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Friday, October 23, 2009

Planning for the Future (part two)

We plan for the future because we anticipate being there, isn’t that so? That means we have a responsibility for taking care of our health. Twenty or thirty years ago, people did not have as much information, opportunity or support from others to be working on their own health care program as we do today. Now, nearly everyone feels that it is a duty, taking care of him or herself through exercise, proper diet, vitamins and more. If you want to live a long life and take charge of your life without taking charge of your own health, something is missing.

Looking for a mate
With a logical, proactive approach toward the rest of your life, if you are like most people, you begin looking for a life partner. Before that however, you might think about what qualities you are looking for and judge potential mates by how closely they match that model. As usual, when they do not match, but you want them anyway, I suppose people figure they can just fix them up afterward. Nevertheless, it is good to have some idea of what kind of person you are willing to live with for the whole rest of your life. A proactive approach to looking for a life partner is very much taking charge of your own life and anticipating new responsibilities.

A real vocation
Planning a real career is different from, but related to education preparation. How are you prepared for that career? Preparation through school training now only exists in your past, isn't that so? How are you going to squeeze your educational process to fit your career choice? Many go back to school, or perform extra activities to prepare for their career, or abandon that vocation possibility. In addition, one must also have the physical capability to fulfill the requirements of that profession. Working with many health care providers has made me aware of a very real issue; someone is educationally prepared, but their body is not strong enough to do the kind of work expected of them, so the career disappears because they physically cannot do it. Of course, if you wanted to be a blacksmith, you have to have certain capabilities, but even with an office job, if you cannot sit down for eight hours a day, you do not have the physical qualifications to do that work either.

Even with all the good preparations and capabilities, a successful career still requires motivation. This is where it could all fall apart, for example, if mother or father insisted that you become a dentist, but you do not want it, your poor motivation will cause you to burn out. The motivation to enjoy and succeed must be quite high, not just to initially obtain, but also to maintain an occupation.

Since career planning is so important to many people, we can hardly say too much here. Thousands of books are written annually to advise how to maintain a successful profession. One important element is to seek networking. All really successful people feel connected to the community that is doing a similar kind of work by sharing information, a sense of community, and feeling if what are doing is where they want to be in their career. Perhaps this was not as important in the past, but if you feel isolated, without peers or a mentor, it is difficult to recognize if you are going in the right direction.

Speaking of direction, we actually are going somewhere with this discussion related to spiritual success. At the minimum, I hope that you are thinking about the many steps you have taken so far that have placed you exactly where you are right now. It would also be good to remember how you chose the plans that created your present reality. Next, think of how many of those choices were you were free to make, and how many forced upon you. Was it okay that some were mandated, because you came around to their way of thinking and eventually decided that, for example, you did want to be a dentist after all?

Sometimes drawing strength from good motivation, combined with education and good choices, still does not mean working at a job that you can tolerate. A student of mine was working with a medical librarian, grading test papers for certification in aromatherapy. The librarian was having a hard time scoring. She thought one person did really well, but was struggling to give her a top score. My student said to her, "If you feel that she did really well, and you have nothing to score down, then give her a perfect score." She said, "I cannot, I used to be in human resources, and in that job there was a policy of not giving perfect scores. That is because you then have to pay them more money. I left human resources and got a masters degree in library sciences because of that hypocrisy." I see her dilemma, thinking you are going to serve people in human resources, and then you cannot but are still influenced by those rules.

The retirement plan?
Like that, to the best of your ability, you achieved some or all of your career goals by preparing carefully, staying alert, and remaining strongly motivated. Then, moving through daily existence, while you were still in your career time, you will enter a new phase of life planning, but now it is about retirement. 'Will I have enough money to retire? Will I have all the debts paid off?’, you might think. Perhaps you begin saving and have some ideas of how you would like to live after retiring.

For many people this is not just planning for the future, but a concern. Maybe it is a worry because things have not all gone exactly the way they wanted. Someone in college, from a fresh youthful viewpoint, would confidently say, "It will go a, b, c, d, e, f, g." However, with life experiences, some folks now try to make double the money needed for retirement because things usually do not turn out the way they were planned. It is better to overcompensate for errors, but how much overcompensation will be needed? You do not know. Therefore, it is not exactly in the category of planning for the future. It is more like worrying about retirement. To be continued…

Moving Away from Suffering

“When I am alert to the needs of others, I automatically move away from suffering self-interest. Perceiving others as if they held clues for my behavior comes from this, the Mahayana Buddhist method to personal fulfillment, and the very opposite of what one might logically expect” ~ Domo Geshe Rinpoche ~~~

