By Pablo Das
What we think, what we pay attention to, what we say and what we do all have an impact on our sense of wellbeing both personally and interpersonally. This is a simple way of understanding Karma. Karma is a word that basically means action. In the dharma, one simple way of understanding karma is to acknowledge that our actions bring results. In this case "action" means anything you do. Thinking, paying attention, speaking, acting and otherwise engaging with the world all brings results. Those results can either condition a sense of wellbeing in life or something like suffering or harm.
If you were to bring to mind the most beautiful place you've ever been, that would have one kind of impact on your experience. If you were to bring to mind something that concerns you, that would have another kind of impact. Something as simple as what we pay attention to brings results. (You might notice the impact on your nervous system of whatever you pay attention to next in your Facebook feed) This is just an insight into the way things are. Really integrating this knowing into your moment to moment life can have a major impact on you and those around you.
The opening lines of a popular collection of Buddhist teachings called the Dhammapada contains a useful image. "Speak or act with a corrupted mind and suffering will follow like the cart follows the ox that pulls it. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow like a never departing shadow."
At first glance, what is illustrated here is a clear relationship between what we do and what we experience as a result of what we do. In this case either happiness or suffering. (Actions bring results). But there's something else going on here.
Along with actions and results were asked to pay attention to another variable. The quality of mind that precedes and informs the action. We could think of this as intention or motivation. The dharma places a lot of attention on the cultivation of certain types of intentions, namely kindness and compassion. We end up with the following equation.
Intention (motivation) + action = results.
This is not hard to understand in the real world. If you speak and act from hatred or with an intention to to do harm, you will get a certain kind of result. If you speak or act from kindness and compassion, you will get another kind of result. This is clear.
Results = wellbeing or suffering.
The core underlying principle in all of this is cause and effect. There's a chain of events unfolding in every moment which we can all wake up to. What we wake up to is that we are constantly playing a role in the creation of the next set of conditions in our lives and that in every moment we can make our thoughts, what we tend to with awareness, our speech and actions as well as our intentions, conscious. This awareness can be the difference between a life of wellbeing and one of suffering and harm.