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.
March 3 1991
I would like to talk about cause and effect in regards to death. In the teachings are what are termed throwing karmas and completing karmas. This falls into the way one looks at the way karma affects us as an entity.
Karma is the way you as an individual respond to certain situations and circumstances. It is important to create the best quality karma you can. So you are given the keys such as motivation, which is important because it is the leading edge of karma. So it is important to be aware of the motive we have. Also, to create the motive in terms of being as expansive as possible. This is generated by altruism, being conscious of ones own sufferings, and from that basis, being conscious of others suffering in a similar way that oneself does. Wishes they would like to fulfill which do not get fulfilled, having objects which one does not like to meet with and yet we have to meet with. Things like that. Illnesses. We do not want to meet with illness, but it is certain that in our lifetime we will be ill on A few occasions at least!
All of this is what we experience. So if we can first touch base with the fact that we do have suffering in our life, dissatisfactions in certain areas, from that basis we can become conscious that others are suffering also. Then we can start to try to develop an altruistic attitude which is based on our experience rather than just an altruistic principle.
Why? Because if you can do that with your motivation, it starts to increase your perspective on the world. And if you do it in a positive manner, the type of mind you create for yourself, the type of imprints you receive and establish become broader and can become a positive quality. Motivation is very important. And the way you perform particular karmic activities, trying to do them to the best of your ability is most important, and having completed them, the completion of the action should be recognized. So often in the West, it is so easy in our culture, is someone completes a particular activity, and immediately moves into something else. That is not good! It means you do not have an opportunity to feel good about what you have done, and two, to actually recognize that there is completion of activity. If we don't, we will not have the sense of satisfaction about ourselves or what we are doing. In that way when you complete a task, to make recognition of the completion of whatever karmic activity you have been involved with. Particularly positive ones which should be positively reinforced for yourself in regards to that. That is karma simply presented.
The idea of throwing karma and completion karma falls this way. You create completion karma in this life all the time. This means, the type of person you are, the type of interactions you have, are creating, in the future lifetime, how you will have experiences in that lifetime. By that is meant that with the mind stream, you establish certain propensity for prosperity. Meaning of you are of a generous nature, if you are generous with material things, it does not mean just money, but food, clothing, and such things like that, then also generous with your time, being able to spend time with someone who needs your time, generous with your feelings, sharing love, sharing compassion, being that certain quality person establishes a certain amount of prosperity for you as an individual. It is a quality that you develop for yourself.
I am sure if you think of people who have that capacity to be able to be a more open sharing person, we generally like the mosquito bit. They are enjoyable to be around if they are friendly and easy going. So generosity, the effect upon ourself of being a generous person is that we end up with a certain sort of sense of prosperity about ourselves. Things are alright. There is enough time for everything we accomplish and such.
By doing that in this lifetime, you create for yourself a completing karma in the next lifetime. Similarly, if you are uptight and miserly, in your future lifetime you will have a less prosperous state of consciousness. You would be drawn to a less generous set of parents and environment to be born into. So how you live in this lifetime creates the completing karma of how you will be in your future lifetime in the sense that it will give you the type of experiences, set you up for the experiences you will be involved in. And in a very deep level, because when you take a new rebirth all of the personality traits that you have in this lifetime will be gone because they will be reformed in a new lifetime, you more rely on your new mother and father, the environment and home you are in, cultural group you are part of and such, have more to say about that. But the nature of your character will be established in part from previous lifetimes imprints, termed completing karma.
Throwing karma refers to specifically at the end of the your life, the type of karma you create as you enter life. In that regards, let's say you have been a very virtuous person, very good all your life and tried to be developed and positive about the things you do, and at the end of your life, maybe things do not go well and you start to become very bitter for whatever reason. You do not handle negative situations well. Maybe the country goes to war for example. Maybe you become angry with that. Maybe become violent and kill others. The throwing karma for that is very bad. Although their life has been good, at the end circumstances went quite sour. Therefore their throwing karma is going to put them into a situation where violence is much more prevalent. Or they will be prone to being drawn to a violent country or violent circumstances. Also, mother and father of a character which would be more prone that way. So you could take a rebirth in another violent country because your state of consciousness at the end of your life is very violent.
