In Bali, I am looking into the potential of setting up a business partnership with a successful, yoga clothing designer named Karma. When I tell people this, I always get the same quip… “Oh, well then, you should have good karma!”
There is no “good karma.” Just as there is no “bad karma.” They is only karma. Cause and effects.
Newton’s law of motion states that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This may be true in physics, but not when it comes to life.
In life, for every cause (every action, thought and emotion) far reaching, sometimes highly unequal, opposite and similar ripples of effects (reactions) can occur.
When observed closely it is plain to see how something we do has both a feeling of negative and positive consequences. In fact as I was talking with Karma today, this was clearly presented, when he had mentioned that he was feeling the stress of growing his busy business. I said yes, that indeed, he should expect to feel even greater forms of stress as he becomes more successful. The stress will just be a different kind.
Not only do our actions create both positive and negative experiences, they do so not just one time, but as a continual flow. One action now will create positive and negative experiences in an interweaving dance along time. All time.
One of the most important things to remember is that not only do our actions create both positive and negative experiences for us, but for others as well. Certainly for the ones closest to us, but for many people around us, including people we have never, and will never, meet in life.
I understand that any success that I may have brings both positive and negative consequences to myself and others. I love what I do, so I probably work more than what may be healthy, sometimes putting a strain on both myself and my family. And though it pains me dearly that this happens, I know that there are people who feel insecure and defeated (or even annoyed!) around my successful choices in life and the way I talk about them versus feeling inspired. I also know that certain things that have happened in the past that seemed like a failure at the time turned out to have very positive effects later on.
One day I was trying to get a job at a yoga studio when I totally stuck my foot in my mouth and made a rather negative comment about another business, only to find out that the owner of that business was the friend of the yoga studio owner who I was talking with! Yikes! Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. I ended up working at another yoga studio that was a wonderful match for me and brought me years of enjoyment and growth, and even though that studio is closed now, it still brings opportunities my way that bring enjoyment and growth (and prosperity!) Even then though, who can really say what would have been the more positive outcome. And who can really say if the outcome that I find so positive for myself was actually the best thing that could have been for the studio I ended up working for. Of course, we could go crazy and end up in a depressed and self defeated state if we get hung up on these things or feel immobilized if we keep going round and round with such thoughts. However, it is important to have perspective.
I am all for enthusiasm. It brings enjoyment to life and I know from experience that it is one of the most valuable tools for success in business. However it is easy to get carried away in excitement and loose perspective. It is easy to develop feelings of “can do no wrong” when we are successful and when everything seems to be going our way. Be enthusiastic, love what you do, reach for great heights, but hold on to a humble heart and accept law of karma, which is the acceptance of things as they are.
Even compassion has it’s karma. One time, I was talking with Tenshin Reb Anderson, a zen priest, about what to do concerning bugs, particularly in dealing with bugs that may cause us harm. On one hand I did not want to kill them if possible, on another hand there was a time where a small infestation occurred that posed a potential health risk to my family, so I had them exterminated. He told me a story about a time when he was at Tassajara Zen Center in Marin County and two of the priests had come across a deer, tangled in barbed wire, very near death and in a terrible state of suffering. They had decided to end it’s suffering via a compassion killing. As zen priests, making the decision to kill a life form is a very grave matter, but ultimately the two men had felt in their heart that it was the best option. It turned out that their choice, made from love, made everything worse! Both for the deer and for them. He said there are no right or wrong answers about dealing with the karma of killing bugs that may cause harm to humans. It has been an age old problem that Buddhist have dealt with, so you must follow your heart and accept what may.
I will leave you now with a version of a famous zen story.
A farmer had a beautiful horse. One day the gate was left opened and the horse ran away. The villages felt sorry for the farmer and said, “You are so unlucky.” The farmer simply replied, “We shall see.” A few days later the horse came back with another beautiful horse at it’s side. The villagers were very happy for the farmer and said, “You are so lucky.” The farmer again replied, “We shall see.” A year later, while the farmer’s son was out riding the new horse, he fell and broke his leg. Again the villagers said, “You are so unlucky.” The farmer simply said, “We shall see.” Not too long after, all the young men in the village were called to war and every one of them was killed. The son, having a broken leg, remained safe at home. Once again the villagers commented, “You are so lucky.” Again the farmer relied, “We shall see.”
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