We Build What We Are

(Written by Chan Zhen Yuan)

Karma (action or doing) is the fundamental doctrine in Buddhism. It is a law of moral causation, explaining the inequalities of mankind. According to law of Karma, nothing will happen to a person for no reason. Men of ordinary intellect were normally unable to comprehend the actual reason(s). The cause(s) of a visible effect is not only confined to present life, but also the past birth. According to Buddhism, inequalities of mankind is not only caused by heredity, environment, “nature and nurture”, but also by Karma. In short, our past actions and present doing results in what we are, and we are the architects of our own fates. According to Buddha, “All living beings have actions (Karma) as their own, their inheritance, their congenital cause, their kinsman, their refuge. It is Karma that differentiates beings into low and high states.”

However, although Karma is the main cause for the variety, it does not mean that everything is due to Karma. If present life totally controlled by our past actions, then Karma is just like fatalism or predestination. If it is true, free will be unreasonable, and life will just be like a machine. If this is the case, there will be no difference between God and Karma, in which our fates and life’s course had been fixed and determined. Thus, such a fatalistic doctrine is not the Buddhist law of Karma. Karma law operates automatically and cannot be interfered by a man when the Karma is powerful. However, right understanding and skilful volition can mould the future caused by Karma. Therefore, good karma, persisted in, can stop the reaping of bad Karma.

Any kind of intentional actions, including all the thought, words and deed, either mentally, verbal or physical, either good or bad, are regarded as Karma. However, it is important that all the involuntary, unintentional or unconscious actions do not constitute Karma because the most important factor in determining Karma, which is volition, is absent in these actions. In summary, Karma can be regarded as the past or present actions, which is intentionally done or with volition, disregard of whether the actions are good or bad. Good actions result in a good Karma and vice versa.

Vipaka (fruit or result), is the reaction of Karma, or the effect from our actions (Karma). If we see Karma as a potential seed, Vipaka can be considered as the fruit from the tree. Anisamsa and Adinaya are the leaves, flowers and so forth that correspond to external differences like health, sickness and poverty. Anisamsa and Adinaya are inevitable consequences of our actions, which happen at the same time. Since Karma may be good or bad, Vipaka too, may be good or bad. Anisamsa and Adinaya are the concomitant material things following Vipaka, such as prosperity or poverty, health or disease, longevity or short life-span. When the concomitant material things are advantageous, they are so called Anisamsa while if they were disadvantageous, they were known as Adinaya.

Doctrine of Karma gives hope, consolation, reliance and moral courage to Buddhist. Whenever a Buddhist meets with difficulties, failure or misfortune, he will realize that he is reaping what he has sown and wiping off a past debt. He will not leave everything to Karma, but makes more effort to remove the weeds and sow useful seeds in their place, as the future is in his own hands. For people who did something wrong in the past, even the most corrupt, they will still have chance to reform themselves at any moment because hell or heaven, both created by their own actions. Besides, a Buddhist who fully convinced by law of Karma will confidently relies on himself and his own will power, work persistently for the well-being and happiness, without praying for someone to save him. Thus, Karma also teaches individual responsibility.

In short, we build what we are, through our own actions, either past or present, either good or bad. What you plant, is what you reap. There is nobody to be blamed for any unfavourable situation occurring, as that is what we sow for ourselves. However, instead of blaming and complaining, we should start sowing the good seed (Karma), avoid the bad actions, doing good things, and there will result in good effects (Vipaka) in our future, and we can build our own heaven, through ourselves.



Ethics in the Cyberworld

Written by: Jeko Lonardo

When was the last time you are offline? Well, maybe during your sleep time only, isn’t it? The development of information technology has been improved rapidly, especially in this information century. One of the biggest invention in the history of information technology is the internet. The internet has allowed computers, and virtually everyone, around the world to be easily connected to each other. Information can spread so fast as if this Earth is just the size of a small town, where information can spread easily from people to people. For us students, we have been using the internet for almost any purposes: from gathering information and references for your lab report until streaming your most favourite K-Drama online.

The Internet itself is also growing very rapidly, which can be seen from the number of Internet users that keeps on increasing exponentially over the years. This is the result of how easy it is for everyone to have Internet access, spanning users of all ages, from children to the elderly.

Of course, along with its development, both positive and negative impacts rose with it. The positive impacts, as mentioned earlier, includes fast-moving, real-time information flow and virtually infinite amount of resources, which is expected to benefit human life in the world, especially those in developing country.

However, with the positive impacts brought by the Internet, there are also negative impacts that cannot be ignored, as they can cause damage to human life, both physically and mentally. Various examples including cyberbullying, scamming, pirating, gambling, accessing prohibited sites, etc. This means that the usage of internet should be controlled. Rules, or rather guidance, on using the internet should be imposed and emphasized among the users. One of the easiest and most effective ways is emphasizing that spiritual and social values in the cyber world are also valid. For us as Buddhists, we can use the Dhamma as our guidance.

So, what are the values that have been taught by the Buddha that can be applied in the cyber world?

  1. Do not insult, humiliate, harass, or attack someone else/ other people, even if it is through the online medium such as chat rooms, messengers, etc. This aligns with The Noble Eightfold Path of Right Speech.
  2. Write in accordance with the rules of raw writing. For example, this means not writing/typing in all capital letters (this can mean shouting or saying the words angrily for some people). This aligns with Noble Eightfold Path of Right Speech.
  3. Do not expose things that are personal or confidential without consent as these are sensitive information which might not want to be exposed by the owner, and exposing them may cause fatalities due to the actions of irresponsible people. This aligns with Noble Eightfold Path of Right Speech.
  4. Do not participate in exposing news information that may not be true, because it could be false news (hoax). Always check with the reliable source to ensure the integrity of the information. This aligns with Noble Eightfold Path of Right View.
  5. If you want to submit suggestions/criticisms, it is advisable and highly encouraged to do so through personal message. It is highly encouraged to not to do it public forum as this might offend the criticized people or can be seen as an act of downplaying the person. This aligns with Noble Eightfold Path of Right Speech.
  6. Always pay attention to Intellectual Property Rights. This mean does not engage in the activity of theft/dissemination of data and information that are copyrighted. This aligns with Noble Eightfold Path of Right Action.
  7. When quoting posts, images, or anything that can be republished, it is advisable to always write down the original source. This aligns with Noble Eightfold Path of Right Action.

Of course, just reading the guides listed above is not enough, we must apply them as well. Actually, there are many other things that need to be considered as part of the ethics of using the internet. But the point is that although the internet is a virtual world, the interactions that happen in it still involve humans in the real world every day, so the morals and ethics legible in our daily lives should still be applied. However, violations of such ethics may have an adverse effect and can even be a bad thing for us and other people. The consequences vary from light punishments such as ostracism, blocking, to serious punishments that can bring us dealing with the police and the courts.

So, the conclusion is to be always mindful of what you are doing, keep in mind the morals, ethics, spiritual and social values before doing things, both in our daily lives interactions and also in the cyber world!