It’s not that unusual to hear people talk about the bad karma that others have created – and how happy they will be when that karma comes back to bite their adversary in the butt. But this is actually an idea that could backfire terribly!
People don’t just say these things. They also post stuff on social media. I have included a very small selection from Facebook with this blog.
Delighting in the downfall and destruction even of people you think thoroughly deserve it, is an awful misunderstanding of karma. Here’s two reasons why.
The Buddhist view is that karma is certain. Every cause creates an effect. And in fact, karma multiplies so that small causes can create effects that may be entirely disproportionate to the original cause – much like the relationship between an acorn and an oak tree. So yes, the negative actions of those we dislike may very well turn out to have the most horrific karmic consequences for them.
However – and this is the big one – it may take a long while for the effects to ripen. It’s only when causes meet with appropriate conditions that they come into play. This may very well only happen in that person’s next lifetime – at which point they are no longer the same person who you know right now. They may not be a person at all.
Let’s say you know of someone who has betrayed the trust of loved ones for his own, selfish gains. And let’s say that you eagerly await his downfall. Well, it could be that nothing especially bad happens to that person for the rest of his life. But perhaps he is reborn as a cat. That karma has continued in his mind stream. What if it meets the appropriate conditions, a couple of months after he is born, when he finds himself cornered in an alley by three drunken teenagers who think it would be fun to play football with a kitten? Are you still so keen to see karma play out? Is that really what you want?
All the unhappiness we experience personally, and see around us, arises from previous causes. In most cases, the beings involved have no idea why they are undergoing such pain and hardship. Just like the kitten has no idea why it is being kicked to death. Don’t we already have enough suffering in this world? Do we really wish to see more of it?
You attract and empower whatever you give attention to
There is another more immediate reason for not focusing energy on the horrible things we hope to befall those we dislike: whatever we give our attention to we attract to ourselves.
The observable truth is that it’s only if we give attention to thoughts that they can remain in our minds. The more we give them attention, the more likely they are to recur, and evolve and develop, and become a more and more ingrained part of our reality.
Dwelling on the negative aspects of the person we dislike, and hoping for truly awful things to happen to them can only reinforce dark and destructive dynamics in our own mind. We are feeding the bad wolf. Far from offering some kind of vindication, when we cultivate negative hopes for someone else, we are only poisoning ourselves. We are empowering that person to hurt us all over again.
Far better to let go of such negativity. To concentrate on other, more life enhancing and positive dynamics. Ideally, to find something, or someone, who can become the focus of our authentic love and compassion.
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My introductory book to Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhism for Busy People, can be ordered from your local bookstore or bought online. It has different covers in different countries, but the content is the same:
Enlightenment to Go, an introduction to Shantiva’s famous work ‘A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life’ is for readers who’d like to explore Tibetan Buddhism a little more deeply. Again, different covers in different countries:
OR If you prefer to digest things in a fictional format:
The Dalai Lama’s Cat: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1401940587/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d2_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=desktop-1&pf_rd_r=0T83FJJTV5TNMR5TDRA6&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=2253014322&pf_rd_i=desktop
The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dalai-Lamas-Cat-Purring/dp/1401943276/ref=pd_sim_14_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=41RbJ11U9BL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR102%2C160_&refRID=1AWKQCF80MTYC75Y90B4
e Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Power of Meow: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dalai-Lamas-Power-Meow/dp/1401946240/ref=pd_sim_14_1?ie=UTF8&dpID=51hqtNkmV4L&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL160_SR104%2C160_&refRID=0ZE2FWJW6FNWKECTBFRK
(NB Different countries sometimes have different covers, but the content is the same).