A Brief Introduction of Karma
- A Brief Introduction of Karma
Let me give a brief introduction to the Buddhist teaching of Karma. It can be summarised as the truth of moral "Cause, Condition and Effect". Why not simply "Cause and Effect"? Because there is a missing link between the cause and the effect - the condition(s). For example, for a fire to start, there must be a person (the cause of the fire), who uses flint and tinder to create sparks. And there must be some fuel, say paper. When the sparks meet the paper, you get fire. But we missed an important conditions - air - without which, there wont be any fire.
Remember the fire triangle in chemistry class? Fire requires the three elements of heat, oxygen and fuel, without any of which, there is no fire. So the fire (the effect) requires air, fuel and heat (the conditions), and the fire-starter (the cause). In a way, if the spark is the cause and the fire is the effect, the paper is also one of the conditions, other than air. Karma is complex in the sense that usually, there are many conditions involved for an effect to occur. Another example is a seed being a cause, and air, water, soil and sunlight being the multiple conditions, with which a plant is the effect.
Lets take a look in history for another example. In the Qing Dynasty, under the rule of Emperor Kangxi, there were rebels trying to restore the Ming dynasty. But they were not particularly successful, as the conditions were not right. Under Kangxi, the citizens led good lives, such that none really felt the need to support the rebels. There were no truly good reasons to support them. By toppling the empire, the country would have plunged into anarchy, making the people suffer instead. The rebels may have had a cause (to drive out the Manchus who invaded their land), but the conditions were not right. Thus, there was no desired effect of the fall of the Qing Empire.
Here is another simplified example of how Karma works. If you never bother to go for lectures and tutorials, and never studied anything related to the school module you are in, then you are bound to fail. Why? The cause is that you never studied, and the conditions remain constant that you have never touched anything related to your module. Thus, the effect will of course be that you fail.
More accurately, the cause of failing is not having the cause to pass, with the addition that there were no conditions given to pass. Even if there were conditions, there would be no effect of passing, as conditions without a cause cannot have an effect. For example, with the presence of air, water, soil and sunlight, but with the absence of a seed, no plant will ever grow.
However, if the situation were different, you might still pass your exams. For example, if you did not attend any lectures or tutorials, but when let's say you spent much of your time working or playing games, which happened to be closely related to what you were supposed to learn, then you might still know how to answer the questions during the exams. Then again, it is a not a mere coincidence that you deserve this seemingly "accidental" outcome. Due to the law of karma, we do not experience what we do not deserve, though we can choose to experience what we are going through with varying attitudes.
One last example on Karma. Lets say that there is a guy call Xiao Ming, who always ill-treats his old father, while Xiao Ming's son Ah Boy witnesses this. If the conditions are constant 50 years down the road, Ah Boy's mentality might be deludedly shaped to think it is alright to ill-treat one's elderly parents, and this mentality might not be changed. When Xiao Ming gets old, he is thus likely to be ill-treated by Ah Boy. We tend to say it is Xiao Mings negative karma of being unfilial bearing fruit. However, because we are not able to look beyond this life, we might not be able to see the real cause to this, though one thing holds true - that the law of Karma is in place. Such cases are always open-ended to the unenlightened, because the variables (especially the conditions, coupled with new causes) are always changing, with the only constant being change.
Remember - Karma is not just about the present, it is about the past too, linked to what you have done in your past lives, which can affect you both now and in the future. And what you do now affects the future, be it near or far. So do take note of your actions. What we do now can affect us presently too. For instance, the very moment we bear hatred, we suffer the agony of resentment.
Even now, everyone of us is writing our own "book" of karma. Whatever causes we produce, with the presence of the right conditions, will bear certain effects. So people, do start, and continue to create good and positive causes, such that you will experience good effects!
Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!
- Tzyy Horng (Edited by Shen Shi'an)