“Cuando soy consciente de las necesidades de otros, automáticamente alejo de sufrir el interés propio. La percepción de otros como si ellos sostuvieron pistas para mi comportamiento viene de esto, el método budista Mahayana a la realización personal, y el muy enfrente de lo que uno podría esperar lógicamente” ~ a Domo Geshe Rinpoche ~~~

“Quand je suis alerte aux besoins d'entre d'autres, je pars automatiquement de subir l'intérêt personnel. Le fait de percevoir d'autres comme s'ils ont tenu des indices pour mon comportement vient de cela, la méthode de bouddhiste Mahayana à l'accomplissement personnel et l'absolument contraire de ce que l'on pourrait s'attendre logiquement” ~ à Domo Geshe Rinpoche ~~~

"Sich vom Leiden wegbewegen
Wenn ich wach für die Bedürfnisse anderer bin, bewege ich mich automatisch weg von leidvollem Selbstinteresse. Andere wahrzunehmen, als ob sie Schlüssel für mein Verhalten besäßen stammt daher: von der buddhistis...chen Mahayanamethode für persönliche Erfüllung, und sie ist das Gegenteil von dem, was man eigentlich logischerweise erwarten würde." Domo Geshe Rinpoche

"Quando sarò attento ai bisogni degli altri, io automaticamente allontanarsi dalla sofferenza proprio interesse. Percepire gli altri come se tenessero indizi per il mio comportamento viene da questo, il metodo buddista Mahayana per la realizzazione personale, e il contrario di quello che si potrebbe logicamente aspettare "Domo Ghesce Rinpoce ~ ~ ~ ~

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Planning for the Future (part one)

For most people, life seems to go on in a haphazard way, just taking care of everyday problems and trying to find time for hobbies or taking a break from daily stress. Every once in a while a friend will be enthusiastic about meditation or going on a weekend retreat that will stimulate the heart to do something about meaningful change. Somehow, that never gets going. In a momentary rush, some will buy a meditation cushion or a Buddha statue, but now it is dusty or exactly where did it get stored away?

If we stop to think about it, however, much of our daily life is simply walking through the results of earlier planning for the future. Upon reflection, we can review the steps that others and later we ourselves took to ensure our comfortable future, even though (like everyone else), not everything turned out as planned. In any case, let us examine the stages of planning that we used in our ordinary lives that prepared us for success. We might find that the strategies we used to accomplish ordinary needs and desires for success are going to be very similar to those we can put to better use by “getting it together” for spiritual life and inner development.

We do not need so many suggestions of where we should go to visit the best spiritual vibes, how many hours we should be meditating every day or how many holy books we should read every week. These “shoulds” can be set aside for right now. A good beginning is an honest look at the track record of how you have approached success so far in life. How you get things done in everyday life reveals your present strategies, but they are influenced by past success and failures. It will then become clearer whether old patterns tended toward success or what needs to change. Naturally, no one would accomplish anything unless they planned, however, within proactive choices, there are important decisions that you are making, to the best of your ability, to find happiness and keep from experiencing problems. In the spirit of that inquiry, as you make plans, it is no use at all to try to change life from yesterday, because the past is gone and it is good to want a fresh start.

Planning for the future is not a new issue, because that began at a very early age. Do you remember that terrible day when you were torn from your favorite truck? There you were, happy in the sandbox, building hills with your truck, when you were told, “Tomorrow you start school because mom and dad are thinking about your future, even though you are too young to understand. In fact, it does not matter whether you have fun in school or not, although that would certainly be nice, but you are going because it is what you and all the other kids have to do.” So, you went to school with few options in early schooldays, and if you were like most kids, you rejoiced on snow days or summer vacation.

As you became a little older, you were permitted to become more involved with planning for your future. Nearing the end of required schooling, most young adults begin to see the possibilities, and that there actually is something beyond high school and what you want to get out of life. Still, there were not really so many choices, because nearly any job today requires advanced degrees, so which school is going to give the best education? It is pretty exciting for a teenager to be involved in college decisions. Like going through a pack of playing cards with names of different schools on them, some say, "They do not have enough beer at that school. Forget that one! This one is too close to home and Mom and Dad will be able to visit too much. Ah, this one has just enough beer." Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. "That one is too close. That one is too far. This one is just right."

In what might seem like moment later, plans are accomplished, college is finished, but now, what interests and stimulates you? What do you want to learn and how will you use your time? What are you hungry to experience or wish to inspire in your life? Perhaps you might buy and read books about political or historical periods, swords, or tropical fish. Some will join a group with similar interests to discuss or experiment with, for example, amateur rocketry, or philosophy. Special interest groups help us feel that we belong as well as gaining something of value either socially or by learning that might be beneficial in the future. From a Tibetan point of view, I have a hard time understanding, but I am going to push on here.

