Tag Archives: Karma

2014-07 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Loss

2014-07 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Loss

  • Social Media and Physical Loss of Life
  • Energy Transformations
  • The Ever-Turning Wheel of Dharma
  • You Create Permanence

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While life in the eternal world (whether you call it heaven, mecca, nirvana, spiritual or the any other term) goes on, and on, existence in this world is most definitely of limited term, and in many respects amazingly short in consideration of the billions of years of the planet itself and everything around it in the universe.

When we lose someone near to us, we feel both the pangs of remorse towards missing a person we can no longer talk with, write to, or even choose to ignore. And we feel a sense of powerlessness in not being able to do anything about the person who is gone. It is a soul gone and hopefully never forgotten, but unlike un-friending someone on Facebook, or un-following someone on Twitter, the person’s physical being has left us to become part of the soil once again. Your choice to reconnect with that person’s physical presence is obstructed as though their social life account had been deleted and removed entirely. Building tribute pages and leaving phantom accounts open provides solace to those left behind, but the bits and bytes of storage making up those frozen images are a scarce fraction of the powerful presence of a living, breathing person.

Based upon science, wherein observations relative to energy as being a thing that cannot be destroyed, but only transformed into another form of energy (such as electricity becoming heat or cold, or wind against a mountain becoming a sound, or light becoming stored as potential energy through photosynthesis or photoreaction) – we should think about all that energy that made the person we knew, who they were.  The thoughts, emotions, actions and memories were all forms of energy moving and flowing within a physical shell, processed by a cerebral cortex, and transformed by muscles into words, writing and actions. But when the human body finally stops operating, where does all that energy go?

One physics-based theory is that the memories of others, our own recollections of people gone but not forgotten, are the manifestation of the transition from a physical person, to someone that continues to exist in the synapses of all those who remember them. To think that our own cherished thoughts about someone we loved perpetuate their virtual existence is something worth pondering. Over time, the memories may fade, but each time we bring a quality of their life back into our forefront thoughts, we re-energize the little batteries that keep that light shining. And it’s not just ourselves, but every person who that person touched contribute their own microvolts of remembrance to keep the energy from dissipating as heat loss.

Or metaphysically, we consider the possibility of the cycle of dharma, which also is based on the principle that energy (or spirit) cannot be destroyed, but continues to transform from state to state. In this form, we might consider the concept of karma to be the particular formula that transforms energy from one state of permanence, to another one, whether ascending or descending in form, based upon the qualities of life during that person’s time in a particular realm.  Perhaps the concept of reincarnation is just that same transformation of ethereal energy back into another living being.

So for every candle you light in memory of a lost one, or every prayer you offer in solace, or whenever you simply think about someone you’ve lost, you become the energy source which acts like a little battery keeping that person’s spirit alive, if not in physical form because ashes once again became ashes, and dust became dust. But that person’s soul energy may perpetuate and continue to flow, never lost and never destroyed.  Shinjo and Tomoji Ito (the Shinnyo Parents) used to say, “Live and act to be a person who is missed.”  And maybe that is the definition of what permanence really means.

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2013-10 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Breaking Bad (Precepts)

2013-10 Shinnyo-en Buddhism Podcast – On Breaking Bad (Precepts)

  • The Five Precepts (Rules of Engagement)
  • Why Learning from Others Comes First
  • Extending the Awakening Universe

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A precept is a rule of conduct originally developed as standards for monks and nuns to know when their behavior had strayed from following the proper path of conduct. Depending on which text you examine, monks have about 250 precepts and nuns somewhere between 348 to 500 by which they must abide during their practice.  Lay Buddhists (you and me) within the Nirvana Sutra were given eight (8) specific ones to apply in daily life.

  • Refrain from killing.
  • Refrain from stealing.
  • Refrain from sexual misconduct.
  • Refrain from lying.
  • Refrain from becoming intoxicated.

(and 3 more that Shinnyo-en interprets as historical)

  • Refrain from self-adornment.
  • Refrain from song and dance.
  • Refrain from observing song and dance.

Magnificently and often simultaneously, Breaking Bad’s storyline (an AMC series created by Vince Gilligan) manages to violate every single one of them. The same is true of the entire world around us, every single day. But the difference between a fictional TV show and the real world, is that the show is comprised of actors performing scripted lines and not making active decisions to do a certain thing or commit a certain act. And skillful writing ensures that the outcomes of negative behavior does not have automatically positive results, particularly in the overall storyline, lest the audience become bored with predictable endings. But in the real world, people are making decisions, to break a law, or to abide. And we live in this same real world, alongside all the others, whether breaking precepts or not.

A core belief in Buddhism, just as in nature, is that other beings will only follow or emulate those who are successful, as the contrary makes virtually no sense at all. And if you attempt to admonish others without demonstrating the embodiment of success through pursuit of a path of truth, then why would anyone bother to listen to your words?

This concept is paraphrased in a number of different ways:

  • We first learn from others, and then we can step forward to practice on our own.
  •  Only when you put yourself on the right track will others follow after you.
  • Guide the troubled by standing in the same shoes.
  • Learn what we need to learn from others.

And strangely enough, all of these principles were also part of Breaking Bad’s storyline. The gift from the writers was to see that lead characters had no influence until they found their own self-truths and understood why others acted the way they did.  And akin to the way karma works, deaths and destruction did not lead to conclusion – they were only transformations of one person’s life or property to lead to another person’s greater greed and envy.

