Thought Experiment: Reverse Karma and the Limitations of Intent…

Sometimes our worst enemy can teach us more than our best friend. This is one of the secondary principles of Buddhism, derived directly from the foundations, if not stated explicitly therein. So it is a kind of reverse karma, in which things happen as a result of causes, but not in any precise order. Karma is not a simple law of cause and effect, after all, if it is a law at all. It is a law of indirect effect, or extended effect, beyond the immediacy of action and reaction, which is simple classical physics, or simple free enterprise: you give me some money, and I’ll give you a product.

Karma, if it exists, must be something more than that. For example: you give me some money, and I’ll guarantee that you get something back far and away more than you ever expected, and at a time to be determined later (I accept all currencies, by the way). And so it is with my idea of Reverse Karma, something similar to that often expressed by Tibetan Buddhists in general, and the Dalai Lama, in particular. And this is not surprising, because Tibetan Buddhists seem to be the most attracted and attached to the concept of karma.

But there’s one important difference in the karma that I accept and the karma that so captures the Tibetans: this life. My karma exists only in this life, which is the only one I know, and which is the only one knowable, IMHO. The Tibetans, and many others, perhaps most inspired by the Jataka tales of the Buddha’s many lives, believe in the constant recycling of lives and consciousness, thinly disguised souls looking for succor.

I limit my endeavors to this this life and this world, which is only consistent, after all, if you are a ‘present moment’ Buddhist, now, isn’t it? You know ET’s ‘Power of Now’ and all that rap, right? Not a bad way to go. And so it is with Reverse Karma, at least as I envision it. The Tibetans may have other ideas (but let’s leave Lobsang Rampa out of it, okay?)

So if karma is all about your actions, then Reverse Karma, in my thought experiment, is all about your reactions, i.e. being the recipient of actions, not the actor, or doer, yourself. And this is a lot trickier, if you stop to think about it. Because you may well be very certain about what you want to do in this life, but how can you be certain about what to receive from others, when you have no idea what that will be, or when that will be? You can’t. As an individual you can’t, nor as a group can we.

Most of us know that we need to do something about Global Warming, but few of us know the best way to go about it. Yet some will survive, and others likely won’t, regardless of the fact that we share a planet. So if we only knew which group or groups would most likely survive, then we could ally ourselves with them. That is one way Reverse Karma could work. Another way is the well-known ‘Butterfly Effect’ of Chaos Theory, in which a random action simply sets off a chain reaction of almost totally unrelated events.

The point is: Reverse Karma is the ultimate test of equanimity, a balanced and composed mind, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Sound familiar? Therefore we must be open to all actions as being ultimately the best of circumstances, regardless of implied intent and ascribed emotions. One more word about rebirth: it has been said that we should be open to it, and that is true. But we should also be open to non-rebirth and that is the problem, because the ‘re-birthers’ are bending over backwards to double down on it. But that is for another day and maybe even another life. We are all going to die, after all, that is true, but not today…