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A Thought on Karma

January 21, 2011

Karma is the law of Cause and Effect or, more realistically, the law of Causes and Effects.

One effect (one outcome) has no single unique cause.  Nor is it the case that one good impression will cause one or even multiple fortuitous outcome(s).  It is more complicated than that—more complicated by far.

Karma is about pressure of many causes rather than individual actions: one builds up good karma by doing many actions, each of which is more likely to bring about good outcomes and, in so doing, raises the probability of good outcomes above what it would have otherwise been—practical applied-statistical living.  It is not magic, nor is it fate.

The difference between karma and fate is like that between ‘definite’ and ‘on average’ or between Newtonian and quantum mechanics.  Fate implies pre-destiny on an outcome by outcome basis—‘this event was meant to happen’ vs ‘good things tend to happen more often if one has good karma’.

So how does meditation affect karma?

It affects us, how we view and react to the world.  Helping to align our views and tendencies with those observed to be beneficial.  We know good karma is possible (the equality of all karmas is absurd) but cannot (yet if ever) calculate or compute how to achieve it; thus we proceed by learning from experience.  The Buddha observed the utility of meditation and left it as part of his legacy.

We should, however, avoid falling into the trap of believing that anything called meditation is necessarily beneficial, or that a meditation is beneficial because this lama or that said so.  In this last case the Buddha was said to have explicitly warned against believing something simply because a teacher said so.

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