This Universe Gives Us Everything
From a talk at Empty Gate Zen Center in Berkeley California in April 1984.
Question: A lot of us spend a lot of time trying to get rid of our bad karma and just end up accumulating more karma.
Zen Master Seung Sahn: Is karma good or bad? Karma is not good, not bad. If you don’t like karma, then take away your mind and all karma will disappear. All karma is from your mind. If your mind disappears, your karma will disappear. That’s the point. When mind and karma both become empty, that is returning to your true self.
But if I have bad karma, how can I make it function correctly? How can I not be attached to my bad karma? By helping other people. In Korea there is a man like Robin Hood. He does many bad actions, takes money and gives it to poor people. So this is bad action, but how does it function? Even if you have bad karma, if it’s not for you but for other people, it becomes good karma. Likewise, good karma which is only for you becomes bad karma.
So it’s very important how your good or bad karma functions. So don’t be attached to it, don’t check whether you have good karma or bad karma. You have karma, so how you use it is very important. The correct function means only helping other people, making other people happy. Then it’s OK.
Once a man had very good music karma. That is very wonderful, but he used it for bad action. The music was so beautiful that people would lose consciousness, then another man would take their money. That is using good karma and making bad action. So bad karma is ok. How do you use it? How can you make it function correctly? Everybody has karma, and any karma is ok. The correct function of karma is very important.
Q: Where do good karma and bad karma arise from?
ZMSS: Good and bad have no self nature. You make the category “good,” so you have good. You make the category ”bad,” so you have bad. Zen practice is about not making “good” and “bad.” When you practice, what is your original face? If you think, “I am bad,” then you have bad.