Sometimes people feel the need to blame misfortune on some great being or the universe. Often we find it an excuse to do nothing—can’t help it, it’s my karma, we say. That may be partly true, but the process must not be misunderstood—it is the carelessness of the past that creates conditions for the present. Therefore, we have to understand that it’s our own karma, created out of our own actions. We can see how we need to be mindful of all our thoughts and actions to make sure that these misfortunes will not happen in the future.
For the sake of this short life, we unfortunately tend to do all sorts of things that create bad karma. To get a nicer home, more money or more pleasure, we may act selfishly, pushing others out of the way in our rush to be the best. We are all looking for happiness but by putting our own need ahead of others we accumulate a lot of bad karma. If we understand the rule of karma then we may stop and think before we act selfishly. Should we put our own short life first or should we think of others and the lives to come? We may only be here for the blink of an eye but the way we live our lives will stay with the universe forever.
Karma is a difficult idea, when we think about how often bad things happen to very good people. You see someone who for all purposes is pious and good and kind but faces a tough life and you start disbelieving in the process of karmic afflictions. But as with everything in life, our karma is not just our own, separate from everyone else. Our karma is collective and inter-connected with all others. In Buddhist philosophy this collective karma even goes back many generations, as we have all been here before and will visit again in the future.
From a more mundane perspective, modern science says we are influenced by past generations by inheriting their genetics and traits and we will influence future generations by giving them our genes and traits. So you see, we all have the karma of the world in our own hands. That is why we mustn’t hide away or think of ourselves as separate from others. We are all human beings. We all come from different backgrounds but we are connected by our karma. Since we have this great karma to meet, we should be supporting each other and encouraging each other. This spiritual path that we are walking is full of bumps and potholes, we have to carefully hold hands with warmth, sincerity and understanding. Nothing is impossible when we walk together.
The karmic cycle can be easily explained as a delayed cause and effect mechanism, not necessarily immediately but over births and re-births. In scientific terms, we know that every action has a reaction, usually equal and opposite. In karmic terms, it is similar—except that the manifestations of your actions can be advantageous or negative depending on intent and action. If intent and action are in line of positivity, the karmic results will be only positive. If intent is good, and action is hurtful, or the action is good but the intent was hurtful, the karmic effect will be equally misaligned. If both are negative, the effects will be harmful—in this life or the next.
When we are able to stop, pause and think more about our actions, words and thoughts, we begin to see the cause and effect more clearly. We then begin to understand that by changing the cause, if it is in our ability, we can change the effect. You might notice, for example, that if you can put aside jealousy then you are less likely to speak harsh words to that person or feel pain yourself. And, equally, that by showing great joy in another person’s wellbeing or happiness you will feel a warm glow yourself. This is why we talk so much of love, compassion and kindness. Once you begin to be truly mindful of acting in this way, your love, compassion and kindness will give your words and actions great colour and very good karma.
The author is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas