Karma and Forgetting

At the Zen center I’ve stayed at (twice, so again, I’m no expert) there was a chant we recited that went like this:

All my ancient twisted karma

From beginningless greed, hate and delusion

Born through body, speech and mind,

I now fully avow

I don’t believe in karma as something that survives the body after death and that determines one’s future lives. I don’t believe in something being truly “beginningless.”  So how could I chant this (and I’m shy anyway so that also didn’t help) and not be a hypocrite?

The karma I do believe in is somewhat akin to to the American concept of “baggage.”  As in it’s the baggage from your childhood, past relationships, your parents, etc etc. It’s baggage you check at the gate, or better yet, discard of before making your flight. It may not be “beginningless” but it exists in part beceause of things that happened in the past, even prior to your birth. Poor decisions others have made, chance meetings or missings that shape the present as we know it. Despite the Western discussion of things being good or bad Karma, generally it’s considered, like baggage, as that which makes your load a bit heavier, a burden to carry. Something that makes the travel down the correct path more difficult, if not downright impossible.

Getting rid of Karma involves first and foremost, a letting go.  Letting go of one’s past, decisions good or bad, actions good or bad. And if it’s karma we’re discussing, it’s pretty much regrets, not those things we’re happy about, that we’re discussing. It’s others, too, whether parents or other relatives who may have done wrong, said the wrong things. Unloading those things, those people, need not mean necessarily erasing them from your life, but it might also not be a pleasant experience. It means owning up to things that happened, taking responsibility for what one can logically take responsibility for, and forgiving or forgetting the rest. Many of the bad things that people do can be said to have been done under one of the umbrella terms greed, hate and delusion, so one must recognize the weaknesses that lead to acting under those influences, as well as to recognize that others act under those influences as well. Greed is easy to see, hate possibly even easier, but delusion covers a lot more territory. Acting under those influences (and others; I can think of insecurity and fear as two off the top of my head) keeps one off the path one should be on.  The line “Born through body, speech and mind” reminds one that karma is built up through, actions, words and thoughts, not just one of those.

I feel I can recite these words and not be untrue to my beliefs. Even better, I feel I can recite these words and that they can aid in helping me see the world with greater clarity, as well as my role in making it a better place however I can.

 

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