ONE of the basic precepts of any Buddhist practice is the principle of Karma. I would say if you don't have a good grasp of it, it becomes difficult to walk the Buddhist path.
So I want to share some inherent concepts of it through illustration/examples that made it easier to visualize and maybe will for my readers as well.
But first a disclaimer... Buddhists don't have a monopoly on the concept. I would say most modern belief systems/religions have the same principle but perhaps by another name. "Do on to others as you wish them to do onto you" or the slightly more street smart "what goes around comes around." Some (to my mind) twist it under the name of religion, the so-called "prosperity preachers" by saying the main way of good fortune is through a donation to their "mega mansion church, airplane, yacht" lifestyle.
Let me run this concept by you.
"If it is so clear then why do people still disregard it?" Because they don't see the immediate implications of it.
Imagine a very skillful pickpocket in the Baguio Vegetable Market. Every day they earn their living there by very slowly and cautiously grabbing the valuables of busy preoccupied shoppers whose hands and minds are already overstretched. 15 to 20 victims a day to reap the rewards that night at home. Never caught, never arrested any cause and effect seen...so why would they feel this abstract concept of Karma? Maybe they are even the second or third generation of pickpockets in their family and no one even really faced the consequences.
But what if... the opposite was true?
Every time the skillful pickpocket was carefully reaching over for your wallet another skillful pickpocket was reaching into his pocket stealing his wallet the moment he was stealing another. So from his victim, he got the P400 in that wallet but maybe lost P1200 he had stolen earlier and put in his all wallet.
Or how about the schoolyard bully who daily without repercussion manhandles all the kids at recess. No teacher steps in... even admiration by his equally warped peers. But now imagine even time he pinned down a smaller victim in the schoolyard at the same instance a bigger meaner bully did the same to him.
So... if the result of karma was realized at the moment of the act or shortly thereafter people would respect and fear the concept more. But often it isn't, so they don't.
Next... the boomerang effect of Karma. If this makes sense to you then I am sure you are getting on the path of a good understanding of karma that will help you gauge your daily habits and interaction with others.
Australia...the land of kangaroos, vegemite and boomerangs. I lived there myself for 18 months in the early '90s and maybe saw a wild kangaroo once, ate vegemite once (yuck) and yes threw around a few boomerangs. So we all know how they are supposed to work right? If you toss it properly it goes on a path that will bring it up and high away yet come back into your hands exactly where you threw it. Very predictable, very understandable.
But what if it didn't? What if it was more like the concept of Karma?
So this time, you throw it and watch and wait and wait and wait but strangely enough, it just seemed to disappear, to vanish. After waiting 7-8 minutes you scratch your head and walk away.
Then five weeks later, five months later or even (to us Buddhists) five lifetimes later you are just peacefully walking down Session road right outside Jet Bookstore as a matter of fact when out of nowhere that boomerang you threw swoops down and hits you in the temple. So hard in fact you are knocked to the ground and have a bump and blood on your forehead from it. You lay there dazed "what the hell just happened to me?"
That dear reader is how Karma occurs nine times out of 10.
We forget our action or behavior that triggered the Karma and are in shock when we see the result of that Karma manifesting... or as we Buddhists call it "ripening." So a person purely on the Buddhist path does his or her best not to take any negative action that may impact them in this or future lives as well. Of course, we still do but the very fact we understand this basic principle of Karma means we are aware and try to reduce today's suffering for others and our own later.