...differs fundamentally from the kind of mechanistic causation which ,
according to modern science, holds sway over the objective natural world --a
world divorced from subjective human concerns.Causation, in the Buddhist view,
spans a more broadly defined nature, one that embraces human existence. To illustrate,
let us assume that an accident or disaster has occurred. A mechanistic theory
of causation can be used to pursue and identify how the accident occurred but
is silent regarding the question of why certain individuals should find themselves
caught up in the tragic event. Indeed, the mechanistic view of nature requires
the deliberate forestalling of such existential questionings.
In contrast, the Buddhist understanding of causation seeks to directly address these poignant "whys?"
Originally, the Sanskrit word karma meant work of office, and was related
to verbs that mean simply "do" or "make". According to Buddhism,
we create karma on three levels: through thoughts, words and actions. Acts of
course have a greater impact than mere words. Likewise, when we verbalize our
ideas, this create more karma than merely thinking them. However, since both
words and deeds originate in thoughts, the contents of our hearts--our thoughts--are
also of crucial importance.
Karma can be thought of as our core personality, the profound tendencies that have been impressed into the deepest levels of our lives. The deepest cycles of cause and effect extend beyond the present existence; they shape the manner in which we start this life--our particular circumstances from the moment of birth--and will continue beyond our deaths. The purpose of Buddhist practice is to transform our basic life tendency in order to realize our total human potential in this lifetime and beyond.
The important thing to recognize, however, is that cause and effect both exist within us at the present moment. As one of the ancient Buddhist texts states: "If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present."
Karma is thus, like everything, in constant flux.We create our own present and future by the choices we make in each moment. Understood in this light, the teaching of karma does not encourage resignation, but empowers us to become the protagonists in the unfolding drama of our lives.