The Power of Karma (last and part nine)

You are probably thinking that experiencing karma is completely in the gross physical or mental levels of being, but that is not true. It is experienced in both the subtle level as well as arising into the denser manifestations of karma, which culminate in physical events, as well as becoming your environment. It is in the outer world, but you are experiencing it through the filter of your magic charm: the mass of your karma that is yet unfulfilled because suitable conditions have not arrived.

Student: I like the movement from subtle to manifest as you say, so the question for me that comes is, okay, if it comes from that subtle plane, it has to have a pathway into the gross plane. What is that pathway?

Rinpoche: That is you standing with the door open, saying, "Let the disaster begin."

Student: Oh, in that case, are you going to teach us how to shut the door to bad karma coming from our subtle reality?

Rinpoche: Karma is actually a subject for very long periods of meditation. I am describing the general elements of the meditation, but nothing changes unless you seriously meditate on them and gain realizations. It is not something easy to describe or even to understand intellectually. Karma is very, very subtle. We are the proprietors of our body and our own life and are responsible for our own actions, but we seem to be enmeshed in this unbreakable web of our own making. The dilemma is huge!

Student: You know, it could be a motivator of fear, but it also could be a motivator to get on the cushion.

Rinpoche: And to take responsibility. In one of the sutras, it states, "The karma of embodied beings does not vanish over hundreds of eons. If the prerequisites and the time are right, karma will ripen to results." This is what Lord Buddha Shakyamuni said about karma. In addition, "It will not grow stale over time, it will not lessen over time, and it will not become nonexistent over time." These are the ramifications of remaining in the unenlightened state.

Even at the end of this world when everything is destroyed, karma will not disappear simply because the human realm does not exist any more. Those who have not completed their karma or transformed to the awakened state will be scooped up in their actual inner being, the level of subtle mind that is the true transmigrator. Living beings will be held in a stasis like state, but they are still not free. They will be held until a suitable environment, such as the next world system, let us say another earth develops. Then the living beings will assume another body-like form and could complete their karma, or continue suffering. You might say, "Well, that does not sound very good!" And I agree!

Student: What would be the difference between creating a virtuous mind and karma versus, at a higher evolutionary state, being free of karma?

Rinpoche: Even in higher evolutionary states, living beings, such as bodhisattvas, voluntarily take on certain types of karma, out of compassion, in order to be able to be with others who are experiencing suffering. Thank goodness for their great compassion.

If you do not examine and take responsibility for your life, then the opportunity to change will pass you by, as though you are in some kind of a dream. When we look at events of our life and present situation, sometimes it is painful, and we want to push it away. Sometimes it is so joyful that we can hardly tolerate our good luck. Whether our experiences are virtuous or non-virtuous, both depend upon grasping, either way it is an unbreakable web of our own making. We are not causing karma. We are the makers of karma, and we are responsible to ourselves.

Student: Which is the more important statement, that we are the creators of karma or that we are responsible for our karma?

Rinpoche: We are responsible. We have an obligation to ourselves to behave in certain ways that creates our life and produces virtuous karma so virtuous activities become increased and negative activities, which tend to make us pretty cranky, are reduced. When our own negative actions are fewer, the possibility of experiencing negativity is also a great deal reduced. In addition, the more negativity we eliminate in our self, the less we are capable of harming others. Our own experiences of bad karma and negative karma do have a cascade effect on family and society in general, and in that way, we stop harming others. To out great luck for everyone, our life situation and evolutionary dynamics become more skillful.

Student: So, rather than responsibility, it is the response to karma.

Rinpoche: No, you have a responsibility to yourself. You have a responsibility to take care of yourself. Many feel that they have a duty to others, but they do not care about themselves. You have an obligation to create superior causes and conditions so that the results are the highest quality possible.

Some people, like our mothers, say "Oh, I care nothing for myself. I only want my children to be happy," when in fact they do have a responsibility to themselves. They still have the same responsibilities to their children, but it was not supposed to be one thing or the other. They were also supposed to take care of themselves.

You know, our egos have their own way of interpreting events. We are already suffering because inappropriate ego prevents us from perceiving the way things exist in reality. In addition, perhaps we do not respect ourselves enough to challenge this ego-based method of dealing with external and internal phenomena. The powerful self-respect developed when we do authentic dharma practice gives us skills to deal with inappropriate ego in a way that will completely change how we perceive the world. We need to make effort to produce virtues that are going to allow us to experience happiness in the future. This is a different way of observing life, from this system.

After a great deal of personal effort and blessings from the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and entering the enlightened state, karma completely disappears. However, in the meantime, by the teachings of the Buddhist dharma, we steadily push for positive changes in behavior and perceptions, through meditation efforts. By these transformations, we also enhance our ability to make changes in the subtler levels of our being. Both others and we ourselves will become happier. We hold the ideals of perfect Buddhahood by the awareness of the benefits of the goal, complete and total enlightenment, complete omniscience, and spontaneous compassion.

So, how shall we do it? Human beings have the capacity to change, isn't that so? We will need to challenge the way we think by our human willpower that does not exist in other realms. The god realm seems like such a marvelous place. Gods can manifest things at will but they do not have the will to change. They do not have the willpower that we do in the human realm.

Yes, we need to change our karma, but how much strength do we need to reverse the harm that we have done just in this one lifetime? If we believe in reincarnation, we realize that we probably have unfulfilled karma from other lives as well. If you look at your own body and your own life’s situation, you might say, as the sages throughout history have said, "I am the result of my previous karma, and what I am doing now is the cause for my future." That future result could ripen in the next five minutes, the next five years, or it could be in the next lifetime.

Are we willing to put some effort into changing the way we behave? In a way, yes, we are willing to put some effort into it, and in a way, we are not or incapable. Some situations and habits seem so difficult it is impossible to even imagine changes. This is when the systematic teachings of dharma makes the most sense, because there are some behaviors that can change right away. For instance, there are some things so stupid, so time wasting and silly, we just forgot to say stop! These are what we can easily change. Just decide, ‘I am not going to do it anymore!’ If somebody says, "But we always go to the bar on Thursday night," you say, "You cannot make me! I do not want to. I am wasting my time. I do not like the smell. Let’s go for a jog instead."

So, there are some trouble making behaviors that we can change instantly. Why don't we just do it? I believe that some things just require our permission by stating formally to our self "I give myself permission to not do this anymore." It is an interesting and empowering feeling to give yourself permission.

You can also start by increasing virtue in small ways to practice self-confidence. Even small good deeds will increase, and we should not overlook any opportunity to practice virtue. In the saying of the Buddha, "Do not think that a small virtue will not return in your future lives, just as falling drops of water will fill a large container.” Little virtues will steadfastly accumulate and will be a powerful source of energy. The amassing of small merits and small virtues will generate enough merit and strength to change even more. Not only does it deepen your good nature, and make you more sophisticated spiritually, it will culminate in complete freedom from karma. The end.


  1. Thank you Ronpoche. I think your teaching will help here and now and in the future.

  2. Thank you so much for your teachings, Domo. They are very precious to me.

    Tashi delek

    Francesco Arrivo


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