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.
Duncan Oct 10 1993
In moving into the law of cause and effect I like to do an introduction to that because in talking about karma, you could say there is black and white karma, the term used now is positive and negative karma. From the Buddhist point of view, we are the product of our activities in the sense that we are creating the type of person we will become, always in the present moment. One cannot be too simplistic on that! Just thinking it is the thoughts I am having , whatever, that are the creation of my future. It is unbelievable deep.
For example, any of us have the reason we come here, but he surface reason, I like to meditate, and then the deeper reason which can be terrifically profound or very subtle or personal because we do not recognize it. All of those are karma. So karma is not as simplistic as good thoughts and bad thoughts!
The general idea of the law of cause and effect is that the creation of positive or negative karma will create for ourselves proportionately happiness or suffering in the future or present time. What is meant by that is not that if you create negative karma that you become immediately an unhappy person, or vice versa that if you create positive actions you will always be a happy person. But if you think of what goes on in the mind set of a person for creating karma, the creator of karma really relies on motivation in that the feeling you have, the force of your heart, thought and feelings, that is going to color the whole ongoing process.
In the weeks to come I am going to cover the whole of the on going process, the details for any karmic activity. There has to be the fulfillment or strength of activity, there has to be motivation, the object which is motivated upon, and then the action has to come to full completion. So if I am going to steal this, a negative karma, I see the object, I have desire or anger for it, so I steal it. But until I get t into my hands and get it out of this room, at that moment it is completed karma. If I have the intention of stealing it and am interrupted, that is not a complete karma because the action or intention was not able to go to it's full extent. Or vice versa, if I see a street person and want to do something nice for them, I reach in my pocket. I have a feeling of love, or being considerate, I reach in my pocket and pull out a twenty dollar bill, my miserliness kicks in so I do not complete the activity. So the karma was not completed! Or alternatively, if I throw some money at the person and walk on, the karma is completed but the delivery was not good due to insecurity whatever! In that way, it did not have the polish to it and did not have the full strength to it. Whereas in contrast,, if you feel some compassion, give in a nice manner with a smile and such, there is a positive action, good motivation, good delivery, and good feelings at the completion. There is a full karma. In that sense you have the full results of that action!
In doing that it is important to think of karma as little white marks or black marks. Rather, you should think that because any karmic activity can expand a great length of time, you might have an initial motivation and take a year due to the intricate nature of the activity. So more it implies to the attitude. To the energy of what is going on in your mind! And generally positive karmas are motivated from a felling of kindness, love, compassion. And with that, the activity is done for a certain length of time. It is not that there are little marks, but there is an accumulation of energy. When you complete the action, then, in a positive sense, if you feel a certain joy, it is not that I am a good person, but more like you give a gift and you just feel happy. And that is a well completed karma. That whole sense of activity you are involved in is part of the karmic creation. It is more of an energy you become familiar with and cultivating yourself.
So you can see it is more important to be touch with your feelings and move with them! To have good intention and try to do it in a manner which is consciously well done. In that way you are creating more and more positive energy. And vice versa, coming back to the negative side, if you have anger, jealousy, attachment, all of those can create negative karma. Negative actions can have all sorts of motivations. And in doing it, it comes down to that there is not any sort of white mark. You can have a feeling, maybe there is someone who makes you uncomfortable, and you have a feeling that I wish that guy would get run over by a car! And then you think it is silly! There is a little karma there. It is a mental thought. But you are being realistic, you would not push that on someone, it is just that you are a little angry. In that way you can recognize that you have some hurt feelings or anger towards this person. Therefore you have the negative thought but you do not create strong karma. It is just in your mind. Then you can have it that you are angry with someone, you see them, and maybe you say something nasty. There is a little stronger karma. And if you feel really good about saying that, there is the completion of that verbal karma.
Taking it to an extreme, if you push them in front of a car and they get run over, and if you feel happy you finally got rid of them, in that way you have the mental thought, maybe you swear at them as you push them, the verbal karma, and then your body goes through the activity of murdering them! Then your feeling of happiness at the completion of that is the complete of negative karma. So it is the mind set.
