Ethical living: Giving and taking

29 September 2010 - 12:53am Comments Off

Receiving without giving seems like you are getting something for free, and you are getting something for nothing but that is deceptive. Karma is always there…and you have to pay back one way or another.

His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche

The laws of karma is a special instance of the law of cause and effect, whereby all our actions are the causes and our experiences, their effects. Causal laws are the fairest laws as they do not depend on an external agency to operate. Our conventional laws on the other hand, are not reliable because they are man-made and hence subject to manipulation, politics, human bias and errors. Conventional laws are useful because they help governments and nations to maintain peace. However, they do not necessarily promote justice or the human condition.

Most of us will have observed or had experience of unfairness which the laws of our country cannot address. Some examples include people who commit crimes and get away with them, innocent parties who are found guilty, or lazy people who live a life of luxury while good folks eke out a living no matter how much effort they put in.

Karma offers an explanation for the inequalities of the world. However, in order to understand its operation, we need to have a strong belief in past and future lives. This is crucial because the potential for an effect (arising from a cause) may ripen long after an action has been completed – that is, an effect may occur after our present life, and in our future lives.

Those who are always on the take – freeloaders, parasites or whatever they are called – may be under the mistaken impression that they can get away with it simply because they do it sneakily, or because ‘kind’ people allow them to continue their ways. However, those who take without giving back suffer similar karmic repercussions as thieves and greedy people.

Greed and taking without giving both lead to rebirth as hungry ghosts. Generosity on the other hand, leads to an abundance of resources and our rebirth as a human or god.

Therefore those who live their life always taking from others and never giving, may appear to enjoy good fortune during this lifetime. In reality however, in lifetimes to come, the type of karma these people accumulate from always taking will be reflected in the type of suffering they experience later. They will most likely be reborn as hungry ghosts who are never able to fill their stomachs. If they are reborn as humans, they will experience abject poverty and will not be able to hold on to anything for long. If they have money or possessions, they will lose it very easily; they will find it very hard to secure a job or any kind of help and will constantly be in need.

That is considering that the karma ripens in a future life. If their karma ripens in this life, they will lose their friends, family and possessions. The suffering of this type of karma occurs at the moment of death, when the person suffers regret, disappointment, poverty and loneliness.

Do we want short-term gains, only to receive long-term suffering?

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