Donald the Human Trump Card: One Buddhist’s Perspective…

With each passing day, I find it more difficult to get away from what appears to me to be the “truth” about Donald Trump – and it is this: the man is where he is today, practically in the White House, because not only are the conditions “right,” but also because they’re damned near perfect. Donald Trump was “made in America,” but we simply don’t want to admit it.

Is it not ironic that the man who claims he wants to make America “great again,” is only great because America made him so? Every time we laughed at the “reasoning” behind his exclaiming “You’re fired!”; every time we overlooked his sexism, racism, and xenophobia; every time we called his complete disregard for ethics and human beings in his business practices simple “wheeling and dealing” instead of the hate crimes they were; we contributed to the Frankensteinian creation of the monster Trump is today. It’s vipaka, baby — the “fruit” of our karma…

Everyone is acting as if Donald Trump is some sort of violent, freak accident that “happened” to us one sunny afternoon. Not true. Donald Trump didn’t “happen” to “us”; Donald Trump is “us,” whether “us” refers to you and me, or to the [U]nited [S]tates. He is the sum total of our situational ethic; our refusal to admit to the existence of white privilege; our worship of the failing dollar; and the misinterpretation of the freedom of America as the “free dumb” in America. He was everything that a lot of us wanted to be – and still is. This is why  many of us will still vote for him, despite all of our public protestations, once the curtain closes behind us in the voting booth.

And if you are possibly upset that I used the words “white privilege,” please understand that it was not with anger or “reverse racism.” Any type of unfair advantage, no matter what color the perpetrator, always backfires. So-called “white people” suffer the effects (vipaka) of “white privilege” as much as so-called “people of color.” We cannot judge the intent of all by some, or truly believe, if we know the Dharma/Dhamma, that “evil” ever wins. The Law of Karma is the strictest, most impersonal bookkeeper ever employed. It doesn’t care who you are or what you do. It simply ensures that everything is always perfectly balanced — even when it doesn’t appear to be so…

Just remember this: “The Donald” cares about no one but himself. He doesn’t need you. He doesn’t need anyone – especially now that he has managed to do “the impossible.” And I don’t mean to imply that he’s not a nice person. If he’s a psychopath, and I mean this in the nicest, most clinical sense of the word, he simply can’t help it. Nonetheless, the man can’t manage a business, but we choose to believe that he can guide a nation, and deftly navigate the politics of one of the most complex and critical eras the world has ever known. Good luck with that.

So, please, stop it with the pissing and moaning. You’re not fooling anyone. This “crisis” pales in comparison to the one from which we are only now just recovering: nearly eight long years of an eloquent, educated, articulate, brilliant, undeniably just, albeit “Negro,” man holding the office of president of the United States. Many folks’ biggest disappointment can only be that he did not, in fact, do as they feared: He didn’t take office and treat white people as if they did not exist, or might possibly not have voted for him. He didn’t turn white privilege into “everything-but-white privilege,” he didn’t ignore the pain of the Syrian refugees because he valued the lives of Africans more… If you’re confused by this statement, let me draw an analogy: He didn’t pretend the Rwandan Genocide wasn’t happening because, well, no one who was anyone really cared anyway…

If you are voting for Mr. Trump, I truly don’t think less of you. Our conditioned existence is much too complicated to simplify into categories of any one person’s idea of “right” and “wrong.” Politicians are a special breed, and if there’s one good thing I can say about Mr. Trump, he’s honest about not giving a damn. But if we believe what the Buddha taught about a “conditioned existence,” then we understand that what is happening in the world today is the only thing that can happen, given what occurred prior to now (possibly for immeasurable past eons) and what is happening in the ever-fleeting and ever-changing “now.”

The only card game I ever learned to play was “Old Maid,” and that was in elementary school – many, many years ago. Nonetheless, I do know the meaning of the word “trump,” with regards to “grown-up” card playing. There are actually three definitions, in particular, that interest me, the last of which I only discovered today.

