Home » Features » Can Practising The Good Dharma Create Bad Karma?

We should be encouraged
that we have enough positive karma
that allows us to practise the Dharma.

– Stonepeace

Can learning and practising the Dharma ‘too diligently’ force negative karma to ripen? Well, there is no such thing as ‘too diligently’, just as there is nothing that is ‘too perfect’. Diligence in a virtue, a perfection (paramita) to be perfected, which has no excess. ‘Excess diligence’ might refer to being fanatically attached in an unhealthy sense, which is surely not proper Dharma practice. It could be attachment to Dharma learning and practice in specific forms (e.g. attending of classes, retreats, prayer sessions), leading to neglect of its application in everyday life (e.g. how one treats family and friends). This however would not be ‘excessively diligent’ Dharma learning and practice per se, but simply the failure to apply the Dharma properly. If diligent practice creates negative karma, it would not be proper practice. Any suffering that surfaces during diligent practice results from ripening anti-Dharma negative karma created in the past. Challenges might arise when presently created pro-Dharma karma clashes with it. However, diligent practice also creates more fresh positive karma that helps to dilute the effects of past negative karma. If one gives up Dharma practice, one is likely to become spiritually complacent and create more negative karma, which surfaces as more problems in time.

How is it possible that ‘extra’ diligent Dharma practice might hasten the fruition of some latent negative karma. Using a medical example, when one diligently detoxifies the body of toxins via fasting with a fresh juice diet, one might experience some symptoms that resemble sicknesses, such as giddiness and tiredness. This might be mistaken as the detoxification process being problematic, when it is simply part of the process of the body purging its problematic toxins naturally. One just needs to patiently wear out these challenging symptoms, to not let them affect one’s diligence and mind-state negatively. Likewise, when it comes to serious spiritual practice, karmic obstacles might suddenly seem prominent as they manifest along the way. The truth is, they have been there all along as potentialities of bigger problems, just ‘awaiting’ for the right conditions to let them arise. Just as a hiker does not know the obstacles on the way up a mountain unless he hikes on to encounter and cross them one by one, obstacles might seem absent when one doesn’t practise the Dharma. For those who have relatively more positive karma aligned with the Dharma, the obstacles are fewer.

With continual diligence, each obstacle can be crossed, as one advances to the ultimate goal. For those with less negative karma that obstructs spirituality, they simply experience more and more spiritual joy when they practise the Dharma more and more diligently. Those who experience many obstacles should practise even more diligently, so as to more swiftly overcome their negative karma. Those who experience fewer obstacles should also practise more diligently, so as to treasure and make the best of their positive karma. As life is short and unpredictable, there is never any valid excuse not to practise the Dharma diligently. It is not essentially ‘bad’ in itself for negative karma to bear fruit, as it is a process of purging otherwise hidden and even possibly growing spiritual toxins. But it surely becomes ‘bad’ if one lacks the diligence to persevere once negative karma bears fruit, and stops Dharma practice instead. The fruition of negative karma can be as any form of dissatisfactory experience. While ‘pain’ (be it physical or mental) is inevitable in life, suffering over it is optional. What really happens due to negative karma ripening depends on the individual’s karma, and more importantly, one’s attitude.

We should be encouraged
that we have enough negative karma
that urges us to practise the Dharma.

– Stonepeace

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