Presented by Jhampa Shaneman
These lectures were transcribed by T Vd Broek. Heartfelt gratitude is offered for all the hours of work spent on this Dharma activity. These talks are offered free of charge. They have been slightly edited.
Jhampa Nov 15
To continue on karma, the law of cause and effect. Last week I talked a little on the process of rebirth and it's connection with the law of cause and effect. Tonight, I'd like to talk about it in the sense of one lifetime and the energy that is generated in one lifetime's activity, how it is transferred to the next life.
In the law of cause and effect, it's important to identify that karma is your emotional participation in an activity. Your energy participation, the energy you have when you get involved in any activity. It's not like in the Christian concept of sin, a black mark in a book or something like that as a sin, and then, I guess you get your sins weighed. In the Egyptian system they weigh your heart against a feather and in that sense, if you had a pure heart you went to heaven! The idea is karma has various weight. If you create a very heinous crime, do a very heinous action, it has a heavy karmic result. They say in the realm of results that heavy negative karma will give you a rebirth in hell. Middling negative karma will give you rebirth in a ghost realm. The next lightest one, the animal realm, and then a human. If you have better activities, you get into the ansura, a power hungry demi god, and then the higher realm is the gods, they are not so power hungry, they have gone beyond that. That's sort of like the realm of existences which karma's weight can give.
But to explain how is the weight difference? Like what creates more powerful karma and what creates less powerful karma? Karma is the emotional energy and input that one has in any given situation. There is three facets. There is you, the originator of the action, there is the action being done, and the third part is the object that gets the action. The weight of karma involves those three. And the second thing it involves is consciousness. How conscious you are. For example, take ourselves. If you have no moral code of ethics, you have no morality, then your karmic energy is on a really low level in the sense that you are always like an animal. If a person had no morality, they do what they want and they act like they want, they are like an animal. When there comes an aspect of a moral code as in being nice, or a social code, a moral code, with that then comes the evolution of what it means to be human.
It indicates that there is some sense of goodness or fairness or there is a certain way which is an appropriate way to act. And the more conscious one becomes of that one's own personal karmic creation on the positive side the better. And actually, on the negative if you degenerate or give up your morality also the karmic weight gets heavier because you so to speak, know better. In that way, personally, the karmic activities we create have weight. So if you have basically a good moral view on the world, the power of your karmic actions is greater because you have an idea of morality or ethics or whatever you want to term it. Then, if you actually take on a code, by that I mean that you actually promise to commit, to say consciously I am never going to do this sort of action any more, then there is more weight because you are defining what you consider to be an action that you would like to not do. And so there is more karmic energy involved there.
In basic buddhist tenants there are five lay precepts that can be taken, the next set of precepts are those of being a novice monk or nun, after that is being a full monk or nun.
Let's say the personal commitment that we have, beyond just basic social ethics, are personal commitments that we make. Just to sort of talk about the buddhist ethics..There is not to kill. It applies to trying to the best that one can not to kill anything, and certainly not killing a human. There isn't sort of a definer to it in the sense that one wouldn't want to consciously be involved with the killing of animals. Insects get a little more difficult because they are small creatures and easy to kill. Difficult on that one but not to have consciously the intention to kill animals, and certainly not other humans. That is the morality not to kill.
To steal. The definer on that is taking what is not given. So anything that is not given to you or is free, you cannot take it. It's not your property or you do not have access to that. To steal would be to take something that is not freely offered just by mother nature freely or offered by another, like Herman gives us tea at the end of the meal. That is freely offered, so it's not stealing. If we went into the kitchen and took it, although we wouldn't consider that bad, but that is actually stealing. But we all know that Herman is a good and generous person. So for example on those two precepts one would make the conscious commitment that I will never kill anything to the best of my ability, or secondly, that I will not take anything that is not freely offered. So therefore one understands the activity.
