Actions: Cause and Effect

Karma and the Consequences of Karmic Actions

Growth of a PlantIt is wise for us to contemplate that the quality of our life is fully determined by the quality of our behavior. Our thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions, virtuous and non-virtuous, create the intricate patterns of our life experience. We ourselves create the causes for our own happiness or our own suffering. When we understand the unwholesome, non-virtuous actions that cause suffering, we can eliminate those causes. When we understand the wholesome, virtuous actions which bring happiness and benefit to ourselves and others, we can cultivate those causes. We must begin by acknowledging that our situation in life is the result of our own actions.

Karma and its results are certain and unfailing. Karma is the inevitable results which come directly from specific causes. Positive actions of body, speech, and mind will always bring the positive result of some form of happiness and benefit. Negative actions of body, speech, and mind will always bring the negative result of some form of suffering.

Karma and its results are exactly like a seed and its fruit. If we plant the seed of a sweet fruit, this is exactly what the seed will produce. If we plant the seed of a poisonous fruit, this is exactly what this seed will produce as well. Karma works in the same way. If we act negatively, the seeds of our actions will produce the fruit (experience) of their kind. If we act in kind and virtuous ways, the seeds of these actions will also produce the positive fruit of their kind.

Even a very small seed can grow into a large tree. In this same way, just a small negative action can bring a large amount of suffering if it is not purified. An apparently small and insignificant positive action can bring a great amount of happiness. A specific action leads to a specific result. Actions not engaged, will not bring results. If the cause has not been created, the effect will not be experienced. An action done is not lost and will definitely ripen and bring a result. Negative actions to be abandoned are killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, idle gossip, covetousness, malice, and wrong views of reality.

By understanding karma, by purifying our delusion and negativity, and by engaging in virtuous behavior, we change the entire course of our life experience and move swiftly toward liberation. If we use adversity as an opportunity for developing compassion, wisdom, and love, the purification of our karma will be rapid and profound.

Closely examine the karmic circumstances in your life. Consider deeply that there is a continuum, an interconnection between your present life, your previous lives, and your future lives. Observe your present thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions. Use this observation as a precise indication of what you are creating for your future experience.

Source: Cohen, N. (2013) ‘Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind Toward Dharma’, in The Heart of Dharma Collection [Online]. Available at (Accessed 17 July 2015). [Used with permission.]

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