By: David Nichtern
Lately I’ve been having an ongoing discussion with students regarding the Buddhist idea of karma. It’s a complex and multi-faceted subject.
I’ve found that using the analogy of a game of billiards can be a useful way to describe the process of karma — the table is set up, you hit the ball, it in turn hits other balls, moves the configuration on the table around, and then sets you up for your next shot. After that, maybe another person takes a turn and moves the balls around and then it’s your turn again.
Just as in the analogy of a billiard game, our thoughts and actions ripple outward, collide with others’ thoughts and actions and generate consequences. These consequences create the setting in which we initiate our next set of thoughts and actions. Here we are obviously breaking down a process that is multi-dimensional, fast paced, and very complex into a simple metaphor for the sake of having a look at the process itself.
Even if we agree that, within our lives, cause and effect creates certain patterns beyond just an arbitrary flurry of activity, several questions arise. The first is, when does this highly connective, interactive process between our mind and body and the events that play out in our lives actually begin? Where does it come from?
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