How does Karma relate to what is happening in the world at the moment?

A student writes:

How does Karma relate to what is happening at the moment – Covid pandemic, climate change, political instability, inequality etc – and have we in some sense “chosen” to be here at this time to allow our Karma to ripen?

Lama Shenpen replies:

Karma is indeed a big question – it involves the whole Buddhist cosmological view quite foreign to a modern western way of thinking about life.  The world of our experience internally and externally is a reflection of our own past wishes, intentions and deeds of body, speech and mind.  To that extent you could say we are choosing our future all the time.

That is why it is so important to align all our intentions and actions with our deepest Heart Wish –  that is how we choose our future.  In the meantime, we suffer or enjoy the effects of our past intentions and actions and that always involves our connection with others.

These are deep connections that go from life to life and so however we are relating to others the effect of that carries on – so it is important to keep as good connection with others as we can because we will be meeting again and again, and the effects of our actions will come to a head sooner or later.

So, you could think of the state of the world at the moment as the result of our group or communal actions of the past – not necessarily the historical past in this world – we might have made those connections and so on in different universes eons ago.  So, there is really not much point in trying to figure out just why things happen in the way they do this time round.

There is the idea of collective karma that a nation or group of people might have made together but there is also the idea of accidentally getting caught up in a karmic situation that was not particularly of our making. The effects of our past and present actions (karma) continue to influence what happens to us in any event.

So, as we look at all the disasters that are hitting the world at the moment, we don’t need to feel it’s all hopeless.  Our every action motivated by love and compassion and devotion to the path of Awakening will pay off – even if not in this world, then in another.

It is good to try to preserve this wonderful planet and environment for future generations. That intention and those actions of body, speech and mind will pay off sooner or later in some world or other and if we make pranidhanas [Tib. Monlam – aspirational/wishing prayers] to all meet again and again to work together to bring all beings to Enlightenment and the ending of suffering we will all keep meeting again and again to do just that. 

So, we can cheer up and just do our best – get on with whatever small part it falls to us to play in this great drama of life and death and the path to awakening all beings.

The force of the love and compassion of all the Awakened ones is with us!!!

Lama Shenpen Hookham

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