The next of the precepts is adultery. It is phrased as to have sexual relations with someone who is owned, which is the definition according to buddhism. It refers to that children are owned by their parents. But as soon as a person is old enough to make their own decisions, I guess somewhere in the teen years, whether from the child's side or the adults, anyway that then defines a free person. So that person can have any sexual relations they want. And, actually going to an extreme, in the buddhist sense, actually it's not wrong for a husband or wife to share their partner. I think in our society it doesn't work. Spouse swapping. Most of the marriages that attempted it collapsed because they couldn't handle that. Because, I think from one sense it's because of pleasure. In buddhism, one reason that it went that way is that in some communities, particularly in the mountain countries, there was a lot of inbreeding. And so it was very common for a traveller going through to be offered the wife of the husband. And it was for blood lines. It had nothing to do with pleasure. And so if you were a happy go lucky traveller..... Anyway the concept of adultery is having sexual relations with someone who is not free. And so for anyone who has a bond with someone isn't free, or people already in a relationship, that's not freely offered of course. So again, it's pretty simple. If you have the intention that you want to break up a relationship and you have sexual relations with someone, then that is adultery because you are breaking up another persons relationship. Or on your side. So a person who says I won't commit adultery says unconsciously I will not step out of my relationship commitment.
Fourth one is not to take intoxicants. It is said that intoxicants take away awareness, and when one is in the state of unawareness one can create many negative actions. So therefore intoxicants are considered bad because you blow it a lot when you get drunk or whatever. Normally refers to alcohol. Some of my Tibetan Lamas referred to drugs, but they would actually make a comment like this means drugs. Lama Yeshe who was much more aware of that sort of thing would lay that heavily on certain people.
Because that was where they indulged too much. But generally the one of the intoxicants refers to alcohol. As it says, alcohol makes a lot of trouble. So one can make a conscious commitment not to drink intoxicants, take intoxicants.
And the fifth one is not to lie. Lie is to deceive as in, someone says its that big.. It is said that if the deception hurts another person, it's worse. If it misleads another person, it just means it's not very nice to do. Even if you think it's funny, that is lying, but it's a minor lie compared to something more serious like swindling money.
Those are five, just to give you an idea, conscious commitments that a buddhist can take upon himself. As for the ones for monks and nuns, there is no need to talk about those. They get into a great deal, like a monk has 253 precepts, a nun has 340 precepts. How they came about is the Buddha lived with the people that followed him. As they made mistakes, he would say you can't do that any more. It was just one precept after another of situations which developed. And in the book, the precepts literally go that way, At the time Buddha was residing at .....
For example, after the Buddha died, those precepts were set. The Buddha never knew, in buddhist time nobody smoked cigarettes. So Thai monks all smoke cigarettes. In the Tibetan tradition smoking cigarettes is bad because it plugs up all the nerves and the chakras and that doesn't make you meditate very well. In the Thai tradition, "Well the Buddha never talked about it so I don't worry about it." One group of people go by the books, and the others go by the ideal. I am sure that there are some Thai monks that don't smoke.
So. personally taking a commitment of precepts makes oneself karmicly more powerful or the karmic activities that you are involved with become more powerful in the positive and negative actions. I think if you go back to the idea of ethics and morality, being more conscious of that, appreciating how it works, so to speak, like a bigger mark in the black or white book, it's just like the power of your being is more powerful. So it's very much personal energy that is involved with it. And it means that one does it in a real manner. Not sort of saying I have precepts, I don't do these five things. Sort of a very intellectual thing. Rather it's more like your being, it does not look to harm any creature. It doesn't take anything. Just that it is part of your nature. And then the karma is real. It's not sort of you live in a tight jacket and say I can't take that because... you understand, it's the energy. Being authentic.
The second object to talk about is people you interact with. Heavier karma. Light karma. It's said for example, in interacting with other people, if they are amoral, don't have much morality, the karmic power is not a great deal. If the people have higher morality as in moral conduct about themselves, then your interactions with them become more powerful karmically. And finally if people actually have precepts, then they are even more special people. In that sense, what delineates it again, is that person has precepts. So in that way it's said, for example making offerings to people who hold an ordination or spiritual mendicants or whatever, to make offerings to them is very pure, very good. They have a high moral code.
