent intention attracts all that is good
This is real freedom. When you are happily guided by your own truth-discerning awareness, while the world around you appears empty, you become capable of observing all Karma. With an objective eye for the energy surrounding you, the strength of your intuition, your compassion for yourself, and divine presence are saturated by the supreme consciousness to confidently guide others and thus change the world.
Furthermore when we have Right Intention and compassion for all living beings we are much less likely to get distracted and sucked into attaching to a separate existence.
With a reverent “Witness to the World” pose in your everyday experience it is impossible for any material toxicity to build up as an ego, as a deluded pillar of permanent success
At First It Made You Miserable, But the Truth Has Set You Free”
It helps us tremendously when we clearly see and understand the world and why it is the way it is, although the process can be very painful. Clearly seeing and understanding the world means clearly seeing and understanding its Karmic history, as well as the Karmic history of our students, clients, countries, governments, banks, religious institutions—and all of the history of civilization.
Knowing and thoroughly understanding the world Karma helps us develop empathy and compassion, instead of bias and blame . . .
Along the way each of us has at some time in our life been unconsciously distracted and vulnerable as the Catch 22 of life catches up with our lack of experience, our lack of taking control of our lives, our lack of awareness, our lack of movement and fear of change. Over time we lose any glimpse of our divine opportunity to seek inherent gifts, and get stuck in the same patterns and routines which pull us closer to being victims of the world.
Over the years, sickness and disease manifest from the life many people immerse themselves into that began as the original distractions—that have now become major Karmic dramas and desperate situations, falsely perceived as “who” one is and which appear to be permanent. Unfortunately, the heavier the issues, the heavier the Karma, the more challenging it is to “lighten up” and let it go.
Bathed in conditioned concepts, things, definitions, beliefs, doctrines, policies of other people and convictions which are expected to stay in place forever as long as we live, this is who one becomes: an identity, an ego programmed by their socio-cultural upbringing, by financial ups and downs, by likes and dislikes, habits and beliefs, the media, illnesses, pharmaceuticals drugs and medical insurance.
All which each person clings to builds up in consciousness as the “real world” the only world; building up as a bank account within the psyche that accumulates interest way beyond the spiritual debt one has made to him/herself over many lifetimes, many incarnations.
One’s attachments take them on a roller-coaster excursion, year after year pulling him/her away from what is good, pure and divine about their existence; they move further and further afield from their original truth, and “opportunity” to seek and protect what is empty about who they are, while never once considering working out their liberation with diligence or examining their Karma.
If one holds on to form, attaches to things that appear as ‘solid’: “my home, job, profession, my husband, family, kids, money, status, nationality”; hold on to past accomplishments as achievements, while clinging to the false permanence of his/her success, there is a point of delusion that is reached which fits perfectly with what our government and society wants for us.
Sadly, clinging to the false permanence of our success greatly prevents us from ever seeing the truth of the delusion, from ever being free to change.
Without sincere intention to embrace a path of mind and heart, discordance, fear and ignorance fight with one’s highest Buddha or Christ nature to keep things as they have always been, suppressed and hidden from view.