“Karma” has been a word that has been usurped by our
society. Everyone uses that word,
Buddhist and non-buddhist alike,
but how terribly misunderstood that word is. We have just done a sesshin at Hokyoji Zen Community where
we investigated the teachings on Karma.
Particularly we read Katagiri Roshi’s book, Each moment is the
Universe, part 5, Creating the Future.
We usually think of Karma as a heavy burden we drag around
after us. Some people use it to
mean fate or destiny, that which we have no control over and shapes our
life. In that case, we don’t have
any free will. Some people use
“karma” to get out of responsibility for their actions or their life by
flippantly saying, “Oh, its my karma.”
But, do you know what Katagiri Roshi calls Karma? Vital creativity and Eternal
possibility! That makes me
smile. My memory of Katagiri’s
teaching is so pro-living. Living our life as it is.
This Vital Creativity has to do with practice-realization in
each moment. Karma is nothing more
than how a “moment” gets conditioned by the fragrance of our past actions (and
many infinite conditions, both personal and non-personal). The past conditions this moment and
yet, the past doesn’t actually exists.
We then condition the future by how we react to this moment. The future is conditioned by “now” but
the future doesn’t actually exist.
So all time; past, present and future, arise mutually in the only time
there is – this moment.
Katagiri Roshi writes: “To
accept your past karma completely is stillness.” Radical acceptance of the difficulties of the present
moment and our personal suffering is the road to stillness. “Settling
the self into the self.” It
has taken me a long time not to fight who I am or what conditions have existed
in my past; personal conditions,
ethnic conditions, political conditions, race, history, etc. We have no control over the past
conditioning that produced the present moment. All we can do is deeply accept this moment and feel the raw
truth of the moment.
Where we do have some leeway is how we react to this raw
truth. How do we react to this
moment? In full ego reactivity
(me, me, me) or practicing to come from our highest wisdom and from the
precepts. We can actualize seeing
this current moment with Buddha’s eyes.
This is a pivotal active or creative moment.
In this moment, perhaps we could say, we have a choice or we have free will. We can choose to use the laws of
causality, in this moment, deliberately and intelligently. Each moment we can interrupt our habitual
and delusional reactions to the past conditioning and we can plant a wholesome
seed. Can we settle into this
moment exactly as it is and then give back to the moment a good seed for the
future. We can create the future.
This is what Katagiri Roshi calls Vital creativity.
And it is endless.
Eternal possibility, Katagiri Roshi calls karma. Dogen says we have six and a half
billion moments in a day. Each
moment is an opportunity to go a-planting. There is an enormous Buddha field in each day. It’s endless. Always a choice, always change, always a possibility to plant
something good. The seedling could
be mustard seed size. It could be
any of the spiritual qualities. It
might be just relating to this moment’s arising with compassion. If the conditions warrant, it might be
repentance or forgiveness for past wrongs.
This is the great thing about “everything changes.” We can move and change along with
everything else. We don’t have to
get stuck by our limited thinking and the momentum of our habitual reactions.
“To find a peaceful
life, first of all you have to settle yourself in the self and in everyday
life. According to the rule of
causation, if you do something, you will get a result more or less
immediately. So you have to get a
taste of that result: good, bad,
or neutral. Then in the next
moment you have to be free from causation. That means you return whatever feeling you get from your
experience into eternal possibility.
“At this time, cause
is not something separate from result and result is not something separate from
cause. Cause and effect are
one. Freedom from causation is
emptiness. Anytime, anywhere, you
can be free from your karmic life, because your karmic life is going on in
Buddha’s world. That is the
reality of one step. The next
step. To live your life freely, in
peace and harmony, all you have to do is wholeheartedly take care of one step
in every moment. This step is not
separate from life, it is the full aliveness of life, interconnected with
grass, water, your feelings, your body, and many things. In one step there is a peaceful life.”
Labels: cause and effect, Each moment is the Universe, Karma, Katagiri Roshi, practice-realization