In the first post of this series we looked at how emptiness can be understood as all phenomena are mere karmic appearances of mind, which is broken down into three parts, “mere appearance,” “karmic appearance,” and “of mind.” In the last post we looked at how to actually practice “mere appearance” in our daily life, in this post we will look at “karmic appearance” and in the final post of the series we will examine “of mind.”
“Karmic appearance” shows the relationship between our actions and what appears to our mind. Every action we engage in plants a seed on our mind which when it ripens takes the form of a certain appearance. For example, if I yell at somebody, I create the karma for the appearance of somebody yelling at me in the future. I also create the karma for the appearance of a rebirth that is of the same nature as the action I created, in this case a hot anger ripens as the appearances of a rebirth in a hot hell. Likewise, if I engage in the action of being a good father, I create the karma to have the appearance of a good father for myself in a future life and, since it is virtuous, I create the cause for an upper rebirth.
If we understand this deeply, we realize that the world we inhabit is a creation of our own karmic actions. The lower realms are the karmic appearances/creation of negative actions, the upper realms are the karmic appearances/creation of virtuous actions, and the pure lands are the karmic appearances/creation of pure actions. Gen Lhamo always used to say, “if you don’t like your karma, change it.” In the same way, if you don’t like your (karmically appearing) world, change it! How? By changing your actions. We need to karmically create our pure land through engaging in pure actions. If our world is anything other than a pure land, we have only our own past impure actions to blame. It’s our karmic dream, it is coming from our mind, and ultimately from our actions, therefore we are responsible for all of it.
If we understand that everything that appears to our mind is part of our karmic creation, we will realize that we have a responsibility for everything that appears since our mind/actions created it all. This is how we avoid the extreme of apathy or indifference that can sometimes come from thinking that nothing is really happening to anyone. We have created a world of suffering that, while by nature is a dream, the people of the world believe to be real, and therefore they experience pain. When we look at the wars, famine and disease in the world and realize we are ultimately responsible for all of, a very powerful bodhichitta wishing to clean up the karmic mess we have created for others will arise in our mind.
So how do we “karmically create” our new, pure world? We harness the power of karma to our advantage. If I give a flower to somebody, I create the cause for somebody else to give a flower to me in the future. But when that being of my dream gives me a flower, they also plant on their mind the tendency similar to the cause to give more flowers to others in the future. So they then give other flowers, create more good karma for themselves, which continues to ripple through the dream like a wave. If I keep pumping out virtuous and pure actions, others in the future will continue to pump out virtuous and pure actions themselves until eventually everybody in my dream is always pumping out virtuous and pure actions. The karmic result of engaging in virtuous and pure actions is to inhabit virtuous and pure lands.
In other words, if from this point forward I choose to only engage in virtuous and pure actions and I have the mental persistence to continue with this course of action for as long as it takes, it is a karmic inevitability that I will transform this world of suffering in which I have condemned all beings to misery into a completely pure world of bliss in which I have freed all beings forever.
Venerable Tharchin says, “when we understand how the Dharma actually works, generating effort becomes effortless.” If we understand the relationship between karma and appearance we will understand the inner mechanism of reality and realize directly how to change it. We know it can be done and we know how to do it and we know nothing can stop us. This gives us an indestructible confidence and purpose that we then carry with us in all of our daily actions until we have attained the final goal!