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.
Feb 10 1991
To carry on with karma. Because last week I introduced the four principles of karma, that karma increases upon having been involved with it, that karma is never lost, that it is true to it's nature, so if you have a positive motivation karma is good and with a negative motivation it becomes a cause for suffering.
I wanted to delve into what creates weight in karmic activity. Often people think of karma as being a fixed thing. A lump. A brick. Actually, you could say that karma is energy. There is no one thing which is cause, and then there is the action or the effect of the result. This is too simplistic. Karma is much more complicated because there are many things which we created the cause for at differing times. And as they ripen, right now for example, then there are many different influences ripening upon you and your decision is based upon certain emotional or intellectually held ideas and then create new karma. So karma is a very profound thing and in one sense could be thought of as a B.C. Tel. communication main line. A large cable that appears as one thing yet containing many cables within it.
So if you think of yourself you should not think that you are going to create one karma. There are many influences playing on you at the same moment. As you create karma you create the kind of being you are. The more you are pristine in your consciousness, the more clear karma could be. And the more your mind is muddled, the more difficult it would be to understand karma or to create very powerful karma for yourself. So to help create a little clarity of mind, karma is always divided up into different areas. There is the subjective side, the object, and the action between those two. And finally, there is the conclusion to the action. Those four facets are part of the whole karmic evolution and so subjectively you as an individual are the creator of the karmic action and though you could say there are actions of body, speech, principally it falls to the action of mind. What your mind thinks will create the subjective side of any activity that you become involved with.
The object involves the being or the material thing which you are going to interact with. The material would would be inanimate so therefore karma with it would have no special nature. For example if you did something with a piece of gold or earth, there is no difference in that, it is a material object. It is not like gold is a higher object value. Like if you are doing something to that as the object of the activity.
Regarding people, living entities or sentient beings, all of those are different in the karma that you create. Karma is created depending on the state of being of the other person, in the sense of whether the person is ill or unhealthy. So if you perform an activity with someone who is ill or suffering, they say the karma is greater because there is more need in that person. If a person is highly distraught emotionally or physically, if you were to interact with them in a beneficial way, you are creating more positive karma. If an animal was very weak and you had a very negative attitude and saw a chance to hurt that animal more strongly, then the karma would also be stronger because it would have no way to protect itself. You would have higher negative karma.
Second area is regarding those of benefit. It is considered your parents, relatives, friends, and people who are an instrumental in your life. They are considered the field of benefit because they have been beneficial for you and again fall into an area where there is strong karma. If you look at who you are as an entity, very often the support and such that you receive from those people creates a stronger karmic bond. So if you do something with them in contrast to a total stranger, the karma is more powerful. And it should be clarified as having been of benefit versus being just a relative of yours. In particular, mother and father, people who have been very helpful for you.
The third area is that of spirituality. Those objects are also considered very special because they are not easily found in the mundane world. Spirituality refers to the cultivation of higher qualities within yourself and hopefully your ultimate enlightenment. Those which give you spiritual inspiration are very hard to find. You can create very good powerful karma with these. They say if you come to know of a male or female bodhisattva in your area, you should go and make an offering to them, offer prayers or have them say prayers for you to try to get a karmic connection with them. Or even if you could get some teachings from them. They say if nothing else, you should kick them in the leg or something so they will always remember you! And if they are really spiritual they will say prayers for you and you can make a strong karmic bond.
The fourth is the action between yourself and the object which creates karma. So on the side of negative side of karma, the three principle delusions which are anger, attachment and ignorance, when these function in the mind they create suffering for ourselves. And when you interact with any of those objects, entities of a suffering nature or of beneficial nature for you, of of a spiritual nature for you, then you create karma. If it was negative karma, out of anger, then you might say something nasty. The karma there is considered heavy because it causes a lot of pain because it is violent or of an aggressive nature. Out of attachment, creating karma, maybe out of jealousy, you might slander someone so they would not be associated with your spiritual teacher. Regarding ignorance or insensitivity, not being a very conscious person, we create negative karma with people because maybe we don't know any better or we just don't care.
