Karma: The Road to Heaven Is Paved With Good Intentions

I just finished a book by Ayya Khema, “Being Nobody, Going Nowhere.” It’s sort of a step-by-step introduction to the Buddhist path.  Although don’t think this will simplify Buddhism, because it doesn’t; moving through each step is far more complicated and difficult than a step-by-step method might imply.

In this book, Ayya uses the word kamma instead of the more well-known word karma.  Apparently one language Buddha used often was Pali; a language that used the word kamma. We might mete out some blame to the television show “My Name Is Earl” for this among other karma-using popular cultural phenomena.

In one aspect, kamma means to take full responsiblity for what happens to you.  Don’t blame other people or circumstances.  Each person is the master of his or her own destiny and has the ability to change.  We can’t change the world or other people, only ourselves. We cannot eliminate problems, but eliminate our reactions to them.  The end result to moving along this Buddhist path would bring us to view ourselves as a non-self.

The word kamma literally means action, but Buddha believed that it encompasses more than just action.  The intention behind the action is very important.  Not just the doing, but what we think about and speak of matters.  And whether we do something intentionally or unintentionally makes a difference.

Even when two people do the same thing, it may not bring the same result.  Two people may create the same bad kamma action, but one may have a full list of good kamma and this one bad choice will not make a big difference.  The other with very little good kamma, creates the same bad kamma and it may poison his or her life.  Since no one knows truly how much good kamma we each possess, it is better to assume that we have the lesser amount, lest we poison our lives with wrongful thinking.

All we have is the present moment to make a difference.  To dwell on yesterday or tomorrow will not change anything.  Our present day intentions and actions can bring about a good kamma.

So in this case, is it the road to heaven that is paved with good intentions instead of the road to hell?  A permanent heaven or hell doesn’t exist in Buddhism.  To a Buddhist, the only heaven or hell that may exist would be temporary.  The cycle of rebirth interrupts these temporary states until a person becomes fully enlightened and fades away into a sort of nothingness.  The goal is being nobody and going nowhere.

I am drawn to the Buddhist spiritual path.  Yet I have taken virtually no steps toward enlightenment.  If it was easy, we’d all be there.

I may have to give up feeling the hurt I feel from my fellow Muslims. That gift of chocolate won’t make up for the blind anger I feel toward a colleague.  My intentions are not on the right path.  The tug of both East and West won’t let go.

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2 responses to “Karma: The Road to Heaven Is Paved With Good Intentions

  1. As a Catholic who feels far more drawn towards Eastern religions, I sympathize. I might as well be worshipping the devil for all they care.

    But who says just one religion’s right, anyways?

  2. It really doesn’t matter what we are drawn to in this life.

    After death, we may find the Islamic beliefs were true. The Buddhists had it right. The Jews had it together after all. The Catholic faith is what Jesus had in mind. The most rigid Calvinist Christianity afterlife greets us as we stare into the flaming pit of hell. Or there may be a no reason for spiritual concerns here on earth. It is all a matter of faith. If you have it, you are truly blessed in your conviction and I envy you. But infinity is possible.

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