How much karma (actual question this time) (sort-of*)

I would like to share something that I have done, which was profoundly wrong.

Believe it or not, online, people regularly mistake me for a DharmaWheel heavyweight, only because I have an “educated” grasp of the English language. I am serious. There is a thread on DharmaWheel here lauding me as a Dharma Master. It is unfortunate that people have such poor discernment in general, to say nothing about the poster of that thread, who was mislead by my “appearance” as a “smart” person. @anon29387788 recently quoted a joke-thread that I had started with a similar sentiment. But rather than humorous, IMO, this is serious. I did something terrible.

I went to a very old-school babysitter. She hit us. She disciplined us. It was ultimately good IMO but it was abuse. Most people where I grew up were abused as a child, me included. Families hit each other in the country, be it “America”, “Canada”, or “X rural population”, its a thing. My dad hit me. My mom hit me. I hit my sister. She hit her younger brother.

My babysitter hit me, my babysitter hit Luke Suttcliff. My father hit me, his father hit Luke Suttcliff. Luke Suttcliff grew into a teenager much like me. He hit me. He teased me. He made my life a hell as a young child.

But I took my revenge. Years later, I fabricated a story to my mother and school. I said he hit me. I said he bullied me on the playground. None of that happened. This was revenge, pure and simple. Long after the fact. I keep grudges.

I got him suspended. I got him expelled. I sent him to jail. All as a child. He did not deserve that.

How to deal with this from a Buddhist perspective, that is, a perspective informed by the Buddha’s dhammavinaya?

IMO the only way to right what I have done is to help Luke. And he does not want me help, hating me as he does. So all I can do is know that what I did was a profound wrong, and have the wisdom and resolve to not seek revenge again. But that is hardly a solution with regards to karma.

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You say “all you can do”, but that’s a lot.

:pray:

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It is “good” or “a lot” for me. But it does not help Luke.

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No, it doesn’t, but it will help someone else.

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I don’t know anything about what you can do about the kamma, but I do think you can reflect on the fact that telling yourself “it was ultimately good” is probably self-deception - especially since you just gave a pretty vivid account of why it wasn’t ultimately good.

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Perhaps. Maybe. Hopefully. One will see.

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Absolutely.

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I should say now, there are no legal repercussions to “this thread”, on account of the statute of limitations in Canada, and on account of my age when I did it.

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Only thing I can say is that you are experiencing the vipaka here and now.

And according to a highly prominent member of the Nyingmapa lineage (Tibetan) for several hells afterward. Hence the intersection with @DKervick’s recent thread. Incidentally, my recent rendering of the MMK into limerick was a more profound sin, apparently, than my infant revenge on Luke, according to that same prominent source.

I don’t know why I decided to post this. Perhaps it was due to the example of DKevrick. He said an unpopular opinion: “I don’t ‘get’ traditional ‘Buddhist’ rebirth narratives”.

Instead, I confessed for a profound sin.

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You can start with apologizing to him, face-to-face. That’s what will take the weight off your shoulders. Then let the chips fall where they may.

edit: And I don’t mean a formal, stiff sort of apology. I mean an apology where you really open your heart and let the emotions out. Expect tears.

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You can do as much good as you possibly can in this life, through dana, sila, bhavana…that would be like adding water to dilute the taste of salt (the bad kamma). I am also in need of significant amounts of merit to counteract past unwholesome behavior, and so are many others. So we can all support each other in this endeavor to do good!

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I think becoming Sotapanna is the shortest and easiest way to shorten the effect of past kamma.

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You’ve asked “how much karma…” but, which units of measurement do you want to use?

Make yourself available to them, at their leisure*, and realize that maybe you don’t get to feel better for a while. Then keep at the brahmaviharas & satipatthana (you already were, right?) and don’t worry about making “extra” kamma-units, but instead focus on continuing to heal, and simply make sure you are available to take part in that process for others if they ask.


*You have to ensure that approaching Luke is something you’re doing for him. If you do it because you want to feel better… well, less than ideal.

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Hi @Coemgenu,

please forget about all this hell-stuff people might tell you!

There are 5 kinds of deeds the Buddha says will guarantee you to go to hell, that’s killing your mother, killing your father, killing an arahant, shedding a Buddha’s blood, and deliberately causing a split in the Sangha. None of them you’ve done!

The next thing the Buddha says is this:

For this is growth in the discipline of the Noble One: that a person sees his transgression as a transgression, makes amends for it according to the Dhamma, and achieves restraint in the future.

This is the same for nuns or monks breaking a precept, and also for king Ajatasattu killing his father!

(Scroll down pretty much to the end.)

And the next thing the Buddha says is of course the simile of the lump of salt, as already mentioned earlier in this thread by @Garrib.

If you do this, that’s a lot!

