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"Good karma"  envy
July 13th, 2013 (July 15th, 2013)

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

"Good karma"  envy

Sometimes, it feels like 'others'  may benefit from favourable conditions to do some spiritual work, while you struggle. For example, wasn't the son of a famous Tibetan rimpoche  favoured, having such a father? Are you not in unfavourable conditions, having to deal with a financial crisis, without necessary much (spiritual or economic) guidance readily available, etc?

Karma and justifications

I previously rejected any literal interpretation of "the wrongs other people do to us are the direct result of our past actions" (

The notion of 'karma' should never be used to refuse help to anyone, on the basis that they 'deserved' what happened to them. The concept of karma is a guide for yourself, not to judge others… If it's already impossible to understand our own karma, how much harder is it about the karma of others?

If you're tempted to explain the suffering of others by karma, firstly you delude yourself about your capacities to 'see' causality clearly, but secondly you miss a very important point:

If karma explains everything (and most notably all occurrences of bad circumstances), it also explains why —at some point— the sufferer reaches a point where and when (s)he might receive help.

To refuse help in such circumstances is not an acceptance of their karma, but an attempt to prevent karmic consequences to naturally cease when due… It is a judgement that they've not 'paid' enough yet for their past unwholesome acts (even though karma is not a retribution law!). And who are you to state so?

Using 'karma' as an excuse not to act wholesomely and to go on with your life as if the pain of others didn't concern you is like most 'justifications': a form of karma itself (and in this case, unwholesome karma).

If you 'condemn' others to continued suffering on the basis of karmic 'retribution', and thus show very little compassion for others, you might be creating terrible karma for yourself: you're spoiling a most excellent opportunity to be compassionate, caring, exhibit the six bodhisattva perfections… 

Potentially your karma was good enough to give you an opportunity to shine and to project the quality you say should inspire the world, so you experience the consequences of good karma but you're now spoiling it!

Labelling situations

If the above applies in your relation to others, how do you think it applies in relation to yourself?

Is what you can 'see' of karma what justifies the 'favourable' conditions of others or the 'unfavourable' conditions you're in?

Are you sure your labelling of what's 'favourable', or 'unfavourable', is accurate?

How do you know that your struggle is not the result of good karma, the consequences of which might be:
• to make you experience a 'bad' situation which would have been much much worse if it was not for the good karma perpetuated until then?
• to give you an opportunity to actually manifest the wholesome qualities you developed? It is considered that e.g. a true act of generosity requires that what's given will be missed, will cost you something… The perfection of generosity is beyond spare change or spare room: both are good cultivation practices —far from pointless or useless— but generosity goes beyond just these… So is being in a difficult situation not the perfect setup to practice true generosity, and really push forward your practice?

I already insisted that "happiness on your own —without caring for others— leads to resentment, envy, jealousy, and plants the seed of the cessation of your happiness" ( Wholesome practices are not "spare change", they require effort and ethical commitment. Commitment is not just doing the right thing when it's easy, it's doing so when it's hard too!


Being envious of the "good karma" of others is thus a lack of appreciation of your circumstances (better than the worst imaginable possibilities) and of your opportunities.

Envy is also a sign of ignorance: it reifies karma as 'something' you may 'own' (instead of a process).

It assumes "good karma" can be 'stored' and later 'enjoyed' hopefully without 'consuming' much of it. To a tiny extent, temporary storage is possible but, much like electricity, the effective power of karma is derived from a current, not from accumulation. You can use one movement to initiate another movement, transform energy from one form to another, but the effectiveness is primarily in the movement: a heart not moving is a bad diagnostic…

The root ignorance is in considering that karma is actually attached to a 'you'! It is fortunate that good karma doesn't stick: if this was the case, you would not have any opportunity to actually free yourself from karma. You could become a very wholesome robot, but would still be chained by your interpretation of past deeds into automatic reactions.

The most effective way to counteract karma envy is to stop focusing on yourself, and ask what you can do for the world (every little helps!), and then act on it…

Not only this helps you manifesting your qualities (and improving your karma) but it also helps you letting go of the root ignorance about the 'self' being the wholesome reference to assess a situation. You don't live in isolation. Even this person who seems extremely favoured might become 'visible' in your circumstances precisely because you're here&now karmically ready to be inspired!

Will you then start blaming some elusive 'past', or will you take the challenge and act on the inspiration? This is your choice, and mindfully choosing how you appropriately respond to here&now is freedom from your 'own' karma. Go beyond your 'self'!

#Buddhism   #karma  
photo: "Containment" by © +Paige Bradley