The Law of Karma

Sharon Salzberg

There is no reason for a feeling of separation from anything or anyone because we have been it all and done it all. How then can we feel self-righteous or removed from anyone or any action? There is no spot on this earth where we have not laughed, cried, been born and died. So in some sense, every single place we go is home.

Every one we meet we know. Every thing that is done we are capable of. That is why we do not hold an understanding of karma in a narrow way. It is an extremely vast vision of life. If at a given moment we experience the fruits of a past action, whether wholesome or unwholesome, our experience is the experience of all beings. If we see an experience happening outside ourselves, we understand that this also is our experience, as in a dream when every character is some reflection of our own mind.

If you do not feel any resonance with this teaching about many lifetimes, you can still understand this radical non-separation from all who are and all that happens by looking within. Whether or not you believe in rebirth, you can see that all states exist within you. You do not need to feel separate when they arise within you; you do not need to be afraid. And you do not need to feel separate when you see them outside of yourself, either; all of it is just reflecting the mind with all of its possibilities. No matter what happens, inside or outside, no matter whom you meet, all of it is just another way of seeing yourself.

Many years ago I was nursing student, and in one of the hospital training periods an abused child was brought in, with her abusive mother. There were about thirty nursing students present, plus hospital staff. The students and staff predominantly related to the mother with coldness and aloofness, as though to say "Oh you beast way, how could you have done a thing like that?"

Later that day, as the nursing students were gathered, someone made a comment to that effect. I responded by saying, "Well, I could understand doing something like that. I've seen impulses of rage and fear and frustration arise in my mind that could motivate such an awful act. I'm confident I would not do it, because of gifts, such as awareness, that I can bring to bear on that moment, but I don't feel so absolutely, unutterably separate from that mother". Once I had said that, thirty pairs of eyes turned to me and there was complete silence. I sat there wondering, "Did I just say the wrong thing?". But it was clear that although it may have upset the group, it was nonetheless the truth.

Having some intuitive sense of karma - an understanding that our happiness and unhappiness depend on our actions, and that therefore we are ultimately responsible for our fate - shifts our life into a place of empowerment.

If we understand that all things, all things whatsoever, arise due to a cause, then we understand safety. Thus, when we see suffering, conflict, danger, pain or a problem arise in our life, we do not merely try to eliminate it. Rather, we courageously change the conditions that provide the ground for its arising and that support or maintain its existence. (Lovingkindness - The Revolutionary Art of Happiness)

Source:    May 1, 2006