The Relativity of “Good” and “Bad” Karma…

The world is a complicated place. And though the laws of cause and effect are “strict,” it does not necessarily follow that the same effect always follows the same cause. It is difficult to imagine that one will, forever, either burn in hell or be reincarnated as a cockroach for killing in self-defense, or “permanently borrowing” food from someone in the face of their child’s impending starvation.

I once revealed to someone that another person had misrepresented the nature of our “relationship” to that ‘someone,’ by indicating that we were much closer than we actually were.  I mentioned, without rancor, and with some astonishment, that up until that moment, I had neither known this person’s last name, nor ever exchanged an email with them. Heck! We weren’t even Facebook “friends!” Despite the overwhelming evidence of my claims that this person and I were far from “close,” this third-party accused me of being “divisive” to the point of being slanderous, and said we were ‘through,’ despite the two of us having met only once before, through this other person, for less than two hours. Truly, I was heart-broken because… we had been so… close… In my response to this person’s accusations and shunning, I had to, essentially, let this go. It’s not possible to reason with the unreasonable.

I knew that telling the truth, or my truth, would be problematic, but I saw no other viable choice. I could have concurred with the lie told by this acquaintance to another virtual stranger, thereby telling a lie, myself; or, simply remained silent, which would have also been a lie. Generally, lying is “bad” karma, unless it’s something like telling a dying person that their estranged child or other relative, who is definitely not coming, is “on the way.” Before my father succumbed to his terminal illness, and after its concomitant dementia, and the regression that transformed him from my father to my baby, he often cried out, “Where’s my father?” At first, his wife tried to explain that his father died many, many years ago; but he just didn’t “get” that. So, eventually, she just started telling him that his father was “on his way.” This was the only tack that both comforted and quieted him. The truth would have been, “Your father is gone; he isn’t coming back; so, get over it!” You tell me which explanation deserves being reincarnated as a cockroach or spending eternity in that “burning” lake of fire…

The Buddha did not discourage the telling of ‘hard truths.’ He simply admonished us to make sure our intentions were ‘right.’ And of course, timing, articulation, and ‘after care’ are also extremely important. The thing to remember is that everybody loves the truth, so long as it benefits them. It’s when that truth affects their pay checks, their reputations, or their loved ones that things get complicated.


Related Reading:

Possibilities: Causation from Just A Little Dust (blog)

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The Relativity of “Good” and “Bad” Karma… by Vivien E. Zazzau is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at

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