Of those three, anger is the worst, attachment is secondary, and ignorance is the least in power because normally an angry mind is highly motivated, attachment is highly motivated but ordinarily doesn't harm as badly as anger. An ignorant mind is not highly motivated unless you take up a negative philosophy. Then sometimes that can create heavy karma.
On the side of positive karma, aggression would never create positive karma although sometimes people might think for example if they go to a holy war for their religion that it is good karma. On the side of attachment, one can create some positive karma but it will be colored by the attachment and therefore will not be as pure or good as it could be. So one would end up with limited results for creating karma out of attachment. Ignorance could create good karma, but even in generosity out of ignorance, it would be a minimal amount because the mind is insensitive. It is good karma of a very weak nature. So that is the mind involved in the activity of creating karma.
Finally the important facet involved in karma, is that there be a good conclusion. On the negative side, for example taking the ten non virtues, if you want to kill someone and shoot them, see them die, then that is the completion of the karma. That would make karma avery strong because you have validated the fact that you can go out and murder someone and feel somehow that that has been of benefit. So therefore karma is strong if you see the conclusion. If you shot at someone but were never certain of the conclusion, then karma is not as strong because you can not have the conviction of having completed the task. In stealing, if you have the object and feel that it is yours, then the karma is strong. In all these, in completing the activity is stronger than in a failed attempt.
Mind karma happens quickly and is hard to control. It is considered the weakest in this sense because it is only the completion of a thought pattern and requires the action of the body or the speech to make it powerful. So just thinking I want to cause harm, the mind can quickly change. You do collect negative karma from having bad thoughts, but not as powerful as if you went out of your way to do it.
So there is karma spelled out in different chunks to understand your personal karmic creations in that way.
I wanted to move into that the real point of karma is from your mind. It is the mind's perspective that creates karma. I want to talk about positive karma because that is where we would like to be. We want to be a positive person, happier, fulfilled. There are two ways of working with positive karma. You can create positive karma on a relative level of understanding or an ultimate level understanding. On a relative level you think you might like to create positive karma. So you think loving kindness is a good way to create karma. To become a loving person I would never harm anyone so I would create very little negative karma. So you cultivate an attitude where you are kind and such. You really push away at yourself for that. It requires you to take your basic emotional position and beat away at it so it termed, the suppression of the negative traits of your personality and try to cultivate al positive attitude. Then you get things like commandments of what you should do, all of the various games you have to play in trying to be a better person such as chastising yourself for being angry! Things like that! You play more games in that way but it is good. It does cultivate you! It is said to be a much more strenuous path because you are never really dealing with the basic actual nature of yourself. Rather you are dealing with the expressions of yourself. In that way it is termed as being relative but not being as effective as you could be.
Another analogy they use is of a tree. If a tree had poisonous branches, such as poisson ivy, as the buds formed you would cut them. But that does not mean you have ever dealt with the roots. So it inevitably keep coming. And although you might be terribly vindictive in cutting it, it is not that effective and you will find that negativity gets you in other ways because you are never dealing with the very nature, or never going to the root of poison ivy. You are just dealing with the manifestations such as I should not be angry or an aggressive person, an attached person and such things.
You do need to do it, but it is not effective. To be more effective would be to move to a positive way to create positive energy. And that has to deal with the roots of the way you hold yourself. It comes back to the nature of the mind, how is mind, and how does it work? What is the basis upon which negative things arise from, and what is the basis of being a positive person. So you delve into the nature of being.
It is easy for us in the west. We have a better understanding of the nature of the body, the nature of reality around us. By using our understanding, our wisdom, of how our body is in the world, we can easily use it to adjust our perspective so we have a more positive attitude. You do it by thinking of the body and how it does not exist independently from the world around us. Each section of the body is dependent on the heat, the air, etc. But our attitude is the exact opposite to that. The attitude feels very independent and separate. So start with the body and delve into realizing the body as a fully interdependent entity. With that understanding, shift it over to the mind and the mind's attitude or perspective.
