2021-12-29 Three Principles of Karma
4:05PM Dec 29, 2021
So good day, it was nice to meditate with here with you all. I feel much better now. I was, I had a shingle shot yesterday and that was worn that shingle shot would might have a big impact. And it did went to bed and I had shivers and quite cold, and then I got hot and that fever and woke up this morning feeling tired and kind of kind of going really slow. So I wonder how what its boy was going to be like to come down and give a talk here today. But you're sitting there for this half an hour, I feel more and more normal again. So but if somehow I slur my words, or I'm not quite coherent, maybe it's still the effect of the shingles shot. I was warned that that the impact would be strong that there.
So I want to talk about karma to one of the really big topics in Buddhism. And some people feel like it's one of the most central teachings of Buddhism or the Buddha. And, and it's sometimes Western teachers, like myself are criticized for not teaching it enough not emphasizing it because it's so central. And so I want to talk about it. And I want to talk about that there's three different aspects, the major aspects of the karma teaching, and answer. So understanding these three different areas will help you find your way when people start talking about karma. And you'll start saying, well, which of these three are they addressing? At all? Three? Is it just one of them? Or two of them? Or what are they actually talking about, because sometimes people use talk about karma, assuming you know what they mean. And so this may be helps.
So the first is that karma that the word karma, literally, it's kamma in Pali in the way that Sanskrit and Pali are very closely related, and sometimes just a softening of some of the consonants. And, and so kamma, it literally means action. And, and that's the basic meaning it means to action, how we act, and then by extension, then has become associated with theories of action, there is of what action, you know, understanding of the how actions work. And so one of the one of the aspects of this theory of action is the idea that actions have consequences to what we say and what we do. And also what we think what goes on in our mind, is not impact free, it, whatever we do has an influence, it has a results that can't happen. And so if if you race around for a whole day, trying to do many things in a hurry, and then the end of the day, you're exhausted and have a headache. That's the consequence of having rushed around all day. If instead you do things calmly and mindfully, and you come to the end of the day, you still feel calm and settled, and you're not so exhausted. That's partly the consequence of the actions you do. If you lie to your best friend, and your best friend now doesn't trust you. The you're lying had a consequence. And so the teaching of karma has this idea that all your actions have consequences. And what this implies, is that you should be careful, not only about what you do, but also careful about what you do, in terms of the consequence it has, what impact does it have on others, what impact will have on yourself, and seemingly innocent things we do? Or not so inconsequential. They're actually quite everything has some kind of value and it is part of the conditioning factors have created influence, a greater lingering effect. So then one of the ways that karma works consequences is not just the consequences in the world, but the most important part is consequences to ourselves.
We might want to say in the western terms, psychological consequences. So what we do regularly becomes a habit, what we do regularly becomes a momentum and force in our minds who are more likely to do that again. So if we complain a lot, and that's what we're always doing, complaining has consequence, it has maybe some kind of consequence in the world, people feel a little bit hesitant to talk to us, if they're always complaining, we're always complaining. But also, complaining is, is a stressful activity of the mind. And we're compounding that stress, if we do it regularly. And we're making more likely that we, it becomes a habit to complain. And then we find ourselves complaining, you know, without having a plan to complain, it's just like, it's become a habit. And so some of these things that we do regularly or we do, the influence it has goes underground for a while, and then comes off later. So we go along merrily living our lives. And then we meditate. And then in meditation, some point, we realize that we have to now take into, into, into account, the fact that we hurt someone 20 years ago, and we know we hurt them, but we never really the impact of that the real would you know the impact of what that impacted us, or the impact of them. Somehow there's something about meditation, sitting quietly and being attentive, sometimes firstly, on retreat, things long ago, come up really big. And then we have to deal with them. And they've been living underneath, they're living kind of underground and waiting their turn, there's not inconsequential. They're living there. They're kind of like simmering there in the background. And so now, they come to the foreground. And now we have to deal with it somehow, and work with it. And my teacher in Burma was he loved to Pandita, he loved to frequently tell stories of people who came to meditate with him who lived, you know, violent lives. I mean, there were people who were soldiers are in Burma, there's guerrilla fighters for fighting the government, and both of the guerrillas and the soldiers come meditate with him. And, and they would, the consequence of the violence they done, would come and impact them in their meditation, and they have to sit with it and be with it, and work through it to the other side, then for some of them, it was a challenging time to sit with the, with the inner landscape, the consequences of what they've done. So so the first principle of karma is that actions have consequences. And we can be careful we can with, with our choices we make about what we do in deeds, in speech, and also in thoughts, the harder in our thinking. But with meditation, we start learning that we have actually some ability to choose. And so having a more and more choice of how we live our lives, is one of the consequences of mindfulness meditation. The more choice we have, the more freedom we have. People who don't see that they have choice, don't have choice. And they're just become kind of do things on automatic or they do things. They don't even know why they say and do things. It just kind of like it was what happens that comes out of them. But as we get quieter and more attentive, more and more, we see there's lots of choice and in all kinds of small ways in our lives. When I came back from three years or so, in the monastery, Zen monastery, where everything was choreographed, everything was very organized and how you stood, how you walked, how you bowed, when you bowed, when you sat, everything was on a schedule kind of much of the day. And so you don't have to think a lot about do I stand now, the bell rang and you stand. But when I came to left the monastery, I realized right away that that all kinds of things before the monastic training. I just done an automatic pilot. Now I saw that it was a choice. And and so I went to my the Abbot and told him this that you know, that how I sit down in the chair. I never thought about it before. But now when I sit in the chair, I'm aware of the choice about how I sit there, the posture I take, and I see all this choice, and then the abbot did something that he never done to me before. When I said this to him, he reached forward and shook my hand. Like he was really pleased, I guess by this realization.
