Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Consequences: The Karma Of Cause & Effect

You know, I'm not a huge fan of wikipedia. But sometimes its a place, like many others, that can offer you a new and/or broadened understanding of certain subjects. So in saying that, I want to show you what it says about Karma: about what it is, even from different religious standpoints.
Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म About this sound kárma (help·info), kárman- "act, action, performance"; Pali: kamma) in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called saṃsāra) originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Sikh and Buddhist philosophies.

'Karma' is an Eastern religious concept in contradistinction to 'faith' espoused by Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), which view all human dramas as the will of God as opposed to present - and past - life actions. In theistic schools of Hinduism, humans have free will to choose good or evil and suffer the consequences, which require the will of God to implement karma's consequences, unlike Buddhism or Jainism which do not accord any role to a supreme God or gods. In Eastern beliefs, the karmic effects of all deeds are viewed as actively shaping past, present, and future experiences. The results or 'fruits' of actions are called karma-phala.
In speaking about religions it is interesting to also note one other perception of karma which rises out of a pagan belief called Wicca. It is called the Three-Fold Law or the Law Of Three. It states simply that whatever energy a person puts out into the world, be it positive or negative, will be returned to that person three times.

In showing you these things, it is my hope that you will begin to understand how people perceive cause and effect through the eyes of their societies and religions. And how this can play a part in their daily lives, with each and every choice they make. This particular portion of the discussion is about Cultural Empathy, as much as it is about Karma and Consequences.

Now, when you break these ideas down and you take out all of the religious references about perception and deity, what you end up with is simple: cause and effect. Actions beget consequences. But consequences do not refer to judgments or punishments, because whether the action is positive or negative, it has a consequence, which in turn can be either positive or negative. So in essence what it says is that for every choice you make and every action you take, based on free will, there is an equal reaction born out of it.

Right now this all might seem very philosophical and impersonal, even though in the abstract you can relate it to yourself and apply it to your life and the lives of those around you. So lets personalize it a bit, break it down, and analyze it, shall we? (the answer is obviously going to be yes to this question...lol)

I'm going to give you some scenarios in which people must make choices. Some might be pleasant and happy, while others will not, but all will have consequences, none the less.

Karmic Scenarios

1. A young man with a family (wife and year old baby girl), who is the sole support of his family, gets his paycheck. On a whim he decides to go to a casino and play the slots. He sets a limit of how much he will spend to $20. Half way through playing he wins some money and decides to keep playing. And then he starts losing. By the time the night is finished he has not only gone through what he won, but through his paycheck, as well. When he goes home empty handed he realizes for the first time that night, upon seeing his wife and daughter, that they will go hungry and/or bills will go unpaid because of his whim.

2. A busy working mother begins to feel 'off' when she is around her daughter. So she starts paying more attention as time marches forward, when they are together. Small things, which she probably wouldn't have notice before start becoming apparent to her. Her child is listless, doesn't seem interested in friends, stays in her room alot more than usual, seems withdrawn from the world around her, eats far less than she used to, and doesn't appear to be sleeping well given the fact that the mother hears the child's television and/or radio on in the middle of the night. So she approaches her child, who seems to be putting up a stoic front of being emotionless, and speaks gently in the attempt to get her to open up. After a while a flood of information pours out of the child on a torrent of tears. She even gathers the courage to show her mother the small cuts on her arms. From that moment, they set about getting the child help together.

3. A young woman, in high school, decides she likes a particular boy. The catch is that this boy is her best friend's boyfriend. They get along well generally. And during one particular party, where in both of them get drunk (don't drink kids!!), they end up sleeping together. The boy is guilt ridden, but the young woman is adamant about wanting to continue from where they left off after their drunken interlude. The young man slowly gives into these feelings, because she is an attractive person that he genuinely likes. This goes on for a few weeks until the girlfriend/best friend finally finds out about it. She hasn't just been betrayed by a cheating boyfriend, but also by the person she considered to be her best friend in the world ~ the person closest to her emotionally. Broken hearted, she stops talking to both. The other girl begins to date the young man, but still feels guilty and hurt over losing such a long lasting friendship. And upon breaking up with the young man, a short time later, she attempts to rectify the friendship. But it never happens.