And also don’t exaggerate the “acknowledging” either. You don’t need to “acknowledge” things you didn’t do. As I understand the story, your deed was a deliberate lie about what Luke did. But he actually did some of the things you accused him of! So maybe you exaggerated, you put things into a different context, but you didn’t invent the whole thing altogether. Maybe your intention was to get him expelled from school, maybe it was not. All this is only up to you to discern.

And if you see an opportunity to apologise to Luke you should probably do it. If not in person, maybe in a letter, whatever you feel is suitable. If it’s not possible then that’s how it is. You can always try to do better to other people (and to yourself, not at the very least!).

The word “sin” is not a Buddhist one. The whole concept of sin, eternal damnation etc. is not Buddhist but rather Christian. As a Buddhist you acknowledge your wrong for what it is, learn from it, and then let it go. Do the best you can from now on! Repeating the old thing in your mind again and again does only perpetuate the problem into the future. You can’t change the past - it’s gone. You only can do your very best NOW. That’s something you CAN do!

When I started to understand that this whole idea of “sin” etc. is not a “fact” but something associated with the culture I’ve grown up in this was such a huge relief for me! We are immersed in this idea for generations, and it is very much part of the unconscious, subliminal part of our being. The idea of being bad in the very core of our being. All this is not an absolute truth!

On the other side, what Buddhism teaches me is that I can accept myself the way I am right now, with all my strong and week sides. Accept myself and develop metta & compassion. Right then does it become possible that all the negative sides start diminishing, and the positive ones grow! That’s how it works, not the other way around (by blaming ourselves for our faults and not acknowledging the good things we also have).

Concerning Luke there is only so much you can do. Maybe you can apologise, but how he will respond is not under your control. Even whether or not you get the chance to apologise is not 100% under your control, not to mention whether or not he forgives you!

In my life too there is a person I had a long lasting conflicting relationship with, and when at some point I tried to send them a message of piece they would not even open the letter, but send it back, together with a threat to take legal measures against me in case I try to contact them again. So there’s nothing I can do in this respect.

But I can always try and make peace with myself, and forgive myself and the other person for everything that went wrong. In our case none of us did really intent to do harm to the other, it was just because our personalities were the way they were. And harm happened on both sides.

If we develop kindness and forgiveness towards ourselves this is what makes us kind and forgiving towards others too. It’s not “selfish”, just the opposite!

And please note that forgiving yourself and justifying the deed are two very different things! Justifying the deed means you are still far from acknowledging that there was something wrong; you try to make yourself and others believe that everything was OK. Forgiving yourself can only happen after acknowledging the wrong!

I can’t guarantee you that you won’t go to hell, Caoimhghín. But if so nobody knows why this happens. I have no idea what kind of baggage you might carry in your kammic backpack from times without beginning… (if we assume there is something like earlier and future lives; if not, the whole concept of hells doesn’t matter anyway). The only thing we can know is that right now we are born as humans and are lucky enough to have encountered the Dhamma. We should make the best possible use of this opportunity - and everything else is just speculation and will only drive us crazy!

“There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

“The Buddha-range of the Buddhas is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

“The jhana-range of a person in jhana…

“The [precise working out of the] results of kamma…

“Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

“These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them.”
AN 4.77

Don’t drive yourself crazy! Forgive yourself instead, that’s the much better way!

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Perhaps, you don’t need to identify with that poor battered kid that acted the way he did out of his pain. That kid is not-you and he needs understanding. I have understood him - what he did and ‘how come’. Therefore, it is easy for me to not judge him harshly. In forgiveness and compassion kamma is resolved. Kamma is not what happens but how we respond to it. Kamma is intention not ‘vipakka’ (result) - what happens as a consequence of! The Buddha said: “Kamma, oh monks, I declare, is intention.” Your intention in wanting to make ammends is ‘good kamma’ therefore, has the mistaken behaviour of a traumatised kid been a blessing to you or a misfortune? Our past errors may be sad but thats OK - it does not mean we are better-off if we don’t have unpleasant feelings. Feelings come and go but they sometimes recur and stick-around if we have not fully forgiven ourselves for the mistakes that we inevitably make in the process of learning. You have provided an opportunity for Mr. Sutcliffe to understand and forgive that kid. He may feel the need to hold-onto the resentment out of a desire for revenge. You can forgive him for that as you understand through your own experience - mentioned above - that it does not come out of clarity but out of pain. There is no need to resent what we do - and other people do - out of pain. If we could see every ones kammic history we would see pain and its consequences - everyone is innocent - including you. Remember ‘Angulimala’ and what he got up to! He became an Arahant so there is nothing in the way! The Dhamma transforms pain into liberation. Therefore, pain (emotional and physical) can be made meaningful - a great blessing in disguise. xo

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I think a deep regret like this doesn’t just go away. It somehow changes you (or anyone), it becomes a reference point in life one revolves around, trying to do something about it. It can serve as a reminder to what we are capable of, and how our actions affect others - much more so if done with bad intent.

