Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Functions of Karma (Part I)

Buddhism, originated from the depths of Indian civilisation and later transferred to China, Korea and Japan, expounds the theory of 'karma'. Brought onto the big, movie screens and/ or small sitcoms, the word 'karma' is certainly something not unfamiliar to many non-Asians.

Karma is stored in the eighth layer of our human consciousness. It is generated by our thoughts, actions and words. Among these three expressions, actions bear to carry the strongest effect on another person, or the surrounding lived by another human being.

Karma can be positive or negative. While the mundane view always paint 'karma' as negative, it actually refers to both side. Good karma is known as 'good fortune' while bad karma is commonly known to many as 'retribution'.

In every human life it is believed to have endowed with nine consciousnesses. The first five (consciousnesses) point to our five senses - taste, smell, hear, sight and touch. They basically form the 'receptive' and 'generative' channels: they allow us to receive information and data, and upon analysing them we communicate ourselves back with the external world through them. While the sense of 'touch' is activated by our physical bodies, which can be any part of us and not limited to our hands, the rest of the four are all located and found on our heads.

To divert a little, those who are unfortunately born without one or more of these five basic senses does not mean they have lost the innate desire to perform that particular function. That is to say, those who are born mute cannot be said that they don't have the desire to talk; all the more they wish they can communicate with others by mouth. Likewise, those who are born deaf or blind aren't ready to allow fate take full control of their lives. Given a chance they would exchange all they treasure with a restoration of their hearing or sighting capabilities. A timeless, eternally-shining example of human character is Helen Keller, a deafblind American author, activist, and lecturer. Not defeated by her impairments, she developed her whole being into not only living her own life to the fullest but, all the more importantly, dedicated to developing countless others born with disabilities.

The sixth consciousness is what we generally refer to as 'the sixth sense'. It may be called 'intuition' also, but in whatever case these sentiments lie in the realm of 'emotions'. We feel it, sense it, but never come to actually contain and describe it concretely. At times these emotions are sublime and peaceful but, like the swaying ocean, they can torment and tear a person's life apart. We perhaps have all, at some point in our lives, come to be greatly disturbed and stressed out by emotions for and negative feelings over some matters which had bothered us tremendously.

It is then in those trying periods that 'logic' comes to salvage us from the huge suction of negative pull. This is what is known as the 'seventh consciousness', an innate force that bears a subduing effect on our emotions. True to its nature, we humans indeed have evolved and stood out from our forefathers of the animal kingdom. Fortunately endowed with the capability of 'analysing logically', we exert to improve ourselves not by the tidal emotions but the power of 'logic and reason'. In times of vicissitudes we may be able to stop and pause for a moment, and after analysing the situation, we put forth a remedy that may perhaps change the outcome of a seemingly hopeless event.

At this point, what a normal person may view of this post with regard to his life may remark that he has been awarded with sufficient nutrients of life to live through all occurrences with much purpose and confidence. What happens in future may not be in his or her grasp, but certainly with a strong logic and controlled emotions he can gain victories over or amend much with whatever may take place before his eyes. However, history certainly has revealed otherwise. Though the human spirit maybe strong and almost indomitable, there are definitely elements not within the control of earthly humans to decide and determine.

This is where karma will enter and take centrestage - the eighth consciousness, or what is known as 'alaya' consciousness in Sanskrit. It is a storehouse, a containment of virtually all generated actions and reactions. Be it one's exchange with his neighbour in the morning, his purchase of weekly goods at the supermart, or his daily routine chore in office, each and every action made in his or her life will all come to produce and leave behind a trail of invisible, minute 'particles of life' quantified by the unit of 'a moment'. These 'particles' will then be stored in the 'storehouse of consciousness' which are being laid dormant and inactive. If one has made conscious efforts to be good to others, harboring positive wishes and hopes for him/ herself and others, and locate a spot in his or her own life as well as society to do good, then the storehouse will inescapably come to store positive elements or what is commonly known as 'karmic energy'. Of course, on the contrary, if this person has chosen the path of arrogance, wilfulness or decadence of his inner spirit, trampling on all goodness and beauty in this world, and ultimately leaving behind a record of destructive elements, the karma he has generated will certainly be of negative.

The deciding factor that pulls all these consciousness together is none other than 'time'. Based on what one has been done to himself and others, including the environment, he will come to meet positive or negative events in his life. 'Retribution' is the name the world has given to 'karma', but as time passes human beings begin to adopt the belief that there is an external almighty being that decides who should be punished, who should be rewarded or praised, and who should be condemned. Drifting along the currents of time, human beings gradually lost their sense of acute awareness that there lies an inner function of 'flame of righteousness', always burning and lighting the innermost consciousness, and reflecting and recording the minutest particles of thoughts, words and actions. For those who betray their inner endowed humanity and go round hurting themselves and others, they are in actual fact peeling off their own human compassion, layer by layer and skin by skin, where in the end they will come to end up with a steely-cold, hardened heart with minimal emotions and compassion. They will be the ones who rampage the face of this Earth with their cruel actions and base contemplations.

In the midst of all these commotions, there lies the final layer of consciousness - the all-powerful, all-encompassing, all-mighty 'King of Consciousness': The Buddhahood. It is by this theory and understanding that humans, for the first time in the long course of their existence on this planet, come to be presented and live with a hope for salvation and revolution. It is with this mystic endowment of the seed of Buddhahood that humans do not, as the many religious scriptures declare, 'fall into the pits of endless darkness, unable to salvage and save themselves from the claws of evils and sins, and forever be condemned in hell' anymore. The light of hope and salvation has finally entered the dark hopeless caves of humanity for once, for good.