01 March, 2012

Forgetting the future...

The dying words of the Buddha were a testament to his conviction that all things are a changing.
'Behold, O monks, this is my last advice to you. All component things are changeable. They are not lasting. Work hard to gain your own salvation.'

The Buddha believed that through an understanding of the implications of impermanence, one could minimise or even eliminate personal karma. Buddha's last breath attested to his lifelong belief that all phenomenon of consciousness are constantly changing and that every dharma student must search to root out the causes of their various karmas in order to live more fully and more at peace. This in effect was the Buddha's way of alleviating the general torment of suffering which had cursed humanity. He described that the end point of this personal liberation from torment and suffering was a place of 'lightness of being', bliss or nirvana. It was the result of a determined effort to transcend ignorance of the true reality we live in. It is a bliss that is not a drugged-out opiate state but a mental freedom denoted as spontaneous joy, equanimity and compassion.

The 'reality' which the Buddha discovered (but did not invent) could be best described in contemporary parlance, as a prison world. We live in a prison of our own making, a world where our own consciousness has become the prisoner, the prison, and warden. A world of duality, good and evil, right and wrong, hero and villain. A world of blame, shame, fame and pain. A world of duality (moon) as opposed to oneness (sun). It has always been this way, and the Buddha deftly argues that even on other worlds, such a scenario is likely to exist there as well.

There were numerous reports during his forty years as a teacher of dharma (the middle way), where he could redact a students past-life karmas merely by allowing them to see the folly of their ignorance about certain issues, be they personal or conceptual. Becoming more enlightened about things which were weighing them down had the effect of subjugating and even eliminating the effects of their karma. The most famous of his teachings are about one of his students, Agulimala, who was a serial murderer. The way in which the Buddha and Agulimala met was in itself rather an odd spectacle. Agulimala was wandering the backroads of a village when he spotted who he thought was a simple monk and was suddenly obsessed with the desire to kill him (at the time he had already killed 99 men). When he ran up to the monk (who turned out to be the Buddha), he shouted at him to stop. The Buddha took one look at him and slowly kept walking, despite Agulimala waving his sword at him. So enraged at this monk's seeming defiance, Agulimala said, 'Why don't you stop?', to which the Buddha remarked, 'Agulimala, I stopped years ago. You are the one who has not stopped.'

So struck by this off-handed remark, Agulimala asked what he meant, to which the Buddha said, 'I have stopped all my feelings of anger and all violence towards other living beings. But you are still rushing around in anger and hatred, unable to stop your own violence. That's why I have stopped and you haven't.' It is said that at that moment, half of Agulimala's karma was lifted from his shoulders in a moment of satori. The Buddha eventually befriended Agulimala, who became liberated from torment and eventually became enlightened within a few short years, thus removing lifetimes of heavy karma that normally would have resulted in incalculable hell-like experiences.

How is it possible to remove karma merely by becoming more aware consciously of what we are doing? There is a little understood premise which underpins Buddhism which says that wisdom, compassion and renunciation have the ability to change karma through a process of transmutation. An ability of karma to change the past by affecting its present effect - what I term paleokarma.

What wisdom does is to separate the seen from the seer or the act from the actor. Simply put, it works the same way that changing an object's mass affects the gravity of that object. For example, the bigger an object, the harder it falls. This is because when we make an object heavier, it has more momentum and thus hits the floor harder (not faster). Thus lighter objects (including karma) tend to drift to the floor like a feather as opposed to banging hard against it (like an elephant). It is the momentum of an object that affects it impact, not just its overall mass. For example, if an elephant collided with a wall at 1 mph, there would be little devastation compared to a bullet travelling at twice the speed of sound. Similarly, karma is as much about momentum as it is overall weight. The two are equally important. And where wisdom comes into the equation is that it reduces the weight and speed of karma so that the effects are minimalised, though not entirely eliminated.

An even less known phenomenon is that as we become aware of our past, we directly affect it through the power of our own consciousness. This is in effect a form of time travel, or time modification, where we can actually erase the past acts not so they no longer exist but so that the karma associated with them has been negated or redacted. We could interpret this as the results of a compassionate universe or God's grace, where the universe or God reduces the weight of karma on those who have prayed for it to be removed. What is more likely is that the universe operates as a holographic non-temporal construct (where time is unidirectional). As most physicists know, what affects 'here' directly affects what happens 'there' through the 'butterfly effect'. Also, according to string theory (an out-shoot of quantum mechanics) what happens 'now' affects not only the future but the past since all are intimately connected.

This does not mean that the Holocaust did not occur if the world believed it never happened. Rather, it suggests that the menacing evil enacted upon innocent civilians by Nazis, fascists and thugs may be less simplistic than we'd like to believe. This is a difficult notion to digest, even for myself, but the fact is that karma is a purely relative phenomenon. Psychos and sycophants are not immune to the laws of balance which subsumes karma. Truth and compassion always vanquish lies and cruelty. But how we perceive what is right or wrong is an aspect of dualistic perspective. Karma implies that evil may be a holographic construct of a conscious universe rather than a 'real' or eternal force. Perhaps the Bard was not completely joking when he said that nothing is good or bad except that thinking makes it so.

It is a common Buddhist remark that 'if you see the Buddha on the road, kill him', since the Buddha doesn't exist and therefore you are deluded. But if the Buddha does not exist then the devil similarly does not exist. Regardless of the truth of it all, I draw the line at Hitler. Some people are just bad to the bone.