Understanding karma

Karma is understood in terms of the four laws of karma:

  1. Karma is certain: There is no doubt that a negative action will lead to suffering and a positive action will lead to happiness. For example, if I intentionally set a mousetrap that kills mice and rejoice when a mouse was killed, then the result will inevitably be suffering for me.
  2. Karma increases: Karma increases over time. For example, the result of killing a mouse will increase over time. This means that the amount of suffering that I later experience will increase, whether it is the severity of the suffering or the duration of the suffering.
  3. You do not meet with karma you have not created: My karma is mine and mine alone to experience. This reminds me to consider whether my actions will have a positive effect or a negative effect. By focusing on my behaviour, it might influence other people to do the same. But there is nothing to be gained by judging the outward actions of others. For example, I should think twice before setting a mousetrap that could injure a mouse.
  4. Karma you have created does not dissipate: Unfortunately, the suffering that I have created for myself does not go away on it’s own or by wishing it away. However, I can apply the 4 Opponent Powers. By applying the 4 Opponent Powers the result is rendered useless and I will not experience the suffering. For example, as part of the 4 Opponent Powers practice I might perform the ‘Confession to the 35 Buddhas’ or recite a text such as ‘Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ by Shantideva.
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