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Karma Neuroses (Envy, Doubt, restlessness)

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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In the description of the wisdom energy of the Karma Family, we described how this energy had to do with the setting of goals and ambitions. It also involves the recognition of the difference between our current state and the state of existence required to fulfill that goal or goals. It also includes a recognition of the first steps involved in achieving these goals. Therefore it includes all aspects of the process of creating, and fulfilling our goals and ambitions.

Karma neuroses is the result of our misapprehension and misinterpretation of our role in the various parts of this process of connecting with our goals. This includes a lack of awareness of the importance of our own role in the process of creating the world around us.

The first way that we can cause problems with ourselves in relationship to our goals is by only creating and working towards short term goals. We can end up doing this because we do not believe in the usefulness or importance of long term goals or because we don't feel capable of achieving any long term goals. It can also be that we don't really understand what long term goals are, or what they could be.

From a spiritual point of view, long term goals affect us beyond this lifetime. This means that first we have to resolve the notion of whether there is something beyond this life. From the spiritual point of view, any goals that are solely for this lifetime are considered short term goals.

If there is life beyond this one, then we need to know what continues from one life to the next. In Buddhism, we teach that, our body doesn't follow us, our friends, our posessions or our social status don't follow us, even our thoughts and feelings, which don't even last a single day, don't follow us.

What does continue, from a Buddhist point of view, is our tendencies of thought, speech, and action. What follows us is our attraction to various Forms, Feelings, Perceptions, Intentions or Ambitions, and levels of Awareness. In our future lives we also experience the causes and conditions that we have created in the past that have not yet come to fruition in our present life.

Therefore, our spiritual goal is to clean up the causes and conditions that we have already created, eliminate our harmful tendencies, improve our current tendencies and to develop the positive tendencies that we don't currently posess.

This means that instead of tending to be constantly dissatisfied, we try to learn to be content with our circumstances. Instead of being prone to anger, we try to be patient with others and with whatever situation we find ourselves in. Instead of being spiteful and cruel, we train ourselves to be loving, kind, and compassionate. Instead of being fearful and doubtful, we learn to be prepared and confident. Instead of being confused and closed-minded, we train ourselves to be aware and willing to learn.

If we do well in these goals, then we will not experience discontent, anger, spitefulness, fear, and doubt in our future lives. If we do a really, really good job with this, we can even eliminate these things in our near future within this lifetime at the same time. Making these goals the most important ones in our lives is what differentiates a spiritual person from a worldly one.

Because we have taken human birth, there are also goals that are important for us for survival in order to allow us to pursue spiritual goals. These goals occupy the next level of importance from a spiritual point of view.

Goals for ensuring our survival such as finding a way to provide for food, clothing, and shelter are important goals. The type of work that we do, if it reflects and reinforces spiritual values, should be something that promotes contentment, peace, and helping others. In the same vein, it can also be work that supports the survival of ourselves and others.

Other valuable temporary goals are goals related to promoting learning for ourselves and others. This includes supporting people who teach us as well as providing teaching to others about the things that we understand.

Any goals relating to this life beyond those already mentioned are like dessert or icing on the cake. They may be pleasant and desirable, but are not actually necessary. The danger of these other pleasures is that they can occupy a great deal of our time and can even lead us to sacrificing some of the more valuable goals already mentioned.

An example of this would be someone who likes gambling so much that they will spend the money that would be used for food or rent. Another one is someone who spends all of their time at work in order to obtain status and wealth and, in the process, neglects their relationship with their spouse and children.

So the first neuroses in the karma family is preoccupation with short-term, temporary goals while neglecting or forgetting about the more important and long term ones.

There is also the neuroses of not making goals at all, but merely doing the first thing that comes to mind. Any results from this approach can be mixed at best. Because circumstances change from one moment to the other, nothing beyond momentarily satisfying results are accomplished and it is purely good luck that this style of life isn't full of misery. Of course relying on good luck, from a Buddhist viewpoint, means that we're just using up good causes and conditions that were set up in the past without really creating any more good causes.

The energy of wanting to create and wanting to be active can also have a down side as well. The impetus to move itself can become neurotic so that, any time we're not active, we think that something must be wrong. This means that people with Karma Family neuroses can be restless and constantly full of "busy" - ness. They have a hard time being still, being quiet, and doing nothing. They feel they need to fill up any gap or space that exists.

Another problem that arises from this goal orientation is that, awareness of all the things required to accomplish any particular goal leads to a desire to control every aspect of working towards a goal. However, not every step in achieving a goal can be done by one person, and so a neurotic response to this is to be bossy, and try to control everything.

It also leads to a type of paranoia, as we become afraid that we will miss out on some step that needs to be done. We can also become paranoid of other people, because we may tend to feel that they are working to obstruct our ambitions, or that we have to compete with them to obtain our desires. This attitude then blinds us to the possibility of cooperation with these people.

We can also become envious of those who already have what we want. Instead of looking to these people as teachers who can guide us, we look at them as enemies, or competition, as people who obtained what we want so that we can't have it too. We could have learned, at least by their example, what needs to be done to achieve our goals. Instead, they become our rivals. This can be for goods and posessions or for attention, affection, or social status as well. We can even get involved in competing for Spiritual status and recognition of spiritual development.

Another manifestation of Karma neuroses comes when we think that we can't achieve our ambitions. We may recognize that we currently don't have the skill or are missing some resources in order to get what we want. Instead of going out and getting those skills and resources, we quit, or we feel we are unable to get them, and so we become depressed and stop trying. We can then view ourselves as no good, and incapable and can become jealous and envious of those who are already able to get what they want. We don't look closely enough to see what they did or how much work THEY had to do in order to get what they want.

This is how self-doubt and low self esteem get into our minds. If this happens with one or two of the things that we try to accomplish, we can end up feeling this way about anything that we try to achieve and can end up giving up altogether. This is often what happens to those who only do the first things that come to their mind. It is mostly the result of a lack of confidence, and a lack of hope. We do not believe there is anything that we can do to change our circumstances.

A lot of this is the result of a lack of patience and a lack of understanding of the setting up of causes and conditions. We often do not understand that our current circumstances are not fixed and unchangeable. They are the result of choices and decisions that we have made in the past. We can't resist the results of some of our past choices and we may not be able to avoid some of the results. Our current situation is what we have to work with and we need to be patient with it while we are creating the conditions that will change our present circumstances.

A lot of this frustration comes from not accepting the fact that we're involved in a process. We also do not want to accept that some of the results of our previous goals were not what we originally intended.

In getting married and having children, there is the necessity of cleaning dirty diapers and providing for the survival of more people. There is also the potential for having to deal with others' sickness and not always being able to do much to help them or even the possibility of having to watch our children die before us. These things all come with marriage and children, but in the heat of the moment, when we say "I do", we don't think of all of these consequences of that one act.

When we bought that house, we mostly paid attention to the things that attracted us to it. The maintenance and problems that then come in the future are usually not thought about when we're making the purchase.

A lot of our goals and their consequences are not thought through very well. We then feel frustrated by the results and can give up hope. The result is that we can often limit our attempts at trying to accomplishing larger goals and dwell on our own inabilities or the inabilities of those around us, and dwell on the difference between what others have and what we have or dwell on the difference between where we are and where we want to be.

All of these neuroses come from grasping at various parts of the process of setting and accomplishing our goals. They come from viewing parts of the process as permananent, fixed, and unchangeable. It denies our own abilities and the possibility for change and improvement of our circumstances. In the process we stop ourselves from learning and developing and end up full of frustration about our circumstances and our own and others actions and abilities.