Thoughts, actions, and dissolving karma

At the Buddhist English Library of Seoul, we’ve been going over No River to Cross, by Seon Master Daehaeng.  Chapter 2 has a nice section about cause and effect, and how our mind functions.

Mind is tilted towards the things that arise often. So, if you do not manage your thoughts well, they will grow and eventually become actions.

Any thought once raised, is perfectly recorded. You might think that a thought is finished because you’re no longer aware of it, but that thought did not disappear:  it is perfectly recorded inside your mind. That thought is stored in your subconsciousness and causes a similar thought to arise next time. Further, the second thought is stronger than the first thought.

For example, if the first thought was bad, then the second thought is often a little worse. In this way, the thought keeps repeating time after time, and grows stronger and stronger. (page 17)

So, how do we manage thoughts? For one thing, we actually have a huge amount of choice in what we do once thoughts have arisen. It’s up to us if we want to continue to follow a thought, or to cease feeding it energy. But on a more fundamental level those can be dissolved, thus also dissolving the potential effects that would have resulted, had those thoughts continued unchecked.

If you record over a tape recording, the previous recording is erased and the new material is recorded. So it’s better to record good karma rather than bad karma. However, instead of just recording good karma, it’s even better to completely erase all of the recordings. The way to do this is by entrusting everything that confronts you, both good and bad, to your fundamental nature. It’s like cleaning a mirror. Even though the mirror has been covered by dust for a long time, once you wipe it off, it immediately becomes clean. (p 18)

We often naturally think that if we can understand the cause of something, we can control and cure it. But with karma, Daehaeng Kun Sunim explains that this is a futile exercise.

Karma is a tangle of uncountable causes and effects. Some people try to use their intellect to unravel their karma, but this is like trying to melt a frozen lake by pouring one bucket of hot water onto the ice. It seems to melt a little, but before long the water freezes, and you have only added more ice.

We’re stuck inside this barrel of “I,” and because what we do is contaminated with this smell of “I,” our efforts just makes things worse. The only way out of this mess is to completely jump over “I.”

So don’t get caught up in worldly things, just release them all to your fundamental mind, your Buddha-nature, and let them melt down automatically. When spring comes, the frozen lake will melt naturally and completely. Returning to your fundamental mind is like a warm spring coming after a cold winter. (p 18-19) 

5 thoughts on “Thoughts, actions, and dissolving karma”

  1. Yes, this is very, very helpful indeed! In particular with my current life circumstances. Last night in meditation I got that it’s about always coming back to the Self, to keep resting in the Self (aka Buddha Nature, our True Self). When I did that last night, consciously chose to recognize this “Self” that I am, my concerns/thoughts/fixations began to relax….

    So thank you for this wonderful pointer!

  2. {Karma is a tangle of uncountable causes and effects. }

    Trying to untangle the “if-then” conditionals is very humbling. I think – I hope! – I’m starting to understand that going down that path is only an intellectual exercise and one that ends in futility. It ramps up the “if only’s” and “what-if’s” to a panic-stricken level.

    And yet… I still struggle with this idea of my fundamental mind… releasing the “I’ to it only seems to uncover more “I”… 😦

  3. OK… I just read “the rule of the fish.” So much in that post and, I think, I comes down to “catch and release.” I shall go practice “no hook” fly fishing some more… 😉

    Thank you, Chong Go Sunim. Your posts are so very helpful.

  4. Thank you Chong Go Sunim for the web-based class on Chapter 2 of No River to Cross. I refer to the book over and over, and I find the input of your discourse to be quite edifying. I look forward to more such posts on No River to Cross.

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