It is time to reflect on how the past twelve months have been, whether they have been squandered or allowed to cause more damages to self and others, or they have been periods of learning that have led to spiritual advancement. Just as the past life has been the cause of this life’s conditioning, so too the last year’s way of living will have a lot to do with the conditioning of the mind for the future months.
All must think deeply on their conscience which cannot be swept aside. Everyone knows himself very well unless he chooses to act otherwise. But there is no way to escape from the force of Karma whether one gives the excuse of youth or ignorance. The wise ones will strive hard to understand Karma and then to find ways and means to avoid unwholesome acts which will have their retribution sooner or later.
How does one explain Karma to others in a few words? Karma is very complex and how it works is even more difficult to express. Since it is the heart of Buddhist teaching and is also an unbending Universal Law which everyone is subject to, every Buddhist should make it a point to study and understand it. It is not a frightful Law that threatens punishment to those who breaks it, it is a Law that leads to purification and supreme happiness to those who have a full grasp of it and living by it!
Listen: “Whatever a man reaps, that has he also sown.” This is an excellent description of what Karma is and how it works. All religions teach it but not all may choose to call this Karma. By contemplating deeply on these words, much understanding can be gained and then one will avoid evil and unwholesome acts. Acts need not be action of the body, but also include those of the speech and mind. The three vehicles which develop good or bad karma are therefore the body, speech and mind. Each action develops a force or a seed that will someday mature. It must be remembered that whatever actions that one performs, a result will follow. Therefore the source of the arising of action is the thought, from which springs verbal or physical actions. Guarding the mind with awareness is what Buddhist try to practise each day so as to ensure that ignoble thoughts are arrested the moment they surface.
The world today is the result of Karma and all the beings within it, including all surrounding conditions and environments are part of the effect. Therefore no being can be independent and no one should adopt the selfish idea of looking after his own happiness only. Karma can be worldly, can be regional, racial and reduced to the individual. How the world is, a country’s condition is, a race is, a family is, a person is, they are the result of Karma. So how can anyone ask why he is born this? Why are men not born equal, why some poor, others rich, some foolish, others brilliant, some cripples while others are well endowed? Indeed each person is suffering the effect of the causes that he has generated and there is no way any person can escape the consequences of his acts. Do good and enjoy good fruits, practise evil and suffer corresponding pains. Each is therefore the moulder and the role creator of his life to come, each person is the master of his own destiny! For this, the sufferings of mankind cannot be attributed to the work of an irresponsible God, and one’s happy states of being do not come by accident or through the love of a discriminating God!
The Dhammapada has this verse:
“By oneself evil is done,
By oneself one suffers,
By oneself evil is left undone,
By oneself one is purified.”
Read it once, read again and again and you will grasp the essence of the words. Buddhism is not for those who do not wish to strive. It is unsuitable for those who do not wish to think for themselves, for mind is what must be developed. The above verse explains that the Law of Karma is the moulder of each individual’s destiny, but what is it that moulds one’s destiny? The mind, and action is but precipitated thought. A single thought has the great latent power that can change one’s outlook in life. Once a wrong thought manifests into action, it becomes a habit to the repeated, and then this habit can be developed into the character of the person. Then, it is extremely difficult to change it!
Guard the mind then. Through awareness, each thought that arises can then be evaluated, to be accepted or rejected. It is worthwhile to note that even the lightest thought can produce vast effects, not only on oneself, but on all that lives. Reflect on this deeply. Your mind has the intelligence to grasp the point if only effort is made. Hatred arises out of a thought, feeling and so does Love. Between these two though how much energies have been poured into the world, bringing about destruction and happiness. What kind of thoughts do you harbour then? Think! Your conscience is the best revealer, and the effort that you have exerted to know or discover yourself will bring about corresponding understanding.
It is the duty that one has for himself to have a thorough understanding of what Karma is so that he can conform to it. There is no use trying to bribe, cajole or petition it because Karma cannot be personified, it is not God, and even the Gods themselves are subject to its sway. “By oneself is evil done, by oneself one suffers,” this is the best warning that one should take so that those who do not wish to suffer in any way, must be aware of his actions. This reduces the practice of non-virtuous acts, particularly hatred and anger which are the main causes of downfall of men and women. “By oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified,” teaches one to lead a clean, wholesome live which leads to self-purification and happiness. It also means that neither a God or a Buddha can purify a person unless he has set his mind to it!
Thursday, 6th February 1986
12th Moon, 28th Day
Chinese New Year day: Sunday, 9th February 1986