The Functioning Of
Cause And Effect
- Part 4 of 4
Does karma influence whom we
will meet and the relationships we'll have with them?
Yes, but this doesn't mean those relationships
are predetermined. We may have certain karmic predispositions to
feel close to or to have friction with certain people. Nevertheless,
these relationships may not continue along those same lines. If
we are kind to those who speak ill of us and try to communicate
effectively with them, the re-lationships will change. We'll also
create positive karma, which will bring happiness in the future.
We are not karmically bound to others. Nor are
there "soul mates," special people who are the one and
only one for us. Since we've had infinite past lives, we've had
contact with every being sometime before. Also, our relationship
with any particular person constantly changes.
Nonetheless, past karmic connections can influence
our present relationships. For example, if someone has been our
spiritual mentor in a past life, we may be drawn to that person
this lifetime, and his or her teaching the Dharma may have a very
strong effect on our minds.
Can understanding karma help
us to understand the events in our lives better?
Yes, it can. The happiness we experience comes
from our previously created positive actions. Understanding this
encourages us to act constructively and not sit back passively when
opportunities to be kind appear.
When we experience some difficulties in life,
we should reflect on the type of action we must have done that created
the cause for this result. This will encourage us to be more aware
of what we think, say, and do. Studying the Buddha's teachings enables
us to learn more about specific actions and their results. Then
we can change our behavior and plant more seeds in our mindstreams
to experience desirable results. A text called "The Wheel of
Sharp Weapons" is particularly good in explaining the effects
produced by certain actions and the way to change our attitudes
and actions to create the cause of happiness.
Can people be reborn as animals
and animals as people? How is that karmically possible?
Yes. Based on our actions, our minds are attracted
toward certain types of rebirth when we die. It may seem difficult
to imagine that a human being could be reborn as an animal, but
if we consider the fact that some people act worse than animals,
it doesn't seem so far-fetched. For example, animals kill only when
they are threatened or hungry, while some human beings kill for
sport, fame, or power. If someone's mind habitually goes in a certain
direction, it makes sense that his or her body could correspond
to that mental state in a future life.
Similarly, animals can be reborn as humans.
Although it's difficult for most animals to do many positive actions
-- it's hard to teach a dog to meditate or to offer community service
-- it is possible. For this reason, Tibetans take their animals
when they circumambulate holy monuments in order to put good imprints
on the animals' minds. Many people enjoy saying their prayers or
mantras out loud so their pets can hear them and be exposed to such
soothing sounds, even though the animals do not understand the meaning.
Ordinary people have both positive and
negative karmic imprints on their minds. What rebirth we take is
not a sum total of all of our past karma. Rather, certain seeds
ripen while others remain dormant. Thus, if someone is angry at
the time he dies, some of the negative imprints could ripen and
he could be reborn as a dog. However, the positive imprints still
remain on his mindstream and when causes and conditions come together,
they could ripen, causing him to again be reborn as a human.
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