Monday, January 24, 2011

Look Into Your Future

Excerpted from the "Weekly Teachings" emailed to me by Tricycle Review:

The concept of karma is a confusing one to many Westerners. The earliest notions of karma conceived of it as an accretion to an action, like a mote of dust that clings to sweaty skin. Matthieu Ricard, a monk in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, was asked the Buddhist view of karma. He responded:
"At each point in our lives, we are at a crossroads. We are the fruit of our past and we are the architects of our future. When we ask, “Why did this happen to me?” it is because of our limited view. If we throw a stone up in the air and forget about it, when it falls down on our heads, we shouldn’t complain, although we usually do. We have this notion that what happens to us is somehow independent of our own actions. We can ask, why did this happen? but the more important question is, what we are going to do about it? 
If you want to know your past, look at your present circumstances. If you want to know your future, look at what is in your mind. If we know that our fate is in our hands, then the quality of our actions becomes a central issue. The whole point of karma is to recognize how our actions determine our future, so that we can begin to act properly. It’s not just a cosmological or philosophical matter. It’s entirely practical. The main point is not to get in trouble again."

For a hard-core WHY? asker such as myself, this understanding could be key.  I wonder what  connection this has with our human love of narrative.  We love stories and stories are all about the who, what, where, and most intriguingly, the WHY.  And the why is usually the one we experience most subjectively, I think.

Reminds me of  Forster's famous example of narrative v. plot:  Narrative is one thing after another-- The king died, and then the queen died;  Plot requires causation-- The king died, and then the queen died of grief.

But in real life, how much do we really know about the causes of other people's actions?  We speculate--  oh gladly-- it probably comprises the lion's share of our conversations.  The line between gossip and reasonable, loving concern for another is slippery indeed.  But how often do we really ask ourselves Why?  Not Why did this happen to me?  But  Why do I behave this way?  If I look behind my own actions, what are my true motivations?  Or, as some wise person put it:  What is it I really want for myself and others?
"If you want to know your future, look at what is in your mind."  
I am going to carry that one with me today.

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