Heirs of Our Actions

What distinguishes humans from other species is our inherent ability to examine our character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and to control our effectiveness. To be effective one must be proactive. Reactive people take a passive stance — they believe that the world is happening to them. “That’s just the way I am.”

Yet sometimes, fate intercedes.

The ‘average joe‘ calls it ‘Karma.’

Thirty years ago, I visited a major shopping mall in Schaumburg, Illinois a few days past Thanksgiving. Being just at the start of the Christmas season, the mall was crowded, and I parked quite a distance from the store.

Walking down a parking row toward the store I came upon an older woman in Cadillac waiting patiently for an owner to enter her vehicle back up and leave. With blinker on, she just started rolling forward when a younger driver in a Honda CRX skidded into the parking space.

Flummoxed, the elderly lady rolled down the window, “Young man. Didn’t you see I was waiting for that spot?”

With a sneering laugh and the flick of his wrist, he waved, “Well, that’s what it’s like to be young and quick.”

He turned and continued walking. Fifteen seconds later, there was such a loud crash that nearby shoppers stopped in their tracks and looked. The young man turned, mouth agape and noticed his Honda CRX was completely smashed.

Running to the Cadillac, he screamed, “What did you do?”

The woman calmly rolled down her window. “Young man,” she lectured with a twist of her finger. “That’s what you do when you’re old and rich.”

For a Buddhist, Karma is the law of moral causation and is a fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. This belief was prevalent in India before the advent of the Buddha. Nevertheless, it was the Buddha who explained and formulated this doctrine in the complete form in which we have it today.

The Buddha once explained:

All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.”

In our world, proactive people recognize they can choose how to respond to a given stimulus or situation.

Hence, the significance of the Buddha’s statement is that “We are the heirs of our actions.”

I close with the following story.

When a bug crawled across his desk, an adult education teacher gave an impromptu lesson in safety. The teacher had an unusual paperweight: a 40-mm shell he found when hunting. Using opaque reasoning, he assumed the ordinance had to be ‘inert.’

As the bug crawled across his desk, one would presume the teacher would use a flyswatter. Nope. Instead, he lifted his ‘inert’ artillery shell and slammed it onto the insect. 

The impact set-off the primer.

The resulting explosion caused burns and shrapnel lacerations on his hand, forearm, and torso. Fortunately, no one else was hurt. To the teacher’s consolation, the bug was killed.

So, was that an act of God, fate or karma?

How about inheritance?



Categories: Life Lessons

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2 replies

  1. My interpretation is that in the west we often mis-quote Karma as a justice system. I believe its concept is a purer ’cause-and-effect’ on ourselves. If we harm, we will be harmed, if we are mindless we will drop things and so on. The accumulation of Karma for the next re-birth is the challenging concept for me

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