Hobbies give a sense of personal identify also. Someone immersed in clog dancing culture might spend every weekend clog dancing. Most conversations in free time are about costumes and tap shoes, travel with other clog dancers, and that person generally has a clog dancing way of looking at life. In choosing whom to vote for president, he or she might try to find out a candidates position on clog dancing, and if they have no position, why not? I use clog dancing as an example, but we could easily substitute hunting, civil war recreation, or hobby drinking every weekend with our buddies!

For the more serious minded, you might feel satisfied to be with others who are similarly involved in social activism, environmental issues, rescuing endangered animals, or freeing people living in trauma conditions. No one is paying you to do this, your altruistic heart felt need drives you and others like you. However, there is something you gain from the experiences that create the very alive states of mind that you are hungry to experience. You prepare for your personal future through involvement in a variety of special interest groups. This arouses new states of mind that changes the way you think about your world and benefits others as well. To be continued…

Return to Your Inner Referent

"After a profound transitional breakthrough in spiritual development, you must reconnect to the inner referent, the basis of being, daily, or several times a day to preserve and stabilize the new inner identity. The only real healing of your actual referent is practicing return to that pristine state by complete immersion in emptiness"~ Domo Geshe Rinpoche ~~~

"Nach einem tiefen, vorläufigen Durchbruch in Deiner spirituellen Entwicklung musst Du Dich um die neue innere Identität aufrecht zu erhalten und zu stabilisieren täglich, oder mehrmals täglich, neu mit dem inneren Bezugspunkt verbinden, der die Basis Deines Wesens ist. Die einzig wirkliche Heilung Deines eigentlichen Bezugspunkts geschieht, wenn Du Dich durch die völlige Versenkung in Leerheit darin übst, in den ursprünglichen Zustand zurückzukehren." - Domo Geshe Rinpoche ---

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Power of Karma (part eight)

Those who possess a mind of virtue often do not notice negative behaviors in others, which is a tremendous blessing. For instance, a person might say something just awful, but virtuous ears automatically close, "What? Did you say something to me?” Even standing close by, he or she cannot hear negativity very well because the karma and mind of virtue cannot experience it. They have little supporting perceptions to be alert to negativity! Do you know someone like this? Has it ever happened to you? What a blessing.

Student: How can we experience a virtuous sense but still avoid the judgments associated with it?

Rinpoche: What possible judgment would you make against your own virtue?

Student: I might judge my virtue to be the best of the virtues.

Rinpoche: Oh I see. This sounds like competitive virtue. I do not think it qualifies. I believe there is even a phrase for this: Holier than thou. Nope, that would not be virtue. We can all recognize someone acting holier than thou like wearing a sign, but others are secretly laughing. Even though they might nod their heads and say, "Yes, brother, you certainly know what you are talking about," really they are laughing at the pretentiousness. In the Buddhist bodhicitta commitment vows to attain enlightenment, it is against the spirit of awakening to pretend that we have enlightened qualities when we do not. A virtuous person delights in clean, pure, and stimulating fun in a very direct manner without pretentiousness or excessive seriousness.

Now we can review the various categories of karma as they are taught in the Tibetan monasteries as well as to interested Buddhist students anywhere they gather to study and learn. There is individual gross and subtle karma, and manifest group karma. On a subtler level, we also experience group karma to perceive our illusory surrounding environment in a somewhat similar way. It is actually amazing and terribly magical!

As long as we do not have a defect in our eye, brain damage, or skewed mental functions, we will each see the trees in their natural colors and shapes and the summer days wet grass as green. We might look together at the hills and the colors of the sky and each one of us sees it similarly enough to describe and agree on its location, and colors without adding too much personal agenda to that description. We do share a common karma because we are human beings with human bodies. We also live in the human realm, and therefore, we have an even subtler human karma that causes individual karmic consequences and personal karmic events to be experienced. We require this environment in order to undergo what we are prepared to experience.

Let us say we had accumulated the causes and conditions or karma, to live in the god realm and not in the human realm. In that case, our human karma is useless because the god realm cannot use our environment. It would not be suitable to support the causes and conditions that a particular living being has acquired in the past. God realm bodies are different, the way they behave is different, and their primary mind is different. They are also alive in a way that we cannot perceive as they exist in a more subtle realm. In general, they do not perceive their environment in the same way that we do, so their interactions with their world uses different dynamics and skills.

Look around you, and see your own personalized environment. You will notice how your body is shaped, how your body reacts to temperatures and so forth. This is how we interact with our environment as a human being, using the five human senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and consciousness or awareness.

