Being a Protestant Buddhist is not easy, but this is par for the course for me. I have chosen the difficult path so many times that, when the going gets easy, I get nervous. Often I have taken the road less travelled out of self-loathing. You see, that path is often less travelled for some damn good reasons. At the time, I did not see it as such. I thought I was being brave, noble, adventurous. I was being an idiot.
A few of those turns were positive choices, made from an honest desire to make me and the world better.
But not enough of them, and my Karma has been tainted by it.
Karma, succinctly defined, is the “sum total of a person’s actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fates in future existences.” It’s probably the easiest term in Buddhist/Hindu philosophy to understand. It’s commonly used and surprisingly infrequently abused, unlike many other Buddhist concepts such as non-attachment and suffering.
Dharma, though it rhymes wonderfully with karma, is harder to understand. Firstly, the term is often spelled as Dhamma ( the Pali version, as opposed the Sanskrit Dharma). Beyondly, it has several meanings: the state of nature and the world as it is—not people’s own personal feelings about the world but the actual laws of nature that we learned and then forgot in Science class. Also Dharma can refer to the actual teachings of the Buddha to end suffering, which the Buddha said were gleaned from the state of the world and its nature (the first definition of Dharma).
Karma is the shit or shiny of your personal life you have made for yourself. Dharma is the background and stage for where you made the shit or the shiny.
The Buddhist must be true to Dharma, in both of its definitions. We have a duty to be true to the Dharma of the Buddha as well as the Dharma of the world. To not do so, to flout the laws of nature and the teachings of the Buddha, will assuredly lead to unhappiness for yourself and cause you to make others unhappy which creates bad Karma.
I have stored up a pile of bad Karma, and all my present goodness will not vanish it. It will take the same effort to change it as it did to create it. How do I know this? Dharma. Energy is never created or destroyed. This is a law of science. I can change this energy, but the work to do so must equal the work spent to turn the potential energy of good karma into the kinetic energy of bad karma .
Dharma defines the quality of Karma, for either bad or good.
Once again that fat, dead Bastard Buddha was completely and totally right.
There are people, two of them, in my life whom I love and want to love more. There are also two people, who don’t want me to love and who seek to make all things around me, in the most basic and uncolorful term, unpleasant. To confront those who oppose my love is feckless, as they seek confrontation and are adept at manipulating conflict to further hurt those I love. So I am doomed to be patient, and forced to not react as my passion would have me do.
It is the perfect revenge of Dharma.
It is the hardest thing for me to do.
And it is what I deserve.
Acting from passion, from the will of the moment caused me to hurt others, hurt myself and to become blind to my personal Dharma. And now, the only thing I can do to restore good karma in my life is the one thing that I consistently failed at, which earned me bad karma.
There’s a reason the symbol of Buddhism is a wheel.
Karma is a bitch, and so was I. But Dharma is a switch, and I will accept its lashes for it is but pain, and that is far preferable to suffering.