Also to make offerings to things which symbolize that as in making offerings to churches or temples or buddha statues, is considered very good because in your mind they symbolize something very special. Like a high morality. A special goodness. So in making offerings to that you are venerating that sort of thing. For example, in acting with others, benig generous with them, is one way of creating karma. Therefore, that is why it is good to be generous with a monk or nun or such, it has special karmic results. If there are no monks or nuns, then making offerings to people who are good people. Just that person by their goodness is a more powerful way of interacting with them. And in giving material objects, support, kindness, energy, whatever seems to work, not being too tight.
The third thing is the action. And with the action then, comes delineators about oneself. In all karmic activities that you do, if you really do it haphazardly, you don't have a lot of energy, for example you sort of think, here is a person who is panhandling, just chuck a dollar down and walk away. Your motive is very sloppy. Your mind is sloppy. It's given sloppily, and so the karma is very small. Like the energy of being a generous person, that the quality of it is low grade. And so if you are very conscious of seeing someone and you sense that they not have a a lot of money. Maybe they are not a paragon of virtue, but you sense that they are poor and they need help and such. They suffer more than you do. So that means that they are worthy of receiving something. They are needful. And in your heart you have that sense of love or compassion for that person. And consciously you give something in a nice way. You place it down, you don't toss it. Or if you give it to someone's hand, you give it nicely, you don't sort of chuck it at them. Sort of I won't touch you but I'll give you something. Sort of throw it at somebody!
Then, of course the quality of the action is much better. Therefore then you can understand that the energy of yourself is much nicer. In that way there is better quality karma. That sort of activity. On one side you say the motivation is clear. Your mind is clear. You feel love and compassion. Or you feel inspired by holy people. So when you go to meet a special person that is holy, someone you venerate a lot, then in offering something to them, it could be very blissful, very beautiful. Even just other people that we venerate. In venerating them and having a sense of inspiration from them, then that is also very special karma, alright?
Motivation is clear. i.e. you inspire me, you move me with compassion or such, the mind has a clarity of feeling and thinking and takes the time. It doesn't just sort of rush by and chuck or give something. It does it with a sense of dignity and such. And then the activity, is done well, is done clearly, done properly. So in one way when we do things very quickly, it's not so good. It's better we let an activity mature so it comes properly. That pretty much covers karma on the positive side.
On the negative side, the karma we create when we have very heavy hatred or heavy jealousy or some motivating force which is heavily negative, and then they say that the karma is full if you actually see your bad motive to it's end. Same thing with positive karma. Like if you give a gift and you go and visit a Lama in Victoria or some special holy person and you make an offering. And you see the offering goes down, see them accept it, that is a full karma, means you have a fulfillment of your emotions.
Same thing if you have a very "Like I'm going to get that person!" and "I got him!" That is a full bad karma and the energy of that is better than if for example lets say, "I'm going to get you!" and you set up some nasty trick too hurt the person but you never see it happen. You don't know if it happened. Karma is not full, that karmic energy hasn't got a full round therefore you can't say that it is fully there. In that way, it's to be important also that you see the completion of your action in positive things, and in negative things. Let's say that you do feel really upset with somebody and you want to fix their wagon. And then half way through you say, I really don't want to do this. Well then that karma stops right there and actually if you feel sorry for the person, then it changes right away and you don't have that full karmic energy.
That qualifies yourself subjectively, person or object of the objective side, the activity, and then, the final part, your participation in the activity, your conscious awareness of the activity you are about to enact and then, how you ago about doing it and seeing it through to it's completion brings it's full extent. So I would say generally in regards to karmic activity, you want to feel relaxed and comfortable about it, you will want to see the action is done as well as you can do it at that time according to circumstances. and you want to see it drawn to conclusion, not just sort of gloat on what you have done.
