Questioner: When we talk about incomplete karma, it seems to me that some patterns are strongly established even if we don’t experience satisfaction. We keep repeating certain activities even though we know they’re not a good idea.
Ngakma Nor’dzin: We have to look at what is meant by satisfaction. We indulge in some peculiar psychological distortions! Satisfaction may not always mean we feel ‘happy’. The satisfaction of engaging in the activity may have become the misery of wishing we had not done it. In this case the feeling of satisfaction that completes the karma is the misery or guilt we feel. Sadly, there are many convoluted ways in which we can distort our perception and response.
Q: Ngakma-la, when you gave the example of the sprouts it seemed clear, but what if we have other motivations at work? What if we don’t like sprouts but think they are good for us, or we’re trying to set an example for a child?
NN: My example was frivolous. As you say – our perception and motivation is often mixed. There are subtleties and complications which could be added to the example. Life is rarely simple or clear cut. If we look at the example of the chocolate bar and the diet – if I eat the chocolate when I am on a diet, the experience is more convoluted. I may enjoy the chocolate, but feel dissatisfied because I feel I should not have eaten it.
If my intention is to resist eating the chocolate bar, I succeed in resisting, and I feel pleased that I have succeeded, then I have added a degree of strength to the pattern of my resolve to resist foods like chocolate bars. It is possible that this intention can become a strong pattern, to the point that it becomes as compulsive as indulgence, and I develop anorexia – not likely in my case [laughter]. Alternatively, the activity of deprivation may mean that my perception is continually coloured by desire for chocolate bars, to a degree that would not normally occur – more likely in my case [laughter].
We are complicated beings and the distortion we inflict on perception can be subtle and convoluted. This is why the opportunity offered by Vajrayana is so precious. Vajrayana offers us the method to work directly with the patterns of our distortion and transform perception and response. We do not have to laboriously unpick the knot of our distortion. From the perspective of Dzogchen, the knot is the snake, but the snake does not have any sense of suffering from a knot. The snake simply moves when it wants to move and mysteriously there is no longer any knot. If we could relax we would discover that there is no knot of distortion and never has been.