The law of causality, as revealed by the Buddha, is not a scare tactic. Rather, it serves to remind us of a truth that will always prevail and hold, whether we believe it or not.
Once a nomad, who lived in a remote pastoral region, had a chance to visit a modern city.
He noticed that electric bulbs were used everywhere in the city and thought to himself,
“This thing that gives off light is indeed wonderful. I should get myself one to save the trouble of lighting oil lamps every night.”
So he bought a light bulb, brought it home, and hung it up in his yurt with great expectations.
However, no light ever came from the bulb despite his many maneuvers.
Seeing bulbs give off light in the city, this herdsman naively thought that a light bulb would be all that is required to get light,
unaware of other hidden causes and conditions.
For illumination, the bulb serves only as a proximate contributing factor. Other distant causes, such as a source of electricity and conductive wires, are also indispensable.
Similarly, our happiness and suffering are manifested from proximate and distant factors.
Our corporeal eyes can only see immediate supporting factors and not the hidden causes from times gone by.
For instance, when a person gets rich, we merely think he earned it through working hard and seizing the right opportunities. We do not know of the merit he has accumulated in his past lives.
Some may say, “Why is merit a necessary factor for people to get rich? They need only to work hard, period.”
Let me ask: Why is it common to see a person work diligently all his life, devoting all his effort and time to making money—all while enduring severe hardships—only to earn just enough to cover basic necessities but nothing else?
Surely there are such people right around us.
They will try any and all ways to pursue money, with an effort akin to “squeezing blood from a stone or sucking the marrow from a bird.” But, despite their struggles, life is still less than satisfactory to them.
Perhaps some may argue, “Isn’t it because they are not smart or capable enough that they end up where they are now?”
The truth is anything but that.
Without sufficient merit, no amount of striving, cleverness or ability will bring people satisfactory outcomes from their endeavors.
Even if people occasionally manage to garner some wealth and possessions, such things are bound to dissipate after a while, never lasting for a long time.
In contrast, certain individuals can easily obtain the things they want without having to exert much effort.
Wherever they go, money appears to them spontaneously; they do not need to look hard for it, nor will their wealth be exhausted quickly.
These are all the effects of their merits from times gone by.
However, many people nowadays are unclear about this karmic principle.
When they fail to make money or reach their goals, they blame fate or the gods, complaining about their parents, supervisors, government policies, and whatnot.
There is a popular saying on the Internet, “Too bad I was born to the wrong dad!”
Some people feel resentful toward their dads’ humble status and say, “Why can’t my father be Li Ka-Shing?”* “Why is my father not Li Gang?”†
But really, according to the principle of causality, it is your own karmic force that determines what kind of father you are born to.
Therefore, it makes no sense to complain about external factors.
Rather, endeavor to do good by accumulating merit, right from this moment.
Nowadays, many people brazenly commit evil for instant petty gains while not being concerned about karmic consequences.
Such behavior—belittling the principle of cause and effect—is truly chilling.
The Dhammapada states, “As surely as a bitter seed bears bitter fruit, so will an evil deed bring a painful result.”
Therefore, it does not pay to hanker after excessive wealth, lest we drag ourselves down from our human lives to the lower realms.
Having the correct view of cause and effect is vital in these modern times.
If people were to consciously abide by its principle,
there would be no corruption or bribery cases in the civil service, nor would counterfeit or shoddy goods be sold in the market.
That is, if everyone develops a deep faith in causality, a pure land will spontaneously manifest in this world.
* Reportedly the richest person in Asia
† In China, a young man killed a college student while driving under the influence. Instead of showing any remorse, this young man said, “My daddy is Li Gang.” His father, Li Gang, was a prominent figure in the government, so the young man was not afraid of the wrong he had committed. “My daddy is Li Gang” thus became a catchphrase on the Internet in China; people say it when they want to avoid responsibility, but not without a tinge of irony.
Khenpo Sodargye《Achieve by Doing》