This insight can actually turn one into a better person, by seeing the dangers around the (ethical) corner. And maybe eventually, after being good and kind for a long time this will have replaced the other person of remorse.

Or in the dhamma language of AN 5.200…
when your citta learns to jump on nekkhamma, abyāpāda, avihesa (and eventually arūpa and sakkāyanirodha), then step by step the sources for dukkha will be ended.
Best wishes

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Dear Coemgenu

Sharing this part of your story here is a strong act of honesty, of acknowledgement - a valuing of truth. I think I can safely speak for all of us here in saying that we respect and honour such an act. Thank you for having the courage, and the trust in us, to share and acknowledge something that has clearly been hurting you for some time.

So far you have had the benefit of a number of differing pieces of advice on this thread. I would encourage you to take what is useful to you. By useful, what I mean is what makes you feel a sense of goodness again, or whatever you think will lead you to such a sense of goodness within yourself.

I feel for you, I’m sure we all do. I’m sure all of us have things in our past that we’re deeply ashamed of and so ashamed we have difficulty fully admitting them. You have done just this here in this topic. But, if I may give you a suggestion, you have to also - if you haven’t already done so - do this by yourself. Alone. It might take a few sessions - at your own pace and comfort - to gradually get to a full sense of acknowledgement. But it is a full acknowledgement that will lead to forgiveness and letting go. I know in my own life, the issues that still hover hinderingly around me, are the ones that I haven’t fully gone to the heart of. Of course, I can’t force this, but I can facilitate the causes for this to occur. :slight_smile:

But…before you do so… There are three things I want to say:

  1. I want to share with you an image that helps me to communicate how I see myself in such situations: Imagine our planet, gliding in space. Imagine its heart, its molten core. Notice the thin and etherial atmosphere and see where it melts into the vacuum of space. Notice the moon orbiting.

The moon is forever trapped in orbit. But it wants, to move through the layers of air and water and earth and merge with the molten core of the Earth.

There’s a part of you that’s the moon. There’s a hurt part of you that is defended/shielded, separated from the rest of you - that’s the Earth’s core, shielded and defended by the soil and dirt and water and air. The moon trys to reach the core.

The only way it can is if the layers of atmosphere melt away. The first layer might be the guilt. See it as an emotion that is not an absolute truth. It is conditioned. It is allowed to dissipate.

Notice that as you live your life, this guilt is not something that you are constantly aware of. There are many moments when you notice other things. Thus this guilt is not you, it is not constant. If you leave it alone, while you’re alone, if you leave it alone for long enough and without engaging with it, without poking it or prodding it or running from it or analysing it or trying to understand it or act through it or within it or whatever other form of dance you may have been doing with it for all these years - if you just leave it alone, it will disappear.

See what happens as you descend through this layer, see your vulnerability and whatever else arises. Have this sense of “leaving things alone” towards whatever arises. Don’t engage with it, resist the temptation to think about it or analyse it - though you may do this because you’re conditioned to do so. In which case it may take several meditation sessions and alot of patience…but it will happen. A meditation retreat with a kind hearted teacher might help too.

But whatever arises…do not engage with it. Don’t even attempt to understand it. This may seem counter-productive, but it’s not. Just leave it alone. If you can have this approach, there is a very strong chance that you will notice fading away, insights into the intricate, subtle, intimate workings of your own mind and a bunch of other Dhamma related stuff that’s completely cool. There’s a strong chance that you’ll understand, forgive, let go and walk away a wiser more compassionate being.

  1. Before you charge into your own lion’s den, first do all you can to first support yourself. Because such a course of action, where we go bravely to face our own fear and guilt, can seem daunting and can leave us feeling defeated if we don’t have the correct attitude or support.

You need to be kind to yourself. In whatever wholesome way you can be. Buy extra sweets or eat your favourite take away or watch some comedies or do your favourite exercise or do some gardening or whatever you fancy…or if you can, do a little bit of metta meditation everyday. Practise generosity in order to grow your good feeling and your self esteem and to increase your happiness. These things are about building resilience, so you can actually have all of this good kamma (the good kamma of being kind to yourself) as a support for you. So when you sit alone, facing whatever is difficult, this goodness and kindness is wrapping you up in its arms like a supportive blanket of love and strength.

It is okay to focus on your own heart in all this. It is okay to be just as kind to yourself as you wish to be to Luke. May all beings be happy - that includes you. It would sadden my heart exceedingly to think that you were not seeing your own happiness as an equally worthy goal to seeing Luke’s.

