Karma: The Empathy Machine


It is important to pay attention to other people’s lives. It is very easy to regard the lives of others through a latticework of detachment. We see another person injure themselves, enter into a conflict, do something foolish, or allow themselves to become enslaved by some ridiculous desire or addiction, and we mollify ourselves into thinking we are immune to such pitfalls.

But, whatever happens to another person can happen to you. Whatever mistake another person makes, you can make also. Nothing in this life happens arbitrarily. Every decision, choice, and thought you make all band together to sculpt your present and future reality.

For this reason, it also important to understand that karma also works on the level of thoughts. We tend to think of karma as something that exists only the level of action: we act in a certain way, and, therefore, evoke a certain response. But it works the same way with thoughts. When we think a certain way, it engenders a reality to match it.

Because of this, I have noticed that whenever I have harbored judgmental thoughts in the past, I have inevitably been placed in a position in which I have been forced to contend with the very deficiency I have judged.

An example: one of my previous partners was a very belligerent and angry person. She was impatient, fiery, and would quickly jump to the worst conclusion at the most mild of provocations. I am naturally quite a placid, and diplomatic person, so her lack of restraint in this area upset me a lot, and I thought ill of her for it.

Not long after we broke up, I found myself in a position in which I was suddenly laden with an oppressive numbers of responsibilities and burdens I had never had to cope with before. At first, I bore up patiently, if somewhat miserably; but, given that I am a free-spirited person, who does not like to be weighed down by others, it was not long before I gave into the pressure I was feeling, and became increasingly more intolerant, violent, aggressive, impatient, and quick to anger. It escalated, slowly but surely, until it eventually culminated in an awful pitfall on my part, when I began to do what I could to reverse the error of my ways.

But karma is not completely irresistible. Just because I was placed in stifling circumstances, it did not mean I had to respond by feeling stifled, and getting angry as a result: that response was my choice, just as all our responses are our choices. Karma inflexibly gives up the fruits and thorns of our labors and misdeeds. The flexibility is all in how we choose to respond.

Karma is not a mechanism for Justice, or an arbiter of reward and punishment — it is a fantastic Empathy Machine, designed to make understand the inner-workings of everything, one life-time at a time. Judge a life unfairly, and you will eventually be re-cast in the very life you have judged. Keep it up, and that could lead to a lot of tedious rebirths! Better that you save yourself the exertion, and consider, as you witness it: what led a person to become as they are? How little would it take for you to go the same way? Compassion and mercy are the key. Understand the inner-working of all things. Then all unkind judgement will disappear.