Kamma, also known as Karma, is the universal law of cause and effect. All actions and thoughts have consequences, either now or in lives to come. It sounds rather simple, but kamma is actually quite complex, extending over many gray areas.
Today I was practicing mindfulness while walking. This was not a walking meditation, but rather being aware of moving from one place to another. It is an excellent way to add some quality meditation time to your day. Anyway, I was walking down the hallway and opened a door. The handle was metal and cool to the touch. As I released the door handle, the cool sensation remained on the palm of my hand. It lingered. I had a momentary insight of how kamma operates! You act, skillfully or unskillfully, grasping and turning the handle, and you feel the cool of the metal against your skin. The reaction is immediate. However, even after the action is complete, letting go of the handle, the result of the action still lingers. So, you perform an action, skillful or unskillful, and you have an immediate result. But the kamma may not get exhausted all at once, and you have this continuing kammic residue left that will come to fruit in the future.
Another example: On Saturday I volunteered for Hands on Greenville at the YWCA. I banged my finger against a trailer and received a very deep gouge on my knuckle. Let’s say that banging the knuckle was an unskillful action. There was an immediate result: pain and blood. Now, I could have just left it at that. Had I not cleaned the wound, put ointment on it and protected it, I could have gotten an infection. That is reality. However, I mitigated the worst result by doing the things necessary to prevent infection. This is skillful action. Until we are perfectly enlightened, we will make mistakes and have unskillful actions in our life. However, the results are possibly mitigated by performing skillful actions. It is important to remember, however, that it does not totally prevent the results of bad action. Using my injured finger as example, I prevented the worst case scenario. However, I still have a wound and there is still pain if I hit the sore, wash my hands too hard, or even bend my finger. That is also how kamma works, though not completely. You can perform skillful actions which lessen the effect of kamma gained through unskillful actions. I have heard it explained as a glass of salt water. Salt is the bad kamma and the water is the good kamma. The more water you put in, the less effect the salt has on the taste of the water. But the salt is still there. The converse is also true. If you add more salt, the water become more and more unbearable to drink.
So, what is my point? Every thought, word, and deed will have a result. Sometimes the kamma is guilt for a bad thought or harsh word. But, kamma is also joy from giving time or money for a good cause, or for sending an anonymous card to a friend. In the end, you get what you sow: bristles or flowers.
Maybe it is time to start watering down the saltiness of our existence and become a more refreshing and helpful friend, family member, and partner.