Trump:

  1. a playing card of the suit chosen to rank above the others, which can win a trick where a card of a different suit has been led;
  2. a sound of or as if of trumpeting (the trump of doom);
  3. a dependable and exemplary person.

“The Donald” is the personification of the eternal “trump card,” practically doing whatever he’s wanted, all his life, because he’s always been treated as if he’s of a higher suit or rank. You might call that a kind of “privilege,” with his being a white male being only incidental… And personally, I know people of all colors, ethnicities, income levels, social ranks, gender identities, religions, and political parties who do not think Mr. Trump is the best choice for this country.

We have ploughed, sown, and fertilized the crop we are about to harvest. And frankly, the only thing that truly surprises me about what is happening now is that we are surprised at all.That said, Mr. Trump is not the problem. He’s merely a symptom. Just as there is ‘personal’ karma, there is ‘national’ karma. Presidencies change just as everything else changes.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the last, legally-possible, four-term president, right?

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Intention: The Filter of Karma…

Karma cannot be deceived. It keeps unfolding. It is painfully democratic…. We cannot opt out of it. There is no timeout in life. Whatever we do lays a seed in our deepest consciousness, and one day that seed will grow. Every thought that occurs, especially if we water it with intention, plants a seed… –Sakyong Mipham, “Ruling Your World,” p. 52

”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””’

I have discussed the difference between “karma” and “vipaka” several times in the past. Basically, the term karma, which means “action,” is what we do, not what happens to us; and vipaka, which means “ripening [effect]” is the result of our karma, i.e., our actions, good, bad, or indifferent. So, it is vipaka that happens to us, not karma. This is why it’s incorrect to say, when something bad happens to us, “Ah, well, I guess that’s just my karma.”

People who rob banks, get caught, and go to prison, don’t usually say, “Ah, well, I guess it’s just my karma,” as if they’d expected to be treated any differently after having been caught. Yet, interestingly enough, people who do say this are often implying that they have, somehow, been treated unfairly, or somehow, received treatment that they did not deserve in relation to what they did. And what they don’t realize is that karma, which is a far from linear process, has just handed them an opportunity to “act,” which could effect a completely different outcome — should they choose wisely. It is important to note, here, that it is not, as has so often been misstated, Buddhists who are fatalistic and morbid. Buddhists actually believe that it is possible to escape the web of karmic entanglement, if not the actual effects of the causes we ignite.

There is a man with whom I once regularly rode the bus. He is a Bible-believing, tract-distributing, testifying Christian. We are on very friendly terms, despite his unsuccessfully trying to bring me to Jesus, gently, several times. I’ve seen and heard him engage many people in repentant prayer as they’ve waited for the bus, as well as on the bus.Yet, what interests me most is his premise. He tells people that no matter what they’ve done in their pasts, immediate or otherwise, that simply by repeating the “Believers Prayer” with him, and giving their heart to Jesus, right there at the bus stop, that they will automatically be forgiven all their sins — completely — and no matter what they have done. He also tells them that should they backslide, they need only read the prayer, as spelled out on the tract he leaves with them, and repent, once again, sincerely, and they will once again be forgiven. Finally, in addition to that, he tells them that even if they completely return to a life of sin, and find themselves on their deathbeds, all they have to do is repent, and immediately after dying, they will go to be with Jesus in heaven — so great is His desire to forgive… And it is this “promise” upon which many professing “Christians” rely. Personally, I question this man’s interpretation of both the gospels and thus, Jesus Christ.

