Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Worry about your karma, not your pride.

(2.36) Just like an experience in a dream,
Everything I now enjoy
Will become a mere recollection,
For what has passed cannot be seen again.

Virtually every negative action we engage in is motivated by a false belief that the ends justify the means.  We are willing to lie because we think, “no harm will be done, and besides I can get something out of it.”  We think the same about stealing, divisive speech, hurtful speech, even killing.  Sometimes we will engage in some sort of negativity for the sake of our friends, family, company or country.  We think what happens really matters, and so it is OK to engage in negativity.  And sometimes, this is even true.  Whether certain bodily or verbal actions are negative depends in large part on the context.  Killing for sadistic pleasure versus killing somebody who if not stopped will kill many others are quite different things.  But such exceptions are actually quite rare.  Generally speaking, when we engage in negative actions we experience some short-term external gain at a long-term karmic loss.  The future karmic loss, almost always, far surpasses the short-term external gain.

But we generally don’t see that.  The reason is we believe in the external gain, we are not so sure about the long-term karmic loss.  That is why it is useful to realize that there are actually ultimately “no short-term external gains.”  In a conventional sense, of course there are, but ultimately there is nothing there to be gained.  It’s all mere karmic appearance.

All of these friends and enemies are nothing other than dreams, simple appearances.  Is it worth creating the causes for aeons in hell for a hallucination?  We think it is worth it because we think they are real.  But they are not.  They are just dreams.  We also think it is worth it because we think now matters, but nothing that happens in this life really matters.  The rest of this life is uncertain, whereas our future lives are certain.  We need to prepare for them.  We also think it is worth it because we think we can get away with it because we are a Dharma practitioner or because we don’t really believe in karma.  But there is no escape from our karma, and there is no guarantee we will be protected if we don’t create the causes to receive such protection.

(2.37) Even during this brief life,
Many friends and others have passed away;
But the unbearable results of the evil I have committed for their sake
Still lie ahead of me.

The point of contemplating all of this is to realize that it is not worth it to engage in negative actions on behalf of our friends or enemies.  The friends and enemies pass, but the karma we create in their regard remains with us forever.  I am not saying our friends and family don’t matter, of course everybody matters and we should care for everyone; rather, I am saying if we truly love and care for them we will not accumulate negative karma for their sake, because if we do we will not be able to provide them lasting benefit.  If our negative actions help them temporarily in this life, but as a result we fail to attain enlightenment for their sake, then in the long-run they are infinitely worse off.  If instead, we do not engage in negativity for their sake because we are prioritizing attaining enlightenment for their sake, in the short-term they might be marginally worse off, but in the long-run they are much better off.

If we have already engaged in all sorts of negative actions for the sake of our family and friends, or even for the sake of ourself, at some point we will need to admit our mistake.  One of the most deadly consequences of pride is it prevents us from admitting our mistakes, and without doing so we can never generate sincere regret nor will we ever take purification practice seriously.  Prideful people are loathe to admit their mistakes or that they were wrong.  They worry that if they admit they were wrong others will lose faith in them; but they don’t realize people are already losing faith in them because they are unwilling to admit their mistakes which are in fact manifest to all.  Likewise, people sometimes worry if they admit their mistakes then they will then become responsible for making compensation to the victims of those mistakes.  This sort of miserliness is extremely short-sighted.  If we fail to make compensation now, the karmic debt we will incur will be far more costly.  If we can’t admit our mistakes, we can’t change our ways.  We will then continue to habitually engage in the same negativities and our promises to not commit negative actions will be empty words.  In short, pride and purification are opposites.  We must choose between the two.


4 thoughts on “Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life:  Worry about your karma, not your pride.

  1. Just to play devil’s advocate. Everything you say is based on the so called Law of Karma. Even referring to it as a law makes it sound very scientific like the law of gravity. The law of gravity obviously a scientific law that is back up with endless amounts of evidence. The law of karma has no evidence to support it as a real law backed up with any evidence. It is a faith based law meaning from my understand all faith based beliefs are back up by one or two things or both. It is in a so called Holy Book usually dictated by a holy man. I think the so called law of karma existed way before Buddha and is a Hindu belief and I honestly don’t have a clue where it first appears in what Holy Book dictated by what holy person or angle or deity. Obviously Buddha just adopted it like many other Hindu faith based beliefs such as rebirth. The other faith based beliefs i have been brought up with were virgin births, walking on water and the biggest one of all the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I recently read faith based beliefs are believing in something you know is probably not true. Buddhism is all faith based beliefs from rebirth, liberation from the cycle of rebirth and of course the big one the realization on emptiness. All beliefs said by holy men and put down in holy books. None of these beliefs have an ounce of evidence to back them up. Why should anyone believe in any of what you assert. Muslims believe Mohammad went to heaven on a flying horse and split the moon in two. How is that any different from anything you assert?

