Meditation on Karma

Karma – cause and effect

To meditate on karma is to relflect on our actions. The sanskrit word karma translates literally as action and implies the results of those actions. It is the process of cause and effect and the way that we create our quality of experience. Essentially we become what we do.

Thus virtuous karma results in happiness, while non-virtuous karma results in suffering. Our karma creates our future in broad terms, though the intricacies of this process of creation are very difficult to fathom. Karma is not cut and dried in that many factors, which can involve a mix of virtue and non-virtue, will determine the outcomes. We therefore have a great opportunity to limit the effect of negative karma and bring more and more good into our lives just by knowing about karma. This will speed us along the path to enlightenment.

Creating a great future

Enlightenment is the perfect benefit to oneself. It is also the greatest benefit you can give to others. To get there we need good karma. We need to act in accord with virtue.
Our actions will then be congruent with the result we wish to create. In each moment we are mindful to do the best we can: to be joyful, relaxed, peaceful, and patient. Be loving, friendly and compassionate. Be as understanding and forgiving as possible. In this way we are able to bring enlightenment into our actions right in the present moment. The present moment is the cradle of action, the cradle of karma wherein the future is born.
In every moment we can act in three main spheres: the sphere of the body, the sphere of speech and the sphere of the mind. We thus create karmas of body, speech and mind. Every thought, every word and every physical movement is then a karma which produces a future of its own.
There are limitless karmas and categories of karmas. But the significant ones are the ten virtuous karmas and the ten non-virtuous karmas. These are listed below.
The first three lines refer to karmas of the body. The next four to those of speech and the final three are karmas of the mind. When we meditate on karma we will reflect on both the positive and negative. By regretting the negative karmas we will purify them, at least to some degree. Through reflecting on the postive karmas we know what to do. We will have more enthusiasm and energy for virtuous karma.

Ten positive karmas to cultivate

Preserve life – heal others, rescue life

Generosity – find ways to give, contribute

Ethical relationship – avoid excessive desire

Truthfulness – aim to be beneficial

Praise – extol the good in others

Harmonious speech – bring people together

Contructive speech – build good relationships

Non-attachment – be content and rejoice in what you have

Love – view all through the eyes of love

Right views – know karma and the two truths

Ten negative karmas to avoid

Killing – taking any form of life

Stealing – taking that which is not freely given

Sexual misconduct – sexual relationship with another’s partner

Lying – deliberately deceiving others

Harsh speech – any form of abuse

Divisive speech – disharmony, splitting people up

Gossip – malicious and pointless speech

Coveting – grasping for others’ possessions or qualities

Malice – harmful or hurtful intent

Wrong views – believing what is false to be true and vice versa

The dynamics of karma

Karma becomes stronger or weaker depending on the intensity of virtue or non-virtue. Killing motivated by strong hatred is a strong negative karma. The killing by a soldier whose motivation is to protect his country or family is weak by comparison. Giving motivated by strong love or compassion is a strong positive karma. If giving is just  from a sense of obligation it is weak.
Karma becomes stronger with repetition. In this way gossip can become a very strong negative karma because it is so easy to repeat.
It is not possible to predict when karmic results will arise. Could be in this life or the those that follow. It is definite, though, that each action will bring its particular result. The cause and the effect are always congruent.
The result of killing is a short life in future. The result of healing and preserving life is a long, healthy life.
From stealing comes loss. In contrast, the result of material giving is plenty.
The result of sexual misconduct is unhappy and temporary relationships, whereas ethical relationship brings harmony.
Lying causes us to be deceived. The result of truthfulness is non- deception.
The result of abuse is that others abuse us, while from praise, others praise us.
From divisiveness comes loneliness, while from harmonious speech comes supportive friendship.
The result of gossip is confusion. From constructive speech we gain clarity of intent.
From coveting comes poverty, while non-attachment brings effortless resources.
The result of love is happiness, but from malice comes fear.
From wrong views come all the problems of samsara. In contrast from right views come all good conditions, happiness and enlightenment.

As you sow, so you reap

Thus in light of karma nothing is accidental. If we are experiencing a particular result, it is only because we have created the cause. Also what we experience is not someone else’s fault and nor is it inflicted upon us by a creator. In fact, what we experience, good or bad, is the result of our own actions.
This truth can be both good and bad news. It could be bad news because there is nobody else to blame anymore. The good news, though, is that our present experience is the result of our own karma. Our own karma is something we can change by ourselves. We can make our future the way we would like it to be. It is within our power to change anything.
So, if people abuse you, make a great and consistent effort to praise others. When unloved, make an effort to love others. If people deceive us, then we make greater effort at truthfulness. If we are too poor make a contribution, find a way to give. Any misfortune then can become the impetus to a positive action. That action can be aimed to overcome the misfortune.
Whatever we would wish to create, we should act to do so. Do not expect an immediate change of circumstances. But, by knowing which karma will produce the result, we have done all that we can. Karma is not a fixed unchanging destiny as some think. It is that actions have consequences. If we don’t like the consequences, then we change our karma, we act in a way conducive to the results we want.

Buddhist teachings: communication

Communication: How we connect

The Buddhist teachings explain that the person we are is the product of our karma.  Karma literally means action and the results of action, or cause and effect. We are thus the sum of all we have done and experienced. Good or bad.

All the actions and experiences that make us up have occurred in relation to other beings and environments. The person we are is therefore an expression of this inter-relatedness.

The connection among beings is far greater and deeper than we are normally conscious of. This is because of our sphere of awareness.  Merely by someone coming into the field of our awareness they enter into our very being. In doing so they come with all the faults and qualities in the way that we view them.

At a deep level they become a part of us and we become a part of them. Thus all interaction changes our state of being. It changes who we are. You are not a static being, fundamentally always the same. We change constantly and evolve according to momentary experiences and interactions with others.

How we are influenced by our interactions

In this way, if we see ugliness in someone, that ugliness becomes a part of us. If we see beauty and goodness in others, that beauty and goodness becomes a part of us. To acknowledge others faults as faults while realizing that these faults are not their true nature is realistic. It is not judgemental. Doing this we lessen the hold our own faults have on us. We reinforce being able to acknowledge our faults and weaknesses while realizing these not to be our real nature.

In seeing the goodness, truth and beauty in others and delighting in this, we reinforce those same qualities in ourselves. We foster our joy in them and naturally and easily communicate this joy to all those whose field of awareness we enter.

By wishing others to be free of suffering and causes of suffering, we reinforce our own similar aspiration. When we wish others happiness and causes of happiness we reinforce this within ourselves.

Some misinterpret this Buddhist teaching to mean that we should only see good in others. We should learn to accept terrible behaviour in others, whether that be terrorist monstrosities or some horrible injustice. However the Buddhist teachings are quite the opposite. In our spiritual path we are to cultivate wisdom and that wisdom involves discernment and the ability to discriminate correctly. When we view atrocities with discernment, then that wisdom view of the others negative karma is what becomes a part of us, not their negative karma itself. However if we view atrocities with weakness and acceptance then a similar negative karma becomes part of us.

Buddhist teachings on how we communicate

How we view ourselves and others then, becomes the fundamental basis of our communication. Our state of mind determines how and what we communicate, whether that communication be through speech or body language. Mind is the source of communication; body and speech the conduits.

If we view others through love, compassion, generosity, wisdom and patience, we will naturally give off a warm feeling. We will project good will, friendliness, trustworthiness, openness and warmth in our communications with them. We can communicate heart to heart.

On the other hand if our view of others is distorted by grasping, desire, expectation, defensiveness, belligerence, arrogance and the like, then we will project our own distortion and discomfort. Our communication will be a cold, agenda driven form of spin and excessive negative manipulation. All of this stems from an excessive sense of self, an ego grasping state of mind, or just plain ego.

The problem of ego

The Buddhist teachings put ego grasping, or an inflated sense of self, as the basis of mental distortion. It is the foundation of attachment, anger, jealousy and all other negative states of mind. As the foundation of non-virtue, it is the root source of negative karma and the ensuing suffering.

When we fall into this ‘small-ego’ view of the world we are immediately cut off from others. No longer fully interactive and relational, we remain ‘an island unto ourselves’. We see everything and everyone else through the prism of our own self image and this prism becomes the lens of distortion.

Once we believe our self image is who we really are, we limit our view of everything and everyone accordingly. We cut ourselves off from the unpleasant or challenging. You cling painfully onto what is deemed the pleasant in an insecure bid to prop up and reinforce your self image.

“Refined and sensitive artist”

Take an example of a person who develops his ego image as being the ‘refined and sensitive artist’. Holding on to this fabrication of self he is unable to break out of the solitary confinement of self image. In accordance with his view of self he becomes attached to the positive reinforcement that he finds in the similarly ‘refined and artistic’ violinist. He easily becomes attached to this ‘wonderful person’ who is ‘very much like my good self’. On the other hand our refined and sensitive artist is somewhat repelled by the rough, tough and rugged football types who seem so utterly alien. With this discrimination, defensiveness and anger are an easy response to the alien and threatening.

From anger and attachment come other delusions, and from them negative karma and the cycle of suffering. Ego takes a small part of who we really are and makes this our totality. It denies the reality of our interactivity with all else and sets false boundaries between self and other. We therefore become isolated from the moment by moment ebb and flow of constant relationship.

Ego erects its defensive barriers, digs its moat and then selectively builds bridges according to its distorted view of the world. It builds a fortress with a million bricks of mental agendas. Locked up in this, the immense stress and strain of enacting and maintaining these agendas is quite exhausting. Ego becomes the source of all barriers to truly open, honest and spontaneous communication.

What lies beyond ego

We realize the emptiness of ego when we see clearly that ego is just a fabrication. Ego is a story about ourselves that we have adopted because, from our limited and ignorant perspective, it seemed to pay off in some way. For example, the ego sense of ‘I’m the best’ may have paid off in some areas of our lives by giving us the strength to succeed and prevail. The ego sense of ‘refined and sensitive’ may have nurtured our interest in art.

The problem though is that the pay off is a temporary benefit for which we go on paying forever. This is because our limited view of self prevents us from knowing our true nature and thus cuts us off from the immense possibilities and limitless happiness of unbounded, unconditioned self. Our true nature is referred to as our Buddha nature, pure nature, ultimate nature, divine nature, or awakened nature. It is the potential for, and eventual fulfillment of, enlightenment, the full development of all qualities and complete elimination of all faults. Our Buddha nature is bliss, peace, emptiness, openness and a transcendent state beyond ego and beyond ordinary thought. Thus it is our true spiritual heritage.

When we get to this state and relate to this true nature in others all barriers to honest, open, supportive and happiness producing communication are completely overcome. The gateway to this state is the Buddhist meditations on the path to enlightenment, particularly the wisdom meditations on emptiness and dependent arising.

Buddhist meditation

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