We call what we perceive outer phenomena. Your body is part of outer phenomenon. Whatever surrounds you, interpenetrates you, and creates the body, everything that you are, all arises as a result of your personal need to have a suitable habitat. So there you are, right in the middle of your own personal karmic habitat. Whether you like it or do not like it, there it is. However, that is not to say that it is going to last. You might be presently living in a place you hate and that does not feel right, and two weeks later, you could be living in a fancy mansion, or conversely, you could be living in a mansion, and two weeks later you could be living on the street. This human environment can be very changeable, so we do not think, "Oh, I got it good now, because I finally got the white carpet clean and it is going to stay clean."

Another aspect of karma is that it is definite. One example often used is a Buddhist analogy of the farmer who purchases corn seed and plants it in his tilled field. The sun comes out and shines on his crop, the rain comes down and waters the corn, and then he changes his mind; he does not want corn, instead he wants wheat to come up. He goes to the edge of the field, and shouts, "You will not come up as corn! You will come up as wheat!" What do you think? Will it become wheat? It will not. He has created all of the suitable causes and conditions for corn, and he cannot change corn into wheat just by wishing it to be so. When all of the inner grounds and conditions come together, the result will occur. Not just come together, but also because they are ripened, the event must occur!

Buddhist inner scientists have worked on solving this and other dilemmas that bring pain to so many. They have developed ways to prevent bad karma from ripening. One is purification practice using mantra recitation, prostrations to the Buddhas, strong regret, and so forth; another important method is meditation. Nevertheless, through meditation, you are not actually trying to change your karma, but you are trying to change yourself. Your karma is attached to your ordinary you, therefore the direct means is to stop using an ordinary defective mind. You need to find a better way to be yourself by spiritual development, instead of using you and your karmic load. All things considered, the train of karmic events will be hitting you in whatever number of days, weeks, or years that will be difficult to endure. If we do not want to experience what is coming down the track, it is only reasonable to want to avoid what we have already accumulated, in other words, the roots and circumstances.

The higher tantric view discovered the only effective method is to discontinue the energetic signature to which the karma is attached. That means inner transformation, the internal life force and inner dynamics becoming new and unattached to old karmic patterns, even though the human being remains alive after the enlightenment experience. The event of transformation to the awakened state is the definitive end of ordinary karma. To be continued…..

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Power of Karma (part seven)

Earlier, the discussion on karma turned to gaining understanding how terrorists could deprive innocent people of their lives. Now, let us to take a bit more time with our dual reasoning in gaining understanding of karma. It is extremely important that we never use karma as a weapon against someone when we should exhibit compassion. The opportunity to exhibit our capacity and skill in compassion should further crack open our hardened hearts out of concern for the suffering family members of, for example, victims of terrorist attacks, as well as the victims themselves, for their life stolen from them.

In addition, but as a separate issue that is unconnected to the victim/criminal dynamic, we learn to have compassion for the perpetrators. This is because it is likely that they themselves will have to endure a similar event because of harming others, either in this life or in a future life. It is really so sad that a situation got to the point where the perpetrator felt the only choice they had was to kill. In spite of our compassion, it is our responsibility, by creating laws as well as having personal courage to try to stop them. We hold compassion space that understands suffering has occurred, a kind of sadness. Naturally, we have compassion for all those involved in bad situations, but there must be a greater compassion for the victims and the vulnerable.

Now, we can revisit and stimulate our own emerging accountability for our actions from now on based on Buddhist principles. It is not possible to experience any karmic event without the emerging of inner causes mixing with outer conditions. When we meditate on this deeply, a transformative authentic realization changes the way we reason and respond to stimuli. This is a powerful insight giving us a handle on how to behave. In fact, it is the only way to understand how life works so that our future aligns itself in the direction we wish. Individually or in a group, you cannot experience any event, whether positive or negative, for which you have not accumulated the causes and conditions. Therefore, we must accumulate both good causes internally by changing and transformation, and seek better conditions to support what we need. We need to create opposing positive karma to counteract any negative karma lurking and waiting for fruition.

For example, let us say there is an airplane accident,  a fiery crash on the runway, and like a miracle, somebody walks out of the flames, not burnt or harmed. This person had the causes and conditions gathered to experience the crash, however his opposite karma was so strong that he or she survived. These genuine miracles are due to not having every cause and condition arrive at the same time to perish in the accident.

While meditating on the nature of karma, we might remember a particular personal event and examine how the causes and conditions systematically came together to produce an event. Rita called me on the telephone. We decided to go out to eat together. I finished a task while she waited in the car, then Robert called as I was about to depart, we finally left for the restaurant and boom, a car hit us. You could say, if I had decided to cook at home, if Robert had not called me, if each activity, plus my own desire to eat dinner out did not all come together in perfect synchronous order, it would have been impossible to experience that fender bender.