This brings to mind something I did when I was in India. At one point I had an extra hundred dollars and we invited this other boy, an English man and myself decided to invite these thirty five tantric college monks up to Tushita where we lived. And to offer a big puja for them, a whole day of prayers. It was so inexpensive. Twenty dollars for the food for these guys because they brought a huge tub. And we had all the wood, and they just cooked up a big soup. And we had to offer another couple hundred rupees for the altar and set all that up and stuff, and then they just sat down and prayed all day. And your talking from like 9:30 in the morning until 5:00 that night they sat and prayed except for lunch breaks and tea breaks. All from memory, no books in front of them. I was blown away, had never seen that to that extent. These men has memorized so much and just really powerful people. As they prayed you could see the energy coming from their body. Like one or two of them that were high meditators, you could almost see the deities dancing around them, that they had such powerful visual consciousness. So by lunch time I was blown away. I immediately said I hadn't given enough. So I ran around trying to get more money and that. I was really too excited by the whole thing. I remember at one point meeting with Geshe Rabten who was one of my more main teachers. He came by where we were because Tushita is a big meditation center for westerners. He came by and he saw me running around with my head chopped off and he said, slow down! Of course I said I have to do a job. He said I had done a good job. Of course I had to do a better job. So I ran around. It was alright! We gave them an extra two or three hundred rupees so I felt good. And it did come off.
But his point was right on the mark in the sense that I should have just kicked back and been happy with what I had done. If I had really just rejoiced and been happy, even if giving the guys only ten rupees, it would have been incredible karma. But I got a little bit anxious and didn't think it was adequate, sort of neurotic.
So, in one sense, I think I could have had a little better quality in that activity than I did. I learned though. I would just like to share that because that is something that I experienced. And if you ever have the opportunity to be generous, and that person was wow that person is so beautiful, and then you want to do more. Just sort of always keep yourself in check that you don't get too anxious about doing too much.
Maybe Mother Theresa came and you had the chance to offer some tea, well you try to pour too many teas, or such better quality cookies or something, you try to outdo yourself. Then the karma sort of degenerates.
The final point to mention in regards to karma and next time we will talk about it, that in all the activities you create, like very often we want our personality to continue to our next lifetime, and that is sort of like, I want me to be there, and in Buddhism that is refuted in the sense that in the activities you create in this lifetime will become part of the being of the next lifetime. And there will be a lot of the you there. So it's not like not that you have really sort of died, but you give birth to a new personality. And there has to be that metamorphosis. It's like a cocoon. You have to die to be reborn sort of thing. And so in many ways to sort of think that your personality will be reborn again, it's not going to work that way because the causes of your personality of this lifetime has so much to do with your parents, or the group you were born with,the school you went to and everything. It has a lot to do with your personality. So your personality will pass away when you die. But all of the little qualities of yourself, as in if you have been a really kind person, a generous person, all of those sort of energies will be there in the next personality.
Lets say that the next lifetime you were born in Alberta and into a certain type of family. Well you will be brought up with those families traits, mannerisms, but the quality of your being will be all of what the previous lifetime accumulated. So, in one sense, you can actually become very creative in how you create your next lifetimes being. It is wonderful, sort of like the ultimate creativity in the sense of what, like when I act and interact, I want to sort of create. Like in this lifetime when I have a big trouble, I go in my soul or go in my heart and I find strength to go on, in this lifetime when I get in a situation, I can say like this is just killing me, but I am going to find the strength now, because if I find it now in this lifetime, next lifetime that person has the same strength. Wouldn't that be nice for them to have it. Sort of like you are giving a gift to someone. Which is actually your own spiritual evolution.
I would like to say that being aware that the continuity of the next lifetime and many, actually, is something that is generated in this lifetime and you can be the very sculptor of being as you go along. And realizing what it is.
Copyright 1994 Daka's Buddhist Consulting
All Rights Reserved