Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Law of Cause and Effect -- Own Cause, Own Effect

               Relationships and marriages take a lot of work. If both people don't put in the necessary effort, they often fall apart. It requires a very special balance between two people who are committed to each partner's well-being while remaining firmly centered themselves.

                But we often hear all the stories of how a good wife got stuck with a good-for-nothing husband. He may gamble, abuse alcohol, and then takes it all out on his wife, who only wants what's best for him.

Original Photo by Christiano Betto available on Flickr.com

                It's obvious to scold him for this wrongdoing and rightly so... especially if he's causing her to suffer. But according to Buddhism, is this bad spouse to blame for everything in this scenario?

                Let's re-examine what the Law of Cause and Effect says.

Good deeds,   good results.
Bad deeds,   bad results.
Own deeds,  own results.

                A good cause produces a good effect, and a bad cause produces a bad effect.

                Sow watermelon seeds, and surprise! You get a watermelon!

                Cause, of course, means our actions, and effect means our fate. So if we do good deeds, good things will happen to us. If we do bad deeds, bad things will happen to us. This point is clear.

       But there's one more phrase to reflect on from above:

Own deeds, own results.

Own deeds, own results = Own cause, own effect

                   This means if you drink a lot of alcohol, the person next to you is not the one who becoming intoxicated.

                    You're the one who receives the effects and gets drunk.

Original Photo by CarbonNYC available on Flickr.com

                   Let's say you're taking a college class. When you study hard, your grades will go up from that effort. Your classmate who didn't study does not receive the benefit of your diligent hours of memorizing the textbook.

                    Others' cause, own effect is not possible. Someone elses' deeds never determine your results.

Others' deeds = own results
Others' cause = own effect 

No chance!

                    On the surface level, it may be easy to agree with, but when we experience this principle firsthand, we begin to question it. As soon as bad things start happening, it's especially hard to accept this. How can we think this way when others are the ones making our lives hell? We blame and hate them for the misery we feel they alone have created for us. 

                    However, there's an old saying that helps us reflect on this frame of mind:

"The thief blames the rope that binds him." 

                    Hundreds of years ago, thieves were tied up with rope once they were captured. Today, of course, police officers use handcuffs. Either way, a thief can no longer move freely once he is detained. He begins to think that the rope is the real cause behind his suffering.

                    "If only it weren't for this rope, I'd be free!" he mutters to himself angrily. "It's all the fault of this stupid rope."

                     All the thief's rage is projected onto his current situation of being tied up. He sees this as his main problem and nothing else. 

                      Buddhism says that this is a foolish way of thinking. What got him tied up in the first place was his own actions. He should really be blaming himself for all the valuables he took from people. All the rope in the world couldn't bother this thief, if he hadn't been stealing to begin with. 

                     So to blame others for our misfortune, especially using phrases like "It's all your fault!" or "You're the one to blame!" makes us exactly like the thief cursing the rope.

Original Photo by Suhamshu available on Flickr.com

                     Everyone's suffering is the direct result of their own actions. 

                     Own cause, own effect. Every time.

                      So what about the good wife who was stuck with that bad husband earlier?

                      Well, the cause of her suffering still stemmed from her own past actions. He may really be a terrible person to be with. But had she never married him, she wouldn't have suffered as much. There are plenty of men in the world. Of all of those prospective bachelors, she chose HIM to fall in love with. If she married someone else, things would have been much different.

                      Without any doubt, the cause of her suffering comes from her past deeds.

                      But now you may think -- "But what about the husband?!? Don't tell me he's completely off the hook for being a jerk!" 

                      The husband isn't the cause of her troubles. He's a bad condition for her.

                      Only when a cause and condition come together can an effect arise.

  Cause = Wife's past karma (actions)

Condition = Husband's negative behavior

Effect = Wife's agony      

                       This universal truth could really be called the Law of Cause, Condition, and Effect, but it's referred to as as the Law of Cause and Effect for short.

                       Now let's imagine rice seeds as the cause. You'd like to grow some rice, but can you start planting anywhere? You can't just put some rice seeds on the carpet in your apartment or onto a solid block of ice and expect rice to grow. The rice seeds would never sprout in those places.

                       Rice seeds need sunshine, a lot of water, rich soil, and hot, humid temperatures. These are good conditions for rice seeds. When the cause of rice seeds comes together with these right conditions, stalks of rice become the result.  

                        So the cause of the wife's suffering was stored karmic power from her past, and the husband became a bad condition to her in the present. When these two forces combined, the effect became her suffering.

                         If the the wife's suffering continues despite her own positive efforts, she might have to consider a separation or divorce. This drastic step may be necessary, especially if her husband becomes violent or abusive. If we try to do as much good as possible but we don't receive good results, we may need to work on acquiring better conditions for ourselves.

                       So to implement the Law of Cause and Effect into our lives, we first become mindful of all the seeds we ourselves plant. This is because they will come back to us in the future as causes.

                        Then as good Buddhists, we try to be good conditions for others in hopes they follow our own example.

Original Photo by Natesh Ramasamy available of Flickr.com

                        Then as we've just learned, we must also be mindful of external conditions present in our life. By choosing the right conditions to surround ourselves in, we encourage more good causes to have a greater opportunity to flourish.

                       Please make sure to come back for the next installment in the Law of Cause and Effect series on karmic power.

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