Karma in Buddhism really is tied closely to everything we do that contributes to deepening some sort of groove in our being – to creating the person we will be in the future – for better or worse. If we act in some ways we make ourselves smaller and more limited, and this is painful. If we act in more positive creative ways we make ourselves larger and more expansive – this is inherently pleasant.
This is the basis of the much misunderstood law of karma:
How we act now creates the person we will be in the future.
And the person we create determines the sort of world we live in, our experience.
Our actions create our personality
Our personality determines the sort of world we live in
There are lots of strands to our personality. Something happens, gives rise to all sorts of thoughts and feelings, some positive, some negative. For example, see someone in need, feel generous impulses, and stingy impulses, backed up by all sorts of reasons why it wouldn’t be a good idea to be generous. That’s okay, conditioned by the past. What we do with those strands, which ones we put our energy behind and act out is what is important. We strengthen the strands in our being that we act on and put our energy behind. We weaken those that we don’t act on, don’t put our energy behind. And in this way we create our future personality. Act on the generous impulses, strengthen these, become a more generous and kind person, experiencing more open and expansive mental states. Act on the stingy impulses, strengthen these, we become more and more focussed on ourselves and cut off from others, experienced more cramped and unpleasant mental states.
Our personality → our World view
The personality we create for ourselves really does determine the sort of world we live in, in a very real way. Don’t have to die and be reborn to experience the fruits of our karma – we do this right here and now, in this life.
There are several ways this happens, eg:
- Our personality is reflected back to us by the world, and we end up having to live in that world. Aggressive people invite aggression, friendly people invite friendliness, etc
- We tend to be attracted to situations that reflect our habitual mental states. Habitually positive people want to be in the peak district or Buddhist Centre. If you are in a dark state of mind, you want to be watching tv all day in a dark room.
- We tend to attract people to us who reflect our mental states. If we are kind, happy and positive we attract kind, happy positive people into our life. If we are angry or negative we tend to attract and get together with angry and negative people.
- Most importantly, we experience the world through the filter of our mental states. We see the world through the lenses of our emotions and states of mind. We all have some experience of this: when we are happy, the grass is green, people are friendly, the world looks beautiful. When we are unhappy, we see only what is negative, the world looks grey and ugly, we see only the negative side of people, places and situations. Because different people experience very different states of mind, they live in completely different worlds, even though they share the same physical space.