Cindy asked what I thought of the law of karma. She has leukemia. Is her leukemia the consequence of something she set in motion in some past life, something passed in the genes, pollution, "wrong thinking"? Is it an accident? Does it matter?
The wisdom of the law of karma is that what we think, say and do matters.
Sure, it is useful to explore the cause and effect relationships that brought about a current situation. We can learn not to repeat patterns that lead to outcomes we don't like and to promote those we do like. However, avoid blaming and overly dwelling on the causes.
The Law of Karma is that every action has a consequence, an effect. The effect is uncertain, influenced by intention, environmental, social, cultural and psychological conditions and awareness. The wise do things that are likely to have a positive outcome, considering immediate and longer-term results, while not being attached to the outcome.
Good and Bad Karma
What might happen if a person in a monogamous relationship had sex with someone other than his or her partner? The immediate consequence might be great pleasure. Longer term there might be guilt, jealousy, remorse, strong desire to repeat the action, disruption of the primary relationship, illness and learning. Maybe really long term, a consequence could be felt in future lives or at the entry into heaven.
Was the episode karmically destined to happen? Maybe. Are negative effects like jealousy the responsibility of the adulterer or the one who experiences the jealousy? What were the intentions of the lovers? What psychologically motivated them? Are they repeating old patterns?
If a result is the breakup of a dysfunctional relationship and the happiness of the partners, is the act's result good or bad karma? If the event was stimulus for the process to strengthen the primary relationship, was the karma good or bad?
The concept of karma promotes the awareness to consider the motivation for and the outcome of our actions. Then it is possible to decide what to do and what not to do. That decision is informed by intention and values.
Intention drives action. The intention to do no harm, and as much as possible, to promote universal wellness will lead to different decisions than an intention to succeed in business, politics or the arts at all costs. The intention to do no harm and the intention to succeed are compatible. When the desire for success supersedes the other, action and its consequences are far different than when the intention to do no harm predominates.
Values inform intention. Valuing loving kindness and compassion over power and security leads to the intention to do no harm and to serve. Following guidelines like the Ten Commandments, the Buddhist precepts, Krishna's advice to dedicate all action to God, or the yogic yamas and niyamas helps while cultivating the wisdom, loving kindness and compassion that make skillful behavior natural.
Have you assessed your values and intentions? Are they the ones you want to be driving your actions? What motivates your choices? Is it fear and anger or love and compassion? Is what you are doing making you and those around you happy? Are you adding value? Do you have the courage to change
Cause and Effect
In the end, all we really know about karma is that every action is a cause of some effect and that every effect has a cause. When we open our definition of action to include thoughts and speech we see the wisdom of:
"The thought manifests the word;
The word manifests the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let them spring forth from love
Born out of compassion for all beings.
As the shadow follows the body, as we think, so we become."