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Buddhadharma : Winter 2017
70 Buddhadharma: The PracTiTioner's QuarTerly personally been experiencing a lot of pain, and it transforms the mind. We can also bring mindfulness that is conjoined with wisdom to understand dukkha, observing our impermanent nature and then going beyond that to see that we’re grasping dukkha as inherently existent, that the causes for us experienc- ing dukkha—the ignorance, anger, and attachment—are underlain by grasping at inherent existence. So we can use the meditation on emptiness, on selflessness, to change how dukkha appears to our mind and also to stop creating the karma that leads to at least the first two kinds of dukkha. Buddhadharma: The idea that dukkha is the result of our karma is hard to hear. It sounds like blame. ThuBTen Chodron: It is hard to hear— it entails accepting responsibility for our actions, and we tend to blame our misery on things outside of ourselves that we often cannot control. But saying that this misery is a result of our own karma is not blaming ourselves. It’s not saying that somebody deserves to suffer. Do not put a Christian overlay of karma suggesting reward and punishment on the Buddhist notion of karma. It’s just that when you plant daisy seeds, you get daisies, and when you plant chili seeds, you get chil- ies. The point is to look at our actions and understand that they influence our experiences. At the level of societal suffer- ing, it’s very clear that human actions are producing poverty, climate change, and war. We have to accept responsibility for our actions, but that does not mean we blame ourselves. Blame and responsibility are two completely different things. marK unno: Yes, there is a great differ- ence between taking responsibility and self-blame. In my tradition, we place emphasis on applying the teaching of karma to ourselves, not other people. Our founding teacher, Shinran, said, “When I reflect deeply on the teaching of karma and the working of great compas- sion, I realize it is for myself alone.” It’s not the case that we can’t talk about oth- ers’ karma, but when we do, it tends to shift over to blame unless we place our- selves at the center of karmic responsibil- ity. For example, if a mother says to her child, “You need to take responsibility for cleaning your own room,” that guid- ance won’t carry much weight unless the mother keeps her own room clean. And the mother can convey this guidance to her child with a sense of caring for the sake of the child’s maturation, of coming into her or his own. The issue is not in the words per se but in how we express ourselves in terms of karmic responsibility. Am I willing to be the focal point for karmic responsibility? For me, the most challenging form of dukkha is generational dukkha, the suffering that gets passed on from generation to generation: violence, abuse, or unskillful acts. it’s pervasive. —konin CArDenAS