Karma


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Posted by Sergio (200.33.56.4) on September 29, 2000 at 02:08:17:

Well, it seems we had a technical problem around here. Grace and Tony: I really appreciate your comments. Iíll post this about the karma again because due to the technical problem it doesnít appear. Thanks.


Under the Buddhist perspective, suffering arises because of our perturbed emotions: attachment and aversion. We get attached to things, people, objects, ideas, circunstances, etc. due to our inability to realise that these things are impermanent. They will disappear soon or later, but we perceive them as something solid. When they leave us and separation arises, we suffer because we donít like changes in our reality. Besides we think that these things have an own nature, we think that these things have the ability to makes us happy by themselves. But if a car (for example) was a source of happiness, then all people in contact with that car had to experience happiness. If your boyfriend was a source of happiness, then all people around him had to experience happiness too, because happiness emanates from him. But it is not like that, it is just an illusion created by our ignorance about how things really are.
In the other hand we get angry with situations, people and even objects. I knew of a man who uses to burn his door because he crashed his feet with it when leaving his room every day. Besides stupid, he thought that the door was responsible of his suffering. But nothing has the nature of creating suffering and pain, because things changes and they eventually will be something else, something different. But he have a file with all our resentments, even the date and hour. We think these people have a bad essence, an inherent nature to create us suffering. But these people also have someone who would think the opposite about them.
We even hate ourselves, we donít forget ourselves things we have done, because we are unable to see that we are also mutable beings, and the person we are know is an other one from the person we were. We drag this Christian idea of guilt which make us perceive ourselves as inherent bad, unable to change that nature. Buddhism says no, we can change and be better. Even a worm can become a butterfly. Evolution exists.
So what is the truth? It depends of our perception. We also get angry when changes arises in different ways: our car is stolen, we are fired, etc. Our inability to accept things are they are (mutable) is the real cause of our suffering. This is due our ignorance, we donít know that things changes and we donít know that there is nothing with the essence of be a source of happiness or a source of suffering. But we perceive the opposite.
Understanding this conceptually is not enough. It doesnít brake all the ignorance. Just a person who is able to perceive these realities all the time in all situations can say that has destroyed ignorance. This is an Arahant or a Buddha.

So because of this ignorance, we have a relationship with reality based in something not real. This attachment and aversion is our relationship with reality. In other words: our life is attachment and aversion.
So Buddhism says that this constant attachment and aversion are so familiar to our minds, that they have become our ďautomatic pilotĒ. We donít need to make any effort to experience them. They are in our bones. They are strong habits.

So all Buddhistís techniques are all developed to destroy this ignorance, which is the source of these perturbed emotions (attachment and aversion). All neurotic behaviour under the Buddhist perspective is that which involves attachment or aversion. In the worst cases, it becomes a habit so strong that it is known as compulsivity. Like eating or smoking in some people.

These mental habits create tendencies. A habit arises because of previous tendencies, and a tendency arises because of mental impressions. For example, you could have stopped smoking, but you still have the tendency. You look at a cigarette and you feel you want to smoke right now. This is known as karma.
The word karma comes from the Sanskrit and it means ďactionĒĒ. Karma is NOT destiny. Karma is NOT ďpaying for your sinsĒ
So karma is these mental habits and tendencies, but just those based in ignorance. For example, a Buddha also has mental habits, buy due to he doesnít have ignorance, then in his mind there is no attachment or aversion. So because his mental habits donít have these neurotic perceptions, he doesnít have karma.

Now, these mental habits make us create actions of 3 kinds: corporal actions, speech actions and mental actions. The leader is these mental actions, because they are these mental habits. You experience the need of a cigarette in the moment you look at your friend smoking: the leader is your mental habit to smoke. Then you ask him a cigarette, and you smoke it. So now you make a corporal action. This corporal action will generate consequences (cancer), but it wouldnít have occurred without a previous mental habit. The Buddha knew that, and he decided to teach how to change these mental habits, because changing them, automatically you change your corporal and verbal actions, because corporal and verbal action canít exist without previous mental habits and tendencies to act and talk in a certain way. The Buddha developed 84,000 technologies to change your mind, a powerful software to operate your mind in a new way, without ignorance, attachment and aversion. You charge the software in your mind through meditation.