Buddhists believe that we keep coming back until we get it “right.” There’s no “final judgment” or end of days; in fact, we should be so lucky. Whereas a Christian commits murder, sincerely repents, dies and goes to be with God, a Buddhist commits murder, sincerely repents, dies, experiences rebirth, then because of wrongly taking a life, will “live a short life” or possibly be murdered him- or herself… Yet, because of the cycle of endless rebirths, part of the experience of samsara, and the intricately woven, multidimensional web of the karma of endless past lives, this “effect” might not come to fruition until many lifetimes later; or, it could manifest in other ways such as that person eventually also experiencing the loss of a loved one through violent means. The perfect and perennial example, here, is Maha Moggallona who, despite being one of the Buddha’s most accomplished monks, was murdered due to having murdered his own parents in a former life. He was assassinated, beaten to death — the method he had used to murder his own parents…

Additionally, if we kill someone, and it was because we were in a really bad mood that day, rather than in self defense (which would still be a “bad”), since we don’t believe in a personal deity, there’s no appeals process available. Karma is totally impersonal and completely unforgiving in that it requires the “cause” we’ve committed to play out to its inevitable effect; but for Christians, apparently, it is possible to spend one’s entire life stealing, lying, and murdering, but if they can just “go to Jesus” a few moments before they die — they’re forgiven. Now, to me, that sounds like a gross circumvention of justice, and it begs the question, “Is ‘forgiveness’ the same as not having to reap what one has sown?” Or to put it another way, can one willfully commit unconscionable acts, repeatedly, with no repercussions, simply by “going to Jesus?” Could Hitler have said, before he purportedly committed suicide, “Wow, Lord, maybe I overreacted,” and be standing at the Pearly Gates to greet “errant” Jews who finally saw the light and also became “Christians?” Or could he even be standing at the Pearly Gates with St. Peter to tell Jews who never came to Jesus that they’d best be set to spend eternity in another type of oven?

Karma is destiny, not fate; and many people don’t realize that there is a difference between the two. Fate implies that our experience is preordained and that no matter what we do, we’ll get the same result (particularly regarding unpleasant results). Conversely, destiny, also implies that certain events are bound to happen, but unlike fate, destiny can be shaped, i.e., there is the possibility of our influencing and thus, changing it. Therefore, in the language of karma, whenever we act, whether verbally, physically, or even thought-fully, we enter into an unerringly balanced mechanistic process of intricately interwoven cause-and-effect that favors no one person over another. And yes, this is a hard pill to swallow because such phenomena as racism, sexism, homophobia, and xenophobia make this appear to be otherwise — but consider for a moment if this were true. Would it not call into question everything from the concept of babies being born “innocent” to the nature of “injustice,” itself?

Now, let us drill down even further. The term karma, refers to not only our actions, but also the intent that fuels those actions — and it is this line of reasoning that brings us to the always controversial Buddhist teachings that say there is truly no “good” or “bad” except in the relative sense. This view exists because karma is viewed through the filter of intention…I know of two situations where angry men have laid hands on other individuals with such force that they have broken those individuals’ ribs. I maintain that in the first case, they were “wrong,” and in the second case, they were “right.”

In the first situation of rib-breaking, the man used a baseball bat to break someone’s ribs in a fight predicated merely by drunkenness. In the second situation, a paramedic was administering CPR — and if you’ve ever been certified to administer CPR, you’ve most likely heard the shocking statement that if you administer CPR, and there are not any broken ribs, you’re probably not doing it right… So, my point, however simply supported, is that one could either be a person who gets into a bar fight every now and then, and only occasionally breaks a few ribs, or be a paramedic, and break ribs every day. In reference to rib-breaking, the vipaka for bar brawlers will be substantially different from that of the paramedics (unless it is their intention to break ribs)…

For a Buddhist, karma (his or her actions) is “God,” and consequently, this “God” determines whether our lives are pictures of peace, pandemonium, or a pairing of both. The pairing of both is often the result of past karma coming to fruition (ripening, or becoming vipaka), whether from earlier in our present lives, or from past lives. Unlike instant, repeated forgiveness that absolves us from any responsibility or culpability for our actions, the keyword for Buddhists is ‘intention.’ So, rather than repeatedly praying for forgiveness, we instead seek to refine our intentions (thoughts) — the source and fuel of our actions, so that our intentions, and thus, karma, will first be purified, and then, extinguished.

