True Conviction in the Law of Karma

True Conviction in the Law of Karma

By Desmond Yeoh SC

The word “Karma” is so freely used nowadays that it has lost its true meaning. We use karma to explain away positive or negative events that happens to a person and think no further. Viewed in this way, the law of karma loses its power to create positive changes in our life.

We want happiness and do not want suffering. How do we increase happiness and reduce negative circumstances in our life? The answer lies within the law of karma. If we want more happiness, we simply plant seeds of happiness and remove seeds of suffering. The positive things that we do today grows into future pleasant experiences. If we do not want to experience suffering in the future, we avoid hurting and inconveniencing others today. This is such a simple path but unfortunately, very few follow it. Instead, many of us go to places of worship to offer prayers and donations but do not bother to think about how we are treating others, including our loved ones. Worse still, many movies about success nowadays seems to imply that to be successful, one must be ruthless and be willing to make ‘hard’ decisions. These are the ideals propagated by those who are not able to see further than what is in front of them. Clearly, this sort of thinking is not consistent with the law of karma.

Having a deep conviction and understanding about the law of karma can remove anger and hatred from our life. If someone wronged us, there is no need to take revenge or “teach the person a lesson” because karma will ensure that justice is done. Nothing that belongs to us can truly be taken away from us. A wise person who understands this point will not struggle when he is being robbed of his belongings because he knows, whatever that is taken from him will eventually come back to him.

When something bad happens to us, some of us may explain it away with karma. Doing this will cause us to lose the lesson. In most circumstances, our own negative habitual tendencies or thinking patterns is a major contributor to the negative event. A person who was cheated may have been blinded by greed or desire even though the warning signs were right in front of his eyes. A person hurt in a fight must not blame the other party but contemplate if his uncontrollable anger got him into trouble in the first place. So, our negative habitual tendencies or thinking patterns is often one of the major contributors to the negative events that happen to us.

Many people ask how we can purify our negative karma or prevent negative karma from fruition. The answer is simple and clear; we must train our mind to remove our negative habits and thinking patterns. If we cannot control our anger, we know that this negative habit will surely get us into trouble in the future. So, we put in the effort to contemplate how harmful anger is. If our mind is dominated by the desire for wealth or material things, then we should contemplate about what truly brings happiness.  We should focus our spiritual practices on those areas which we are having trouble with; be it anger, desire, pride and so on.

What drives us to accumulate negative karma even though we know that they will lead to future suffering? We do so because we hold ourselves as more important than others. We seek happiness without considering the effects of our actions on others and we come up with creative justifications for our negative actions. Therefore, to overcome these negative tendencies, we need to train our mind to recognise the importance of others.

We would not deliberately harm our loved ones and may even give up our life to protect them. They would do the same for us. This make sense for our loved ones in this lifetime but what about those in our previous lives? We have taken countless rebirths and in those lives, many beings had loved and cared for us or even gave their lives for us. In this life, we no longer recognise them but it is likely that the strangers around us today were loved ones in our previous lives. We need to contemplate this truth frequently to remove our tendency to seek gain for ourselves at the expense of others.

If we look deeply into our possessions and the things we enjoy, we will see that many beings have contributed to these benefits we now enjoy. Contained within the shirt we are wearing now are the people who work in the plantations to grow the cotton, in the factory that made the shirt, in the electricity company which supplies electricity to the factory, in the transportation company, in the companies that constructed the factory or transportation vehicles, and so on. The list is endless. Every single being around us, far or near, has contributed in some way to our well-being.

This is very easy to recognise in a small village with only one person in each profession; one farmer, one doctor, one builder, one cook etcetera. We can easily see that if anything bad happens to even one person, the entire community will suffer. However, in big cities, we can no longer see and understand that everyone of us cannot survive without the existence of others. We truly need and depend on the kindness of others in order to live a happy and meaningful life.

This is what the Buddhist concept of Emptiness means and what the Spiritual Masters mean when they say that this physical world is illusory. Emptiness does not mean that this world does not exist. Instead, it means that everything is devoid of an independent existence. Everything is interdependent. We think that we control our thoughts and emotions. That is not true. Just recall the last time another person seriously offended you. For hours or days, your mind would had probably thought of nothing else but the other person, and you would have felt nothing but anger for that person. So, the other person had more control over your mind and emotions than you at that time.

Karma is a powerful truth that can help us progress spiritually and chart our life. Karma is a truth that can be observed in our life and does not wholly depend on our faith. When we do something bad, we can immediately observe the negative circumstances within us; we start living in fear of being caught and our sleep may be affected. When we harm someone else, it is likely that the other person will seek to take revenge and this causes the perpetrator to be fearful. Therefore, the law of karma is an observable truth. Karma must be used as a tool for contemplation and not merely to explain to away our problems.

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