There are those who complain that they do not have a good career, yet chose to quit college. Some even had parents who paid their living expenses and paid for their school, but still they would not go to classes. Because they did not study, they could not get good grades. Failing to graduate gave them little chance for a good job and so they suffer from a lack of money.

By our conscious choices and beyond our karmic potential, we can create either a gorgeous or a very stinky flower arrangement of life’s possibilities to work with. I read about a huge plant with a single flower about four feet across, called the corpse plant. Some say the smell is so bad; it smells as if an animal died. I hope you have not gathered a big old stinky bouquet of corpse flowers! Let us think that instead, we might skip across a field gathering buttercups and placing them in pure water, perhaps French or Fiji water, and that is the arrangement of our karma. It almost makes you weep; it is so beautiful to work with such karmic luck and determination.

Our superficial as well as deep nature can transform with effort, changing the perceptual filters we use to observe the world. Now we understand that karma is not only the experience of the results of causes and circumstances, such as events, it is also what we are producing. For instance, we are experiencing eating an ice cream cone. At that moment, we are having an experience of neutral karma, like walking, or some other mindless or unintentional action. However, even what we do without either positive or negative motivation, also creates karma, and we can create another, more forceful karma by how we react to neutral karma. For example, "I really love this ice cream cone. I am just thrilled,” creates a different kind of karma that happily enough, just might bring you more ice cream in the future.

Because we create karma continuously, practicing mindfulness is extremely important. Mindfulness, or awareness of our actions, creates the environment that we experience our world in the best way possible, which is satisfaction. We need certain levels of satisfaction and comfort to make life easy enough to experience our personal outer world with inner awareness. It is like experiencing the world from a soft air mattress rather than a rocky road. We feel that difference by satisfaction and not by suffering so that we can concentrate on activities that are more important.

A virtuous mind continuously experiences life with good karma and honorable satisfaction. For that person, life is a virtuous stream of healthy energy. That energy attracts and encourages virtuous conduct, as well as attracting others who are virtuous. This is only a tiny portion of the benefits of creating a virtuous mind. Every wonderful thing happens to those who posses a mind of high merit, good qualities and virtue! To be continued….

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Power of Karma (part six)

