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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
FALL 2 0 1 3 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 37 is transformed by one’s conscious choices. By choosing to change what motivates me, I change the kind of person I am. From this perspective, we experience kar- mic consequences not just for what we have done but also for what we have become, and what we intentionally do is what makes us what we are. In other words, we are “pun- ished” not for our “sins” but by them. And, as Spinoza put it, happiness is not the reward for virtue; happiness is virtue itself. To become a different kind of person is to experience the world in a different way. And when we respond differently to the challenges and opportunities the world presents to us, the world responds differently to us. This understanding of karma does not necessarily involve rebirth after we physically die, and there is an agnostic “I don’t know” thread in the conversation that follows. The emphasis is on “moment-to-moment” rebirth, as our motivations and actions change right now. Yet that does not mean excluding other, perhaps more mysterious possibilities regard- ing the consequences of our actions. In either case, karma is not a fatalistic doctrine. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a more empowering teaching. We are not enjoined to accept pas- sively the problematic circumstances of our lives. Rather, we are encouraged to improve our situations by addressing them with gener- osity, loving-kindness, and wisdom. ©iSTOCKPHOTO.COM/PHILLY077