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Karma is tendencies
October 7th, 2014

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

Karma is tendencies… so, what tendency do you embody today?

   The law of karma relates intentions to their causal consequences. The Buddha made clear however that it isn't deterministic, as consequences arise in dependence with  the context at hand.
   This is a critical point in terms of 'doctrine', because it justifies 'cultivation' and the very notion of a 'path': by changing the way we live, we change the context in which consequences of our past intentions will arise, which in turn affects how the consequences will manifest.

   If it's not deterministic, how can it be a 'law' then?
   Karma might 'taint' all experiences, even if it doesn't fully  determine them. For example, a negative intention will always result in a negative experience, even if what the experience exactly is may vary.
   One of the ways such taint arises is because karma biases our perceptions even more than it does influence the context, the circumstances. Almost irrespective of the context, the mind can then experience phenomena positively or negatively: you've all seen poor people smiling, rich people lost in worry (possibly about status or preserving their wealth!), "beautiful views" make some people melancholic or even sad…
   Tendencies can exist, notably via biases in perceptions, without denying the co-dependent influence of 'external' factors (it's easier to be smiling if you're not starving…) but also without falling into determinism.

   So, knowing the above, what tendency do you embody today?

   It should be clear that tendencies do 'tend' towards their 'natural' result by shaping, little by little, the context so that the said result finally arises.
   The first time you do something, it isn't  a tendency! It might have consequences still, but not particularly karmic… But once you start repeating, again and again (e.g. obsessing over thoughts, or even giving 'form' to them and embodying them —which usually isn't instantaneous thus implies consistency, repetition of thoughts or attitude, through time), you're clearly setting up the context and multiplying the opportunities for the 'natural', causal consequences to arise.
   Even though you might be 'lucky' (or 'unlucky') and escape 'hard' consequences a few times —simply because the context didn't allow for the 'hard' consequence to arise (but only for more 'minor' versions to),— if you keep creating opportunities, the 'hard' consequences will  eventually come!
   As it was mentioned that karma might manifest via biases in perceptions even more than via 'external' factors, the training of your perception is relevant.

   So, knowing the above, what tendency do you embody today?

   "Seeing things as they are" is a manifestation of awakening: perceiving phenomena without bias, prejudice, preconception, projection, or individual preferences one clings to… It's rarely achieved overnight (and, when it is, the lessons from the insights still require time to be implemented).
   But Buddhism offers a path of cultivation: it doesn't have to be 'overnight', we can train now and prepare circumstances and conditions that will support the arising of insights, of wisdom…
   So where does the training start?

   It may start with being mindful of our 'complaining'.

   Karmically speaking, complaining isn't wholesome, isn't constructive.
   It is not the same as e.g. taking responsibility to improve the situation at hand; it is not the same as e.g. letting go of biases, preconceptions and individual preferences; it is not the same as e.g. letting go of the self (it's usually very much based on expecting 'others' to do something about the complaint, i.e. in keeping the 'self' separate); it's not even the same as understanding the unsatisfactoriness of expectations / mental projections.

   But complaining again and again is a tendency, it is karma…
   One becomes better, one trains oneself, at finding the tiniest phenomena to complain about. One becomes better at finding faults in everything. One becomes better at proliferating thoughts, generalising from a small dissatisfaction to a flaw of the 'whole' context.
  One basically trains oneself to be dissatisfied… and will thus naturally experience unsatisfactoriness very often!

   There is a notion of "constructive criticism" though.
   It lies in sharing information so that we collectively solve some situation (in which unwholesome tendencies are manifest but could be ceased).
   It's different from "blame" which usually shares information so that 'others' solve something, i.e. which usually is an act of distancing oneself and not  taking ownership of improving the situation! Often those who blame call their blame "constructive criticism", but labels don't change reality: if the intention isn't to responsibly share and engage/participate in solving some unwholesome situation, it's just "blame" that one tries to feel good about, or to make acceptable to others, by labelling it differently. [cf.]

   Most criticism isn't "constructive". It's just moaning.
   But it creates a bias in perception… and this bias, this tendency, will causally unfold as one having more and more negative experiences (in relation to everything!), experiences that one 'feels' one may moan about.

   So, knowing the above (nothing revolutionary, whether you label it 'karma' or not!), what tendency do you embody today?

   Will you actively train yourself to seek the positive, or will you train yourself to seek the negative?
   Will you actively train yourself to see as many perspectives as possible in each situation, or will you train yourself to only assess phenomena as per old personal biases?
   Will you be mindful of your colouring (positive or negative) of any experience, and how you might perpetuate such a colouring?

   Mindfulness, paying attention with the least bias one may embody, is a good tendency to cultivate.
   Will you be mindful of your colouring (positive or negative) of any experience, and reflect on how you perpetuate such a colouring?

   Do you train yourself to experience the shadow, to experience the light, or to see all as it is (and to constructively respond based on what the situation demands and on the potentials that circumstances and conditions allow)?

#Buddhism   #Dharma  
Photo: "shadow or light?" © Denis Wallez

Post Scriptum:
   This is not about "positive thinking" (although for some people, that may be a good first step!).
   "Positive thinking" can only lead you to "higher rebirth", better experience but not freedom from unsatisfactoriness: even good experience are impermanent, they cease, and that's painful enough.
   Ultimately, it's about learning to see without bias, prejudice, preconceptions, proliferations, individual preferences (usually accompanied by the obviously-biased consideration that they're more important than the preferences of others), etc.
   It's about learning "to see reality as it is",  which is the only way neither to cling to good experience (the clinging is what makes them painful as they cease) nor  to perpetuate bad experiences (the inability to see the positives, the potentials, what can be done).
   "Reality as it is" for example points to the fact that people are not the caricatural perceptions we have of them. Discerning people as 'good' or 'bad', in order to surround yourself only with 'good' people, will never free you from unsatisfactoriness… because people are aggregates of tendencies, and even good people do not embody solely good tendencies. Learning to see and encourage the good in people is a lot more constructive than looking for saints.
   Do you train yourself to experience the shadow, to experience the light, or to see all as it is (and to constructively respond based on what the situation demands and on the potentials that circumstances and conditions allow)?