Believing Karma: Necessary on the Buddhist Path

Believing in karma, cause, and effect makes us authentic Dharma practitioners. Here, Phakchok Rinpoche speaks very directly to our cynicism and doubts. Speaking frankly, he encourages us to develop trust in karma and in past and future lives.

Believing Karma Brings Mindfulness

If we don’t believe seriously in karma,  we may not be mindful of our behavior. Rinpoche poses a question that he has struggled with himself. Why are the previous practitioners – merely one generation before his own – why were they so genuine? And, he asks himself, why does his own generation seem to become more diluted? He also wonders and worries about the millennials and his young students. He has observed that many are coming to dharma practice so agitated, looking for diluted practices. 

What is the fundamental difference?  Rinpoche speculates that most of us are not educated about karma. And, many of us don’t really believe in past and future lives. We only really care about this life, and thus we don’t really think as seriously about ethics.  We’re not convinced that every action has consequences. But look at yourself. Can you tell what’s going to happen in your life? Rinpoche says that one of his own college friends is already dead.

Believing in Karma: Ethics

Rinpoche advises us to make sure that with your heart, your breath, and your head we believe in karma! If we come to accept that karma matters, it becomes a habit. Then, when we start to do something wrong, we will automatically think twice.

Nobody external is going to punish us in Buddhism, but if we believe in karma, then we naturally become ethical in our behavior. Other religions propose a supreme being or a God to have ethics. In Buddhism, we say that karma is important. We don’t say that the Buddha will punish us if we make mistakes. However, the Buddha did teach the way that karma functions. When we understand karma, we become mindful: we want to do less bad and more good. That means we become ethical, responsible, and subsequently a better person.  That is what being mindful really means.

Believing karma
Sanskrit spelling of karma

Buddha did not create karma. Karma simply means action. Action has results. We can understand that it is really very basic. When you believe in karma, then you become genuine.

Rinpoche says that he’s sorry to tell us this because he knows that many of us have doubts. He reminds us, however, that if we want to be genuine practitioners, then we do need to have this certainty.