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Working with Karma - #3

To think more carefully in order to change

It might therefore be worthwhile for each of us to take a step back and try to listen and introspect more carefully. The Dharma tells us that karma is ever present and samsara is continuing. Everything is nice, yet everything is also difficult, so we have to think more carefully. The Buddha taught us many different paths and results but they all lead to the final destination called beyond samsara. In ancient times, they coined the term, nirvana, to signify this liberation when our consciousness becomes totally clear. I am not saying that we are in complete darkness right now. We are who we are right now. This is fine. We can of course continue to follow what we have been doing so far with all our ups and our downs. But we can do better. There is a better way.

Try not to follow the ignorance

The Buddha introduced us to the basic state of ignorance, or marigpa, in Tibetan. He explained that we are always in marigpa, which means we are not seeing properly. Ignorance, or marigpa, does not mean stupid. It means that while you may be clever, and you have wisdom, nevertheless you don’t see your wisdom. Not seeing clearly, you could therefore act wrongly. Everything is linked or interdependent. This is how karma works. If you act positively, the result will be good. If you do wrong, the results will not be good. Your positive actions can create benefit for others, and vice versa, your negative actions will hurt others and you, too.

The teachings tell us not to follow the ignorance. The question is how to clear oneself of this fundamental ignorance. The answer is meditation. After the Buddha was enlightened, he gave teachings to his followers on a personal level. Many people went to him for help and for guidance. The Buddha gave them teachings fitting their individual propensities and personal capacities. First, he emphasized teachings that are aimed to help the person. These are generally referred to as the Hinayana teachings. The Buddha himself did not make any kind of categorizing such as Hinayana versus Mahayana. Some Buddhist followers arbitrarily created these terms in later generations since the Buddha passed away. Second, the Buddha taught how not to be caught up in self-centeredness but to always think for others’ benefit as well. These teachings are more commonly referred to as the Mahayana. Actually, nowadays, all these teachings are combined so the man-made categorizations such as Hinayana, Mahayana, or Vajrayana. have not as much significance they did in earlier times. The terms of differentiation still exist today. However, when we explain, teach, or apply the meaning of the Dharma, no such distinctions are made.

The Buddha first taught about the self. He expounded the truth of individual karma, and its result which underlies the cycle of rebirths in samsara. He taught about the different sufferings in samsara due to the mistaken identification with a self under the influence of ignorance in the mind. This is the reason why we should try to get free of the ignorance. We will then understand more clearly and we will fare much better. The Buddha gave teachings on the two truths - the relative and the absolute truths. His teachings on the relative truth bring results that pertain to our human existence in the here and now. His teachings on the absolute truth bring us to Buddhahood. We all have the potential to achieve this absolute result. To be free from ignorance applies both in our relative existence at this present time as well as when enlightenment is achieved. We now turn to the methods taught by the Buddha which form the Path of Practice, which will lead us to liberation.

One of the main emphases of the Hinayana teachings is that we should not suffer. It is possible to be free from suffering. We are human beings and at the end of this life we will continue to live many more lives. Our future is filled with uncertainties. If we want to ensure a better future then we need to live by proper ethics now. While we are relatively free. We should act morally grounded in a genuine wish to benefit others. In order to act positively, all our ideas and concepts have to become clear to us. We try to engage in positive thoughts and avoid all connections to negative thoughts. Our speech and actions would then follow our positive inner inclinations and intent naturally.