Karmapa's answer to questions about karma - 25.07.2020

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Karmapa's answer to questions about karma

Thank you again for your questions.
Many of these questions were related to the subject of karma. I wish that there was an original karma – like a big bang – then in some ways it would be so much easier. Then we could somehow accept that we are all doomed. However, I get the feeling that this may not be the case. Nevertheless, I will do my best to share some of my understanding of karma with you, both in this reflection, and in subsequent ones.
Karma is a subject that we can rarely relate to when it is described in words.
As we try to describe it in paragraphs, sentences, verbs and nouns, the meaning of karma further eludes us.
Descriptions are like clothes. The moment we describe something, it’s initially like clothing it, but then, as we elaborate or define it further, the process of describing turns naturally into a kind of ‘unclothing’ process. It is the same principle as ‘what goes up must come down’. It can’t be helped.
When it comes to describing karma, I feel that this is essential to keep in mind from the start.
Peeling an onion or a banana tree trunk – peeling further and further, layer after layer – a sense of curiosity arises, to see if there is an essence or a seed at the centre of these layers. Of course, in the end there is nothing at the centre of the onion or the banana tree trunk.
Describing karma is something like that.
One might feel that, in that case, questions and answers about the topic are a waste of time and energy. But the subtle nature of the question and answer format has its own quality I feel.
Karma is there, in a way. ‘There’ in the sense that the appearance is there. Just like an onion or a plantain tree.
We too are ‘there’ – or here – in appearance, just like an onion or a plantain tree. In particular, our layers of character and personality are ‘there’.
At the same time, our appearance, and the appearance of karma, work or function flawlessly.
One of the ways of understanding karma is likening it to the function of a filter. There is nothing there to pinpoint, beside the appearance. So we ingest what is apparently there – just as our lungs ingest air. But we don’t actually hold anything. Naturally, as with our lungs and with trees, what is ingested is eventually – or simultaneously – exhaled, let go of.
In this sense, there is an owning of karma (of sorts) - yet it is never really owned by something or someone.
At the same time, the process of inhaling and exhaling gives what we call life.
Without having to truly own anything, everything is owned, without concern for duality or non-duality.
You see, we breathe every day. Yet the breathing goes largely unnoticed. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but if we want to understand what karma is, then taking a little notice of the everyday pattern of breathing will bring appreciation - even a sense of a marvel. A sense of “My goodness! We’ve been breathing all of this time.”
As we get used to this practice of appreciating what might be called mundane, everyday patterns, we can then apply this kind of awareness to other patterns.   Walking, eating, sleeping, rising, talking… all sorts of patterns. Living, dying, and in time, the repetition of life cycles. As you can see, this kind of practice or awareness meditation is not at all a spaced out state of mind.
In fact, this kind of practice or awareness meditation is active and alive, in tune with everything that’s going on around us.
This kind of living practice is fortunately still present in various forms to this day, such as the practice of TONGLEN, in the form of aspiration and dedication, which I mentioned in an earlier reflection. This is the most natural way to own karma, I feel.
In this practice, there is no sense of a religious mission to save the world, nor is there any political burden to put the world in order.
No guru is required, no parenting is required, and no teaching is required, either.
Just breathe.
And in case you feel that you can’t breathe, and things seem to be dimming, know this to be the very sign that you are in fact breathing – breathing beyond this pair of lungs, breathing in the form of living and dying.

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