Our Cultural Karma

Buddhist teachings refer to the “causes and conditions” that result in events and experiences. Much has been said about about the causes and conditions leading to the political outcomes we witnessed tonight. As Americans, we can reflect on the part that we, not just “they” have played in what can be viewed as a consequence of our cultural karma.

A brief article from Tricycle magazine:

“In brief, when calamities befall me like bolts of lightning, It is the weapon of destructive karma returning upon me Just like the ironsmith slain by his own sword; From now on I will be heedful of nonvirtuous acts.”
–Dharmarakshita, The Wheel of Sharp Weapons

When we fall ill, when someone dies, when plans created with painstaking care don’t work out, we are surprised—it seems like calamities befall me like bolts of lightning— because we believe life is not supposed to be like that. Especially when we live in a wealthy country that is relatively peaceful, it’s easy to take our good circumstances for granted. However, as long as we are in cyclic existence, unsatisfactory experiences and outright suffering will naturally come to us. Suffering is not a punishment, and it does not indicate failure. It is simply the weapon of destructive karma returning upon us like an ironsmith slain by his own sword. The smith crafted the sword in order to earn a living but was killed by his own creation. Similarly, we do harmful actions thinking they will further our ambitions, but they plant the seeds for our misery.

No one else is to blame for this situation. We made the weapons. If we did not make the weapons, nobody could take them and throw them at us. If we did not create the karma, pain and frustration would not come our way. Rather than accusing others of being the source of our misfortune, we need to investigate our situation well and see that we are being slain by the weapons we created through the force of our own self-grasping ignorance and the afflictions it nourishes. In this way, we begin to take responsibility for our experiences. That gives us real power, because we see that we can change our experiences by changing our attitude and actions.

From Good Karma: How to Create the Causes of Happiness and Avoid the Causes of Suffering, © 2016 by Thubten Chodron.

About Fran D.