And interestingly enough, the term nirvana, which is popularly interpreted as meaning some kind of phenomenal liberation or bliss, literally means “blown out,” as in “extinguished,” with regard to the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion, the hallmarks of samsara (suffering)… This summons another interesting difference between Christian theology and Buddhist thought. Christians are first born again in hopes of living forever; but Buddhists seek to end suffering, once and for all, by quenching the flame of repeated rebirths, and never returning (unless they take the Bodhisattva vow)… Hence, the Buddha’s “parinirvana,” or final death…Buddhists believe, regarding the Buddha, unlike Christians believe, regarding Jesus Christ, that the Buddha was a man; he’s dead; and he’s not coming back. Finally, unlike Christians who worship Jesus Christ, we do not worship the Buddha, or pray to him. The Buddha was a man. A man. We rejoice that he achieved his supreme intention. And we rejoice that all men and women can be as he was.

Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!

And of course, Namaste.
=====================

References:

The Bodhisattva Vows from Buddhism.about.com

Mukpo, Mipham J. Ruling Your World. New York: Three Rivers Press. 2005. Print.

The Killing of Maha Moggalana. Wisdom Quarterly Blogspot (Monday, Dec. 28, 2009).

The Three Poisons, Part I: Ignorance…

About a year ago, a young man in his early thirties who was having severe dental problems due to having no dental insurance said to me, “Well, I guess I’ll just get dentures sooner than later — it happens to us all!” Though he smokes, chews tobacco, and drinks only coffee and colas, I had to bite my lip to avoid exclaiming, “No, it does not!” By that time, I’d learned that arguing, stating “the facts,” or trying to persuade people whose minds are already made up is not only futile, it’s egotistical. Unless you’re a lobbyist, a member of a debating team, or an attorney arguing a death penalty case, it’s a useless, thankless endeavor, and the reward is small — being “right” for a minute, or forever, in nobody’s but your own fondest memories. Additionally, because everyone wants to be “right,” they resent it if you cause them to feel or look “wrong,” and the repercussions can be swift, or slow and insidious. And of course, issues of race, class, someone’s lack of self-esteem, or just plain accountability can define the difference between our being seen as intelligent or a trouble maker…

Nonetheless, much reading and discussion with dental professionals will lead one to the discovery that teeth were meant to last a lifetime, even if you live to be 100, but you need to know how to take care of them. Tooth loss is not an inevitable, unavoidable “fact” of life. This much, I knew. I also knew that if I’d disagreed with him, he would have discounted my views because I was a woman, and not “free, white, and over-21,” as he constantly reminded me and anyone else with whom he “conversated” no matter what they looked like. And this leads me to the discussion of one of the Three Poisons, ignorance, as identified by the Lord Buddha. The other two “poisons” are attachment and aversion. They are also interpreted, respectively, as delusion, desire, and hatred.

The word, ignorant, is actually a beautiful, compassion-based word that has, in the common usage, been bastardized into meaning “stupid.” Though I am not an expert in the language of the Theravada Buddhist scriptures, Pali (the language of Theravada Buddhism), I have learned that when Buddhists [properly] use the word “ignorant,” it does not necessarily imply stupidity, but rather “not knowing.” And that’s a significant, yet subtle difference. What this means is that it is possible to say people are ignorant not as an insult, but as a simple statement of fact coupled with the understanding that those persons are simply doing the best they can with the information they currently possess. Truly, even when it doesn’t look like it, most people are doing what they think is “best” — if only for them…

For example: Robbing a bank (however “justifiably” desperate one may be) is stupid; but telling a lie, however “white,” is ignorant. The Buddha famously said, to his young son, Rahula that a liar is capable of any evil, and thus, lying is never justified. Lying is bad karma — and here, it is important to remember that the term karma does not refer to what happens to us, but rather to what we actually do. Karma translates to “action.” So, karma is what we do, but vipaka is what happens to us as a result of that action. If someone falsely accuses a person of committing a crime, causing that person to be wrongly incarcerated, that’s bad karma (action). When the truth of their lie is finally revealed, and they, themselves go to prison for lying, that’s their vipaka, a term which translates as “the ripening or maturation” of [a] karma (action). So, vipaka is the consequence of [a] karma — whether it be good or bad.

