Good begets good, evil begets evil?

“Good” and “evil” are somewhat tricky terms but are used all too freely. Buddhism is not all too concerned with classifying the world into Good People and Bad People (sensu “Axis of Evil” and “either with us or against us” rhetoric). Instead, there is “wholesome” and “unwholesome”.

Just a play on words?

A Buddhist discussion on the topic of Karma usually has 4 implications:

(1) Understanding that actions bring results. Not only that, certain qualities of actions bring certain qualities of results.

E.g. it is not possible to plant a mango seed to get a durian tree. Mango seeds give mango trees, while durian seeds are supposed to give durian trees.

(2) Certain results and effects are more desirable than others.

E.g. Results that involve pain, suffering and displeasure are not desirable to us, while pleasure, joy and happiness are desired outcomes.

(3) By learning and observing the patterns of actions and results in our lives and others’, we can learn from mistakes and improve our futures.

These first 3 points tells us that 1) we need to observe for patterns: generally what kind of actions result in what kinds of effects? 2) which effects are what we want, and which are what we don’t want? 3) hence, what actions do we want to take, and what don’t we want to take?

Our experience should tell us that
happiness, peace-of-mind, joy, etc. stem from
(i) mental,
(ii) verbal, or
(iii) bodily
actions rooted in
a) generosity,
b) kindliness and/or
c) wisdom,
while suffering, anguish, despair, etc. stem from
(i) mental,
(ii) verbal, or
(iii) bodily
actions roots in
a) greed,
b) anger and/or
c) delusion.

Hence the former set of results and actions are “wholesome” while the latter are “unwholesome”.

Therefore, a Buddhists’ opinion should be:

Wholesome begets the Wholesome,
Unwholesome begets the Unwholesome.

but,
(4) Actions can have either long term or short term effect. Which means that Karma and its fruition is non-linear, and should not be thought of in a simplistic way.

The two opening verses of the Dhammapada therefore assures us:

Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief;
they are all mind-wrought.

If
with an impure mind
a person
   speaks
   or acts
suffering follows him
like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox.

Mind precedes all mental states.
Mind is their chief;
they are all mind-wrought.

If
with a pure mind
a person
   speaks
   or acts
happiness follows him
like his never-departing shadow.

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