(*disclaimer at bottom)
The more we learn collectively about our uniqueness individually, the more we see that we are different in all ways possible. Yes, we all have skin and eyes and stomachs and hair and teeth and so forth but, everybody’s hair, teeth, skin. eyes, and stomachs are different. Yet, we are all the same. I like the fact/idea of fingerprints and their almost iconic representation of uniqueness because they put me in mind of Karma.
Karma is a huge subject, but can simply be described from the Buddhist point of view, as being a Law of the Universe that basically sees all volitional actions (karma, as a word basically means action or activity), as being a cause, and all causes have results or consequences. It is part of the explanation of how we always reap the consequence of past actions, even actions that were done before we were born. We can reap these consequences as individuals, as families, as groups, as animals, as nations. etc: Everything we can sense is a result, in one form or another, of past karma (actions), playing out consequences. That we as individuals may not have knowingly initiated this consequence does not matter to the Law of Karma. Its a fact. Like gravity.
Nobody knows what gravity is, but we can see how it works and its effects. We learn quickly the consequence of gravity and work with it, mostly. Stepping off a roof is different from stepping off a curb, but both are responses and activities of gravity. One we do repeatedly and safely, the other we usually only do once.
We own the karma we create and participate in, and we are born with karma that was left unresolved by beings in the past. Buddhist training is, about dealing with and responding to, the karma we created and that which we inherited, and being willing to act/live in a way that helps to resolve/cleanse the karma’s we inherited or made. We try to treat it sort of like a load of laundry in a community that cycles its daily chores, When we wash, we wash all the laundry that needs it; not just our own. That’s one way of living compassionately.
So, from my rather shallow understanding of Karma I see it as being kind of like fingerprints.
We have left fingerprints, unique to each of us, everyplace we’ve ever been, on everything we’ve ever touched. Many, many imprints of our passage and presence, and often of our activities in general, depending on where our fingerprints are. If I had a machine that can trace the fingerprints of any individual from the moment they were born, from everything they ever touched or handled until they died; I could probably piece together a very accurate history (story) of that person. That history would be more accurate than all the stories and memories the person ever had about their own life, and it would probably surprise that individual, as well as others who may have thought they knew the person well.
So it is with Karma.
I went through life for a longish time not caring or thinking about consequence; and when things happen in my life that didn’t seem fair or affected me negatively, I was not easily able to see that as a consequence of something I did, or set into motion previously. (Of course there were lots of times I knew that what I was getting was my own comeuppance, but by and large, I forgot or was obliviously ignorant of the connection between my actions and the consequences that followed at some later, and perhaps distant time and place.)
It’s usually only at crime scenes where they “dust for fingerprints”, trying to tie an individual to a deed or action. Most other fingerprints ever created are just smudges that, sooner or latter, get wiped, polished or washed away by the activity of others doing the cleaning.
So it is with Karma.
When I seem to be reaping some bitter or overripe fruit in my life, it’s time to “dust for prints” and examine parts of the story by examining my past actions; either recent or some time ago; or life or place. (We have all lived different lives in just this lifetime.)
The difference between fingerprints and karmic imprints, is that Karma becomes apparent when I have an opportunity to look closely about how I have been and what I set into motion; and how that connects to my current discomforts. That’s “dusting for karma”. It’s more of a teaching/learning opportunity, but I may not remember what I have done. It may not be important who did what.
The only thing that matters is how I responded to what I was shown. If I respond in the proper way (i.e. compassionately and trying to see where and how I can do better), then I tend to notice that I’m living in a more polished and cleaner environment in my life.
Not so many smudges, streaks and messy fingerprints on the glasses, walls, mirrors and such. And, less of a mess for other beings to clean up in the future.
They dusted the room for
karma and finger prints. After
They cleared the scene; the
Fingerprints were washed
Away by people who didn’t
Make them. The karmic prints
Were there to stay. Some other
Beings would clean them in
Another way. On an other day
- Disclaimer; this is not a teaching about Karma, it’s a musing on karma (little k)