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Buddhism: Karma


By Newagemag.com - 7/11/2013

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We've all heard about karma and the philosophy that what comes around goes around. Although many of us dislike the idea that our misfortunes are punishment for past actions, Buddhists understand the concept of karma very differently.

The word karma means action, which implies that our own actions lies at the very center of the concept. Our actions determine our present and future, and our present is affected by actions in the past. To speak about "good karma" is to talk about actions motivated by righteousness and compassion, not about an accumulation of good luck.

Every action is preceded by a thought, both good and bad. When it comes to karma, our intentions are what matters most rather than the action or even the outcome of that action. If a good deed is done purely by selfish reasons, it is considered to be bad karma. Buddhists should therefore always strive to understand his or her own intentions and motivations.

Our present is determined by actions done in the past, but we can influence both our present and the future by our own actions. Karma should not be understood as a system for punishment by a divine power. It is rather a force of nature; we can only try to understand it and live by its rules.

According to the Buddha, what we think of as "self", as in personality and ego, does not survive death. What is reborn is instead a stream of linked moments, or energies, and that stream is in turn influenced by our actions.

The focus of a Buddhist does not lie with how our past actions determine our present. The implication of the concept of karma is that we can control our future. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu says in What the Buddha Taught, "Even though the past may account for many of the inequalities we see in life, our measure as human beings is not the hand we've been dealt, for that hand can change at any moment. We take our own measure by how well we play the hand we've got."

A Buddhist strives to do good and avoid negative karma, but in contrast to other religions does not attempt to affect a future reincarnation. The goal for a Buddhist is always to escape the cycle of rebirth altogether and reach enlightenment, nirvana. But the lesson of karma is how our actions determine both our present and the future, and that we are always in control of our own lives.


 








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