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Lions Roar : Nov 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2007 56 more and more. Human beings can be this clever, learning to exploit our propensity to settle the score in order to try to settle the score. There are people doing this, but where does it get us? We could use that same intelligence to figure out for ourselves that retaliation or aggression gives birth to aggression and that if we really want peace, happiness, and harmony to be the result, there has to be some other way of settling the score than retali- ation. That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. said in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize. We have to find a way to over- come oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. As you know, he was passionate about this idea and charismatic enough to get a lot of people on board with it. Gandhi, of course, is an example of the same idea of settling the score at a more fundamental level. I use famous examples, but there are women and men, unsung heroes and heroines, all over the world who are working this way to help alleviate suffering. These are people I love and respect and they are my role models for the Buddhist version of settling the score. REPAYING OUR KARMIC DEBT Buddhist score-settling doesn’t really have to be Buddhist per se, but since the notion of karma figures in, it sounds pretty Bud- dhist. I offer it to you not because I feel you need to buy it as the best and only way. I offer it to you as an alternative that some have tried with some success. The Buddha’s approach to settling the score actually settles the score, because both sides are closer to each other rather than more split apart. They are closer to their true nature, their interdependence. When something happens to us that we find really painful— an insult, a physical ailment, the loss of someone we love dear- ly—the Buddhist teachings train us to understand that we have just been given an opportunity to repay a karmic debt. It’s a way of talking about settling the score. This is the perspective that the Dalai Lama comes from, and I would say that it is also the perspective that Martin Luther King Jr. came from too. Many other people who don’t call themselves Buddhist but who believe in non-violent communication and finding a solution to oppres- sion that doesn’t itself oppress also see things this way. A very painful turn of events gives us an opportunity to pay a karmic debt. Of course, there is a belief system involved in this understanding, and I acknowledge that belief systems usually cause lots of problems. They polarize people. The belief system of karma could indeed polarize as well, if we used it to get into battles with people who didn’t believe in it. The point of this system, though, is that it works. The karmic understanding need not be religious nor an occasion for guilt. In fact, it can allow us to act without being guilt-ridden. Anything I cause someone else to feel, either pleasant or unpleas- ant, resulting from my words, actions, and activities, I myself will feel sooner or later. What goes around comes around. It doesn’t necessar- ily mean that it comes back in the same form, but somehow anything I’ve caused someone to feel, I will feel at some point in the future. This system applies to good feelings as well, but my focus here is on the karmic repercussions that cause us to try to settle the score. Therefore, when something unpleasant happens to me, I know it is a debt coming back. I have no idea what I did, so it’s not something I have to feel guilty about. I don’t have to know ➢ page 96 NOV 52-57.indd 56 NOV 52-57.indd 56 8/29/07 2:14:41 PM 8/29/07 2:14:41 PM