 

September and October are months leading up to the year-end period of purification and refreshing the mind and body to prepare for another year’s efforts. The ceremonies within this period (Saisho Homa) are conducted to re-purify entrances to this earthly world for welcoming the revisitation of the spiritual deities and return of Buddhas. As we individuals serve as the “vehicles’ for this visitation in-spirit, we too in the presence of ritual cleansing fires (which bring forth “light” to see the path in front of us) take time to reflect on our conduct in regards to the precepts and examine how our thoughts, actions and speech can be further improved to continue extending a world of harmony and peace around us.

 

From HH Keishu Shinso this month:

 

“…It is up to us to reach out and embrace others in the spirit of friendship to make harmony amid diversity a reality that is indestructible like a diamond.

Likewise, to create a world of friendship means to create a way of seeing the world based on friendly relations rather than adversarial ones that are very often filled with difficulties and setbacks. At times, we may encounter a challenging reality beyond our control that prevents us from building friendships. But by drawing on the resources of wisdom and compassion—which is the nature of buddhahood… —we can move forward.”

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Dharma/Karma)

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast
Dealing with Dharma and Causes of Karma
The Perpetual Cycle of Karma
Please Do Not Feed the Bears

2012-May Shinnyo-en Buddhism Introductory Extras Podcast (Dharma/Karma)

[audio https://jhlui1.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/201205_shinnyo_extra_dharma_podcast.mp3]

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Dharma, simply put, is Nature’s law.  The way things are meant to be in Nature. The way water flows to its lowest point, choosing the path of least resistance, and gradually dissolves that which impedes its progress.

Describing what Karma is would be perhaps like a sack you carry with you through life. Though unlike a regular sack that can only get heavier, a Karma sack can become lighter than air, or like a balloon, lift you up when filled with more positive (light or floating) things than negative (heavy) things.  How do you end up carrying things around in your Karma sack? By performing actions that break Nature’s law (the Dharma concept we described earlier) you increase the heavy things.  By performing actions that reinforce Nature’s law, you increase the positive light things, and can even get rid of some of the negative heavy things you accumulated earlier.

So let’s say, for example, that the Natural state of two people is simple co-existence – that is, they really don’t affect one another, and each person lives independently. An example of negative karma would be doing something towards that person that resulted in them having a negative experience, like lying, cheating or stealing from them.  A positive karma element might be helping the other person, teaching the other person, or giving something to them.

A religious element to Buddhism would be the concept of reincarnation, or living with the consequences of what you have done before in past lives, and taking into consideration that your daily actions impact the lives of your future self.  But even further than that, Buddhism also takes into consideration all spiritual influences, positive and negative, of every person you have affected for ten generations before the here-and-now.  For practical purposes, this prevents someone from simply rationalizing, “Okay, I’m being really bad in this life. But so what, It’s mine to live? I one day die, and no one else suffers.” Buddhism teaches that compassion and suffering (or positive and negative karma) is a spiritual inventory that is continuously inherited from generation to generation. To put it really simply – if your life today is really horrible, it’s probably not just your own current actions that led to it being negative. You might be experiencing the result of ten generations of similarly negative lifetimes that have passed the burden on to you. Or looking at this in a strictly psychological manner, the selective experiences of your own ancestors, through parenting practices and behavioral modification, have resulted in how you tend to react to things.

So what do you do with this sack full of negatives? You start performing positive karma actions and help balance all the negatives that you’re carrying. This process is what we refer to as “cutting karma” or more accurately “cutting negative karma.” You might consider the beginning steps being similar to filing your taxes – you need to embrace and accept your own personal liabilities as well as assets. Being able to look into a mirror and accept what you see is an important breakthrough. Instead of immediately becoming critical and determining what you want to change (which becomes ego-centric or self-centered) accept what you see and see if you can have gratitude for what you have been given as a person.

Another critical step towards changing karma is to also respect others – do not let your own negative elements affect other people.  While this is a relatively complex idea in concept, I found one of my first beginning questions about buddhist practice to be quite enlightening.

I asked, “What do buddhists do with a homeless person asking for money?” I already knew the principle of reducing your attachments to material things, like money. So it seemed sort of logical that you might just give it away to a needy person. Instead I was challenged with a different perspective: the homeless person has a heavy burden of negative karma. You add to that negative burden by reinforcing the person’s behavior, like pouring gasoline to put out a fire. Does the giving of money to that person lessen your guilty feeling about not doing something for them? (showing another self-centered action) Remember, you cannot really change anything or anybody else other than yourself. The same is true of everyone else. They must want to change themselves and also take steps to make the changes happen.  It’s also important that helping a person does not necessarily mean making things easier for that person.  Asking for a hand-out doesn’t signify the person wants to change what they’re doing, but asking for a job, or for some advice just might get them started on a new path.  These days, when encountering someone asking for money, I’ll usually suggest they do something for someone that might result in a payment, like offering to play cards, or fortune telling, or simply being a good listener, rather than relying upon someone’s guilt..

I’m reminded of a simple instruction made by park rangers to tourists in Yellowstone National Park – Please do not feed the bears.  Why? Is it because we would make the bears fat? Actually it’s because it creates unnatural expectations. The first time a previously-fed bear comes upon a tourist unwilling to feed them, it will get angry and frustrated, and result in dangerous and unpredictable outcomes.  Did you think the bear was unable or unwilling to forage for its own food? Bears that figure out that it’s easier to open up a trash can, or break into a garage for its food, instead of finding and catching prey become dependent on that source. Humans are not that far from the bears in that respect.

So, you have to be very aware of your actions, especially related to how this balance of Karma works. Think carefully about how your actions can unexpectedly generate negative Karma for another person or thing. To serve others and your own self (and ancestors), one of the basic tenements of good behavior, we must also be aware of the appropriate forms that service can take without creating more negative burden in the process.