Collective and Individual Karma By the 12th Gyalwang Drukpa

I hope this post may help us to live purpursefully through the current waves of Karma reaching all of us. May all beings benefit !


A Story

29th April 2009


I am in my humble residence in a remote area of Kathmandu, where I hope no one can find me and I cannot find anyone, packing and tidying my things which are currently still spread over the tables and the floor. I thought I could take a break, but I still find myself busy packing and unpacking. I guess this is the boring story of my life. Then on the table, I saw a book that says "Buddha’s Life Story", and when I flipped through the pages, I ran into the story of the massacre of the Shakya Clan, a story that I want to share with you.

Buddha’s own kingdom, Kapilavastu, has a very powerful neighbour, Kosala kingdom. Both kingdoms historically had been in conflicts. An interesting incident happened before Buddha got enlightened. King Prasenajit of Kosala sent an ambassador to Kapilavastu, the kingdom of Shakya clan, to propose to one of the princesses. But Shakya people generally looked down on Kosala people and saw them as barbarians, so the Buddha’s father not wishing to upset the king of Kosala, married a slave girl who was disguised as a princess to him. The Buddha at that time did not agree to this idea, because it was not respecting Kosala kingdom and it was a bad deed to lie. His father did not listen and slave girl from Shakya clan became the Queen of Kosala.

Ten years after Buddha renounced his kingdom and 4 years after his enlightenment, he went back to his kingdom to teach. The Shakya people were so excited they built a beautifully ornamented altar for the Buddha. By this time, the King and Queen of Kosala had a son, Prince Virudhaka, who was 8 years old, and he was sent back to Kapilavastu to learn weaponry. The soldiers caught the young prince playing in the holy altar and their commander told the prince he was the son of a slave, therefore he had dirtied the altar. Prince Virudhaka became very insulted and angry, after knowing that Buddha’s father tricked his father into marrying a slave, he vowed to take revenge against the Shakya clan.

There was peace at least for a while since King and Queen of Kosala were disciples of the Buddha. But after Prince Virudhaka forcefully seized power from his father, he declared war on the Shakyas. The Buddha stopped him three times, but by the fourth time the Buddha was suffering from a headache and could not stop the prince, the prince who had become the new king of Kosala, successfully marched towards Kapilavastu. Maha-Maudgalyayana, Buddha’s disciple who was well-known for performing miracles, thought he could save at least 500 Shakyas by covering them up in his begging bowl and taking them out of Kapilavastu, but when he opened the bowl, there was only blood. The Buddha had told him that the law of karma could not be avoided when the karma ripened, no one could stop, not even someone who could perform miracles.

After the tragedy, the Buddha’s disciples could not understand why the Buddha could not help his own people, the people of Shakya. The Buddha told them a story of an ancient past. There was a village and next to the village was a pond. One time due to drought and famine, there was nothing to eat, so the villagers ate the fish, prawns, clams and crabs easily taken from the drying pond.  There was even a huge fish of 8 to 9 feet long. Everyone enjoyed the meat of other animals, except a 3 years old child. He saw the big fish opening its mouth and thought it was very funny, he beat the fish head 3 times with a branch.

After many many lives, these villagers took rebirth as the people of Shakya clan. The huge fish took rebirth as Prince Virudhaka and his army were actually the fish, prawns, clams and crabs eaten cruelly by the villagers. The boy who beat the fish head was the Buddha himself. Even though the Buddha did not kill or eat any of the pond beings, he too had to suffer from headache because he beat the fish head 3 times. Together with the massacre of the entire Shakya clan, this is an example of collective karma.

This is interdependent origination, no one can escape the calculation of karma. When the conditions are suitable for the ripening karma, then whatever good or bad karma will come to show you the results of your past positive or negative deeds. There is a saying, the enlightened ones are afraid of the causes, the sentient beings are afraid of the results. There are two types of karma, one is the individual karma, one is the collective karma.

