Understanding The Meaning of Cause and Effect in Buddhism

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As a Buddhist, there are times when you have heard of Buddhist monks preaching and other people talking about cause and effect. You’ve probably heard the word “Karma” being thrown around countless times in life, and probably pondered about the actual meaning of the term at least once.

So what is Cause and Effect and how does it affect our life? Let’s dive deeper into the topic: How Cause and Effect are formed, how Karma works, the laws surrounding them and the common misconceptions about the Law of Karma.

The Existence of Cause And Effect

Where there is a beginning, there will always be an end. Where there is life, eventual death will come.

Where there is a touch, there will be a sensation.

Similarly, when we are born into this world, we will live to begin the feelings of the five senses and these five senses cause attachment. Attachment is the main cause of our living and in turn create all kind of effect on our actions.

The existence of our cause comes mainly from our five senses’ desires beginning from our sense of touch, sight, taste, smell and lastly sensation. Without our five senses’ desires, then there will be no cause and consequently, no effect will be taking place.

In much the same way, there is no smoke without fire. Hence whenever we want to do anything regardless it is good or bad, there will be an effect due to our cause of performing the action. If the action is good, then it will be counterproductive while any bad action will create bad retribution in a matter of time.

The Current Trend of Ignoring The Repercussions of Cause And Effect

Cause And Effect - Law of Karma demonstrated by domino effect - Poh Ern Si's blog

Since we know anything we do will be the source of our cause and upon doing anything will create the effect onto our life, if we perform all the good and beneficial actions to others, then the effect is tremendously rewarding to the good-doers while those bend on committing evils and immoral activities will truly receive devastating effects.

Unfortunately, even though the Law of Cause and Effect holds true, many still indulge in vices and immoral activities because of a lack of religious conviction or being a free thinker or even an atheist. When any of these groups who do not believe in the existence of God, then one will always be sure that these people will lack moral principles and virtues in their character.

Without principle and moral values in life, then everything one does will never be in consonance with the law and order, respect for others, obedience to superiors and lastly no integrity in character. Consequently, one would also have no fear of the law of cause and effect, nor does one think much about whether is karma real or care much about the rules of Karma.

The Law of Cause And Effect Is Universal

The law of cause and effect is actually a universal law where it applies equally to all the three realms of the world mainly the Heavenly realm, the Earth sphere and lastly the Hade world. As the three main worlds are interconnected to each other, then it is justifiable to have the same common law of Cause and Effect (or the Law of Karma) to ensure everyone has the same opportunity and chance to upgrade themselves or degenerate into a downtrodden soul of the Hade world.

Here, on this earth, we are like a school where whatever we have learnt can be put to good use and those who successfully achieved good merits or results will ascend to the Heavenly sphere while those playing truant in school and committing all kinds of vices and immoral activities will be demoted into the Hade world. This is the Law of Cause and Effect.

Unfortunately, the law of Cause and Effect is no longer spontaneous in retributions but still holds a solid occurrence except the evil-doers are delayed of punishment until they depart into the Hade world when they pass on to the afterlife. It is this delay that makes people have a somewhat illusionary view that the karmic laws are no longer effective.

This paves the way for many earth people to indulge in occultism and sect power, apparently believing that there is no more karmic effect on this Earth. This will eventually pollute our minds with all kinds of vengeance or selfish motives in response to our filthy five senses desires arising from our greedy needs, ill feelings or jealousy, plus our lack of understanding and right views in our outlook.

Overcoming The Arising of Cause And Effect

Cause And Effect - Combining five senses into one towards contentment - Rules of Karma, Law of Karma, Karmic Laws - Poh Ern Si's blog

The only way to overcome the arising of Cause and Effect is to curtail our five sensual desires into one combined sense, thus living without greed, ill will and ignorance.

When one could combine all the five senses into one sense would then live with contentment and be detached from all earthly activities and gadgets. For instance, one eats sparsely only for survival, goes for renunciation to overcome our greedy sightseeing and avoidance of wrong speech and gossiping, refrains from listening to sweet words of praise or people slandering us with harsh speech, avoids sweet smell or delicious odor of fruits, and lastly practice chastity in our body.

When these five senses’ desires narrow down into one, one will become a perfect entity to live peacefully in the Bliss of Happiness, contented in living, and possess a mind of equanimity and calmness. This means one has finally obliterated the cause and hence, there is no effect. This is called emancipation.

Setbacks Preventing The Formation of Cause And Effect

The greatest setback in this world by mankind is the illusionary mentality that this world is real and everything we do is permanently substantiated. Hence, one craves excellent results in their examination, one yearns for successful entrepreneurship, while others rush to achieve higher statuses or positions, and another group still struggling to become rich or continue to be blinded by the many cravings of life.

What most people fail to understand is that these pursuits are unbeneficial causes that create a future bad karmic effect upon departure from this Earth. Whence all these unnecessary desires of attachments create our future bad karmic effects.

Conversely, our five senses’ desires are also arbitrary in the beneficial sense when looking from different perspectives or views of living. For one, we cannot totally regard the five senses’ desires as parasitic to our cause of living as without these five senses and the subsequent desires, then we would just become a robot without feelings or senses at all.

So while the five senses cause us to pollute our mind, heart and body, it is equally a good catalyst in effecting enough exposures and wide experiences of suffering and painful undergoing, which will eventually enlighten our mind to become contented and serene and self-satisfying of living.

Cause And Effect - Setbacks can prevent man from achieving contentment to break the existence of cause and effect - Rules of Karma, Law of Karma, Karmic Laws - Poh Ern Si's blog

One great example is the situation whereby one has undergone the arrows of insults ridicule, slanderous remarks, criticism, agitation and instigation by others. Until one day, when the individual has tolerated enough, practicing endurance, patience and the art of giving along the way, then after a certain period of time, all these virtues will emanate into self-contentment within the person.

This way, we have created no cause and hence cease any effect on our life. The cessation of the law of cause and effect will lead us to gain emancipation and be free from all woes and sufferings.

Misconceptions Surrounding The Law of Karma

Many Buddhists have the wrong notion that everything in this world is related to Karma, the law of cause and effect. When we have contracted cancer, we say this is life Karma. When we met an accident, many will also say this is Karma while incidents like robbery and being scammed are also related to bad Karma.

In truth, there are only four main criteria that dominate our lives with Karma. Firstly is our time of birth, our marriage, our career, and lastly our timely death. Other than all these four main Karmic effects, anything else would be relative and subject to our own actions of creating all these consequences.

Anyone who drives without careful consideration and attention will easily meet an accident. Any person who does not take good care of their own healthy living such as having enough sleep, rest, good exercises, well-balanced diet food and daily constant bowel will easily contract cancer, nothing to do with good and bad Karma.

Final Thoughts

Human beings always avoid their own guilt of shortcomings and love to put all the blame on Karma. This is because by putting the blame on Karma, one tends to feel some form of relief from all the wrongdoings one has committed and can go on living without the burden of guilt.

However, the actual fact is that Karma is always pure and good, and works on the principle of whatever we sow, we reap. Karma does not short change, nor does it pass the blame or ever done any injustice towards anyone. This is the true effect of the Law of Karma, the Law of Cause and Effect.

If only more and more people are able to truly understand the working principles of Karma or the Law of Cause and Effect – this way, humans will be able to work towards the betterment of themselves and society, without the desire to push faults onto Karma in the attempt to rid of their guilt or carelessness when things don’t work their way.

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