(Continued from Human Fruits, the Karmic Harvest of Nhân Quả)
Some people think karma is like cash.
You do good deeds, accumulate good karma for a rainy day. When you need it, then you can redeem some bad deeds and not be in the negative and have to deal with the bad fall-out of karmic retribution. Then, at the end of your life, you can dole out the remaining karma, like inheritance, to your various relatives and close friends so they can enjoy the good karma you have generated.
There are two groups that make use of this fiscal karma. There is the good, and there is the bad. The good side tries to accumulate good karma, and the bad side tries to remove bad karma. Allow me to clarify.
First, let’s take a look at the Good. It comes in several flavors. Good for goodness’s sake. Good for self-amelioration, and good for amelioration of another.
Good for goodness’ sake:
Some people do good deeds because it is what they do in the natural course of their day. They don’t even have to be HUGE good deeds. They can even be small things, like returning a shopping cart back to the area of collection to ease the labor of some poor sod who then doesn’t have to run all over the parking lot to collect them; or making sure there is enough water in the fountain for the birds to drink on especially hot days when the state has issued drought warning and there is little fresh water anywhere for them.
These may not seem like huge things, but these daily continuous karmic dribbles change a person from the inside out. It’s like practicing something until it becomes wu wei. You do them without thinking about the consequences because…well, it’s just what you do because it’s in your nature to do them. But these people are not who I’m talking about. I’m talking about those who use karmic contribution for banking purposes.
Good for banking purposes:
There are individuals out there whose main intent is to do good so that they can bank the accumulated positive karmic discharge, in the unfortunate event that they need to use it up for something nefarious, or to cancel out some unknown debt in their past life. That way, in this life, they won’t have to suffer the lesson’s repercussion.
In this case, it is mindful generation of positive karma in order to mitigate karmic debt load.
Kaching!!! Talk about gaming the system. Whoever thought this one up is way ahead of the curve, and way smarter than the universe that set up the karmic laws.
Boy you are super smart! You get the coveted get-out-of-jail-free card and you can go straight to enlightenment because you have figured out how to hack the system. Good for you! My only word of advice is this: If you still have to think about whether or not to do the right thing, you haven’t done enough. Keep practicing.
Good for progeny’s sake: Some people do good deeds so that their children will be able to reap the rewards of their good karma. This is so they can để lại đức cho con cái, meaning ‘leaving good virtue for the benefit of their children’. This is akin to aggregating packets of good deeds and then passing them in equal portions to each child, much like an inheritance.
I actually know someone like this. She went to the temple regularly and chanted with much sincerity. She also volunteered her time at the local shelter, feeding homeless people, and did community services like clean up dirty areas, or clean oil off birds.
One day, I made a comment on how I wished I could evolve up into her level of goodness. She shook her head and said it wasn’t for her. She was doing these good deeds to ameliorate the bad karmic deeds her sons were committing every day.
I gasped and asked her what they did that was so bad. She said they were gang members who did pretty bad things on a consistent basis, and they had been doing this for quite some time.
She at first, tried to dissuade them from their paths, but eventually gave up because she could not influence them to give up their lifestyle. Doing good deeds then, was her way to try and ease their eventual karmic retribution. She even had a booklet which she kept tally of all their bad deeds (that she knew of), which she would balance out with good deeds, handing them out like packets of good karma to pay off some of their bad karma.
I wisely kept my mouth shut. If she only knew…
The example above is of a good woman, doing a good deed to try to deflect bad karma from her sons who were the perpetrators of the bad deeds. This woman did nothing wrong. Her heart was in the right place, but her idea of dispensing packets of karma is doomed to fail for very obvious reasons.
So what about the not-so-good person, manipulating karma to mitigate the resulting bad fruit?
Let’s start with the karma generated by a person doing a bad deed, which was supposedly erased by the karma of that same person doing a good deed afterwards. This is similar to a tit-for-tat, payment for a retribution type of karmic wash. The washes come in two flavors, good-for-bad, and bad-for-bad.
Good to cancel out bad deeds:
Some people do good deeds to try and cancel out past bad deeds. A good story that illustrates this is the real story of Queen Ỷ Lan, one of Vietnam’s famous queens, who did a lot of good for the country. She, however, did something very bad in the course of her life.
Ỷ Lan was originally only a concubine of the king, who had a primary and main legal wife, his queen. However, the first wife had no sons, and Ỷ Lan had two boys, so she was lifted up and assigned Primary Concubine, which was only one step below the queen. When the king died of illness, at the age of 50, her son, who was barely 7 years old, became king of Vietnam. The old queen then became the ruling monarch while Ỷ Lan remained a concubine.
Not satisfied that her son was king while she was still concubine, Ỷ Lan had her son issue a decree that commanded the queen to be buried in the same grave as her dead spouse, the past king Lý Thánh Tông.
But that was not enough. To remove the entire lineage of the queen monarch, with the help of one of her generals, Lý Thường Kiệt, she also had the queen’s 72 female attendants buried alive with the queen monarch, thereby clearing out the queen monarch’s power structure in one fell swoop.
Of the old prime minister Lý Đạo Thành, who had served her husband, and then the queen monarch, she killed all his body guards and sent him far away, to the countryside for him to live out his days, effectively banishing him from the court.