  2. For some time now, I’ve been debating the pros and cons of gun ownership. I served in the military and my grandfather was a cop. So I’ve been around guns in one way or another most of my life. However, becoming a Kadampa has made me question my second amendment advocacy. As you mentioned, killing someone to stop them from killing others is justified. But I agree that “kill or be killed” situations are few and far between. The more likely scenario is that someone breaks into my home and gets lead poisoning before anyone knows why they were there.
    So I guess the question is do I keep packing heat and just deal with the possibility of my uncontrolled mind taking a life unnecessarily? Or do I relinquish my weapons, pray to my dharma protector, and let karma do the rest?

    • Hi Bobby,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. The Dharma doesn’t take any sides in a political debate, it is neither pro not anti-gun. Rather, the Dharma is anti-delusion. If your reasons for keeping a gun are motivated by wisdom and virtue, then there is no problem. If your reasons are motivated by delusion, then counter the delusion. Once we have removed our delusions, our external behavior changes naturally and appropriately given our karmic circumstance.

      As an analogy, we never tell people they have to be vegetarian to be a Buddhist. Why? Because some people aren’t ready to be a vegetarian or for health reasons it is not a good idea. Instead, we teach the lamrim and then leave people free to make their own decisions about what to do. Many people decide to become vegetarian, some don’t. There is no right or wrong answer in a universal sense. The sign that we have gained a Dharma realization is our behavior naturally is consistent with our wisdom. When our wisdom tells us one thing but our behavior does the opposite, the reason is usually because our heart hasn’t caught up with our intellectual understanding yet. We still have work to do.

      Given that you have a long history with guns, and now you are starting to ask yourself some hard questions, I view all of this as a giant blessing. Working through these questions and doubts will help you advance along the path. If I were you, I would request Dorje Shugden, “if I should keep my guns, please clear my mind of these doubts; if I should get rid of them, then please make it mentally impossible for me to keep them.” Then check your reasons for keeping them, then try shine the light of lamrim on these reasons and see if they are consistent. An answer will eventually become clear. The external behavior will take care of itself.

      • Hello,

        There is nothing wrong with asking tough questions as long as we have an open mind about the answer. If we are genuinely asking ourselves these questions because we want to find answers, there is no problem. If we are asking these questions because we think we know better than others and we actually feel threatened by those who have a belief system since we don’t and so we feel the need to try knock others views down, then it’s worthwhile asking ourselves why we feel the need to do that? What do we hope to accomplish.

        I am not clear what your intention is here in asking these questions, so very difficult for me to answer. I have plenty of answers why your analysis is wrong, but if you are not genuinely open to hearing answers providing them would be a waste of time. You would just come back with some other clever way of rejecting them, grasping even more tightly onto views which do you zero good. Under such a scenario, me responding doesn’t help you in any way, and in fact is probably harmful.

        But very quickly: (1) the laws of karma are consistent with the laws of physics (every action has an equal and opposite reaction), (2) the ultimate nature of reality is emptiness, meaning everything is just a dream. If everything is a dream created by the mind, then the laws of karma naturally follow (intention is the primary creator of karma). Karma doesn’t make sense only when we grasp at a world existing outside our mind. (3) There is plenty of anecdotal evidence in support of the law of karma, such as explaining different personalities of twins, talented youth, and every major religion for thousands of years has found something similar, (4) Believing it is beneficial, even if it is not true. Ask yourself, if you believe in the law of karma, how could it possibly hurt you? If you reject it, how could that help you? If you live your life rejecting it but wind up being wrong, aren’t you screwed for the future? Are you so sure it is wrong that you are willing to take that chance. And finally, (5) it takes a theory to beat a theory. It might not be the best theory, but do you have a better one that leads to a happy life and society? If not, take the least bad and run with it.

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