You can think that most negative karmas come from terrific insensitivity, not being very conscious of another entity and it is harmful and hurtful to the other entity. Even more so, you could say there is a lot of self indulgence in negative actions. not that positive ones cannot have self indulgence too, but generally speaking negative actions are more only concerned with your own needs and situations. If you take that in the context of the lifetime, maybe you creating one or two small negative actions is not too much. But you start putting them together, and you are creating an attitude, make it a karma, and then at the end of your life you become rather angry, resentful, and difficult to deal with because you have always been carrying on with a negative attitude about life.Or other people who live a positive life and do many little actions, little things such a generosity, kindness, and such. All that is creating karmic energy. And that is where you are going to have happiness or suffering in the future.
And to understand the idea of happiness or suffering, people who are working in a negative way have a lot of self concern, fear, and so on, and it is easy to see that mind as unhappy. Until you move away from selfish concern, fear, and anger, you are not a happy individual. Whereas if you move into a positive head space, you feel good. When you give a gift you feel good. All these activities, happiness is part of them. And when we move to the end of our life, if we have been sincere with our activities, we will have a lot more happiness. Certainly in the future life, which is created by the activities of this life, the potential of the future life, we will have greater happiness.
for this evening, all I wanted to touch on was that karma and all of the details I am going to teach you in the future. The Buddhas have really gone into the law of cause and effect. The process of the law of cause and effect is not to be broken into little snippets or marks on your mind stream, but rather allowing yourself to indulge in negative or positive attitudes. Those underlying forces are what is going to create happiness for you in the future.
The final note is that for Buddhism, the nature of reality, it is said on the relative plane, understanding the law of cause and effect is the key to understanding the ultimate nature of reality. To understand it well, they say as you approach that understanding, you will find it compliments the law of cause and effect. Again one has to open up ones mind to appreciate that there is not singular isolated cause that is going to produce a singular effect. A good example is a flower. It is a result of the seed. So the seed is the cause, and the flower is the effect. There is the simplistic view of cause and effect. But we all know that flowers do not spontaneously come without many secondary causes. The right soil, moisture, light and such. So it is not so simplistic. Rather there is an incredible dynamic. And the deeper you go into that dynamic, you have to appreciate that there is what is called total interdependence for the flower to blossom, all the various aspects.
Similarly with yourself as an individual, regarding your own karma, one aspect is your intelligence which is making decisions. Yet there are so many secondary causes in there which are always affecting the feelings you have. What you are doing with yourself and such. And those are part of and inclusive in the creation of karma. So when you think of your own activities, certainly put emphasis to the attitude you have, the intentions you are trying to go through with, but appreciate that there is more vastness in any activity you are doing. Maybe sometime you may have good intentions and yet it never seems to quite work out. You can appreciate that there is a lot to come together for an action to be perfectly good or bad. And if it does not work out the way you expect, there are many secondary circumstances which have to come on line for something to work out perfectly.
In that way you do not have too many expectations on your side, saying, I am such a good person! And things are not working out yet, why? Well you have to remember that there are a lot of years maybe where you ave been unconscious and created a lot of karma that you have not been aware of. And as you develop you will start to recognize that there is a certain bad attitude or hurtfulness that is affecting some of the activities, so it is not that easy to expect good karma to ripen all the time and to become more and more happy.
For this evenings meditation, the most important thing with karma is initial attitude. The initial motivating force which draws much of it's energy from the attitude. If we have a good attitude we are looking at the world with good feelings or good sense that good things come about. Of course out thoughts that come up when we create any action will then tend to be of a more positive nature. If in contrast we have an unhappy mind, things have not gone well, it can be that certain circumstance comes along, we snap at someone who comes into our environment! That is from a bad attitude. So being conscious of attitude is the most important thing regarding the law of cause and effect, and trying to move ourselves into a positive position, is the most beneficial thing we can do in the long run because it will turn our karmas into positive expressions and activities.
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