One of the the beautiful, liberating things about understanding the difference between karma and vipaka is that we realize that we have much more control over what occurs in our lives than we might think. When something bad happens to us, it is not “right view” to say, “That’s just my karma.” Buddhists are not as fatalistic as they’re reputed to be. Then there’s the hard truth. It is more appropriate to throw up one’s hands and say, “Ah, well, I guess that’s just my… vipaka (i.e., the natural consequences of my past actions.) Nonetheless, at any given moment, we can choose what karma we wish to enact, and immediately influence our future vipaka, i.e., outcomes.

We do have some level of control over our vipaka until the moment we draw our last breath, but this does not necessarily mean that we will escape the vipaka (ripened effects) of our previous karma (actions/choices) in this life, or the next… Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor who authored one of my favorite books, Man’s Search for Meaning, said:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

And God help you if someone knows you know this. They’ll often be happy to place you in a position to test your true adherence to this theory. Nonetheless, the ability to choose should be our greatest and most treasured freedom because our choices today are where we’ll live tomorrow — whether our role be that of punish-er or sufferer.

The story of the Maha-Moggallana, the arahant and beloved companion of the Lord Buddha aptly illustrates this. Despite living the holy life, he was murdered, according to the Buddha, because of murdering his own parents in a former life… This is why it is so vitally important to guard our actions and speech as if our lives depend on them — which they do… And just in case what I said didn’t register with you, Maha-Mogallana attained Liberation; yet, was beaten like a dog, dragged himself “home” through the streets to be in the presence of the Lord Buddha once more, and then died.

Buddhists believe that out of the many different types of sentient beings, of which humans are only one, the human rebirth is the most fortunate. This is because only human beings can attain enlightenment. There is a verse from the Holy Bible that I have always loved, and which is most appropriate here:

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. –Phillipians 2:12(b)

Unfortunately, not everyone can do this all of the time. What I perceive as “right” today, I could realize to be a colossal mistake tomorrow — and it’s all because of my “ignorance,” my “not knowing.” According to the Buddha, there is much that cannot be learned in books or by talking to other people. No one can make up our minds for us. ‘Truth’ is an experience, ultimately too subtle for words, and can sometimes be relative. “What God has joined together, let no man (or woman) put asunder”; yet, some marriages need to end. We need to be willing to meditate,think upon and rigorously examine our experiences, remembering that because they are our experiences, we were there, taking part in them… Putting up a nasty meme on Facebook, e.g., “Some women think they are everything; in reality, they are everything but..,” without questioning one’s own self or culpability is not a solution — neither is drinking, drugging, or sinking into silent, angry bitterness. We all pay, one way or another, for negative karma we’ve committed, but often, the people who inflict these punishments often incur their own negative karma for inflicting your vipaka. They think they’re lucky dogs for getting revenge, but don’t realize that through that very act of revenge, they are sealing their own vipaka. If they were not ignorant of this fact, they’d be merciful…

For in the same way you judge others, so will you be judged… Matthew 7:2

And this applies even when those being punished “deserve” to be punished. Mind you this discussion is taking place outside of a discussion of any established legal system or the prison industrial complex…

When someone simply doesn’t know, or realize, that the results (vipaka) of their karma (actions) can only be unhappiness and suffering, even though their ignorance is to blame, they will suffer the consequences. Just as drunk drivers can’t use their drunkenness as an excuse for murder, we don’t get to use our ignorance as an excuse for the mistakes, or missteps we take. This is why I am so grateful to the individuals who have been merciful to me, and why I am obligated to try to be as merciful as I can be. We all act under the influence of “not knowing,” and because of our not knowing, we cause problems by judging or retaliating against people whom we, ourselves, may have been responsible for inciting.