History was kind to Queen Ỷ Lan though. She was credited for erecting over a hundred Buddhist temples all across the country. It is said that for each person she killed, she erected a Buddhist temple to erase her bad karma of having killed them.
To the people who received her blessings, she was indeed a good kind queen who did much to stabilize the country during her husband’s reign, as well as during her son’s reign. However, those families who were affected by her decision to kill–namely the old queen monarch’s family, the families of the 72 virgins, the families of the slain bodyguards, and the prime minister Lý Đạo Thành‘s family, who was banished along with him–to them, she was an evil queen who killed innocent people for a title bump.
Does erecting a single temple erase the horror of being buried alive, to die slowly of suffocation inside a dark, claustrophobic box? I don’t know, but people thought it was good enough, so I guess the take-away from all this is thus: It’s ok to do horrific deeds to as many people as you wish, as long as you make a ton of money so you can do equal numbers of good deeds to erase your bad karma.
The ritualistic removal of bad karma
And then there is the ritual of removing bad karma by assigning that bad karma to a chicken or a dog and thereby, absolving yourself of the bad karmic debt. This one is a contentious issue, since people have trouble with the idea of absolving bad karma by pushing it onto someone else or something else (like an animal).
I kid you not, you can actually pay a black wizard to transfer your bad karmic debt to someone else, or in most cases, to a chicken or a cat, so that this lucky animal now has to deal with the karmic blow-back that you just generated. There is just one draw-back. You get the karma of the chicken in return.
And oh, did I tell you that you have to kill the chicken afterwards to make sure that chicken take away the karma? Yep. What a way to clear karma, eh?
For those of you who think this is the stupidest idea EVER, I would like to remind you that its opposite has been done on a continuous basis for a very long time.
Just like the example of the woman trying to alleviate her sons’ suffering by doing good deeds herself and then doling out her karma to them, it seems to be a common practice to assign good karma that one has collected throughout life, to other members of the family or community (such as a king assigning his good deeds so that his country would benefit from his good karma).
As honorable as that sounds, sadly, karma doesn’t work that way. Anything the woman did that generated good karma would only benefit herself. She cannot zip-lock them and toss the packets out, assign the rewards to her children.
Karma has never worked that way, and it never will. The purpose of karma is to teach life lessons. How would you learn your lessons if your karma could be that easily dealt with?
Seriously, if the highly enlightened monk, Mahamaudgalyayana, could do nothing to alleviate the suffering that his mother endured within the hell she created in her own mind, how, pray tell, can you do better than him?
This also means the effort to assign your bad karma to another, be it chicken or human, is doomed to fail as well.
But wait. Why is assigning your bad karma to one of your enemies as retribution such a horrible thing? If it doesn’t work, then no harm no foul, right?
Your mind is a very powerful thing. Just thinking about something causes brain waves to be fired up that are strong enough to be detected outside the brain case (your skull). These waves are very real. You, the Creator Deity, have just created that new wave pattern the moment you thought about it.
Once these waves have been generated, they are free of your mind and begin their journey outwards, on a trajectory that is part of the cyclic pattern that they must travel to get to their endpoint.
Because the waves travel in a circular orbit, that endpoint is YOU. Some waves take very large orbits while others take very small orbits, but they all eventually come back to you. No fail.
This is why you get back what you send out, no more no less. You cannot circumvent the path once it has taken off. You cannot packet that brain wave oscillation into small portions that you can then gift (or curse) someone with. It’s all yours baby.
Here is the kicker. The fact that you tried to harm another being (regardless of whether it worked or not) by wishing him harm, has just caused more brain waves to be released out into the universe, to cycle its way back to you, thereby saddling you with yet, more bad debt to be tallied onto your karmic burden. Now, it’s worse than ever, and the negative vibrations just increased by that much more.
This is why you need to watch what you think. When you start thinking negative thoughts, CATCH YOURSELF. Replace that negative thought with a chant.
I use nam myoho renge kyo because it’s the first thing that comes to my mind.
But it’s just the means to an end…the ending of a negative thought and transmuting it into a positive thought. If you are not into chanting and prefer to do something else, sing a song that kicks you off the negative track.
Repeat something that you can hang onto and continually repeat. We all live in the yellow submarine is a good neutral song that neutralizes negative thoughts. So is I’m all about that bass, ’bout that bass. It’s a fun song that will turn a negative thought into a positive thought.
And lastly, don’t bank the good karma. There is such an abundance of everything floating all around you. All the goodness that you could EVER POSSIBLY WANT is EVERYWHERE!!! You are surrounded and embraced by it. It is keeping your form together and in place. There is no need to dole out anything. Anyone can simply reach out and take as much good karma as they wish.
Only hungry ghosts starve for something that is right there in front of them. They simply don’t realize that they can just reach out and take it. Once they begin to get a glimpse of that abundance, only then can they escape from their hungry hell.
This was how Mahamaudgalyayana was able to rescue his mother from her hell. He convinced her to be less greedy by showing her the abundance of everything, everywhere. In being less greedy, she was able to let go of her need to feed and was able to move on up to being a dog.
So–don’t be a living hungry ghost. Go out and absorb all the abundance that life has to offer!