Friday, January 8, 2016

(Un)Lucky Karma

Buddha did not allow his disciples to participate in fortune telling, prophesizing about the future, interpreting dreams, wearing magic or lucky charms, finding lucky days in the calendar, and similar activities. He considered these useless superstitions, "low arts” and wrong livelihoods -- even if the person had such skills.

Buddha believed that everything that arises has a cause and effect. Nothing happens by chance or fate, and everything that exists is related to everything else that exists. 
Buddha taught that it is more important to develop our heart and mind, through the Noble 8 Fold Path, than to hope for good luck. Every action we do as a sentient being results in some form of karma. However, I once heard the Noble 8 Fold Path described as the "karma that brings and end to karma".

My rational (Buddha) mind thinks that the laws of karma and dependent origination make logical sense, and are fundamental and essential in governing our worldly experience. They, and the 8 Fold Path, guide my personal ethical thought and behavior.

However, my emotional ego mind is more grounded in illogical social and cultural norms, and takes pleasure in at least some of the rituals of superstition (like burning incense for past and present family members in a temple).

I know that there is a contradiction here, and a dualism (rationality and superstition) that needs to be transcended at some point. This contradiction is also seen in the daily practice of most every Buddhist temple in the world,  especially the Mahayana ones. But, like most of the world, I am not yet awakened / enlightened, so I guess I have an excuse...

A variation on the famous Zen saying may give some additional insight on this contradiction:

  • Before enlightenment, visit temple, burn incense, bow. After enlightenment, visit temple, burn incense, bow.

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