Logically, we must experience karma individually to have any effect. Even group karma, as discussed in part five, influences and perpetuates individual karma unless that person is quite strong minded and skillful. For example, Tibetans who left behind all their possessions and fled to India for safety, and lived as strangers in a new land, often had shorter lives, illnesses and stress caused by their unplanned emigration from their homeland. They were cautioned by HH the Dalai Lama and others to avoid anger and distress so that new karma did not harm them in this life and in the future. Many people worldwide are amazed when they hear that His Holiness deliberately does not hold anger against the Chinese. This is part of the reason, he cannot afford to hate when he has the responsibility to hold all living beings as equal worth.
You possess an unknown karmic lifespan but there is a certain amount of flexibility in that time you will have here on earth. In other words, lifespan can be shortened, but it can also be lengthened. We have many long life practices in Tibetan Buddhism, including White Tara and Medicine Buddha to call back lost life force or heal the life force we hold. In addition, practitioners can perform merit-inducing activities to literally change and lengthen their karmic lifespan. This is very good to do, especially if you have health problems or, as you get older. I would get busy soon!
Now is not the time to hold a defeatist attitude or think that fate or karma is predestined. It is possible to change your karma right now in this life. You do not have to wait for a future life to have the conditions you need for success, whether that is worldly or spiritual growth. Among long life practices that can be specially dedicated toward defeating obstacles, are purchasing animals about to be slaughtered and setting them free.
In the hills above Dharamsala India, where HH the Dalai Lama lives, is a shepherd caring for a large flock of sheep that will die of old age. Each one has a special marking that shows it belongs to the Dalai Lama, given by someone offering it in long life practice for himself or herself or a dear one to recover from illnesses or big obstacles. If you wish, you can easily do this practice wherever you live. Purchase smaller animals, fish that are destined for bait, worms, caged birds or other creatures that could survive in the wild, releasing them while doing prayers for their freedom, and long life merit accruing to yourself. You can also dedicate the merit of giving long life to creatures for another persons welfare.
Creating merit often does change our karma to achieve a good result in the future. Indirectly, we change the outcome of poor karma, beginning by changing our perception but in a proactive busy way. This could be done by performing good deeds for others such as building schools, hospitals, feeding the poor, or saving the environment. Even recycling can be dedicated toward long life. Especially potent is dedicating dharma service for increasing merits and is done wherever sincere practitioners live, East or West.
On the other hand, diminished merit decreases the life span by harming others and especially by rejoicing in that harm. Even by thinking that another will be damaged, the one who mentally plans that damage suffers not only a life force reduction for themselves but also become habituated to harming others, a further karmic downward spiral. Decreased merit is a loss of energetic potential in the inner basis of the life force that helps a person get what they desire. Even in ordinary wishes, that person often suffers from great unfulfilled desire, or lack of ordinary necessities in this, or future lives. Understanding this, however, I again caution that we treat the suffering of others with true compassion and use this for our own understanding and growth. Other karmic/merit losses or unhappy changes can happen by stealing, lying, or even disrespecting others. The golden rule, found in most cultures and religions, is so easy to remember; “
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
A further teaching of karma helps us understand that actions performed toward potent objects such as parents or spiritual teachers bring even more benefit or harm to the doer. This is because of the inner connections with these special beings that are amplified and immediate. Actions resound like a big drum in yourself as well as the special beings that you help or harm. According to Buddhist practice, this is even more true for parents and spiritual mentors than for beloved friends and family members. It is good to maintain good relationships or at least do no further damage if you do not have good rapport with parents or mentor at this time.
Now let us look at how it is possible to become caught up in karma that is not your own creation. Sometimes well-meaning and compassionate people become embroiled in arguments or fights between others as innocent victims. It is even possible to have your lifespan stolen from you, such as what happened at the World Trade Towers terrorism attack on 9/11. There were many innocent people in the World Trade Towers that day. Although many of those present definitely did perish, they did not all accumulate the causes internally to die that day. In the definition of group karma, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, they literally had their lifespan stolen from them. This is so very bad! Murder is stealing the lifespan of another, and there are severe karmic consequences for the perpetrator. Regarding those who died that day, there is no way to judge them because we do not know their individual karma. This is only one example, however, the dynamic of being caught up in a bad situation happens often, terrorism, a company goes bankrupt and all the employees lose their jobs, or the power grid goes down and those who depend on electricity suffer.
Now we need to return to our two parallel reasoning tracks for understanding karma. One is our own realization of karma for inner development toward enlightenment, and the other is how we should act with others in their karmic difficulties. One track lets us get serious about our own responsibilities by understand the dynamics creating karma; the other reasoning track is compassion training. These are two very different practices. If we choose to switch them, applying compassion toward our self and be judgmental about others, we have created an opposite dharmic event. We have not gained any realizations at all. Does that make sense?
The Buddhist teachings of karma are meant to alert us to the dynamics that harm others and ourselves, so that we stop and take responsibility for our actions. Again, the teachings of karma were never meant to be used as a weapon by judging others who are suffering!
I want to share something that happened shortly after the 9/11 terrorism attacks. I attended an interfaith council gathered for local spiritual leaders to help their own congregations deal with shock, trauma, and fear from a spiritual and religious viewpoint. A Buddhist layperson sitting next to me began to expound about the people who perished, telling the group how it was obvious to him it that was their own fault that they died because they had accumulated the causes and conditions by murdering others in their past. I turned to him, and said,
"Where in the world did you ever get this thinking, that you would blame a victim in this way?" He replied, "I studied this at such-and-such University Buddhist program and the large Tibetan Buddhist temple, and that is the way karma operates." I almost shouted, "You know so little about these things!” Sadly, he had been the Buddhist authority in the interfaith group up to that point. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed that people would believe that Buddhists actually thought that way. To be continued…..

