Positive Intention

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Kathmandu, Nepal (Archive #996)

Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche gave this teaching on karma at Kopan Course No. 27, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in Nov-Dec, 1994.

This is an excerpt from Lecture Four of the course. Lightly edited by Gordon McDougall and Sandra Smith.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Tarzana, California, 1975. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

One of the five mental factors that always accompany the principal consciousness is sem-pa, intention. So, positive intention is virtuous karma. Our own positive attitude or positive intention is the positive karma, the virtuous karma. So, all our temporal and ultimate happiness—each individual sentient being’s temporal and ultimate happiness —comes from each individual’s positive attitude or intention; that which is called “karma,” the positive actions of the body and mind.

As I mentioned the other night, without the inner cause we can’t achieve the outer cause; we can’t have that condition. Generally it can be said that without the inner cause, which is our own mind—that cause of happiness that is our own mind—we can’t experience even the external conditions for happiness. Because we don’t have the inner cause, that means we haven’t created the reason to have the outer cause or condition. We haven’t created the reason for this to happen; to actualize the outer cause, the condition.

As I often mention, somebody who is sick might not be cured, even if he goes to the best hospital where there is the most qualified doctor who knows his sickness and is able to diagnosis it without mistake; and even if the doctor has the correct medicine and knows what treatment is to be given. Even though generally speaking the treatment should work perfectly each time, in the general view, in the common people’s view or judgment. As long as these conditions are gathered, the treatment should always work perfectly, but even though that is the common understanding, in reality, many times, many times, it doesn’t happen that way. The disease gets worse or the patient even dies. So many times, the opposite to common understanding happens.

And the same thing, even in business, somebody has studied economics or how to do business well at university or college, and has a degree. After studying all these subjects, no matter how smart that person is; knowing the world situation, the business situation, or this country and that country; no matter how intelligence or smart, no matter how clever and having all this education, when he actually goes into business with the most amazing business plans, the result is completely contradictory to what everybody expects. Everybody is sure he is going to be successful, but many times the result is exactly the opposite.

Maybe I’ll give an example. Quite a number of years ago, I think in France, there was a woman whose husband was so bad to her that she couldn’t handle it anymore and she became so sad she wanted to die. What happened was, she jumped out of [an upper-story] window to commit suicide, but at that moment her husband came home. He was entering through the door and she fell on his body. I don’t remember whether the husband died or not. [Rinpoche laughs]

The point is, even though she wished to die; even though she wished to stop her life, the karma to die was not experienced because she hadn’t created the karma to die at that time. Even though she wished to do this, when she tried, it turned out as something else. She fell down, but instead of falling to the ground she fell on her husband’s body and she didn’t die. She didn’t succeed, because she hadn’t created the karma to die at that time. It’s all to do with karma. Even though she wished to die, jumping only made her survive.

It’s the same thing with business or with our health or sickness, as I mentioned. It shows that if we haven’t created the karma to have success, that karma can’t ripen at that time. Instead, the karma we have created is to be unsuccessful, whether it’s for treatment to cure a disease or for success in business. The karma we created was for the opposite and so the result is the problems, the unpleasant suffering. The cause of this is negative karma. The result happens because the karma we created was negative karma, which can only result in continuously getting sick or experiencing death, in the treatment not being beneficial. It doesn’t benefit and then nothing works in business, everything gets stuck, then on top of that there is failure. This negative karma was created and that result is experienced at that time.

One person might have wealth by stealing, or another person might become wealthy by doing business with a restaurant or hotel that involves killing so many animals every day, like sea animals —those large animals, fish and so forth —many hundreds a day. They might have become wealthy by stealing or by killing and selling so many other sentient beings, but the cause of being wealthy is not from that. It appears to be just from killing all those thousands of sea animals each day. It appears the wealth came from that business. For ordinary common people’s view, it appears like that, but in reality the wealth came from past good karma.

The main cause of wealth, comfort and enjoyment, came from the inner cause, the positive intention, the good karma, either earlier in this life or in a past life. So many thousands of animals are killed each day and sold to make food, but this becomes a condition, not the cause.

Stealing can be a condition, but it’s not the cause of the person having enjoyment, comfort and wealth. He may be experiencing comfort and enjoyment now, but the main cause is not stealing, even though it appears like that, in the common people’s view, those who do not understand karma. Even though it looks like there is no other cause, in reality, that person’s comfort and enjoyment all comes from the past, from the inner cause —the positive intention, the good karma.

While such people are experiencing the result of past good karma, and are living on past good karma, at the same time they are creating so much negative karma every day. They engage in thousands and thousands of negative actions, by killing large and small sea animals, so they are always creating negative karma every day while using their past good karma. They are living on the past good karma, and they don’t create any additional good karma. People like this who engage in so much killing and so forth, might be able to live for a long time—seventy or eighty years—but that is the result of another different karma; that is the result of past good karma. Their long life didn’t come from the negative karma of killing hundreds and thousands of other sentient beings every day. It didn’t come from that; it came from another karma, a past good karma.

If that person’s mind doesn’t change, if his actions don’t change, in some ways living a long life is a bad sign. The longer he lives, the more he uses this precious human body to create more and more negative karma, which means even if he is able to live for so many years, all those negative karmas are being collected, meaning he will have to experience the results in the lower realm, one after another, one rebirth after another in the lower realms, for eons and eons. This is what awaits him, even though he may be physically very healthy for many years, not having much sickness.