In this issue:
Recently I’ve been noticing a subtle shift in my inner attitude, a kind of gentle warming as if a glacier has started to move, or a crack is starting to form on the Antarctic ice shelf of my deeply embedded confusion. This started me thinking about how the conversion of karma seems kind of like global warming or something geologic: deep, slow moving, unseen.
Like global warming, the workings of karma are infinitely complex and impossible to understand with our heads. Things are frequently not what they seem. The current emotional "weather" is often not representative of changes in the long term karmic "climate." Even the very existence of karma is denied by many and changes are often very slow and difficult to see.
Most of us come to Buddhist training out of a desire to do something about suffering, either our own or that of other beings. Pretty soon after we roll up our sleeves and get down to serious training things get difficult, we start to see how we are actively causing more suffering and find it difficult to change our attitudes and behavior. Every way we turn there are those deeply embedded habits (karma) again. The prospect of helping the deeply embedded karmic need in ourselves, let alone anyone else, seems a long way off. It is easy to get discouraged. Things seem to take a very long time.
This is where we are given the opportunity to learn about faith. We learn that faith is something that we are responsible for developing in ourselves and at the same time is something that we already possess. Faith is always calling to us and we need to look up and open our hearts to IT. We need to have faith in the Eternal, faith in our practice of meditation and the Precepts, and faith in our teachers.
Then one day when we least expect it we notice that the glacier of our karmic need is beginning to soften. That one of our strongly held doubts or self judgements is starting to crack. That the seemingly immovable mountain of our karmically inherited confusion somehow has started to move and is beginning to recede into the sea of Infinite Love. The effort of our training brings positive results just as certainly as our mistakes cause more suffering. Change can seem to take a long time and it is important to remember that the law of karma is inexorable. The merit of our efforts will blossom and we will come to see the clearing of our confusion.
"If you do these things for some time you will become as herein described and then the Treasure House will open naturally and you will enjoy it fully."1
Sometimes I get a glimpse of the depth of my confusion, and sometimes a glint of Infinite Love. And, it’s always a good day. It’s always a good day to sit up straight in the presence of the Buddha’s and Ancestors, to look up, to follow the Precepts, open my heart, to ask for help, offer up my difficulties, wait patiently, listen carefully and follow gladly. It’s always a good day to do that which is good to do knowing that everything that happens is for my good and that good is happening at a fundamental level whether I am aware of it or not.
1. Dogen, Rules for Meditation