CHAPTER 4: THE LAW OF KARMA: THE MAP FOR GOOD AND EVIL
In Buddhism, the Buddha talked about good and evil in a general way through the Five Precepts and Ten Good Deeds. Buddhism has the law of Karma, a beautiful thing for humans, because the Buddha didn’t clearly define what was good and what was evil but just told about its retribution and you will decide what to do. So, be careful when making decisions.
For example, if we had scolded someone and we asked the Buddha whether it was good or evil, the Buddha wouldn’t have said which, but He would have told us its consequences. That is, we would be scolded back, and even worse, if we insulted a Saint, we would be taken to hell after our death. So, you are the one who will decide what should be done.
Or, someone asked, “My child stole something from our neighbors and took home. I gave him ten lashes and forced him to give it back to the neighbor and to apologize for his mistake. Is it good or evil?” Buddhism does not tell it is right or wrong, but just about its retribution. In our next life, when you steal something or commit a mistake, you will receive ten lashes. If you can accept it and you think it will prevent you from doing evil deeds, then you should beat your child now. Otherwise, if you think you cannot bear ten lashes, then don’t hit your child now and in the future when you commit errors, no one will punish and stop you.
The Law of Cause and Effect is not fixed, that is, if we give someone ten lashes, then in the future you will receive ten lashes; but in this life, if you give someone ten lashes, then in your next life, you will maybe receive fifty lashes of even one lash. It depends on the actions of the person you beat and your feelings at that time.
For example, there was a robber who committed many murders. Once, a police officer was chasing him on the street. They shot each other and finally, the thief died. So, what should the retribution for the police officer be? If you do not understand the Law of Cause and Effect, you will say, “Well, now the police officer shoots a person, so in the future, he will be shot.” The law of Karma does not work this way; it is very flexible. The robber was a threat to many people, so the police officer shot him, the police officer will be scratched slightly later, but will earn outstanding blessing.
But if you kill a kind person, the retribution for you is terrible. For example, there is a very gentle and ethical teacher in a village. All the villagers love him. One day, an evil man argued with and killed the teacher with a knife. The retribution for this person is not only he will be murdered in the future, but after his death, he will fall into hell and be beaten and tortured in there. Because the teacher was much beloved not only by his family but also many of his students and many villagers, his death caused suffering to many people. So, the retribution for that evil man is ten or even one hundred times more terrible than the suffering he caused to the teacher. That’s why we say the Law of Cause and Effect is not fixed.
Thus, good and evil according to Buddhism are very profound, subtle and flexible. We must be wise to practice Buddhism, if not, we readily believe in what we are told. For everything that happens, we should consider it very carefully, that is The Truth. The Truth is like when on the sea, we cannot see the shore, but if having wisdom, we will know the way ashore. If we don’t have wisdom, we find our way unclear to the coast. It implies that we cannot recognize what is good and what is bad.
So, at first, we thought that it’s easy to differentiate good and evil, but through our analysis based on social morals, places, and customs, we find that it’s not true. We hardly know what is good, and what is bad. However, if we understand the law of Cause and Effect, we will realize that how we treat someone, we will receive respective retribution. And retribution is flexible, but not fixed. Understanding this, we know what is good and what is bad. Buddhism is unique at this point. Therefore, when practicing Buddhism, we should be intelligent to understand the law of Karma profoundly.