Today, I will remember that as much as I care, and as hard as I try, I am still a “hot mess.” If that can be true for me, it can be true for another. Today, and always, I will strive to meet “in the middle,” as much as I can, and as much as others are willing, so that I do not hasten the end…

Namaste.

 

 

Robin Williams: Depression Isn’t the Point…

There’s a man I see, roughly every other day, whenever I ride the bus. I doubt that I would have noticed him at all, except for one thing: He is always smiling. And that smile is warm, beautiful, and exuberant – almost to the point of hilarity. Normally, that would be a positive quality.

Now, at the risk of appearing ‘slow,’ I must admit it took me a good month to realize that I had never seen his face, which is now forever engraved in my mind, without a smile. In fact, if he wasn’t smiling, he was either laughing raucously or giggling childishly. And this morning, upon boarding the bus, he paid his fare, giggled like the stereotypical gay man screaming “Fabulous!” and literally skipped down the aisle of the bus laughing and conversing with himself.

I thought, “I’ve got to get to the bottom of this!” whipped out my cell phone, and Googled “condition when you are always laughing or smiling.” Here’s what I found: Angelman Syndrome. But before I explain, I must first give you a brief, physical description of this man. I won’t get detailed out of respect for his privacy, even though I am quite certain it’s not one of his major concerns. What I can share is that when he’s not skipping, he’s definitively masculine in carriage; taller than the average man; well-proportioned, and middle-aged. This is why he was particularly notable as he giggled and skipped down the bus aisle…

Angelman Syndrome is categorized not as a “disease,” but rather as a genetic disorder. Perhaps, unlike you, I’d never heard of it until today’s Google search. Those born with this disorder are always, as in unceasingly, smiling and/or laughing. Additionally, though they actually do feel the full spectrum of emotions, including anger and sadness, they cannot physically convey or portray those feelings through their facial expressions. They also have awkward, “jerky” movements, often flinging their arms, shaking their bodies, and stopping and starting, suddenly; and they suffer from a number of developmental disabilities. So, even if they were telling you that they hate you and wish you’d drop dead, it would be with the most radiant, warmth-engendering smile you’d ever seen. But that would not be likely to happen because like people with Down Syndrome, those with Angelman Syndrome are often very loving, warm individuals… This man has warmly greeted me, directly, on a number of occasions, and is always quick to point out that my bus is arriving —  and I’m not quite sure how he knows it’s my bus because I ride more than one line…

We spend our entire adult lives trying to be happy. When that doesn’t happen, we spend about 50% of our time trying to look happy. And when that doesn’t work, we get “depressed,” or worse… I’ve wondered if life would be any less exhausting if we didn’t have to try so hard to look happy, strong, unperturbed, and in control. In one respect, Angelman Syndrome would save us a great deal of energy; but, as mentioned, the disorder is not without its negative aspects. This man, who is always giggling, smiling, and moving spasmodically, still experiences the normal complexities of the full range of human emotion – perhaps, even embarrassment?

From a karmic perspective, which will no doubt offend those who either don’t believe in, or understand, karma, this raises a few questions, even for me, a Buddhist who believes in the laws of karma. For example:

  1. Was the man on the bus, in another life, someone who was never happy with what he had? Or,
  2. Did he expect others to act happy when he knew they were unhappy? And,
  3. If there is any truth to either #1, or #2, what, or how, can this man, with obvious developmental disabilities, learn anything from having this condition?
  4. So, is this man being punished? Or is this disorder the result of something someone else did?
  5. If  contracting this disorder is the result of past negative karma(s), could this be the way he expiates that karma? (Mind you, people often base claims of “No God,” on the “fact” that “innocent” babies suffer for “no reason” in this world; but in a world where karma is ‘law,’ few if any are truly “innocent,” hence the ‘justice’ of karma… Or,
  6. Is the man on the bus, strangely, blessed?

