When people are happy and contented, they tend to take life for granted. It is when they suffer, when they find life difficult, that they begin to search for a reason and a way out of their difficulty. They may ask, why some are born in poverty and suffering, while others are born in fortunate circumstances? Some people believe that it is due to fate, chance, or an invisible power beyond their control. The Buddha taught that one’s present condition, whether of happiness or suffering, is the result of the accumulated force of all past actions, or karma.
Karma is intentional action, that is, a deed done deliberately through body, speech or mind. Karma means good and bad volition. Every volitional action is called Karma. In other words, Karma is the law of moral causation. It is action and reaction in the ethical realm. It is natural law that every action produces a certain effect. So if one performs wholesome actions such as donating money to charitable organizations, one will experience happiness. On the other hand, if one performs unwholesome actions, such as killing a living being, one will experience suffering. This is the law of cause and effect at work. In this way, the effect of one’s past karma determine the nature of one’s present situation in life.
“According to the seed that is sown,
So is the fruit you reap
The door of good of will gather good result
The door of evil reaps evil result.
If you plant a good seed well,
Then you will enjoyed the good fruits.”
No day stands isolated and alone. Karma is a continuous process and does not work by postponement. If we think of karma as being something whose fruits are to be born in some remote future existence, we think of it wrongly. Each moment we are shaping the history of the next. To paraphrase Emerson – Every thought either ennobles or debases the Soul. There is no standing still. By thinking a noble thought, the Soul is ennobled AT THAT VERY MOMENT. Similarly, the Soul is debased at the very moment that a selfish or evil thought passes through the mind.
I strongly believe in the idea of cause and effect, every thing we do is a result of something we did earlier. Other people believe karma as being part of plan, that every thing we do is predetermined, and no matter what we do, good or bad can change that. I find that hard to believe?
We weaken ourselves if we believe that all events are unalterably fixed, that our external lives are unchangeable, pre-ordained and that there is nothing we can do to improve the situations in which we find ourselves. It is true that we are compelled to move within the circumstances we have created in the past and the conditions we have inherited in the present, but it is also true that we are free from Freedom and that it exists in the heart of man that is in his very soul. Fate exists only on the surface. The external life is always a mix of both freedom and fate. No man, however evolved he may be, has complete control over his life, but he is not entirely enslaved to it either. No action is wholly free, and no action is wholly fated, but all are of a mixed double character. The elements of heredity, education, experience, karma (collective and personal), free will and environment all conspire together to fashion both the outer form and inner texture of the life we have to live. We sew the tapestry of our own destiny but the thread we use is of a kind, color and quality forced upon us by our own past thoughts and acts. Our existence has a semi-independent and semi-predestined characteristic.
Because our existence has a semi-independent and semi-predestined character, Buddhism offers a vehicle to enlightenment, only the enlightened will know where to draw the line between good and evil, at least, the wisdom is to recognize it and avoid evil seed before it takes root. At last, the ultimate achievement of spiritual enlightenment such as a Buddha, who has completely overcome emotions and desires altogether, he has no sense of good or evil because he produces no good nor evil, therefore, he is out of Karma’s boundary. No causes, no effects; No good, no evil, No action, no reaction; he knows, the “judgment” of good and evil itself is the cause of Karma.