4. A brilliant young man, adept at computers, goes off to college full of trepidation and fear for never having been away from home for such an extended period of time. When he gets there, he finds a whole new world waiting for him: with new friends, new experiences and new things to learn. He slowly, over the course of his college years, develops into a well rounded person with an even stronger passion for computers. He keeps his grades up, even as he enjoys his social life. And upon graduating, he is able to find a relatively high paying job which makes him happy, because he is doing what he loves.

5. A woman, coming out of a horrible divorce, feels lonely and unattractive. She is afraid to start dating again so she simply decides that dating doesn't suit her anymore and begins to focus on other things in her life. Then one day she meets a man who she gradually begins to feel closer to than any other person on the planet. At the same time, though, she does not imagine this is love, despite being attracted to him. And then on a random day, he proposes moving in together. And she is both stunned/shocked and excited at the prospect, even though she had never consciously considered it before because she felt as though no one would find her beautiful in that way or want her in that way again. After much debate, she agrees and given time, she finds happiness once more in her life.
Now you might be thinking "Really, what was the point of all of those?" And the answer would be nothing more or less than taking note that all of them made choices, whether they are good or bad, and each had subsequent consequences arise out of those choices: Action and Reaction, Cause and Effect, Choice and Consequence. These scenarios aren't to denote and/or judge the differences in consequences based on positive choices vs negative choices. It's not to say 'you have to live this way as opposed to this way because of the consequences'. It's not to judge behaviors as particularly right or wrong.

Why am I not making this point? Because the most basic truth of human nature is that everyone makes choices in their lives, both good and bad. And many people who make snap decisions do so based on personal and/or instant gratification without conscious thought to the repercussions and/or consequences of those choices/actions and how it will eventually affect them and those around them. There is no forethought in these decisions. So while one can judge the behaviors based on how they affect those around them, one can not truly judge the intent of snap decisions, as to whether there was indeed an intent to cause harm. That is to say, a choice is a choice whether it is positive or negative, just as a consequence is a consequence whether it is positive or negative.

Now in offering you this insight in to choices, consequences and Karma, without judging the behaviors and/or motives of how one comes to those repercussions, what's the point? Well, simply put, its about awareness. When you are consciously aware of the potential consequences of a choice or an action, like how it will affect you and those around you, you tend to be a bit more careful in your consideration of the choice, so it goes from being a snap decision to one that is weighed to see if its value stands up against its possible outcomes. That is to say, if its worth doing compared to the potential it has to cause benefits or harm in reaction.

So let me ask you this: Can you see how your own choices and actions brought about different things in your life? Have you been able to successfully live with the consequences of your actions, whether you were helping or harming someone else? Or is it easier to place the blame for your lot in life on others and see yourself as nothing more than a victim of fate's might will?

While all of this, in the abstract, is easily understood and applied to our lives superficially, it is much harder to own up to our own part in bringing about the events that occur in our lives or the events that occur in others lives which we played a role in. It's much easier to say..."That's her fault, not mine. See how she hurt me and used me....blah blah blah" rather than accepting we had a hand in bringing about our own suffering or that of others.

Every person,
all the events of your life
are there because you have
drawn them there.
What you choose
to do with them is
up to you.
~~Richard Bach, Reminders For The Advanced Soul

But in saying that, let me reiterate this is not a guilt trip or me judging anyone. This is a statement about all of us, me included, as human beings. It is about taking note of our flaws and our need to avoid them, even through shifting blame onto others for what has happened. And its about learning to change that way of thinking, so that you can grow within yourself. Because this one single shift in perception can take you from being a 'victim' to being a complete person who acknowledges both their good and bad points within themselves. It's about letting go of the guilt and shame we associate with our negative choices based on the reactionary consequences of those choices...particularly in how they apply to others ~as to whether we have hurt others directly or indirectly in some way.

There is much to be said for this topic, probably much more than was covered within this blog. The important thing isn't whether you feel guilt over negative actions or shame over things that have occurred. It's about recognizing the role we each play in our own lives and how we shape it with our choices and actions. So think about it, because truly, I could hope for nothing more. ^_^

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