Monthly Archives: August 2019

Karma and happiness

Several years ago, during a visit to the United States, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with a group of western teacher.  In the course of the talk, he was asked what was more important to teach, emptiness or karma, the law of cause and effect. According to Joseph Goldstein, the Dalai Lama said that understanding karma is the most important to teach, “because if we understand the law of karma and become responsible for our actions and their results, then we can be of great benefit to all beings and find happiness in this life. Karma affects every aspect of our life… When we understand it, and live our understanding, when we act on what we know, then we experience a sense of wholeness and peace. If we live in a way that is out of harmony, ignoring the nature of things, we then experience dissonance, pain, and confusion. The law of karma is one of the fundamental natural laws through which we create these vastly different realities. It is as though we are all artists, but instead of canvas and paint, or marble or music, as our medium, our very bodies, minds, and life experience are the materials of our creative expression.”

Emptiness and Suchness


According to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Verse 22 of the Thirty-Seven Practices of the Bodhisattva says:

All that appears comes from an illusion of the mind and the mind itself is from beginningless time without inherent existence, free from the two extremes of manifestation (eternalism [unchanging] and nihilism [life is without meaning or purpose]) and beyond all elaboration to understand this nature (Tathata) and to not conceive of subjects and objects as really existing is a practice of the bodhisattva.

Two basic Buddhist teachings are being expressed in this verse: 1) Shunyata, beings and things have no intrinsic existence in themselves; all phenomena come into being because of conditions created by other phenomena, and 2) Ta.tha’ta – a Sanskrit word that means suchness or the true nature of reality at any given moment.

Tathata or suchness is often best revealed in those seemingly mundane or meaningless experiences, such as noticing the way the wind blows through trees, a sky full of rainbows or watching someone’s face light up as they smile.

We find freedom in Tathata, in the experience of life itself; life just as it is. We develop the capacity to experience thoughts, sensations and feelings completely. Then we do not struggle with what we experience. When we are completely engaged in an activity, we naturally have no sense of self. Our aim in practice is to engage and experience life so completely that we become empty, open, and aware in whatever arises. Quite naturally, without any effort, we become nothing but an ongoing response to the experience of life, including the suffering and struggles of others. That is freedom.