Karma and right action

I find myself writing posts in reverse order: starting with the complicated stuff and ending with the basics. Today’s post is the basics, but it is in some ways also the hardest part of the doctrine of karma.

The doctrine of karma is in Biblical words ‘as you sow, so you will reap’. Contrary to what many people suggest it is a long term doctrine. It means in simple terms that if you want to have lives upon lives of living well off  having enough – be nice, generous, good and honest consistently throughout your lives.

Specifically Buddhism tells us that there are three ways to be a good person. The first is right thought. Right thought includes not dwelling on ill done to you as well as thinking positively where one can. This can be practiced by making sure that you keep trying to see the good even in people you dislike. This is also quite practical. It is not unusual for people who try that to find that it transforms relationships for the better.

Right thought should be followed by right speech. In other words: only speak the truth as you know it. Don’t spread negative rumors. Watch other people’s reputation as you would your own. This ties in with my earlier post about gossip.

Right speech should be followed by right action. Right action means at the very least to ‘put our money where our mouth is’.

Getting back to karma: right thought, right speech and right action all have karmic consequences. Practicing those consistently means setting up habits that will last throughout the rest of our lives and which will bring at least peace of mind and likely also financial security (not necessarily wealth, because who really needs wealth?).

[Note: after publishing this I got an outraged e-mail from an Indian reader. He clearly feels the pain of the millions suffering on this planet. He refers to poverty, people lacking clean drinking water, people lacking computers. I might add war, disease, girls in forced marriages at a young age etc. Indeed: for many this world is hell as my correspondent notes. He asks the age-old Indian question: why would anybody want to return here at all? However: if the doctrine of reincarnation is true: we do return here. I was just explaining some of the mechanics of that.]

A version of this post appears in my book Essays on Karma.