Because completing karma was quite good, maybe you will be fortune to travel to a country which was good! I am trying to present the idea in stories from a Buddhist perspective on how karma works from one lifetime to the next. The general example they use is that in throwing karma, you could have someone who is good during their life, but at the end of their life becomes involved in negativity for some reason. They die and for example, be born as a dog. But because they have good completing karma, they will born as a dog and get purchased by a rich family so they will live in the life of luxury in a dogs body. That is termed as bad throwing karma but good completing karma.
In reverse to that, a negative person could get imprisoned and have a change of heart. They try then to be a better person, and become sincere. In that way, when they die, they have pure aspirations of being good. That throwing karma would be good and they could take human rebirth. But in the next lifetime, because completing karma was not very good, having previously been a thief or such, they might have to meet time and again bad circumstances, getting their possessions stolen, having a lot of interferences, violence happen to the, they are receiving the results of bad completing karma, but they have good throwing karma because they took a human rebirth.
This is in thinking of one lifetime to the next. And also, you can think it is important to not postpone one's spiritual practice for a later date. Often we think we can wait until we are older, maybe when my kids have left home, then I can start being a generous person. That is bad because it means you do not create the causes of generosity and then when you wait until you are older, because you are not familiar with it, then you may find it more difficult. And especially when you get older, there is a potential you might go belly up and therefore get more miserly in your attitude, so it is not good.
So often people think generosity means money. It means rather, an attitude. If one can give money, that is fine, but it also means giving kindness and consideration and compassion, times, clothes, all sorts of things in the category of generosity.
The idea of throwing karma is hypothetical in the sense that it is difficult to say yes blatantly there is another lifetime! I personally believe there are future lifetimes, for me it is not a problem, but sometimes you have trouble with that. Anyway the teachings are the last part on the law of cause and effect and I think it is worthwhile to have the information because it helps broaden your own perspective.
So completing karma refers to activities you have done during your lifetime, throwing karma refers more specifically to how you die. In that way, it throws you into your next rebirth. So it is important to try to cultivate all the way to the end of your lifetime, a positive attitude. I thin it might be important because we might be a very good person, and towards the end of your life, things go bad! And then we loose our practice or loose our ability to be positive and then we can create for ourselves a bad rebirth.
My teachers have said if we can, we should try to die with the clearest frame of reference we can to who we are and what we are doing with ourselves, because there is more power in the intermediate state and in the next rebirth for us that way. So we should cultivate a determination about ourselves. That we have a clarity of being and the types of activities we participate in have a very clear expression, very clearly understood within ourselves. It really comes back to motivation.
First, when you die, it means your intermediate state will be more powerful because you will be more clear about the type of rebirth that you want. And if you have any ability to control it, then you would be able to. Although in your next rebirth, when you take it, you will be a more clearly determined person. It comes to mind, those children who are musically gifted and play wonderfully. From a Buddhist perspective, you would have to say they had a strong previous lifetimes imprint in music, and that has come through in that lifetime. Interesting when you think of especially gifted people. Why are they so special in certain areas?
So we can create for ourselves very positive karma as to who we are in the type of person we would like to become. In that way we can create for ourselves circumstances that in a future lifetime that again we seek clarity of being and a positive meditation practice.
For the meditation it is important to develop a deep and stable level of consciousness, so the analogies of deep like an ocean, open like space, solid like a mountain work very well to develop that state of mind or that approach to life which is of that quality. But add to it the facet of your motivation. Think about your motivation. And if you want to, I find it interesting to think about karma. For someone who does not think about what motivates them and just does things, what sort of karma do they create in each moment and experience happens to them? What character or personality do they develop as the years go by? And what creates a more positive personality for myself now and in the future? What will create a more happy personality?
If you think about motivation, there is the motivation for example, I want to be a nicer person and such, and then there is the motivation which ways I am going to be right now be a nicer person. The first one is a lot of wishing. You will end up with the karmic imprint of a lot of wishing. It can ripen into being a nicer person, but, it would be more appropriate to make an affirmation for oneself that I am a nicer person. In that way it is more immediate karmic result than to be caught up with wishful thinking. So motivate self in an immediate manner rather than some projected way. Although you still need to project, but put more emphasis to the state of consciousness you create as you create your motivation, alright?
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