Karma: Where The Ideal Meets The Real

By: David Xi-Ken Astor, Sensei

Karma is one of those terms that is in popular use, but interesting enough, not by many individuals that know anything about what it really is.   Most of the time when I encounter the term it is not how I have come to understand it’s meaning at all.  Karma is also know as the law of cause and effect.  As a Buddhist principle, it is know as Dependent Origination, or Relational Origination, or Co-dependent Origination.  So as you see, karma is know by many names.   Buddhism does not own the term.  What is most unusual, is that karma is not unusual at all.  It fact, it is in most moments evident when we know how to look at the world around us.  Karma is seen in action, and also what is behind action.  Karma is not linear, but is multi-directional.  In fact, it might be helpful to consider karma as circular.   When we think about interconnectiveness, we should think that karma effects all points of a single connection, and possibly throughout the net of connections.  When you come to think about it, when we turn on a light, switch on our computers, or turn the ignition key in the car, we demonstrate the karmic consequences of these actions.

Everything in the material world acts in accordance with this law.  Nothing is caused by chance.  Nothing.  This is also the case with our minds.  Every thought we have, every word we say, every intentional action we take, creates a cause.  Over time these causes ripen to become effects.  Time being a relative term.  Our thoughts emerge as words; the words we use can manifest into actions; these actions develop into habits; and our habits hardens into character.  We should watch our thoughts and their results with great care, and let it arise for the compassionate concern for self and others.   Remember the adage: “As we think, so we become.”

The way we experience what arises in our minds can be viewed as a mindstream.  A stream of thoughts, from one thought to the next.  While it may seem like we skip around in what we are thinking, the mind is more complex than that.  The mind is in a constant flow of consciousness.  Into this flow we introduce actions which condition us to experience the events in our lives as useful or unsatisfactoriness.  Thoughts create action.  That is why we prefer to use the term ‘bodymind’.  Moment after moment we are creating our karmic destiny.  We are the ones creating our own future and how we experience reality.  Whether we are happy and have a life of positive flourishing is up to us.

But here is the rub, we do not all experience reality the same way.  Consider this when we sit with thirty others in a meditation room.  We go though the same actions, yet each of us is experiencing something different.  The essence of the act of meditation has no fixed reality.   We bring our own experiences, expectations, mind-set, and thought-drivers with us.  Think of music we listen to in a room with others.  The sound waves are striking identical receptors in each of those in the room, yet there will be different reaction to the music being experienced.  Each of us will give what we hear value based on our personal preferences.  Obviously the music does not carry happiness or unhappiness on its own, but these emotions come to mind from the filters we have developed over years of making choices.  Our own minds project these emotions on to the music depending on our karma, which reflects our conditioning.  This is the same with all our experiences.

Any moment of consciousness is part of a far greater mental continuum.  And in the same way our current life situation is part of a much larger picture because our mindstream continues from one moment to another.  If we want to know how our life will be in the future, we only need to look at the causes we are creating right now.  How can positive effects arise from negative causes?

Look to the Three Pure Precepts to find some answers.  Avoid doing harm; Do only good; Do good for others.  When we show compassion and happiness towards others, we set up the causal-chain that good will also pave our path to happiness in return.  The circular reality of karma.  Or “What goes around, comes around.”  And that is where the ideal meets the real.

[Re-posted from the EDIG website]

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