“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.” – Matthew 12:35
Several years ago, my shrink gave me a brilliant little book titled “Reaching Out” by Fr. Henri Nouwen. The gist of the book is this:
- There are 2 ways of being in the world:
- A positive way wherein you are confident, secure, and full of faith
- A negative way wherein you are insecure, fearful, and anxious
- Your way of being, positive or negative, determines how you relate to:
- Your Self
If you are at peace internally, you will create a beautiful life. If you are riddled with self-doubt and insecurity, if you are fearful and anxious, you will tragically avoid life. Great, I thought after reading the book. All I have to do is be confident and secure.
But the reality is that everyone is riddled with varying degrees of insecurity and self doubt, even the most beautiful, popular, successful people. When we are small and powerless, bad things happen to us - people use and abuse us, people we depend on abandon us – and we develop defense mechanisms to protect ourselves. We come to anticipate everything that could possibly go wrong, and we organize our lives to protect ourselves from those potentialities. One day, if we are lucky, we realize that in insulating ourselves from negative potentialities, we have also insulated ourselves from love, joy, and spontaneous creativity. Life has become too risky to live and we have become what Jesus called “the dead.”
Buddhism says that life, the universe and everything are essentially empty of any meaning or significance, and that we project meaning and significance onto our life experiences. The mechanism that determines what we project, Karma, is entirely a function of our past; our past thoughts, words, actions, intent. Karma predicts our behavior, our response to life, exactly as Nouwen predicts.
The good news from Buddha (and Jesus) is that, even though we are riddled with insecurity and anxiety and consequently run away from life, there is a method to transform our Karma from a negative projection machine into a positive projection machine.
“Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love; this is an eternal truth … Overcome anger by love, overcome evil by good. Overcome the miser by giving, overcome the liar by truth.” – Dhammapada
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” – Luke 6:27
It is completely counterintuitive, but the way you change your Karma is by giving away exactly what you want. If you want more financial security, give money to charity (like www.imagodeischool.org). If you want more friends, visit lonely people. If you want to be healthy, take care of sick people. If you want to lose weight, feed people healthy food. If you want to be smarter, teach remedial students. If you want to be confident and secure, validate needy people.
My favorite part of the Sunday service at Saint Philip’s is when we pray “send us now into the world in peace and grant us strength and courage to love and serve you with gladness and singleness of heart.” Translating this prayer into my own vocabulary: “Give me the confidence and security to follow my bliss.” You see, what I want more than anything is to follow my bliss, to pursue my dream, but I just don’t have the courage – yet. So in the meantime, I am trying to help other people pursue their dreams, and I can honestly say that I feel my self being transformed. Changing one’s Karma is a process of letting go of attachments and inhibitions and becoming receptive to change.