Every action generates karma – an outcome of one sort or another. Nothing is without a consequence, so what we do is important because it carries the seed of the future. This doesn’t mean it is safer to lead a life without action – omissions have consequences, too. Rather it suggests that whatever actions we undertake need to be carried out with care.
Action can be good and bad at the same time
Ideally, all activity should create positive seeds for the future. A positive consequence is that the result of the act will benefit others. We must also take great care to see that no harm is done to anyone else. For example, if we steal in order to provide material benefits for ourselves and our family, a narrow view might cause us to think that that’s acceptable. A more intelligent view is that although there is some benefit, the action may be causing disadvantage or harm to the victims. That is an obvious example but in the world of human affairs there are limitless variations on that theme, some of them so subtle that we may not perceive them as negative in effect.
Guarding vested interests can be dangerous for this precious world of ours
In spite of best efforts, sometimes we may find ourselves guarding our own interests. It is easy to be more concerned for ourselves and our own than for those we don’t know. It is human nature to do that and naturally we do our best to protect our home, money and resources as well as our loved ones. If that causes no harm to anyone else, all is well and good – but what if, in protecting our own concerns, we cause or prolong the unhappiness or suffering of others? Then the actions or omissions are not right. Along with the immediate positive consequences for ourselves, we have also sown negative seeds. The impact of those we may never know.
Although none of us knows what life is going to throw at us, whatever we do today will almost certainly affect the future. Some things are more obvious than others, such as the long-term effects on the body of an unbalanced diet, too little or too much exercise, and so on. And we know, too, that if we act or speak violently, the results can be devastating. Tweeters (and that includes you, Mr President) please take care. However, it is the more subtle factors that usually provide the greatest challenge. Our concern should be to identify any tendencies to negativity in our speech and every action and to winkle them out.
More than harmlessness
If we want to achieve self-realisation, it is essential to cultivate an attitude of harmlessness. Ensuring that our action does not create any suffering or hardship is important but harmlessness means something more than that. Rather than creating an ideal of causing no harm, the evolutionary path requires that our actions become beneficial – positive rather than merely neutral. To put it in a simple way, we should feel that we are doing our best to contribute to making the world a better place.
This is an extract from my book The Art of Not Doing – How to Achieve Inner Peace and a Clear Mind. More details here.
Free guided meditations here.