Die Macht des Karmas (Teil 6)
Logischerweise müssen wir Karma individuell erfahren, damit es irgendeine Auswirkung hat. Selbst das in Teil 5 erläuterte Gruppenkarma beeinflusst d
as individuelle Karma und lässt es fortbestehen, es sei denn jemand besitzt einen sehr starken Geist und ist äußerst kunstfertig. So hatten z. B. die Tibeter, die all ihre Habe zurückließen und ins sichere Indien flohen, um als Fremde in einem neuen Land zu leben, oft ein kürzeres Leben, Krankheiten und Stress, was durch ihre ungeplante Emigration aus der Heimat verursacht wurde. SH der Dalai Lama ermahnte sie dazu, Ärger und Aufregung zu vermeiden, damit neues Karma ihnen in diesem Leben und in der Zukunft nicht schaden könne. Viele Menschen auf der ganzen Welt sind erstaunt zu hören, dass Seine Heiligkeit vorsätzlich keinen Zorn gegen die Chinesen hegt. Dies ist ein teilweiser Grund dafür, denn er kann es sich nicht leisten, zu hassen, da er die Verantwortung trägt, alle Lebewesen als gleichwertig zu betrachten.
Du besitzt eine unbekannte karmische Lebensdauer, aber es gibt eine gewisse Flexibilität, was die Zeit betrifft, die du hier auf der Erde hast. Anders ausgedrückt kann die Lebensdauer verkürzt, aber auch verlängert werden. Im tibetischen Buddhismus haben wir viele Langlebenspraktiken, einschließlich der Weißen Tara und des Medizinbuddhas, welche verlorene Lebenskraft zurückrufen oder unsere gegenwärtige Lebenskraft heilen. Außerdem können Übende verdiensterzeugende Handlungen durchführen, die ihre karmische Lebensdauer buchstäblich verändern und verlängern. Es ist sehr gut, dies zu tun, besonders wenn man gesundheitliche Probleme hat oder älter wird. Ich würde bald damit anfangen!
Nun ist nicht die rechte Zeit für entmutigende Einstellungen, oder um zu denken, dass das Schicksal oder das Karma vorbestimmt sind. Es ist möglich, dein Karma genau jetzt in diesem Leben zu verändern. Du brauchst nicht auf ein zukünftiges Leben zu warten, um Bedingungen für den Erfolg anzutreffen, egal ob es um weltliches oder spirituelles Wachstum geht. Eine der Langlebenspraktiken, die man besonders für das Überwinden von Hindernissen widmen kann, ist das Kaufen von Tieren, die für das Schlachten bestimmt sind, um sie dann freizulassen.
In den Hügeln über Dharamsala in Indien, wo Seine Heiligkeit der Dalai Lama lebt, gibt es einen Hirten, der eine große Schafherde weidet, die an Altersschwäche sterben wird. Jedes Schaf hat eine besondere Markierung, die besagt, dass es dem Dalai Lama gehört und von jemandem als eine Langlebenspraxis für sich selbst oder für einen lieben Menschen gespendet wurde, um Krankheiten oder große Hindernisse zu überwinden. Wenn du möchtest kannst du diese Praxis ganz einfach tun, egal wo du lebst. Kaufe kleinere Tiere, Fische, die als Köder vorgesehen sind, Würmer, eingesperrte Vögel oder andere Kreaturen, die in der Wildnis überleben könnten, und lasse sie frei, während du Gebete für ihre Freiheit sagst und den Verdienst für ein langes Leben für dich anhäufst. Du kannst den Verdienst dafür, dass du einem Wesen ein langes Leben schenkst, auch für das Wohlergehen von Anderen widmen.
Verdienste zu schaffen verändert oft unser Karma, so dass wir in der Zukunft gute Auswirkungen erfahren. Wir verändern indirekt das Ergebnis von schlechtem Karma, indem wir damit anfangen unsere Wahrnehmungen zu verändern, allerdings auf proaktive, geschäftige Weise. Dies könnte geschehen, indem man gute Taten für andere tut, wie Schulen und Krankenhäuser bauen, die Armen speisen oder die Umwelt retten. Selbst Recyceln kann man für ein langes Leben widmen. Es ist besonders wirksam Dharmadienste für anwachsende Verdienste zu widmen und dies wird auch getan, wo immer aufrichtige Übende leben, im Osten oder Westen.
Andererseits vermindern eingeschränkte Verdienste die Lebensdauer, wenn man anderen Schaden zufügt und besonders, wenn man sich an diesem Schaden erfreut. Selbst wenn man nur daran denkt jemandem zu schaden, erleidet die Person, die den Schaden geistig plant, nicht nur eine Einschränkung ihrer Lebenskraft, sondern sie gewöhnt sich auch daran anderen zu schaden, was zu einer weiteren karmischen Abwärtsspirale führt. Verminderte Verdienste bedeuten einen Verlust an energetischem Potential innerhalb der inneren Basis der Lebenskraft, die einem Menschen dabei hilft, das zu bekommen, was er sich wünscht. Selbst bei gewöhnlichen Wünschen leidet diese Person oft an einem großen unerfüllten Verlangen oder an einem Mangel am Allernötigsten in diesem oder in zukünftigen Leben. Ausgehend von diesem Verständnis möchte ich jedoch nochmals dazu ermahnen, das Leiden von anderen mit wahrem Mitgefühl zu behandeln und dies für unser eigenes Verständnis und Wachstum zu benutzen. Andere unglückliche Veränderungen oder karmische Verluste, sowie Verluste von Verdienst, können durch Stehlen, Lügen oder selbst durch Missachtung von anderen auftreten. Die goldene Regel, die man in den meisten Kulturen und Religionen findet, ist so leicht zu behalten: ‚Behandele Andere so, wie du von ihnen behandelt werden möchtest.‘

