I used to hate horror movies. I could never understand why would anyone want to scare themselves silly. On the other hand, my Guru loves horror movies. He used to love to invite his students and volunteers to the movies – and always, it would be a horror flick.
He would regularly take his students to the cinema and at the scariest parts, Rinpoche would tap us on the shoulder and scare the living daylights out of us. Most of us would be watching our backs more than the movie! After the movie, we would end up at a 24-hour café and have a Dharma talk. Fear is all about ego, he would explain. We are afraid of being hurt or ultimately, of being killed; of death.
Last week, my girlfriend and I joined the Ladrang staff, members of Rinpoche’s private household, to watch Phobia2. A great Thai movie (Thais make the best horror movies!) which consisted of a series of five shorts. I particularly enjoyed the Buddhist theme of karma in most of them. Karma is essentially cause and effect so the movies illustrated how the bad guys got their just desserts.
Rinpoche once shared with us that he is not afraid of anything except karma. He said: “Let me tell you something very scary. It’s scary because it’s the truth. And we don’t know about it. Some people say I don’t drink, I don’t sleep around, I don’t kill, I don’t eat meat and I don’t lie. I don’t do these things so I’m a good person. To anybody just watching you, yes, you are a good person. To people with higher knowledge, you are not. Do you know why? Even doing nothing but sitting there within the mind frame of self-grasping collects negative karma on a very subtle level. So if you don’t kill, you don’t lie, you don’t steal, you just hang around at home watching TV, you still collect negative karma. On the ultimate level. On the self grasping level. Why? You’re not existing out of Enlightenment. You’re existing out of a self-grasping mind; me, me, me, me. So even just existing is collecting negative karma. If you really understand the workings of karma.
“Do not think that sitting around doing nothing means that we do not collect negative karma. Sitting around doing nothing is wasting the precious human body. If all you do is eat, run around for entertainment, go for movies, wash, clean, work, get a paycheck and have sex and that’s all you do, you are wasting your precious human body.”
That kind of rattled quite a few of us who were listening to the Dharma teaching. So what can we do? The solution is two-fold, firstly, to actively create positive karma by Dharma practice of transforming ourselves and secondly, by immediately stopping our negative behaviour and actively purifying our negative karma. There are practices for this but I won’t go into them here as they are beyond the scope of this article.
We actually already have mountains of negative karma from previous lifetimes but the good news is that we also have mountains of positive karma. The fact that we are all here with roofs over our heads and food on our table is proof that we have positive karma. The fact that we are interested in spirituality and Buddhism is proof of our positive karma. However, scarily enough, at any time, our negative karma can manifest.
Our life is like a field where there are already negative karma and positive karma seeds (sown by ourselves!). If we water the positive karma seeds, those seeds will sprout and grow and the negative karma seeds will remain dormant. However, if we intentionally or accidentally water the negative karma seeds, those seeds will sprout. We will literally reap what we sow.
Rinpoche has said that we do not really realise the concept of Karma. We may know intellectually what it is but if we truly realised what karma really means; what cause and effect really means, our lives would change completely. We would not waste a single moment on any activity which would not bring real benefit – to others or ourselves. This does not mean that we do not have fun. People are so deathly afraid of not being able to indulge ourselves or doing what we want. Rinpoche has always advocated being who you are but with a higher motivation.
Yes you can have fun, party, watch movies, but do Dharma too. Now, we are having fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. How about having fun, fun, fun, Dharma, fun, fun, fun? Then fun, fun, fun, Dharma, fun, fun, fun, Dharma? Then fun, Dharma, fun, fun, Dharma, fun, fun, fun, Dharma. It’s definitely possible.
Let’s contemplate on what we are doing with our lives and do something positive about it, so we do not have to be so afraid anymore.
Sharon Saw is a writer / editor at Kechara Media & Publications, which focuses on publishing the teachings of H.E. Tsem Tulku Rinpoche, a high incarnate Lama of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. A selection of Buddhist and non-Buddhist related books from Kechara Publications is now available on Fridae Shop. You can follow Sharon on Twitter. This column will appear every other Friday.