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  • Powerlessness

    So a large part of spirituality and Buddhism seem to be the ability to control ones destiny. The power to become enlightened is within you and no one can do it for you, etc.

    I constantly hear this and frankly its becoming annoying. For example, how do you account for the millions on this planet who are mentally ill and subject to moods beyond their control due to genetics or perhaps past karma which is now in full effect and leaves them powerless?

    It doesnt seem like humans are truly in control of their destiny to me. I imagine some are and some aren't, for whatever reason. Yet Buddhist teachers are constantly saying we can make the decision to change at any time. I'm not buying it.

    Id be very interested to hear your thoughts on this, much appreciated

  • #2
    Hi dear Erik,

    It's not us who is in charge of our destiny -- it's our karma that is. If we would be in charge, we would always choose the right thing. Who would choose to become depressed? Who would choose to be born with deficits? Nobody would actually choose so. That means in the end we are not really in control... To say we are in control is just a way of saying that we have some choice over our karma. That we have some involvement in the things we say, do, and think. Eventually how these things flow on to produce their results is a very tricky affair that is not really up to us.

    The Buddha compared it once to a stick thrown in the air. If you make the stick really heavy at one end (by doing lots of either good or bad karma) then it it is very likely the stick, when it hits the ground, will fall on that end. Do lots of good, and it will most likely hit the good end. Do lots of bad, and it will likely hit the bad end. But even a stick that's very heavy at one end may still land on the lighter end. I think that is a really nice analogy to explain how it works. You can fatten the stick at one end, and make it thinner at the other, but how it lands is out of control. So in one sense there is control over our destiny, in another sense there is not. It's just how you look at things.

    I hope this to some extend lessens your doubt.

    With kindness,



    • #3
      Ok, makes sense. But if that's the case, why do I hear ajahn brahm saying just about every Friday night that your happiness is completely under your control? We just established that it isn't, and in my experience it definitely isn't.


      • #4
        Hi Erik,

        It is just a way of looking at things. You know these sculptures that from one place look like they are straight, and from another place look like they are bent? They often put them on roundabouts. Well, from one perspective you could say happiness is under our control, from another perspective you can say it isn't. Therefore if you hear Ajahn Brahm say something like that, take note of the context that he puts it in. He's looking at the sculpture in that specific context.

        Both contexts are right in a way, but both are also not the full picture.



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