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Buddhadharma : Fall 2013
40 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY FALL 2 0 1 3 the other, to think, how can I work with this present moment in a way that will bring about the most positive effect in the future? LARRY WARD: I agree, and I really appreciate the comment about karma and freedom. I see meditation practice as an opportu- nity, for me anyway, to discover my freedom over and over again. ANDREW OLENDZKI: We don’t have any say, in this moment, over what hand we’re dealt; that’s conditioned by past action. Although in every mind-moment we’re receiving karma from the past, we do have some influence over how skillfully we play that hand, and that’s where awareness increases our skill level. BUDDHADHARMA: Going back to the question of mechanism, or how karma works, we’ve talked about habit and seeds in a way that’s relatively easy to understand within the context of a single lifetime. If I cultivate these habits in my mind now, I’m going to influence who I am, how I act, and how much I suffer in the future. But Buddhism posits more than that; it posits that those seeds carry forward from lifetime to lifetime. What can you say about how that mechanism works? meditation practice, we tend to be very reactive to our envi- ronment. When that happens, we only reinforce the habits we’re already familiar with and aren’t able to turn our habits in a more positive direction. ANDREW OLENDZKI: I agree. What meditation is doing is training us to be aware of what’s going on. We can get through the day pretty well without being aware of what’s happening; all of our habits are automatic responses. We don’t have to pay attention, but when we do, we have the chance to alter our habits, which is what makes the practice transformational. RITA GROSS: And that’s what makes it possible to let some seeds wither and others flourish. BUDDHADHARMA: So if karma isn’t fate, it raises the question of free will. Is the ability to have awareness of one’s habits in effect where the possibility of choice or freedom comes in? Does it allow us to not be controlled completely by our karma? RITA GROSS: Yes. In fact, Buddhist practice makes no sense at all if there isn’t that little gap where we can go one way or the other. There’s always a gap—even if it’s a very small one— where we have some ability to go left or right, one way or PATRICKCROUCH