In doing that you have to think that although my mind is feeling very independent, for example, that I don't like my parents or what they wanted me to become. So I feel hostile about the trips they laid on me and left. See. I feel very independent. And maybe I wanted to reject who my parents were because I felt they were horrible. The problem of when you come to that conclusion, maybe they have put fifteen or twenty years into you. So you can not negate who you are saying that is separate from who your mother and father are and what they did to you as a child. You are the product of their input into you. Not totally but a major portion of your personality is cultivated from your relationships with your parents.
So you have to start softening and realize that I am interdependent phenomena. My mind is created from the relationships I have had with my parents and my own personal needs. From a Buddhist side we would say from previous lifetime imprints also. All that thrown together creates the entity I am.
That sense of independence is really intensive. Our general attitude is that I am independent. That is why I can go and create pollution or such. I can create poison, toxic, and destroy life. You cannot say that you could put a petunia on top of a smoke stack and think in a week it would be alive. I am not labeling those places but am saying that that type of activity on the planet earth is directly in relation to the ignorance of our interdependence with the environment. If there were ten or twenty thousand people on the planet, they would not be as effective in destruction. But with billions of people having the attitude of independent self existence, the non awareness of our interdependence with reality, then we have a major problem! The planet could end up poisoned.
You have to address the issue of your attitude and realize that it does create suffering. If you do that, you naturally come around to realizing the benefits of love and compassion. And it is not that you just sort of say I need to be a loving compassionate person, it is that just your perspective changes and suddenly you would be a compassionate person. At what lever you are at is immaterial. But you automatically become more sensitive. The more you realize the attitude of independent self existence, the more you create suffering for the planet, those I live with and such, the more you realize that the more you do not buy into that. You try to change your perspective. You would not pollute the planet as badly if you realized that wisdom.
Also with your emotional relationships with others. If you started to realize that you are not independently existent, it is easy. If I create anger right now, if I got furious, in the realm of interdependence look at it very openly. Here we have an entity who is being very aggressive and hurting all around. Obviously that is not a very beneficial head space. If that same entity went out and gave a gift to everyone, you could see that there is a really nice energy there. Everyone is happy. You could see that there is a lot more warmth created.
All you need to do is apply that perspective and suddenly you become a more loving person. It is a more fundamental change, more like going through the roots of your existence change, than it is saying I have to be a more loving person because that is the better way to be. There is a very different approach. One is taking the guts of your existence and transforming the perspective of that. The other way is saying that I am going to change my nature by chastising myself or trying to cultivate a positive attitude. Which is good but maybe we should look more to the fundamental nature of ourselves.
All this is within the context of karma. It is the way to think about it to become more aware of conscious of the way you karmically create yourself. And being conscious of that, you have opportunities to create positive karma, being generous for example. You may see someone who is poor, recognize their suffering, and ask if you may give them some money. You do not throw it at them. And you have a perfect karma there. You can feel really good about it, you may not praise yourself but just recognize that you feel good. I did something nice. That creates very good karma. Same thing when you see someone who is unhappy and you take the time out of your life to go over and speak to them. Maybe give them a chance to unload a little. That is good karma if you allow that to go to the conclusion of the four parts of karma. Yourself, beneficial attitude, the object, and the activity that you do, being considerate, kind and compassionate or whatever it is, and seeing it through to the conclusion. You do not just sort of start to deal with it and then quickly run away because you can not handle it for very long. Try to take it to the conclusion for that activity. Then you create powerful karma.
In that you can do it in a relative way such as trying to be a better person, but also move to a more profound level which is looking at the very nature of your existence or being an entity fully interdependent with the world around you. From that perspective, it is easier to be a nice person because you are realizing your true nature and thus is much easier to go with that than trying to e a nice person because someone told you to be a nice person.
That is your meditation. Whether you just sit and be an interdependent phenomenon full of love and compassion, whatever.
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