Once you learn the law of karma, your life is forever changed. At least, that was the case for me. I remember reading that every action I take creates a ripple effect and the results of my actions will always come back to me. The interesting thing is that the return effects may occur in this lifetime or in a subsequent one.
This made me realize that most of the things in my current lifetime are the results of causes set into action in previous embodiments. On one hand, I was thrilled that we reap what we sow but I did not know what I had sown in my former lifetimes. That uncertainty scared me yet it also made me curious as to what my past lives were like.
I used to joke that I was probably a pirate because I have difficulty staying in one place for a long time and there is a part of me that is rebellious. There was a time when I thought I used to be a ninja because the martial arts seem so familiar to me. I never once thought that I could have been a cow or an ant or a fish. I just kept imagining all these glamorous lives with the hope that those lives would explain some of the things that I have the tendency to do.
At one point, I heard a story of a young boy who was told that he was Hitler in another life and that closed the subject for me. I no longer wanted to know what I was and what I did. I figured that I would direct all my attention to this life, be as kind as I can and aim for enlightenment. Once I made that decision, I began to notice some interesting things about trying to lead a mindful life in a world that seems just the opposite.
I started to get irritated at every little thing that struck me as not being loving or kind. Meditation brought a sense of peace and feeling centered but once I went out into the world, I quickly got hurt if I saw any kind of injustice. I rationalized this behavior as becoming more sensitive and in tune with my new spiritual beliefs. However, my Buddhist Master quickly brought me back down to reality and told me that I needed to learn to be more loving.
He told me that my ego was getting in the way and that I needed to remove the “I” from the equation and just “be love”. He said that by being love, the world would take on a whole different meaning. I thought he was crazy but I had already learned that Buddhist Masters are usually right, so I decided to follow his advice and learn how to be more loving.
As life would have it, I came across an interview where the person talked about walking down the street and silently sending love to whomever he saw. He went on to say that it was amazing to observe the reactions from people whenever he did that.
It sounded good to me so I vowed I would try it out the next day when I left my apartment. My first day of sending love was a disaster but with each day I became better at it. Sometimes people would smile at me and say good morning. Others would be unaware. I always ended up feeling good after sending out so much love. I also noticed that when I was in the state of sending out love, I would feel more aware of my surroundings. I even started to notice the birds that chirped as I walked to work and the smells and sights of wherever I was during the day.
The eyes of those who were homeless and on the street asking for money began to show meaning that I had never noticed before. I became more aware of colors. It was like I was being shown the world for the very first time all over again.
I went to my teacher and asked him if I was losing my mind and he just laughed for about a minute or two. I sat there looking at him wondering if he was laughing at me or with me. For a brief moment, I thought that maybe I shouldn’t be so open with him anymore because I never knew how to interpret these laughing spells.
After he was done laughing, he told me that I was simply becoming more aware. I almost wanted to ask him if I was enlightened but I was sure that would make him roll on the floor with laughter, so I kept my mouth shut. The whole interaction made me wonder what enlightenment was.
In my mind, enlightenment meant freedom from having to be reborn which sounds pretty awesome. My teacher began to teach me that enlightenment also meant to awaken. Thich Nhat Hanh states that “enlightenment, for the wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realizes it is water”.
I may not know what exactly is needed to be free from the cycle of samsara (reincarnation) but to know that it begins with becoming aware of the nature of life is pretty wonderful. Enlightenment is a concept that seems so far-fetched and gives the appearance that it is a state of being that only the sacred few are allowed to achieve. To know that it starts with awareness makes the whole concept look a lot more attainable.
The world may not be perfect and has a very good share of problems that need to be fixed. Despite those problems, the world is full of beauty. To become aware of that beauty whether it is admiring the awesome power of the ocean or the beauty in the laughter of a child is something we all can do if we simply open our eyes. Karma will always be in effect but love is equally as powerful. So to make the decision to become aware is to begin on the path to enlightenment. This changes a life that seems to have no purpose, into one that is full of meaning.