Today is the longest day of the week for me. I’ll be scarce. It’s “Kiss Eddie Day”! No Mo, you can’t kiss me… ::blank stare:: Recent internet behavior by me has led me back to this post…
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-=[ Karma ]=-
“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.”
— Albert Einstein (1879–1955)
Karma is an important part of the spiritual path I follow. Karma is an often used and misused term in our culture. To many people raised within the Christian-Judeo tradition, karma implies fate or “cosmic justice” resulting in punishment or reward for our actions. In Buddhism, there is no external God-in-the-sky bestowing justice.
From the Buddhist perspective, at each point of our lives, we are confronted with a crossroad. What we are today is the fruit of our past and we, through our actions, are the architects of our future. Once when my son was about eight years old, we were at a picnic. He wanted to play wiffle ball, but I was busy preparing some things and had asked him to wait. Well, you know kids! He became impatient and was swinging the big plastic bat precariously close to another child’s head. Luckily, I was able to stop him before anything happened.
If my son had hit the child, he would’ve called it an accident and technically speaking it would’ve been an accident. I mean, his intention wasn’t to hit his playmate. His intention was to play. Still, it was an opportunity for a lesson and we used whiffle ball to illustrate karma. LOL! It was a little difficult for seven-eight year-olds to understand, but even they saw how we need to bring a certain amount of mindfulness to our actions otherwise they will bring unwanted pain. We might laugh at a seven-year olds total lack of insight, but we as adults also commit similar actions and then ask, “why me,” when the chickens come home to roost.
When we ask, “Why did this happen to me?” it is because of our limited perspective. If you continue to swing that metaphorical plastic bat eventually someone’s going to get thwacked on the head. We shouldn’t say, “It was an accident,” although we all usually do. There’s this notion that what happens to us is somehow independent of our actions. I would suggest that instead of asking “why did this happen,” we should be asking, “What am I going to do about it.”
If you want to know your past, look at your present situation. If you want to know your future, look at what is in your mind.
Locus of control is a psychological term used to refer to the perceived source of control over one’s behavior. For some people, things happen to them (external locus of control), while others make things happen (internal locus of control). The whole point of karma is to recognize how our actions determine our future, so that we can then begin to act more effectively. This isn’t a religious or philosophical matter, it is entirely practical. The main point is to escape the insanity of committing the same actions and expecting different results. Even a seven-year-old understands not sticking their finger into the electrical socket after the first try. LOL
So, what the fuck is karma? Karma is an aspect of the laws of cause and effect that relates to our experiences of happiness and suffering. It depends basically upon our motivation. When we engage in an act, no matter how it appears, what is important is motivation — intention. I used to facilitate intensive three-week workshops that involved challenging people’s ingrained attitudes and belief systems. There were times, if you walked in the middle of one my exercises, that you would have considered my methods cruel, sadistic even. And if my motivation hadn’t been based on compassion, my workshops could have actually created a lot of suffering and harm.
A couple of years ago I had the good fortune to attend the wedding of one of my former workshop participants. Today, she’s a successful young lady who’s involved in a loving and mutually respectful relationship. It wasn’t always that way with her. I made her cry so many times it wasn’t funny. But underneath all that hurt, low self-esteem, and false belief systems was a young lady that was as beautiful inside as she was on the outside. And believe me, this girl’s is drop-dead gorgeous! As a result, all she knew was how to use her physical beauty to get what she wanted. However, it usually goes that when you manipulate, you are manipulated in turn. That shit stopped with me.
We can’t always perfectly foresee the consequences of our actions. But we are always in charge of our motivation. It’s always up to us to decide if we want to cause suffering or bring some benefit to the world. No one — at least not anyone who’s “sane” — can say we are not in control of our motivation. An act that is motivated by a compassionate mind/ heart is ethical, no matter how it appears. Likewise, an act motivated by greed, anger, or hate is unethical, no matter how it looks.
And this is the very basis of ethics. Teaching my son and his friend the connection between his swinging a bat without thought to the safety of those around him is something he never forgot. He still remembers that day. Sure, I made it fun and the lesson was taught through the dynamics of play (don’t ask; just know that a lot of adults got thwacked with a plastic bat that day. LOL), but it was a powerful lesson nonetheless. If we don’t relate our actions to our motivation, we can never be clear as to right and wrong. Remember: the knife in the hands of a murderer is a weapon and in the hands of a surgeon, it is a tool for healing.
From the Buddhist viewpoint, right and wrong is defined as to what leads to happiness or suffering. In fact, actions aren’t defined as “right” or “wrong,” but skillful vs. unskillful.
This not to say that we are actors independent of external forces that serve to limit us. That’s the one mistake many people make about karma — they relate to it as punishment. It’s not that at all. Awareness — mindfulness — is the heat that burns away all the past karmic defilements. Underneath all that garbage is pure shining awareness opening as love.