So Buddhism says that there are 3 kind of karmas, (actions of body, speech and mind), depending of the result on oneself and the exterior:

1. Positive: Those actions with a beneficial result to me and to the exterior.
2. Negative: Those actions with a prejudicial result to me and to the exterior.
3. Neutral: Those actions which are not beneficial either prejudicial to me and to the exterior.

So Buddhism advises to avoid the negative actions and promotes the positives ones, just because the first ones create suffering and the last ones creates happiness, because they generates consequences. If you are aware that a negative action will harm you, and you do it anyway, then Buddhism says that itís ok, just donít complain. The Buddha said the same thing than Newton said several centuries later: all action has a reaction. But under the Buddhist perspective, it will not necessarily be of the same intensity. For example, to kick a man in the street could cause you to receive a kick back, but it could also happen that the man fires you with a gun in the head. Under the same perspective, to give a coin to a poor person could be the cause of a great wealth.
Other important point is that under the Buddhist perspective, effects are not always instantaneous. You could suffer the effect of something many later, even lives after this. For Buddhism we have still a lot of negative and positive karmas, which hasnít arise yet. So for example, if your actual life is poor in generosity, you could reborn in a poor country or in poor conditions, or perhaps as a hungry ghost, because the cause of wealth is generosity. It is difficult to find charitable people, most people is trying to subsist. So because we ignore cause and effect, worldís population is mostly poor. 90% of wealth in the world is consolidated in the U.S, and US have less that 4% of world people. And people in the US is exhausting quickly the positive karma they generated to born there, and just a few dedicate their time to altruistic activities. Because consequences are not always immediate, you will hear people saying ďwhy me? I donít deserve thisĒ. And that people could find the cause even in THIS life, but they donít remember what they did yesterday.


There are 3 things that determinate that an action be positive, negative or neutral:

1. Action itself
2. Motivation One has when the action is done
3. Circumstances.

For example: It is not the same to enter to a house and still everything, than still a hot dog in the street because your child is starving. In both cases the action itself (1) is negative (steeling hurts), but the motivation is very different. In the first case your motivation is selfish (you want to benefit yourself even hurting someone). In the second your motivation is altruistic: you want to benefit your child and you donít desire to hurt anyone even you have to. Besides, the circumstance (poverty) forces you to these actions. So the effect of the first will be stronger than the second. If the motivation of helping your child was very strong, perhaps the action will have positive effects instead of negative ones. This is a combination of forces. Itís like mathematics. For example, in the example I just commented, if the action of stilling is Ė1, the motivation is +2, and the hard circumstances are +1, then effect will be positive (-1+2+1=2). Only a person with karma eye could tell you if a specific action will bring you positive or negative consequences. I mean this is not mathematical, but I put a mathematical example to make it clear.

Other example: killing. For Christians killing is always bad. It is simply a sin, something inherently bad. But for Buddhism it is not. Is it the same to see a boy in the street and run over him with your car for fun than killing a man in your house who is trying to kill your baby?. Perhaps in same cases the final consequence for you will be negative, but in the last one the consequence canít be as negative as in the first case, just because the motivation is very different. It is said that in one of the past lives of the Buddha, he was captain of a boat, and he realised that there was a man who was planning to kill 400 people in the ship. So after trying to negotiate with him, the captain was unable to avoid that this man changed his mind so he decided to kill him. He thought that killing him, he was going to avoid this man created the very negative karma of killing 400 people. Obviously that he was also avoiding these people died. And because of this altruistic motivation, the murder of this man created him a very positive karma, which was one of the causes that made him get enlightenment some lives afterwards.


So if for example, you decided to help poor people, and you give money and organise an institution, then the act and the motivation are both very positive, and the result will be very positive. In my country for example (Mexico), there are a lot of orphans which were made with private money. Most of this money comes from the market of drugs, people who is washing money. Even the action is very positive, the motivation is very selfish. They donít want to help kids, they want to wash their money. The result of that action could be even negative, due to the motivation.

Actions can be purified before their result arises, which means that a negative consequence can be neutralised before it appears, or even changed to positive. You can also destroy a positive result and change it no neutral or negative. But a result will always occur, positive, negative or neutral, itíll occur. For the Buddha this is the way things work. There is no God making you pay for your sins. The consequences of your acts simply arise.

This is almost a book. Iíll stop here, I hope it be useful. I hope I didnít generate more questions than answers. Iím sorry for my broken English.

Best regards,

Sergio



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