the kamma of not seeing it


POSTCARD #84: Delhi: Eight thirty in the morning, coming into town from the airport, great rivers of traffic and car horns hooting and tooting like flocks of geese in a poultry market. Shym is driving, I’m in the back… an opportunity for me to consider how difficult all this could be. Confrontations up-front and in-close brinkmanship… give-and-take becomes push-and-shove, not enough space, no room to move. Scarred and scratched vehicles, smashed rear lights, dented bumpers. Trumpets blare, somebody blocking the lane – get out of the way! Insist on it thru the sheer force of horn blasts: plaaaaah, PEEEE, pap-pap-pap! Everybody gets into it, scenarios of outrage, high octave shouting in a language I don’t understand. Then Shym starts singing in Hindi, a voice with trembling vibrato. Maybe I should ask what’s that nice song he’s singing and we can have some light conversation? But I see his hands gripping the steering wheel, white-knuckling it, a sense of the radiant nuclear fury of the sun. This is how it must have been in the Wild West – except they had guns. The ever-present sound and odour of gunfire, young cowboys wearing holstered revolvers and composure like stainless steel. Somebody loses their cool, chairs fly away and everybody dives for cover under the tables.

Things being as they are it takes longer to get to the house than planned, driving with extra caution through these hair-trigger hazards in Delhi traffic, and me with these whispered voices I try not to listen to, voices telling me, it shouldn’t be like this, and seeking calm, steadiness in the intention to be mindful. Remembering to disengage the automatic irritation response. Just notice it – yep, that’s it, and leave it alone. Let sleeping dogs lie. Lessons learned from a lifetime of kamma-vipaka, cause/effect – this is the result of something that happened in the past. Whatever that was, caused this. And what caused that cause? There must have been another cause and this is the effect of that effect, then… and before that cause? Another cause, same thing. My presence here, ‘me’, is the result of a very long cause/effect sequence stretching all the way back through the ages to the Big Bang (The Original Cause, or was there something that caused that?). I am here as a result of generations of those who came before ‘me’, believing it was an inevitability, destiny tattooed on one’s forehead. Going about their lives and managing likes, dislikes; the desire to have, want and get-away-from. The kamma of not seeing it – not seeing that there’s an end to kamma.

So, everything is holding together reasonably well and we reach home in the end. Out of the car, hi everyone, I’m okay yes, thanks, just been sitting in an aircraft economy class seat all night. Into the house, drop bags where I stand and collapse on the sofa. It’s been three weeks but feels longer; three Buddhist monasteries, a funeral and a wedding – and the 4000-year-old stone circle in NE Scotland. I came back to India to take a rest from all that… watch the breathing, heartbeat all a flutter, lying here in the horizontal position. There’s a trembling vibration running through my body, is it the sofa, the floor? Raise my head, is it an earthquake? Look around, no indications of it, nothing falls off the shelves – not an earthquake, just life itself….

“… in its fullest sense, liberation from kamma is liberation from cause and effect in the mind. It’s a process of mentally, emotionally, stepping back from any state and seeing it just as a state, without reactions and attitudes. This simple skill, which most of us can do from time to time, is what we develop in Buddhist practice.” [Ajahn Sucitto, Kamma and the End of Kamma]


16 thoughts on “the kamma of not seeing it

  1. Love this– especially loved this: “me with these whispered voices I try not to listen to, voices telling me, it shouldn’t be like this, and seeking calm, steadiness in the intention to be mindful. Remembering to disengage the automatic irritation response. Just notice it – yep, that’s it, and leave it alone. Let sleeping dogs lie. Lessons learned from a lifetime of kamma-vipaka…” I am getting this same message about this very thing from different people– the Universe is telling me something. Not just about irritation, but anger and anxiety as well. All the same– negative emotions. Was just talking to someone somewhat jokingly, but seriously at the same time, about how many Italian Buddhists there are. I can say this because I am half Sicilian and it is the dominant half. It seems the Sicilian mentality has difficulty with the intention to be mindful. It is always a struggle because emotions run so high. On the other hand, positive emotions are exaggerated, too, like love, and that is something to consider. But I am fighting against a cultural anomaly. Very helpful post and another voice from Universe to listen to…

    • Thanks for your comment Ellen, maybe Sicilians are subject to the ‘joys and sorrows’ more than most people 🙂 Same both ways, joys or sorrows. People (not just Sicilians) are inclined to react in an adverse way whenever the ‘sorrows’, these negative emotions, arise and this becomes habitual – every time a seemingly negative situation comes along, we automatically return to the unhappy state of adversity. It’s an example of unknowing cause/effect that can be changed by opening up to the negative emotion, instead of trying to shut it down. A little at first, step by step… Same thing goes for the ‘joys’, they trigger an unrealistic state of excitement tinged with regret because we know it’ll not last very long. The key to it all is aiming for equanimity, upekkha in Buddhist terms. If there are so many Italian Buddhists around, it might be because really the preferred state is something that has this calm balance…

  2. I love the depth of observation in your writing, and the attention to both the mundane and the unexpected– the connection of the driver’s state of mind to the driver’s knuckles to the white hot nuclear fury of the sun, and the idea of all those Wild West cowboys as young… That one got me thinking, they probably were, probably younger than all the stars in the movies who played them… Kind of strange to think about it in those terms. A bunch of frightened boys with six shooters… Hair-trigger minds… A strange perception of reality. We have very strange heroes, I’ll be the first to admit. 🙂


    • Thanks Michael, I suppose the sights and sounds here simply fascinate me. The risks drivers take are breathtaking – thinking of rites of passage or something. The heroes, the Wild West young cowboys’ bravado is an example of this. I had a friend in UK who liked going to see grass track racing on motorbikes. I went with him once, it’s completely crazy, constant ambulance sirens to and from the track. The high performance bikes are all driven by young guys, barely in their twenties and they have to quit, he said, when they get older because they can see how scary it is. So, anyway, at the time I was thinking Delhi drivers come into that category. Shym’s way of giving vent to his spleen, though, was to sing a song and this was the inspiration for the post…

  3. Ah, the magic pass out of the remembering that this too shall pass…and the the next this and the next. Allow allow allow. Beautiful share. -x.M

    (And welcome home! I hope the flight attendants too good care of you 🙂 )

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