BOOK OF EQUANIMITY - Case 37
Case 36 never ends, yet now comes ...
Case 37: Isan's Karmic Consciousness
"Karmic Consiousness" traditionally did not have a positive meaning in Mahayana Buddhism, but was the divided, ignorant consciousness of self and our actions arising therefrom. It is sometimes called the "storehouse" consciousness of our Karma, in which all the seeds of our actions ... good and bad ... are stored until they ripen into effects, good and bad. Daido Loori Roshi comments on this Koan ...
Nonetheless, it all comes down to what we do this moment, our natural responses in this moment, how we act in this moment ... as simple as turning one's head when called. Another famous Koan says that Kannon Bodhisattva engages in acts of compassion as easily and naturally as "a person in bed the middle of the night reaching back in search of a pillow.” In the absolute, all Karma may be swept away ... yet what we do right now has all effects. I am reading now a lovely book by David Loy, "The World Is Made of Stories", in which he points out ...
Karmic consciousness is a result of past actions conditioned by delusion. Delusion exists
as a result of consciousness, consciousness results from ignorance, and ignorance is
dependent on mind. Yet mind is originally pure. It has no origination or cessation. It is
without doing or effort, without karmic retribution, without superiority or inferiority. It is
still, serene, and intelligent.
We should understand that one’s original, unchanging self-nature is neither holy nor
profane, neither deluded nor enlightened. The delusions of ordinary beings and the
enlightenment of the buddhas are one reality, which has nothing to do with the senses or
its objects nor mind or its environment.
We are constantly writing/living life's story with each move of the hand and turn of the head. And yet, says Loy, there is that basis for all our stories which is pure possibility unformed until we grab a pen/act. Arriving there when thoughts and descriptions are exhausted, brought to life with our every breath. Nonetheless, as Shishin Wick note, the best laid plans do not always turn out as we might intend, and life may not go as one might expect or feel it should. The story is not only ours, but is all of us, and has a ways of going where it will with us along for the ride.
Karma is not something the self has but what the self becomes, when we play our roles within stories perceived as real ... Whether or not karma is an unfathomable moral law built into the cosmos, living a story has consequences.
Nor is it what you think about Karma or our "ideal behavior" as Buddhists ... but what we do in real life, how we really respond, where the rubber meets the road.
The Preface may mean something like that, for students too caught up in an intellectual understanding of this, one must actually lead them by the nose, grab them by the neck and slap them on the head to get the point across. In the Verse, the full moon sometimes appears as a half, a quarter, a sliver or vanishes from sight depending on the day ... yet the full moon is always there (does the moon actually disappear? Not at all!). The treasure is always present yet (through our actions or just life's twists) we may sink low.
QUESTION: Describe how you spontaneously responded to a situation ... whether with sudden anger, greed or other negative emotion ... or with spontaneous kindness, generosity or the like positive emotions ... and how it had consequences (even surprise consequences) for you and those around you.