Home     Contact Us         Log in
Nov 15
Dharma Teachings
How Does Karma Work?

By Sakyong Mipham. To celebrate the birthday of the Sakyong, Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche, today we feature a teaching by him to rouse our appreciation, devotion, and loyalty. As we read and contemplate his words, we can feel joy that such a living teacher leaves morsels for us to follow on the road to enlightenment. May his life be long, and our connection with him deep. Cheerful birthday, sir!


Buddhists are taught that we might have a few lifetimes ahead of us. So we ask, “In this lifetime, what am I doing about a long-term plan?” One approach is to look at suffering from the perspective of karma. When we talk about karma, we are talking about the twelve nidanas, the twelve branches of dependently related arisings, or “cause and result.”

From the Buddhist point of view, there is no outside influence. Things depend upon one another, and they produce a certain cause or result. This is worth contemplating because we usually think of things as having a beginning and an end. However, it’s very hard to point to the beginning or end of something. We look for a point at which to begin because we want to believe in permanence.

The twelve nidanas are a core teaching that explains how karma works and why we practice. How did we get into this situation? What’s holding us back from liberation? We need to break it down into bite-sized pieces. The Buddha said that all causes and conditions are dependently related. Because one thing arises, another arises. In the present, we’re feeling the result of past causes and conditions—karmic seeds that will produce results in the future.

People often say that karma has been set in motion, and understanding it won’t make much difference. This would be true if there were only one cause or dependency, but there are many dependencies in play. For example, the birth of a tree takes water, air, sunlight—all kinds of causes and conditions. If there were only cause, it would be possible for that sprout to have depended on only one thing. But there are interactions taking place.

If things were fixed and definite, practicing dharma would be pointless. We could do nothing about anything. But there is something we can do: we can change the course of an action. There are an astronomical number of causes and conditions—all dependently related—that have come about from actions that took place eons ago and have come together in a present action. In this life we can affect the ripening of those karmic seeds.

The point of practicing is to change the causes and conditions that have already come about. Fundamentally, all virtuous acts have produced the pleasures of this life, and all nonvirtuous acts have produced the pains of this life. We are trying to understand how this process takes place so we can change the course of the future.

Click here to read more from the November, 2010 teaching on Sakyong.com.

Post Tags: , ,

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

Website Development by Blue Mandala using Wordpress MU.
All content and source Copyright © 1994-2022. Shambhala International (Vajradhatu), Shambhala, Shambhala Meditation Center, Shambhala Training, Shambhala Center and Way of Shambhala are registered service marks of Shambhala USA
Privacy Policy
Translate »