A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Archive for the tag “Preta”

Actions and karma

Karma is action. Non-virtuous actions result in suffering, and from virtuous actions comes happiness. For every good action we put out there is an equal good action coming back to us, this balance is a natural law. For every action that has a harmful effect to another being , we will receive harm in return. You may be saying right now, but I live a good life, and all this bad stuff keeps happening to me. This is the result of you bad actions in your previous lives. The same is true for those who we say have the Midas touch, or the student who masters a subject without effort. This is the result of actions in previous lives. We don’t have a preset time allotted to us on this earth, our time here is limited. If we continue to do harm we can be reborn in a lower realm, such as the hungry ghost realm, or the animal realm. There is a Tibetan story of a village beside a lake where the citizens spent their days fishing. This had been the way of life for generations. One day a master who had a gift of clairvoyance or clear sight came to the town. He observed this and said “All I see are the people and fish changing places”. The fishers were reborn the next life as the fish, the fish as the fishers, each eating the other in turn, caught in a repeating cycle. In our own relationships, how often do we take from others, without giving back equally? We get someone to like us, to say to others how nice we are, yet give nothing back, till one day we say I grow tired of you, I need another to sing me new songs of praise. Then we wonder why we never have a lasting relationship. As we hurt others we will be hurt in the same manner, if not today, then tomorrow or the next life. If we accumulate enough bad karma, we may have to wait till we are reborn in the human realm to burn off our bad karma. There are many stories about karmic connections lasting hundreds of years, before balance has been achieved.

Are we living in the hungry ghost realm?

Hearing the song Heaven on Earth, by Belinda Carslisle lead me to thinking of the old saying hell on earth. This came about because I have been reading a little about the different realms Buddhism refers to. In the hungry ghost realm, there are beings called Pretas: described as having fat bellies, thin necks, constantly stuffing themselves, yet never sated. This sounds an awful lot like a lot of people in the world, suffering from the affliction of consumerism. Looking for the next flavor of the day, or replacing their computer or mobile phone, not because of needing the new features, but because newer is more prestigious. Looking around even relationships are seen as disposable, forever has, come to mean until someone new comes along. I know someone who in the last few years has averaged over 4 new mobile phones per year, sometimes not even a month between purchases. I mention this because to this day, he only uses them for phone calls and sms messaging. All those time management features, the millions of apps, the megapixel camera, gps enabled maps and directions are not used. However he is proud of having the newest gadget. Being someone who is not only trying to tread lightly, as I walk along this earth, but to not use more then I need, this serves as a reminder. The Dalai Lama is said to have been in a shopping centre smiling, as he saw all the modern labour saving gadgets. Smiling as he pointed to items, one after the other stating I don’t need this, I don’t need that. If I do purchase something as a replacement, I need to either find a way to reuse the previous item. Perhaps giving it to someone, who could make good use of it. Alternatively I can donate it to a charity that can resell it with the profits used to support good works. If neither of these applies, then if possible see to it, that it is properly recycled. Just discarding it should be a last resort.

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