I got an interesting email from a friend a few days back about cause and effect. No, I am not talking about Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Cause and Effect which states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, it does have some similarity. The cause and effect which I am talking about here is Karma. According to Buddhism, Karma in simple words means ‘whatever you do intentionally to others, a similar thing will happen to yourself in the future.’ And sometimes, the future comes much later and most people tend to question if there is any truth in Karma. If everything is already predestined, then there is nothing we can do to change it? It may or may not be the case. As what Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:
“Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction.
So, instead of promoting resigned powerlessness, the early Buddhist notion of karma focused on the liberating potential of what the mind is doing with every moment. Who you are, what you come from, is not anywhere near as important as the mind’s motives for what it is doing right now. Even though the past may account for many of the inequalities we see in life, our measure as human beings is not the hand we’ve been dealt, for that hand can change at any moment. We take our own measure by how well we play the hand we’ve got. If you’re suffering, you try not to continue the unskillful mental habits that would keep that particular karmic feedback going. If you see that other people are suffering, and you’re in a position to help, you focus not on their karmic past but your karmic opportunity in the present: Someday you may find yourself in the same predicament that they’re in now, so here’s your opportunity to act in the way you’d like them to act toward you when that day comes.”
Paying it forward? From His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s book Path to Bliss:
“Some people misunderstand the concept of karma. They take the Buddha’s doctrine of the law of causality to mean that all is predetermined, that there is nothing that the individual can do. This is a total misunderstanding. The very term karma or action is a term of active force, which indicates that future events are within your own hands. Since action is a phenomenon that is committed by a person, a living being, it is within your own hands whether or not you engage in action.”
Do you believe in Karma? I do.
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