Well, I'm now 22 and have been for a good while now... quite a bit has been up! Here's a brief update of what has been happening in my life. By the way, special thanks to insignificantxx for giving me a nudge to respond! I'd been meaning to for a while, but that helped get me to finally do it :)
Mai Lan has left for the summer, which is tough. Fortunately, there's a really good phone card for calling the states, and despite some initial difficulties, we seem to have the webcam/mic setup working (except now there are problems with MSN :S) I should be visiting her in a few weeks!
I'm done my undergraduate degree! Really, it didn't feel like finishing... after classes and essays and exams I still had work to do on my thesis (which is finally done!) so the year kind of tapered off in to what's looking like a very busy summer! I had one crazy weekend, which I got through with the help of Mai Lan's encouragment and company... Two essays due on a Monday, with a lot of work to do on them... I wrote somewhere around 8400 words in a span of around 3 days... that was pretty nuts. I think they went well, we'll see when I get them back though :)
My job search didn't go so well. I was offered a position in one of the psych labs I'm involved with ($15 an hour!). Unfortunately, it turns out only returning undergraduates were eligible, so I couldn't get it! I looked around at a few other places, but right now my parents have generously agreed to pay me for my time, as they have a lot of stuff at the house and cottage which needs to get done, and hasn't for the past year or more, due to my Dad's accident and my Mom's cancer. Now that they're both doing pretty well, it's time to get to work! I thought retirment was supposed to be easy? I've also started advertising for psychology tutoring for summer school courses... most of my posters have already been ripped down! I'm not sure if it's the university, or other tutors. One of my friends who has offered Stats tutoring for the past year or so warned me that other tutors will often rip down posters of rival tutors... I never realized it was such a cut-throat business!
I've also started volunteering with an afterschool program near York, for grades 2-8. The kids who go aren't exactly from upscale parts of Toronto (Jane and Finch area)... it's really rewarding to help teach them to read, and do some fun activities (usually basketball). I hope I get to keep volunteering there, I like the kids a lot.
So that was my brief update... now the ideas! This year I've started getting more in to zen koans, thanks to the influence of my brother! Because of that, I've grown more acquainted with the idea of enlightenment. By the way, if you're not sure what koans are, try wikipedia... or better yet, google "koan" and read a few! There are some that cultural background is necessary, or at least really helpful, but a lot of them you don't need that background... just some time to think about them.
The concept I want to talk about today is getting beyond karma. I think it's funny - so many people don't recognize karma opperating in their lives, let alone being aware that they need to go beyond that! My ideas are developed on my own, but they are also based on what I've read... so be warned, what I'm talking about may or may not be an accurate reflection of Zen Buddhism.
To start with, we'll go to consciousness (my favourite topic!). Perhaps some of you read my post in the distant past where I wrote about being fully aware/conscious and free will. If not, here's a brief recap! It seems as though being fully aware (or fully conscious), the "best" course of action would always be known. Thus, it appears as though the more aware, the less free will an individual has. However, my argument is that the "free will" we often experience on a day to day basis is based on selectively ignoring information to slant what we'll do, and is a sort of false free will because of it. Free will is not based off of choosing from among pre-existing options, but lies in creating your own.
Now, enlightenment seems to be attaining a higher level of consciousness, which is a higher level of awareness. When I first read something indicating that enlightenment involved going beyond karma, I was confused. I thought karma was a good thing... perhaps I should first define what I mean by karma! Actions are magnified... when we help something or someone, that action is magnified as it is passed along... linking to chaos theory, as Mai Lan reminded me when I was talking to her a while ago! The same is true for when we harm something... now regardless of whether or not you believe in some cosmic counter that keeps track of your helpful and harmful actions, I think it makes sense that these actions can come back to you... Karma for some religions, the threefold law for Wiccans, the old adage "What goes around, comes around" in the West. So I was initially surprised with the idea of trying to break out of the cycle of karma, since it seems like such a beneficial thing when you help others!
Once I thought about it for a while, I suddenly realized the sense behind it. The idea of free will (creation) that I'd thought of before means that you no longer choose from pre-existing options. In other words, you are not at the mercy of your circumstances to dictate your path to you. Your circumstances are still important, they still provide a base... but where you go from there is up to you. However, with karma, you are fully acted upon. Your bad actions come around and affect you... your good actions come around... and all of that depended on choices you made in the past, instead of the creation of your own path in the present. In essence, you are not creating, and so are not as conscious, aware, or enlightened.
This may all look very well on a computer screen (or it could be really confusing), but I think an illustration would help clarify what I mean. Let's say there is an individual who is really well known in a small town. He is caring, and generous with time and money. He has good karma. One day, he forgets his wallet at home, and doesn't realize it till he gets to the store. The owner recognizes the man, and so opens a tab, and the man happily goes off with his purchases. It's pretty clear that karma helped. Now if the man in question had been mean, stingy and known to break his promises, when he gets to the counter and realizes he forgot his wallet the owner probably won't open up a tab for him. His karma has come back to harm him. Now if he were enlightened, he would be more aware... and wouldn't forget his wallet in the first place. In this situation, by remembering his wallet, he has moved beyond karma, and is no longer at the mercy of his previous actions. He is not subject to the law of causation, as he is not forced in to a certain path due to previous circumstances. He is not above the law of causation, as circumstances, and universal laws still apply to him (in other words, there are certain limits to actions). He is at one with the law of causation, creating the present with what is available.
Thank you for reading all this! I hope you are all doing very well! If you are interested, one koan that is relevant to this post is called Hyakujo's Fox. You can find a translation of it here: http://www.ibiblio.org/zen/gateless-gate/2.html
P.S. Good luck Mai Lan on the interview tomorrow!!