From The Spiritual Path: A Compilation of Teachings by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo
No two people experience anything exactly alike, ever. It’s almost as if we see through different-colored glasses. Even the same person can experience the same event quite differently on different days. Something that bugs the potatoes out of you one day will roll right off your back the next. This is due to the ripening of your karma at the time. It ripens in slightly different ways at every moment, creating a different inner experience. A tapestry is being woven, interdependently arising. Your mind is not the same today as it was yesterday, because different karma has ripened. The threads of the tapestry are different, but your ego-clinging makes it seem the same.
Some indigenous peoples do not use the word “karma” but acknowledge that if you take something from Mother Earth, you must return something. For instance, American Indians believe that you may cut down a tree because you need the wood, provided you repay or replenish the earth. If you don’t, there is a hole that nature or Mother Earth must fill. Additionally, the imbalance you cause in the environment will be played out somehow in your life—in mind or in body, but especially in your spirit.
This idea is very similar to the concept of karma. Had we grown up with the belief that cause and effect cannot be altered, that this is a universal law that, whether we are caught or not, there will sooner or later be a payback for every situation—we would have an entirely different culture. We would not have damaged the ecological system, while disregarding the consequences. Though concern is growing, we still abuse the environment and our natural wealth. We constantly make deals promoting personal gain. This is not wrong unless we take from others with no regard for their welfare. But we applaud business deals that benefit us and hurt others. Getting ahead is the American way. “That’s politics,” or “That’s business,” we say. We have learned to condone selfishness, totally disregarding its impact on our minds.
As we “learn” that for some things there is no payback, a poison gradually infiltrates our mindstreams. Many powerful people profess traditional religious beliefs yet complacently engage in graft, bribery, obstruction of justice, embezzlement, and lying. Believe me, if the first people to cut down a rain forest (or to bring a species close to extinction) had been struck by lightning, there would be no ecological problem today. If the earth had opened up and swallowed the owners and operators, there would be no problem with strip mining. But the payback is often slow in coming. We remain unskilled in connecting causes with their inexorable effects.
Suppose you go to a party at someone’s house and see some perfume samples. You think: “They have lots of these, so I’ll just take one. It’s no big deal. Surely if I asked, they would give it to me.” Later you go to a grocery store and think: “Gee, I’d really like one of those cookies. Just one, because if I buy the whole pack, I might get fat.” Then you notice a pack that is broken open. “Well,” you think, “it’s already open, so I’ll just slip one little cookie out. The store can’t sell them now, anyway. They have a budget to cover that.” Even if no one misses the perfume or the cookie, you have changed in your mindstream. The change is subtle. But you have changed. And if you continue to act that way, your mind will become hard. It must—because something inside of you knows what is right and what is wrong. Something inside you is very moral. There is a sensitivity to things balancing out. It may not be the part that you can listen to, but karma, the potential for karma, the reality of karma, the interaction of karma—exists in the mindstream of every sentient being.
© Jetsunma Ahkön Lhamo