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Could That Train Crash Also Be Considered "One Reaps What One Sows"?!


Learning the law of happiness from Shakyamuni Buddha


How is our destiny determined? Buddhism teaches, "My karma, my harvest—Own cause, own effect." All our own actions bring about our own outcomes. Now let us answer some feedback and questions sent in to us by readers.

The law of cause and effect Good cause, good effect Bad cause, bad effect Own cause, own effect

Other's cause, my effect Many incidents occur in this world that make us question whether "own cause, own effect" really holds true for everything. "Surely there are some cases that are 'other's cause, my effect'?" we wonder. We can't help but think, "I am harvesting the results of someone else's deeds!"

Buddhism teaches that we are 100% responsible for whatever happens to us. My destiny is created by my own deeds. There is no exception to this. But there is a huge number of cases that might seem to go against this law. We received the following letter from a reader in Nagano Prefecture.

"'Good cause good effect, bad cause bad effect, own cause own effect.'

This makes complete sense to me. But what about a train crash,

where the passengers' survival was determined only by which car

they were in? What about a random killing, where the victims just happened to be there? Are they responsible for what happened to

them? I just cannot see how the law of cause and effect can still

apply to cases like these."

It is hard to accept that we are responsible for whatever happens to us, especially when innocent people get into a tragic accident. It is only natural that many would place the blame on the train operator, or the killer, etc. Buddhism teaches the mechanism of our destiny. So how does Buddhism explain these things? Let's take a look at a few examples.

What is the true cause of a train crash?

Last year in December, a tragic train crash occurred in northwest Washington State, resulting in many casualties. 13 out of 14 cars went off the track and one car was dangling off an elevated bridge. According to the news, the train was running at double the speed limit and came off the track when it bumped into something.

As the investigation into the cause of the accident unfolds, various people will have to take responsibility for their part in this tragedy. Perhaps the train driver made some error, or the mechanics slacked off at their job, or the railway company's management was lax. It is important to clarify the cause of the accident. But in the meantime, what we have to think about is why the victims were involved in the accident in the first place. Why did these victims have to be there at the wrong time?

Why was I there? The cause of someone being involved in the accident is not the same as the cause of the accident itself. Even when an accident occurs, a person who is not at the site of the accident will not be harmed by it. Also, even though they all experienced the same accident, some people only suffered a scratch while others were seriously injured or even killed. What makes the difference?

It is probably because each person was in a different car or seat. Some chose their seat on their own, while some were told where to sit when they bought the ticket. Whatever the case, Buddhism teaches that everyone had to have the cause to be there at the time of the accident.

According to Buddhism, everyone involved had the specific "karmic seeds" (cause) to be in a specific place on the train. This was why they each experienced a different outcome. They boarded the doomed train because they were drawn to it by their own strong karmic power. Buddhism teaches that karmic power is stronger than a hundred elephants.

Bad conditions must be eliminated

This is not to say that the person who caused the accident is not to blame. They are to blame. Those who failed to do their jobs properly must be severely punished for it. In this case, Buddhism teaches that they are the "bad conditions" that helped to produce the bad outcome.

All results are brought about only when a cause and conditions combine.

The cause of each person's bad results was their own "karmic seeds." But bad seeds alone cannot produce bad results. Without bad conditions, no tragedy could have taken place. In this case, the train operator who dozed off and caused the accident was a horrible bad condition. They need to be held responsible for what they did.

It is very important to know the mechanism of our fate. If we understand the relation between causes, conditions, and results and try to seek out good conditions, we can avoid bad results.

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Lesson Point

Buddhism teaches that we are 100% responsible for whatever happens to us. There is no exception to this.

But a cause alone is not enough to bring about a result. If the right conditions are not present, no results will occur.

Each person's "karmic seeds" contain incredible power. Shakyamuni Buddha teaches that our karmic power is more powerful than a hundred elephants.

We reap what we sow. The cause is within "me." But without the right conditions, no results can occur. We must do everything in our power to eliminate bad conditions.

When you learn the mechanism of fate, what is important is to clearly see the cause of the result that is happening to you.

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More on the relationship between cause and conditions

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