Sunday, July 31, 2011

Notes on ego display

If I had a dog, I'd name her Karma, so I could enjoy scolding, "Bad Karma, bad."  (I have a weakness for bad puns, bad.)

Just thinking about that this morning as I scan my facebook, a way of having coffee with friends.  Here was a posting about someone who hurt my feelings recently, not on purpose, just doing his conditioned ego display. In his case it's correcting people, showing how much he knows.
Look at me!

His post this morning is about a minor health problem, a discomfort, and since it is morning and calm and my brain is not as busy yet as it will be, I heard myself think.  My self thought, Good.  This is not nice, and I wouldn't admit it to most people, because most people don't realize that they think things like that.  But I will so I can make some points about the whole thing.

First point:  it is not desirable to be glad someone hurts.  I must suppose I always knew that, but until I got going with spiritual practice and began to clear out my head, I didn't hear myself.  If I had, I might have thought it was good to enjoy someone else's pain; my (alcoholic) father did, out loud and at length.

My friend.  When he hurt me - however much he didn't mean to - he created bad karma: my anger toward him. Anger is in that balliwick we call "hatred," as in "Greed, hatred, and ignorance rise endlessly; I vow to abandon them."  This is one line of a central Buddhist chant, The Bodhissatva Vow.  And it says these three poisonous things rise in us endlessly; and we make a point of noticing them and leaving that neighborhood.

Of course, like my friend, you can make someone angry and not realize it.  Maybe you're fooling around playing Angry Birds on your cellphone in the grocery line and don't notice you should move forward and put your groceries on the conveyor belt.  Someone behind you who is in a big hurry and jealous of your cellphone is steaming.  Maybe rams her cart into your butt and glares.

Hopefully the karma won't be so bad that she follows you and rams your car, but things like that do happen, at least in mystery novels.  Point being, walk slowly and lightly, be aware, be kind, be careful, don't get too caught up in your own fun - it's easy to do harm.

Another point here: Wun is a human being made of all sorts of pixels of experience.  We can continually surprise ourselves.  A real person is not predictable, though a highly conditioned person can be.

My friend couldn't have predicted my reaction if he tried, and is not responsible for my reaction.  Unless you deliberately inflict pain, something direct like that, you are not causing someone else's reaction.  You happen to cause it.  I think this is a point psychologists make sometimes; you are not responsible for how someone else feels when they have what seems like an overblown emotional reaction.

At the same time, we can't utterly disown our impact on other people.  Or the earth.  Right?  That's why there are precepts about how we act in relationship, right speech, right action.  We are responsible for our intentions, for our actions.  We are supposed to intend no harm. You can relate this easily to The Golden Rule in its many forms found in religions all over the world.  My way of thinking about it is:  Be Kind.

So.  Sunday, and here's a sermon.  Now I'm going to church and not listen to another one.

[click here to go to the website that sells a poster of the image]


  1. This really got me thinking! Thanks! I need to read more about Wun.

  2. Another wonderful post. (I did laugh out loud at the Karma dog...) I think we are entirely responsible for our actions, and if we can prevent any negative reactions to our actions, then we should do that too. But we are only hooman... :-)

  3. Would this make you the Karmagran'ma?

    I came across this today: Karma describes growth, not causation. An acorn doesn’t cause an oak tree. It grows into an oak tree. Actions don’t cause our world of experience. They grow into our world of experience.--Ken McLeod, Buddhist teacher and writer. There's more on his Unfettered Mind site.