(8) THE LAW OF CAUSE AND EFFECT OPERATES IN THE THREE WORLDS
The law of cause and effect is the foundation of Buddhism.
The notion of cause and effect is not unique to Buddhism. The Law of Cause and Effect is fundamental to science as well. In Buddhism cause and effect are not limited to the "here and now." There are "three worlds," the past, the present and the future. These three worlds are peculiar to Buddhism.
Some people deny the existence of the three worlds. Some accept the idea of an after life through belief in an eternal soul. Buddha taught that both are wrong. He denied the existence of an immutable, fixed soul and taught about indestructible karma.
Karma is `action.' Good and evil deeds of action, speech and thought determine the results we receive - good and bad. In a broader meaning karma can be called `deed.' Our deeds become energy and the energy is stored forever.
Karmic power is the cause that generates the result. A good cause brings a good result; a bad cause brings a bad result; everyone gets the results of his own deeds. This is a relationship that will never change. Even Buddha cannot change this law. On the contrary, Buddha attained his enlightenment through the application of the law of cause and effect.
We accumulate karmic energy in our everyday lives through our three types of karma (body, mouth and mind). This infinite karmic energy permanently coexists with our bodies and minds. Karma is neither material nor spirit. When we die our bodies are destroyed but our karma remains.
This karma gives birth to the body and mind of our next lives. Our bodies and minds of this life and those of the next life are not the same, but karma links them together. Similarly, in billiards, the speed and the direction of the red ball determines the speed and direction of the white ball. In this way the red and white balls are not the same but are inseparably connected. Likewise, the body and mind of the previous life, and the body and mind of this life are not the same, but are inexorably connected by karma.
Indestructible karmic power flows eternally. While reaping the effects in this life of seeds planted in past lives, we simultaneously plant seeds that will bear fruit in our future lives. Thus we repeat the cycle of birth and death. All beings go through this never ending cycle.
All things go through cycles of formation and destruction. For example, the Earth is always changing through these processes. A weather-beaten high mountain has a rough and loose surface. Mother nature works and turns this surface into mud and gravel, which are carried into the gorge and eventually washed out to sea. They sink to the bottom of the ocean and accumulate in the depths of the water. The depths are eventually filled and become flat ground. With the mud and gravel the seabed becomes high and rises out of the water. What was once seabed rises and becomes mountains, forming the relief of peaks and gorges. Erosion and sedimentation start once again. Scientists believe that at one time, Himalayan Mountains were a seabed, submerged at the bottom of the sea. That means that nine thousand meters of the land surface of this area has ripened more than 9,000 meters in the formation of these mountains. Needless to say, this is not a process that can be noticed during a life span of 50 or 100 years, but only after millions and millions of years.
Today, biologists can explain human fertility. Still, they are unable to explain why we were born, why we were born to particular parents, or, why we are male or female. Seeking explanations many people turn to mysticism and other beliefs. Others think that events occur simply "by chance."
Buddhism teaches that there is indestructible karma, which is grounded on the law of cause and effect. Karma is the cause of our existence while the blood and sperm of our parents are the condition. Being born to a particular couple, having characteristics such as fair or dark complexion, or being born into a high or low social rank does not happen by accident, nor is it the command of any superior being. Our circumstances in life are the results of our past deeds. This means that one's situation is the result of karma accumulated in one's previous lives. Siblings born from the same parents are different due to differences in their accumulated past karma. They are alike because they have the same condition: being born to the same parents.
What is the relationship between the cause and effect and the "three worlds," the past, present and future? Sakyamuni Buddha taught in the Sutra of Cause and Effect: "If you would like to know your deeds in your past life, look at the results you are reaping in your present life. If you would like to know the results you'll have in your future life, look at your deeds in your present life." Suffering or happiness in our present lives is the result of good or bad karma from our past lives. The good or bad karma in this life will generate suffering or happiness in our future lives. Each one's suffering or happiness did not happen by accident, nor is it the will of a superior being. It is only the natural result of one's acts. Therefore, the Law of Cause and Effect teaches that through our present self we are able to see our infinite past and our eternal future.
Buddha teaches us to carefully analyze the present ichinen, the shortest length of time where our infinite past and our eternal future are joined. By focusing our attention on this ichinen we will find a great sea of suffering caused by our infinite and indestructible karma.