Yes, I realize that many people would tell me, “Some people are born ‘normal,’ and some are not. You’re the one who’s nuts!” But Buddhism teaches us that not only can we live many lives in the future, but also that we have already lived many lives in the past, and that our every ‘karma,’ i.e., ‘action,’ including our state of mind at the moment of our death, will determine the circumstances of our next re-birth. For a Buddhist, every death is a rebirth, and every birth the start of another round of dying.

Another thing to consider, here, is that in the **caste system of India, people are thought to be born into certain castes, or ‘classes’ as a result of their actions in previous lives. So, if you are born into the caste known as the ‘untouchables,’ whose “career path” might be cleaning latrines, or retrieving the dead bodies of animals, and sometimes people, with little or no hope of escape (upward mobility), there’d be no sympathy for you because you are simply getting “what you deserve.” The assumption might also be that your current state is an expiatory condition, i.e., the working out of your negative karma. And “karma,” more properly referred to as ‘vipaka’  (specifically the ‘fruit’ of your actions/karma) is always ‘just.’ In fact, the Buddha, who was Hindu, was born into this culture. And it is quite obvious, from his teachings, that he went the way of compassion.

**I want to make special mention, here, that while issues of caste are still relevant in Indian communities (in and outside of India), the confines of this belief system have become much less stringent. Discrimination based on caste, in India, is now illegal, but this doesn’t mean that it has been completely eliminated. The concept of caste is relevant to Buddhism because Buddhism was born from Hinduism. Nonetheless, just as Jesus of Nazareth never used the word, “Christianity,” the Buddha never coined the term, “Buddhism.” It’s important for us to keep in mind that nothing and no one exists in a vacuum.

All I really know is that neither money, nor family and friends (whether they love and support you, or not) can make you happy. The late comedian, Robin Williams, probably owned a tuxedo, or pair of cuff links, the value of which could have paid off my student loan, including the mind-numbing interest I’ve incurred from several forbearances. But Mr. Williams still wasn’t happy. For Robin Williams, there wasn’t enough money, love, cocaine, alcohol, comradery, family, friendship, recognition, or even “God” to make him “happy.” And when you look at the aforementioned string of “happiness triggers,” it’s fairly easy to see that they are all rooted in what the Buddha defined as ‘impermanence.’ Nonetheless, I’ve known people with Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other devastating diagnoses, with much less fame, money, and influence than Robin Williams who did not commit suicide. My own Daddy was one of them. And he was a physician. He could have written himself, or procured a prescription for a ‘death cocktail’ any time he wanted. And though I didn’t want him to do that, I often wondered, during his considerable suffering, why he did not do this. I neither fault nor criticize Mr. Williams for what he did. The choice is always ours, and few, if any, know another’s true circumstances or motivations.

Sometimes, we have to lose “it” all to discover that instead of being left with “nothing,” we’re instead in possession of the only item of true value we’ll ever own – the ‘say’ that we have in the creation of our own futures. The excruciatingly hard part is dealing with that initial loss. The past is gone; the future is not yet here; so, all we have is our ‘now,’ and what we decide to do with it.

Dear Mr. Williams, our Angelman of nearly half a century,

Thank you for imbuing some 20 years of our lives with gut-busting, body-wracking laughter. Our Mork from Ork, you were a blazing, breathtaking meteor shower across some very dark skies, fulfilling your promise, beautifully, and burning out, probably less suddenly than it seemed.  From the minute we are born, we are always dying; and death is but another beginning. All your good will be returned to you, and may your next life be your last. Happy goodwill hunting…

Namaste.