Indeed, another incredibly supportive thing for your mind is to obtain a simple book to keep as a journal. In this journal it will be helpful to write down all the good things you can remember. The good things others have done you. The good things you have done. The things you are grateful for. Most of us have a terrible habit of focusing on the negatives. It seems ingrained. For me, part of the journey of being a Practising Buddhist has been to gradually change this. Sure, it’s a work in progress…but it’s an enjoyable and useful work! It is very enriching for my Practise and my ability to be useful and kind to myself and others. And please, write down the smallest things as well. Write down the time you opened a door for someone or smiled at a stranger. We take goodness for granted and have stopped noticing it. Yet it is everywhere. What we focus on grows. Your world is much more to do with how your react to the external things, than the external things themselves. You create your world. Make it a good one.

You may find this helps you to take the focus off the negative aspects of your past and to get a better, more realistic perspective - a truer way of looking at things. Have you heard of Ajahn Brahm’s story of the brick wall? Or his similie of holding one’s hand in front of one’s face? Let me know if you haven’t - they’re both incredibly useful and worth hearing.

Learning to change our perspective, to focus more on positivity and goodness means that we give ourselves the freedom to be more present; we give ourselves a chance to let go of the past.

The past is over. It’s done. Your job now is to grow love and kindness and understanding of the little fellow that you were, and also understanding towards others in your life. This is how we begin to see the big picture of suffering, of how we, all things, are in flux - conditioned, not solid - nothing to be blamed - just understoond. You’ll find if you can see the link between such understanding and truth and honesty and acknowledgement, if you find this, you’ll find compassion for yourself and others. You’ll be able to walk away from your guilt and shame and live and breathe again.

It’s okay to even allow this possibility for yourself. In a purely pragmatic sense, you do yourself no service in believing your shame and guilt as the only truths worthy of attention in all this. Indeed, you weaken yourself as a human being and thus you are not serving yourself and if you’re not as kind as you can be, as self-loving and self confident as you can be, as goodness noticing as you can be, then my friend, you’re not goint to be the most efficient friend, colleague, lover, student, brother, son, father…how can you hope to be at your best to serve others when you are not at your best in serving yourself?

  1. Don’t believe what your thoughts are telling you. Don’t believe the tale your mind tells you about feeling guilty and ashamed. Because if you do, it’s like you’re hanging out with “bad friends”. Remember they’re just thoughts. They’re part of the sankhara khanda. They’re not truth. They’re impermanent, they’re without core/self, they are just words. You are under no obligation to believe them.

Let yourself sit alone, watch and listen and feel, remember a loving attitude and just leave yourself be. See what happens.


As to helping Luke…

Your paths were entertwined for a while. And his actions impacted you and yours impacted him.

But you’re responsible for your path. You cannot make him be helped by you. You cannot put him in charge of making you feel absolved of your past actions. Nothing can do that. But understanding and love and forgiveness and learning to be present - not past - and learning why this is valuable and right…these things can allow you to have a chance to completely let go.

At some point you’re going to have to let go of your sense of responsibility for Luke. He is in charge of his kamma. His journey is his. You have to leave him to it. Especially if he doesn’t want you to be part of it.

A time may come when you get a chance to make amends. But make sure you’re ready for this by ensuring that you do so out of a deep sense of understanding and forgiveness and love for him and for yourself. Grow these good things - but not just as an act of getting ready for a chance to make amends. Because you might not get this chance, and that’s okay. That is okay. You’re allowed to let this go. There’s so much mess in all our pasts, in this world in general, we do not increase love and get any peace or freedom by trying to heal wounds by poking at them, by cosseting them and fussing over them. Some wounds just have to be left alone. Sometimes this is the way to heal them - sometimes this is the healing of them.


Oh…one last things…people so often expect so much of themselves when it comes to growing metta. But, let me ask you, can you focus on the feeling of goodness and peace and simple ordinary happiness in your heart that is there (if you let yourself notice it) when you hold the door for someone or you smile at someone as you say “good morning”? Just imagine saying good morning to someone. Feel how that feels and see if you can just be in that feeling for as long as it feels good and natural to do so. If you can notice that sort of small, simple, humble degree of kindness, well, that’s all you need and you’re on your way. :slight_smile:

You can do it. :slight_smile:

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Some people have messaged me worried about Luke’s anominity. Rest assured I changed that name. :anjal:

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I don’t get this…I really don’t. It’s just so wrong. I think I’ve been lucky in the type of Buddhist conditioning that I have been exposed to, because I can’t help being astounded when other people come and tell me that they have encountered this kind of “teaching”. This is not the way to approach kamma or rebirth. It does not fit into the framework of the 4 Noble Truths, particularly the last two.


I don’t think I was so mis-led. I thought it was funny and I think you are a smart guy. You seemed to be having fun with your own translation…that takes a bit of smarts to do. :relaxed:

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