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Lions Roar : January 2017
The Principle of Karma In its simplest form, the principle of karma is this: all things arise as they do because of causes and conditions. This is true from a relative perspective, and it is true from the side of the nondual. The fact of karma is like the fact of gravity: it func- tions irrespective of my belief, understanding, or endorsement. The functioning of karma is the bedrock truth of the dharma. Some Values Based on the Principle of Karma • I value the perspective that what I do matters. • I value paying attention to the way I use my mind, my speech, and my body. • I value making choices that are useful, skillful, and kind. The Six Paramitas The Sanskrit word paramita often gets translated as some version of “perfect” or “perfection,” such as “the perfection of patience.” It is also used in a construction involving “beyond,” as in “wisdom beyond wisdom.” This emphasizes the nondual, transcendent quality of these virtues—wisdom beyond mere worldly wisdom, generosity vastly larger than the mere giving of things, etc. Personally, I find the idea of trying to embody “perfect patience,” etc. daunting. But when I look at the paramitas as values, their relevance to me becomes instantly apparent. Of course I value these things! Some Values Based on the Six Paramitas • I value generosity. • I value restraint. • I value patience. • I value diligence. • I value wisdom. • I value the cultivation of wisdom and choicefulness. The Four Bodhisattva Vows The essence of Mahayana Buddhism is expressed in the four bodhisattva vows. In the Zen school, they often take this form: Beings are numberless; I vow to save them. Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them. Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them. The Buddha Way is unattainable; I vow to attain it. These vows are, in an obvious sense, impossible to fulfill. This is, as software developers might say, a feature rather than a bug: it liberates us from dependence on outcome, compelling us to find meaning wholly in the lived acts of vowing-and-do- ing. We accept in advance that failure is not only an option but is required. And yet the seeming impossibility of the bodhisattva vows can rob them of their relevance to our lives. One way we can re-empower these vows is to explore the values they point to and discover how we can express them in large and small ways. Some Values Based on the Four Bodhisattva Vows • I value a spirit of service, doing what I can, when I can, in the amount I can, to make positive contributions to the world and beings everywhere. • I value noticing when I get caught up in my own stories, and I value returning to choicefulness and kindness. • I value welcoming opportunities to learn and grow, even though they may be scary, difficult, or painful. • I value trying to live my values as best I can, knowing I will never be perfect. LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 62