I am sorry for my long-windedness. Actually what made me tell you this story, among many others was because of an email I received from the chairperson of Drukpa Mexico. As you all know, there is a strange flu that is going around, I also just learned a new terminology "Swine Flu". At first, I thought, "Oh, not again, they are going to kill all the birds or chickens." But then I only realised that "swine" means "pig". So now if a pig gets a flu, he can pass the flu to us and then we can pass the pig flu to everyone. How frightening this is?

"You are what you eat" is something I always hear some of my friends say. So I don’t know if there is anything to do with the food that some people are eating that they become easily affected by the disease of the animals they eat.

Going back to karma. To my feeling, the outbreak of "Swine Flu" is the ripening of a collective karma. There is no way to run away, whether it happens in Mexico, in Hong Kong, in America, in Europe, in Japan or even in Australia. Some people may say, "I have never killed a pig, I have never killed an animal, why should I go through this suffering?" Look at the story of the Shakya clan, aeons ago the villagers killed that many animals in the pond, and their collective karma happened many generations after. So even if you are a good person this life, you may still suffer if the conditions are there for your past negative karma to ripen. How many pigs, birds, chickens, fish and all these poor animals you have killed and eaten? You don’t know.

Buddha Shakyamuni would call this collective karma. Even I myself, claiming as a reincarnate master and etc., I may also have to go through my own ripening karma because I could have done something bad or something wrong, millions of years ago, lives ago. So the results have to be experienced.

It doesn’t mean that we have to suffer helplessly. We should see this as a lesson, as a teaching. From now onwards, we should try to behave very nicely. Even though we don’t have love or compassion, at least we should be afraid to go through this sort of negative and painful experience. What is happening now is very unfortunate, but we should not go through this ignorantly, we should be seeing this as an alarm. This means that we as human beings have to find solutions to live harmoniously with each other, especially when it comes to animals and nature. We should not be abusing anyone in this universe, because sooner or later, we will be the ones suffering.

We cannot say these things to animals because they are not supposed to know or understand anything, at least they can’t speak. We human beings who are supposed to be more intelligent should be the ones knowing how to live for a brighter future, this is where we should be using our smartness.

People have to practise more of Live to Love, not only behaving nicely, but we should try our best to liberate those beings who are going to be slaughtered out of our own human selfishness and also to help those beings who are suffering from "Swine Flu".

I am very happy that 600 of my monks and nuns can join together to do this Walking Pilgrimage, not only that I am also very thrilled that some friends and students have come up with such a creative idea to make our Walking Pilgrimage a charity event so that we are able to join together to help the children in different ways. This is a great and practical way to practise Live to Love and to offer help to less fortunate children.

In this kind of time, first we saw financial problems, now we see dangerous flu going around, this is a big alarm that we should not waste our time, not only because of this thing about collective karma ripening, but also about life being so impermanent. Instead we should try to spend more time together, we should find time to join together so that we can dedicate our collective energy to do good things, to practise together, to walk together and to support each other so that our collective good karma will bring tremendous happiness and joy to ourselves, then to our surrounding, then to our environment, gradually to the world and the bigger universe. I strongly encourage those of you who have the time and those who can find time to join us in the walking pilgrimage and those of you who don’t have the time, you can always support the Charity Walk for the children.

I also have a big request for all of my friends and students. From today until 6th May, for 7 days, I would like to ask everyone to join me in the recitation of Vajra Guru Mantra and send this counting to my office email. Different centres should also be organising this and send the collection of mantra to my office. By 6th May, I am hoping that collectively we can accumulate 100 million Vajra Guru Mantra to dedicate to those suffering physically and morally because of "Swine Flu". I believe this mantra will help. We should also try to release 100,000 lives, not any live, but mainly those lives who will be slaughtered to satisfy our appetite. For those of you who are not vegetarians, at least try to be vegetarian for these 7 days. If we all can achieve this target, at least some help will be there.

This is the end of my long story.

This entry was posted in Ethics in Vajrayana. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s