Ownership of kamma

Six things that lead to the abandoning of ill-will:
1) learning the meditation on loving-kindness,
2) cultivating meditation on loving-kindness,
3) reviewing ownership of kamma,
4) abundant reflection,
5) good friendship, and
6) suitable conversation.

— from the commentaries to AN, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

The next remedy for anger or ill-will is “reviewing ownership of kamma”. Kamma here means simply action, our actions, whatever we do. There is kamma (action) and the results of kamma. The most direct instruction we have for reviewing ownership is here:

A woman or a man, a householder or one gone forth, should often reflect thus: ‘I am the owner of my kamma, the heir of my kamma; I have kamma as my origin, kamma as my relative, kamma as my resort; I will be the heir of whatever kamma, good or bad, that I do.’
— from AN5.57, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is one of the verses I have memorized and repeat to myself almost daily. Regardless of what crosses my path during the day, my responses are my actions. My choices of what to do, in what order – those actions will stick with me. If I stew in resentment, or if I do a kindness, these become causes for future events and states of mind. Our actions are the only things we have a choice about, the only way we affect others and ourselves, for good or ill. We can attempt to nudge our kamma towards the wholesome by noticing what we are doing, and with what attitude.

An important corollary is that just as we are the owners of our actions, others are the owners of their actions and the consequences of those actions. So, even as we watch loved ones do self-destructive things, we can understand the limit of our power to help them. If anyone treats us badly, we can know that their actions will accumulate to form their future – we don’t have to participate in it.

We may wish that particular people could avoid bearing the consequences of their actions or that they should have those consequences multiplied, but our wishes don’t figure into this equation. It is what it is – actions have consequences, good ones and bad ones. If we come to understand this truth deeply, we can minimize our regrets and increase our joy.

2 Comments

Filed under Anger, Imperfections

2 responses to “Ownership of kamma

  1. Anonymous

    I have been struggling for some time with a rising ill-will, watching as my only niece makes more and more self-destructive choices in her life, and finding myself so angry with her. I feel helpless, as does the rest of the family, because it seems as if she wants all this darkness and drama, and we can’t figure out why. Beautiful, talented, smart, funny and also manipulative, cunning, narcissistic and pathological….it’s been difficult to keep my heart soft.
    Your last two paragraphs offer some clarity, but it doesn’t make it any easier to watch someone you love go down the rabbit-hole. Our hearts are still breaking.

  2. This is something I can use — excellent in the truest sense of the word! I, too, will commit it to memory and reflect on it daily. Thank you and Namaste.

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