==================
Related Reading:

The boy who can’t stop smiling: Genetic disorder means James, 11, always looks happy – even though he can’t speak from Daily Mail Online

Caste Is Not Past from Sunday Review/New York Times/The Opinion Pages (Website)

“Bitch” Doesn’t Even Begin To Describe Karma…

“Karma’s a bitch.” –?
===================

Karma. You can’t pray to her. You can’t beseech her. You can’t make deals with her. You can’t seek her forgiveness. You can’t have a “personal relationship” with her. And you can’t expect her to suspend the laws of nature so that you don’t have to pay for the  evil you’ve wrought. Oh, wait a minute! I already mentioned prayer, didn’t I?

The term ‘karma,’ literally means ‘action,’ but it is widely and generally interpreted to mean “the result of an action, or actions,” which is incorrect. When our actions, i.e., karma, result in some type of payday, pleasant or unpleasant, there’s another term for that. It’s ‘vipaka.’ Vipaka means “fruit,” i.e., “the fruit of,” as in when our ‘actions’ (karma[s]) bear fruit (come to fruition), or when the seed(s) we’ve planted sprout, take root, grow, and multiply. So, when someone finally “gets what’s coming to them,” it’s not their ‘karma’ that finally caught up with them; it’s their ‘vipaka.’ The existence of the little-discussed (in the general public, anyway) term (vipaka) does not necessarily discredit other discussions, questions, or theories about karma. [And to emphasize this point, I have included, in my Related Reading section below, other discussions of karma that truly moved me].

Every action we express, whether physical, verbal, or even mental, is [a] ‘karma.’ An action as mundane as flossing one’s teeth is karma. The vipaka, or fruit, of flossing (particularly if that flossing is done regularly and well) is that of avoiding gingivitis. Better yet, commit the karma of regularly visiting your dentist. This type of karma is far-reaching and the results (vipaka), i.e., not losing all one’s teeth, are not necessarily immediate. This touches on the matter of different  types  of vipaka.

Sometimes, the results (vipaka) are immediate, and sometimes we don’t see those results (vipaka) for a very long time. Other types of karma bear almost instantaneous vipaka, whether good or bad. For example, when NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo bought a pair of leather boots for a man, and literally helped the man put them on his feet, he became, for a short while, the soul of the NYPD and the American public. He had no idea that his actions (karma) would be photographed and published all over the world. And then there are those individuals who commit murder (karma!) and never get caught (in  this  life, that is).

Consequently,the concept of karma begs the question of rebirth, even though one’s karma can manifest within just one lifetime, or even within five minutes of the karma committed. This seriously complicates the concept of rebirth, which is often viewed as mumbo-jumbo of the most primitive, pantheistic, and puerile kind. So, it’s worth taking a few minutes to consider that the law of karma is more akin to a law of nature, like gravity, or even more specifically, the law of conservation of energy. This law states:

“…energy cannot be created or destroyed, but only changed from one form into another or transferred from one object to another. This law is taught in physical science and physics classes in middle schools and high schools, and is used in those classes as well as in chemistry classes” (Your Dictionary.com).

And speaking of physics, interestingly enough, the differences between ‘energy transformation’ and ‘energy transfer’ have been used to describe the subtle differences some people make between rebirth and reincarnation, respectively. Additionally, the indestructible nature of energy, accepted as hard, scientific, even obvious fact, is also applicable to that energy known as “life.” For example, when a body breathes its last breath, where does that animating ‘energy’ “go?” If ‘life,’ itself, is a type of energy, and energy cannot be destroyed, is it so far-fetched to imagine that same energy being either transformed, transferred, redistributed, or redeployed? And even if you don’t believe in ‘rebirth’ or ‘reincarnation,’ does not some type of ‘transfer’ or ‘transformation’ take place when even a squirrel’s remains decay, merge with the soil, thus contributing to both the fertilization process and the growth and nourishment of other organisms? But that’s another post, isn’t it?

Namaste.

===========================
Related Reading:

Well, we all know ‘Karma’ isn’t the bitch from The brooding architect (blog)

Our Mind Dictates Who We Are from Becoming Buddhist (blog)

Limitations and Expectations of Karma from Ayslyn’s Corner (blog)