Mandy Patinkin Inigo Montoya (Wallace Shawn Vizzini Andre the Giant Fezzik) Princess Bride That word it does not mean what you think it means
At the Interfaith Network UK meeting I was told a story that I found rather shocking. A lady told me that a Buddhist had been visiting to speak at their interfaith meeting. She enquired of a friend whether he and his wife would be able to attend. He replied that, no, they would not attend because it was a Buddhist teacher that would be speaking. Why? The reason was that they had previously attended a meeting with a Buddhist speaker, and that person had told his wife─who is disabled─that she must have done something very bad in a previous life to create the cause for being disabled in this life.
I find this a distressing story to hear – it lacks compassion, or even common kindness and courtesy, and displays a serious misunderstanding of what karma means in Buddhism. It upsets me that a Buddhist could have such lack of awareness, and such lack of warmth and basic goodness. Isn’t the point of being a practising Buddhist that we become kinder, gentler, more open to the needs of others, less self-centred, and so on? Where is joy and good humour in saying something like that to someone?
Karma is not predetermination. Karma is not cause and effect in a materialistic sense. Karma is not having experiences that directly correlate to previous actions. If I hit you at some point, karma does not mean that you have to hit me. How could it be that if I hit a realised being, they would be compelled, through a materialistic law of cause and effect, to hit me at some point in the future? This makes no sense.
Karma is perception and response. Karma is the patterning in the mind-stream. Karma is created through duality, and responding to perception with one of the three root misconceptions: attraction, aversion, or indifference. Karma is the patterning that we lay down through our perception and response. ‘I like it. Let’s do that again.’ ‘I hated that. I will avoid it at all costs.’ ‘That seemed to have nothing to do with me. I’ll just ignore it.’
If perception becomes clear, and of the nature of primordial wisdom, then response will be appropriate and compassionate. This is nonduality. This is rigpa. This is wisdom and compassion as an inseparability. Karma dissolves because perception and response are no longer based in duality, confusion, and ignorance.
Perhaps the disabled lady is a great Bodhisattva. Perhaps she has given her health and vitality to benefit all sentient beings. Her body is now disabled, but her mind is pure and clear. Who the hell are we to judge the qualities of any other being?