Reality of Suffering
Do you know this word, karma? When you hear
it, what does it imply to you?
The concept of karma, found in Buddhism and other
ancient Indian religious traditions, has begun to enter our everyday
vocabulary. Unfortunately, it is often used mistakenly to mean
that everything is predetermined — "It's my karma." People
who misuse karma in this way are also inclined to blame
things on karma ("It was karma") and absolve themselves
of responsibility. In the extreme karma can thus be misused to
defend not taking personal initiative.
With such a distorted view, one might respond to
suffering by shrugging one's shoulders and saying, "It's my/their
karma!" Such a passive use of the concept karma reverses its
Karma means 'action.' Karma is a very
active process. And when we talk of karma, or action, it is the
very action committed by an agent, in this case, ourselves, in
the past. So what type of future will come about, to a large
extent, lies within our own hands in the present. It will be
determined by the kind of initiatives that we take now.
Based on what you've read so far of karma, who
creates karma? Who creates your karma? Might there
be a family's karma or a community's karma?
We play the essential
role determining the course
of the karmic process. What we think, say, do, or desire creates
karma. What we do or do not do creates karma.
I write, for example, the very action creates new circumstances
and causes some other event. My words cause a response in the
readers mind. In everything we do, there is cause and effect,
cause and effect. In our daily lives the food we eat, the work
we undertake, our relaxation are all a function of action:
our action. This is karma. We
cannot, therefore, throw up our hands whenever we find ourselves
confronted by unavoidable suffering. To say that every misfortune
is simply the result of karma is tantamount to saying
that we are totally powerless in life. If this were correct,
there would be no cause for hope.
In the previous lesson you learned about cause
and effect. Does your understanding of cause
and effect help you appreciate how you can influence
your experience of happiness and suffering?
As with the torments of negative thoughts
and emotions, we certainly have a choice in how we respond
to the occurrence of suffering. If we wish, we can adopt a more
dispassionate and rational approach, and on that basis we can
discipline our response to it. Or we can allow afflictive emotions
arise and our peace of mind is destroyed. When we do not restrain
our tendency to react negatively to suffering, it becomes a
source of negative thoughts and emotions. There is thus a clear
relationship between the impact suffering has on our heart and
mind and our practice of inner discipline.
Karma includes the widest implications of our actions.
to an act we engage in as well as its repercussions. When we
speak of the karma of killing, the act itself would be taking
the life of another being. The wider implications of this act,
also part of the karma of killing, are the suffering it causes
the victim as well as the many who love and are dependent upon
that being. The karma of this act also includes certain effects
upon the actual killer.
How can you use this awareness of the future affects
of your actions when you face afflictive emotions
such as anger and hatred?
When choosing how to respond to difficulty, awareness of karma
can help guard against the harmful
consequences of afflictive emotions such as anger.
Imagine someone hurts you either with word or
action. How will responding with anger help you?
The deed has already been done. If you respond
with anger are you not possibly creating a cause
for future suffering? On the other hand, if you
respond with tolerance, the pain from the action
will still be there but are you not affecting the