Karma describes the way actions grow into experience. In the Tibetan tradition, an action grows into four results: the result of full ripening, the result from what happened, the result from what acted, and the environmental result. These four results evolve from the initial action in the same way that branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit and a forest evolve from a seed. The branches, leaves and forest aren’t the seed. They grow and evolve from a seed.
If we consider our acorn again, we can loosely associate these four results of an action with different aspects of the growth of an oak tree. I will use the example of lying to illustrate the correspondences.
The result of full ripening is the projected experience that the action is based on. Full ripening corresponds to the trunk and branches of the oak tree. The full ripening of lying is to experience the world as a place where people are basically stupid and easily deceived.
The result from what happened describes the result of our action on others and corresponds to the leaves and flowers that the tree produces. Lying results in the experience of not being listened to or trusted by others.
The result from what acted is the result of our action on us and corresponds to the acorns that come from the flowers. Lying plants the pre-disposition to lie which grows until we feel that we have to lie just to function in the world. Lying becomes a fixed pattern of behavior.
The environmental result is the way our action changes our environment and corresponds to the way the oak tree shapes the environment around it, cutting off light to other trees and providing places for birds and insects to live. Lying creates a world of mistrust with all the social and economic consequences of that distrust.
Karma, then, describes how our actions evolve into experience, internally and externally. Each action is a seed which grows or evolves into our experience of the world. Every action either starts a new growth process or reinforces an old one as described by the four results. Small wonder that we place so much emphasis on mindfulness and attention. What we do in each moment is very important!
This excerpt was taken from a series of articles by Ken McLeod, Buddhist teacher and writerKen McLeod.