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The word karma has a following among folks who think it is inevitable going around and coming around. Next to the word Zen, Karma is a close second in being used one way in our vow of practice as Buddhist, and another by people who have a passing sense of interconnectivity. As to a passing sense, the word reflects first inevitability, and second, a kind of good and bad catching up with us.

Karma is often attached to good and bad and the importance of doing the former to avoid the latter. This is not the use in Zen. Karma is any action we take in life. I chant in our FSZS service: "All my past and harmful karma, born from beginningless greed, hate, and delusion I now fully avow." I am repenting when I speak these words. This is a statement of accepting. To "Avow" is to vow this is what has taken place.

Avow is a turning word in Zen practice. A turning word opens insight into ego and delusion. This is knowing now what I did not know then. By turning we can now see that vowing (intending to do) to follow the teachings of Buddha and our ancestors I can reduce my karmic actions of greed, hate, and delusion. How?

The most basic of Zen teachings is to accept the moment as it arises, exists for a while, and then leaves making room for the next moment. Clinging to a moment, whether it is painful or happy is compounding karma (actions) piling them on top of each other, which makes us angry that the moment either exists at all or that it must come to an end. We can mistake good for bad and bad for good in a moment. As time unfolds we become clearer as to the string of cause and effect that is occurring moment after moment and day by day. If Karma is action Dharma is being. This means following the Dharma is my course of action.

So, I try to be fully awake to what is happening. Being awake is a pearl of wisdom gained from my Zen practice to take the next action (karmic steps) vowing to reduce suffering. I vow to respond with compassion, loving-kindness, joy, and equanimity to offset greed, hate, and delusion each moment, which by course, becomes by path or way of life...



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