zen and karma

Zen and Karma

This entry is part 8 of 10 in the series Zen 101

Zen and Kar­ma  —  kar­ma is not a sys­tem of rewards and pun­ish­ments, or even a “what goes around comes around” phi­los­o­phy. It’s a state­ment that all things are inter­re­lat­ed, and results have causes.

Look­ing for more on this topic? 

Check out my book, Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall.

Wayne’s “East­ern” book takes you by the hand and helps you to find peace of mind. Half Asleep in the Bud­dha Hall is a Zen-based guide to liv­ing life ful­ly and deeply.

In his book “Body Mind Bal­anc­ing,” OSHO describes our “dis­con­nect” from our bod­ies; need­less to say, a top­ic of some inter­est to me.

He wrote that we are con­di­tioned, as infants, to be mis­er­able and needy. He then wrote that the oppo­site emo­tions or feel­ings  —  bliss or hap­pi­ness  —  are looked upon, at the least, with suspicion. 

Pleas­ant, placid, hap­py babies often get less atten­tion than a baby that is squalling, squeal­ing, and con­stant­ly complaining.

He thought that this pre­dis­pos­es kids to think that mis­ery is the key to get­ting atten­tion. (I have to say it: think Trump! His entire life is based upon just such a whiny, picked-upon position.)

As you walk down the street, you are much more like­ly to see bland, blank, or scowl­ing faces – and you like­ly think this is nor­mal. See­ing some­one walk­ing toward you smil­ing and laugh­ing to him­self seems, well, threat­en­ing or perverse.

Let’s just agree that we are pre­dis­posed to look­ing on the gloomy side of things – to look­ing for what is wrong – either with exter­nals (“My dia­per pin is pok­ing me!”) or inter­nals (“I’m hun­gry. I’m thirsty. I’m bored. Fix me! Fix me!”)

And then, folk get into a rela­tion­ship… and each demands the oth­er person’s total atten­tion and end­less def­er­ence. Since they are both doing it, it boils down to this: the two chil­dren can’t get along.

One of the main things to “get” is that we create every aspect of our own reality, and I mean every aspect. Another way to say this is “our life consists of our karma.”

In Bud­dhist teach­ing, the law of kar­ma, says only this:

For every event that occurs, there will fol­low anoth­er event whose exis­tence was caused by the first, and this sec­ond event will be pleas­ant or unpleas­ant depend­ing upon whether its cause was skill­ful or unskillful.’ 

A skill­ful event is one that is not accom­pa­nied by crav­ing, resis­tance or delu­sions; an unskill­ful event is one that is accom­pa­nied by any one of those things. (Events are not skill­ful in them­selves, but are so called only by virtue of the men­tal events that occur with them.)

There­fore, the law of Kar­ma teach­es that actions pro­duce results; the result of any action is born by the per­son who com­mits it.

Now, the nor­mal descrip­tion of kar­ma typ­i­cal­ly includes the idea of past lives, as in, “I must have done some­thing real­ly bad in my past life to deserve this.” I’d like you to put that aspect aside, as this is not even close to the actu­al intent of the word. It’s just a com­pli­ca­tion, and the last thing you need is some oth­er dis­trac­tion to keep you stuck.

Karma is not a punishment. It’s simply an explanation of cause and effect.

What this means is that you are (we all are) a closed sys­tem. What goes on inside of you is “all you, all the time.” 

For exam­ple, no one makes you angry  —  a sit­u­a­tion occurs, and you either anger your­self, or you do not. This is why one per­son has one reac­tion and anoth­er per­son has anoth­er reac­tion, when deal­ing with the same situation.

The feel­ings that arise in you are neu­tral. If you sim­ply watch the feel­ing, it dis­si­pates, (a rea­son to med­i­tate). If you label and judge the feel­ing, then you begin to cling.

To what? To the sto­ry you invent­ed about the feel­ing. For exam­ple, if you think peo­ple are out to get you, you’ll add a “vic­tim” sto­ry to the feel­ing, and blame some­one or something.

And even this is not Karma.

If, then, you decide to tell off the oth­er per­son, or pull a sob sto­ry, or what­ev­er, now you’re gen­er­at­ing Kar­ma. Because what you do gen­er­ates a reac­tion or response. Your action led to a reac­tion (even the reac­tion of ‘no reac­tion,’) and your Kar­ma is to deal with what you have created.

As an exer­cise, I want you to stop, right now, and think about all aspects of your life, including:

  • Mon­ey or debt
  • Job or vocation
  • Relationship(s)
  • How you view your sex life
  • View of your­self (self-image)
  • Your main dai­ly focus (is it pos­i­tive or negative)

How’d you do? How are you feel­ing about your­self, your life, and your relationships?

Now, here’s the kar­ma piece:

Every sin­gle aspect of every­thing you just thought about is a direct result of your past deci­sions, choic­es, and “paths cho­sen.“
Not part of it, not most of it, but every sin­gle bit of it.

Of course it’s human nature to want to find something, anything, anyone, to blame for who and where you are.

But in order to move on, to final­ly reach a point of pur­pose­ful peace and con­tent­ment, you have to accept total respon­si­bil­i­ty for every aspect of your life: You caused it, you set it in motion, and you made it hap­pen. If you will not accept this real­i­ty, you will remain a per­pet­u­al victim.

Your life is exactly and precisely what you made it and make it to be.

Where you are right now is the result of your past choic­es, and your present mood and tem­pera­ment have a lot to do with where your head has been for the last year. Thus, today was set in motion by you last year! 

And because you are so good at imag­in­ing and plan­ning out imag­i­nary sce­nar­ios, you uncon­scious­ly com­mit­ted to being where you are right now, and have denied any evi­dence to the con­trary to what you believed and set in motion.

The way out begins, of course, today  —  how you think and what you tell yourself, today and from now on.

If you want a dif­fer­ent life a year from now, you must begin right now. And you must put as much ener­gy into what you want (the new path) as you have put into what you believed and did in the past. No excuses.

Let me be clear. I am not suggesting that you substitute blaming yourself for blaming everyone else.

Blam­ing is not an action, it’s an addic­tion! The key is to accept that you are who you are as a prod­uct of your choic­es, and to sim­ply move on by act­ing dif­fer­ent­ly. No blame, just self-responsibility.

When Dar­bel­la and I led train­ing events, we always start­ed by play­ing The Eagles “Get Over It.” Here’s the last verse:

It’s like going to con­fes­sion every time I hear you speak
You’re makin’ the most of your losin’ streak
Some call it sick, but I call it weak
You drag it around like a ball and chain
You wal­low in the guilt; you wal­low in the pain
You wave it like a flag, you wear it like a crown
Got your mind in the gut­ter, bringin’ every­body down
Com­plain about the present and blame it on the past
I’d like to find your inner child and kick it’s lit­tle ass.

The time is now, and now is when we make things new again. If you don’t like where you are, change your kar­ma. In this moment. No blame. No excuses.

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