There are a lot of misunderstandings floating around in the world as to what ‘kamma’ (more popularly known as ‘karma’) actually is, means, and the role that karma plays in one’s life.
The word ‘karma’ means something very simple — action. But the concept of karma runs a bit deeper — essentially, it posits that the thoughts, words, and actions one chooses or refuses to choose play a direct role in determining what results one experiences in life.
Simply put, karma is the reality that what one thinks, says, and does determines how the path of one’s life unfolds and, more importantly, whether or not one can or will find peace and the happiness that is a common pursuit and goal of all humanity.
The notion of karma, that every action brings a reaction, or, more simply, that all causes generate effects is hardly new. Consideration of karma within the Ngondo practice is intended to help one realize the effect that one’s thoughts, words, and actions create and how careless or thoughtless causes create suffering as effect and, conversely, how becoming more attenuated to being attentive and aware of one’s thoughts, words, and actions naturally generates beneficial effects.
The important element in this part of the Ngondo practice is ATTENTION/AWARENESS.
As anyone who has mastered a skill can attest, the path to mastery requires attention/awareness of three things:
(1) to pre-existing conditions or environment,
(2) to how and why one is acting or reacting as they are in relation to those conditions or within the environment, and
(3) to the results that manifest as the result of one’s actions.
The process of contemplating karma is intended to develop attention/awareness of one’s thoughts, words, and actions so as to create immediate realization of how they contribute to and create the results.
The underlying benefit of this practice is a gradual and increasingly attuned attention/awareness of one’s “being” and the generation of a natural, unification of thought, word, and action over time.
The choice to focus attention/awareness through this contemplation permits one to shift and change thoughts, words, and actions discovered to be unhelpful or harmful into those which will be helpful and beneficial to oneself and to others.
It can be a seemingly overwhelming mountain of consideration… but it doesn’t have to be daunting. It is also worth stating that, because we’re human, the process is never really ‘complete’… it is a life long effort to temper our emotions with this attention/awareness and, because we’re humans, sometimes we just don’t manage it. (This is all the more reason that the practice is one that is encouraged early and often!)
If one considers it, it is actually very exciting and auspicious to even begin undertaking the process… consider — how long did it take one to get to where one is? Think as one thinks? Act as one acts? Most of who or how one is in life are directly related to the experiences of life until this moment (causes) and to how one has REACTED to them.
The things of us that are ‘who we see ourselves to be’ are our judgments and rewards and punishments of ourselves in relation to these experience we’ve had. We fall into habits, we often act out the ‘effect’ of the experiences (’cause’) repeatedly; either in what we choose or what we avoid choosing as a direct reaction to the action of the initial experience and how it affected us.
We do not often really think of why or of how we react, and thinking upon it is a necessary aspect of making changes. Perhaps the effects show us things we do not like very well of ourselves. Or perhaps they are the first things we notice about others (after all, we’re hypersensitive to them). Either way, we tend not to think upon them, let alone think about how or why we continue to react to them in unhelpful ways.
Whatever the perspective about it, we can surely agree it took every action and your reaction to it to get to who and how you are right now… and usually this process has occurred over many years and without much active deliberation or introspective thought on your part.
So how long might it take to consider it all long enough and well enough to understand it and, through that understanding, change it? A long time, eh?
Not at all.
There is nothing to say that changing these things must take as long as building them up did. Indeed, the notion of being able to comprehend on a consistent basis how and why thoughts, words, and actions create outcomes IS THE KEY to accelerating toward real and lasting change because it is the process of having attention/awareness of the relationship between thoughts, words, actions and the result/outcome that are the nourishment by which motivation to shift and change grows.
This said, the first step is always the same — understanding how and why the cause created the effect. This, the crux of considering karma, is why the Ngondo practice includes ‘karma’ as one of the four thoughts that turn the mind from suffering (dukkha).