Modern Bodhisattva’s Way of Life: If you don’t like your karma, change it

Kadam Bjorn used to say, “if you don’t like your karma, change it.”  But we have to know how to change it.  We believe that we can change our karma simply or merely by manipulating external circumstance.  That may change what karma ripens, but it does not actually change our karma itself.  Sometimes, in an effort to change our external circumstance, we might create new negative karma.  Even if we don’t, the karma to experience such suffering remains on our mind, and it is just a question of time before we experience it.  Rather than bringing about any change, we often just create the causes for worse things to happen.  If we do, in reality we’re not improving, we’re making things worse for ourselves.  In the short term, in the immediate, we feel there has been some improvement.  But when we think about it from a karmic perspective, we realize that the opposite is the case. There’s been no improvement. We’ve made things worse for ourselves.

If we had deep conviction in karma we’d behave a lot differently. We’d stop getting angry and behaving out of anger.  We’d stop altogether because we understand the consequences of such actions.  First, there is the effect similar to the cause – when we yell at others, from a karmic point of view, we are yelling at ourselves, making ourselves afraid in the future, harming ourselves.  Second, there is the environmental effect – we live in a hostile environment of war, conflict, where anger is the norm and only way to survive.  Third, there is also the ripened effect – we take rebirth in a realm that is the same nature as our anger.  Sometimes we have a hot, firey anger (hot hells); other times it is a cold, icy anger (cold hells); sometimes it is a conflictual anger (Reviving hells).  Finally, there is the tendency similar to the cause – in the future, we will get angry very easily, so we plant all these seeds again and again.  This effect doesn’t just ripen in this life, but will ripen in future lives when we don’t have Dharma and we will have nothing to hold us back.

For example, sometimes we are abused in some way – someone throws verbal abuse at us, criticizes us, shouts at us, engages in some hurtful or harmful speech.  If this happens, we must not react by abusing the other person back.  We must not abuse that person and react to abuse with abuse.  We definitely have imprints to be abused and imprints to abuse.   

What should we do when somebody abuses us?  Of course, if we have a means of stopping them from doing so, we should.  Allowing others to abuse us does not help them, but instead allows them to create all sorts of negative karma for themselves.  If we can’t stop them, but we can get away, then we should get away for exactly the same reasons.  However, sometimes, there is nothing we can do about the abuse we receive.  We can’t stop it and we can’t get away.  In such a situation, we must mentally accept that abuse as a practice of purification of our negative karma. If we don’t accept it, then it’s possible, probable even, that the second type of imprint will ripen – namely the tendency for us to abuse – and so we’ll abuse the other person back.  We’ll criticize that person, retaliate, and shout at that person. And in this way create the cause for receiving more of the same in the future. And so it goes on and on and on.

When we are harmed, at such times patient acceptance will function as a very powerful purifying effect.  We normally think purification practice is primarily doing prostrations, reciting Vajrasattva mantras, and so forth.  But a powerful type of purification we can practice almost every day is to practice patient acceptance, especially at the times when we feel that we’re being harmed in some way.  If we do practice patient acceptance, then we’re allowing virtuous imprints to ripen in our mind. And at the same time we’re creating the cause for good fortune in the future, both internally and externally.  But if we don’t accept and we react angrily, then non-virtuous imprints will ripen in such a mental environment.  Non-virtue will ripen, and we create the cause for bad results, misfortune in the future, both internally and externally.

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