The second time The thing is, principle of karma is that the consequences of our actions are influenced by the quality of the actions. So, if what we do we think say or do is influenced by is characterized by something unskillful, something unwholesome, something that is unethical, something that is going to harm someone, then the consequences will have something, some flavor of the, of being also unskillful, unhelpful, unethical or harmful. So, if we live a life that's harming the consequences going to be harming to ourselves and maybe to others. The opposite is true that if we do live a life that's wholesome, that skillful, that is non harming, that's beneficial to self. And other than that, then the consequences of our actions will carry with them some of those skillful, wholesome qualities. So it's not about the impact, the consequences of our actions are shaped by the quality, the ethical quality of the action that we do. And, and so then be important to be even more careful, because if we do things which are unhelpful, unhealthy, then the consequence conscious will be unhealthy. And we just perpetuate that through time. And it's a cyclic thing where sometimes that if you do something unhealthy, something unethical, the consequences will be unhealthy kind of not necessarily unethical, the consequences, but we'll carry with him some of the unhealthy or, or unwholesome qualities of the original action. And, and this is particularly, I think, true again, in our psychology, the impact on our actions in our own psychology. And it's cyclic, because as as something unhealthy happens, at the consequence, it predisposes us to do more things which are unhealthy. If we do things which are healthy, wholesome, then, when the consequences are wholesome, that predisposes us to do more of the same. So that's the second principle of karma. The idea that the the consequence is influenced or shaped, or by the quality of the original action.
The third principle of karma, this karma theory, is that the consequences of our actions and consequences of our wholesome actions or unwholesome actions, play out also over lifetimes. The idea that there's multiple lifetimes and, and that the way that you'll be reborn, when you die, will be very much influenced by the quality of the actions you did, the things you did, and the quality of them being ethical or unethical or wholesome or unwholesome will influence how you get reborn. And it's a kind of an extension of the second principle, but it's extended into rebirth. So some people when they talk about the karma, are talking about all three of these. And some of them people talk about on the first two, because the every birth is not so important for them. And and so when people talk about karma, you have to kind of kind of listen to them more carefully and say, are the first two principles or is it a third principle as well. And, and then you have to decide, you know, you, it's up to you to decide if this teachings on rebirth, this has any value for you importance for you, if it motivates you to live a better life.
But, regardless of whether you believe or don't believe in rebirth, the first two principles are the foundational to this teaching of karma, your actions have consequences. And the consequences are, are shaped by the kind of the ethical quality of the action itself. The consequences are shaped by the ethical quality of the action. And, and it's all a call then, to be careful, to be attentive to appreciate that you have choice. And the calmer you are, the more steady you are, the more awake you are, the more you'll see all the choice points through the day and you'll start choosing To live more wisely and ethically and kindly and, and, and, and it might seem like a lot of work to make all these choices, but it becomes more like second nature and obvious that though we're all make we're all making choices all the time anyway. But wouldn't we're not so conscious of it. And what we do with meditation practice we become more conscious of it and hopefully become more conscious as we do. So we're more aware of all the unnecessary energy and effort that goes in and so, this living a life of choice becomes more and more effortless over time, because we can live from a place of ease. So thank you. And may you may your car maybe maybe you may you engage in good karma, good actions. Or as the Buddha said, sometimes we talked about this karma. He talked about beautiful actions. Sometimes it gets translated as good actions, but the word Kalyana means beautiful. And so if you live with beautiful actions, then they'll be beautiful results.
So may you live a beautiful life. Thank you