Eine andere Belehrung über das Karma hilft uns, zu verstehen, dass Handlungen die man starken Objekten wie Eltern oder spirituellen Lehrern gegenüber ausführt, dem Ausübenden noch mehr nutzen oder schaden können. Dies liegt daran, dass die inneren Verbindungen mit diesen besonderen Wesen verstärkt und unmittelbar sind. Die Handlungen erschallen in dir und den besonderen Wesen, denen du hilfst oder schadest, wie eine große Trommel. Laut der buddhistischen Praxis gilt dies noch mehr für Eltern und spirituelle Mentoren als für geliebte Freunde oder Familienmitglieder. Es ist gut, gute Beziehungen aufrecht zu erhalten, oder wenigstens keinen weiteren Schaden anzurichten wenn du momentan keinen guten Rapport mit deinen Eltern oder deinem Mentor hast.
Lasst uns nun betrachten, wie es möglich ist, sich in Karma zu verstricken, das man nicht selbst geschaffen hat. Manchmal werden wohlmeinende und mitfühlende Menschen als unschuldige Opfer in Streit- oder Kampfsituationen zwischen Anderen verwickelt. Es kann sogar sein, dass dir deine Lebenszeit gestohlen wird, wie es in der Terrorattacke auf das World Trade Zentrum am 11.9. geschah. An diesem Tag waren viele unschuldige Leute im World Trade Zentrum. Obwohl viele der Anwesenden definitiv ums Leben kamen hatten nicht alle innerlich die Ursachen angehäuft, an jenem Tag zu sterben. Laut der Definition von Gruppenkarma wurde ihnen ihre Lebenszeit buchstäblich gestohlen, weil sie sich zur falschen Zeit am falschen Ort aufhielten. Dies ist sehr schlimm! Mord bedeutet, dass man die Lebenszeit eines Anderen stiehlt und dies hat für den Täter ernste karmische Auswirkungen. Was diejenigen betrifft, die an jenem Tag starben, so können wir dies nicht beurteilen, da wir ihr individuelles Karma nicht kennen. Dies ist nur ein Beispiel, aber es passiert oft, dass man sich in der Dynamik einer schlimmen Situation verfängt – durch Terrorismus, den Bankrott einer Firma, wo alle Angestellten arbeitslos werden, oder der Strom fällt aus und wer auf Elektrizität angewiesen ist, muss leiden.
Wir müssen nun zu unseren beiden parallelen Argumentationsschienen zum Verständnis von Karma zurückkehren. Die eine betrifft unsere eigene Erkenntnis über das Karma für unsere innere Entwicklung auf die Erleuchtung hin, und bei der anderen geht es darum, wie wir uns mit Anderen in ihren karmischen Schwierigkeiten verhalten sollten. Auf der einen Schiene werden wir ernst, was unsere eigene Verantwortung betrifft, indem wir die Dynamik verstehen, welche Karma hervorbringt; die andere Argumentationsschiene ist das Üben in Mitgefühl. Dies sind zwei sehr verschiedene Praktiken. Wenn wir uns entschließen, sie zu vertauschen und Mitgefühl uns selbst gegenüber empfinden während wir andere verurteilen, dann haben wir das gegenteilige dharmische Ereignis erschaffen. Wir haben keinerlei Einsichten gewonnen. Ergibt das einen Sinn?
Die buddhistischen Lehren zum Karma sollen uns wach machen für die Dynamik, die andere und uns selbst verletzt, damit wir damit aufhören und Verantwortung für unsere Handlungen übernehmen. Ich wiederhole, dass die Lehren über das Karma nie dazu gedacht waren, um als Waffe gegen andere, welche leiden, eingesetzt zu werden!
Ich möchte etwas mit euch teilen, das kurz nach der Terrorattacke vom 11.9. passierte. Ich nahm an einem interreligiösen Treffen für lokale spirituelle Leiter teil, wo ihnen geholfen werden sollte, ihren Gemeinden aus spiritueller und religiöser Sichtweise den Umgang mit Schock, Trauma und Angst zu erleichtern. Ein buddhistischer Laie, der neben mir saß, begann einen Diskurs über die Leute, die umgekommen waren, und sagte der Gruppe, dass es für ihn offensichtlich deren eigene Schuld war, dass sie umkamen, da sie die Ursachen und Bedingungen angehäuft hätten, indem sie in der Vergangenheit andere umgebracht hätten. Ich wandte mich zu ihm und sagte: ‚Wo haben sie um Himmelswillen diese Idee her, dass sie ein Opfer auf diese Weise anschuldigen?‘ Er antwortete: ‚Ich habe dies in einem buddhistischen Kurs and der So-und-so Universität gelernt und in dem großen tibetischen Tempel, und Karma funktioniert auf diese Weise.‘ Ich schrie beinahe heraus: ‚Sie wissen so wenig über diese Dinge!‘ Leider war er bis zu diesem Zeitpunkt die buddhistische Autorität dieser ökumenischen Gruppe gewesen. Ich war so verlegen und beschämt, dass die Leute glauben könnten, dass Buddhisten tatsächlich so etwas denken. 
Fortsetzung folgt....“ – Domo Geshe Rinpoche ---