I understand that much of what we see as the law of karma is really the law of inertia. But surely we can all agree that doing good and maintaining a positive approach attracts more of the same?
That is the new age theory. I would like to suggest to you a surprising asymmetry…that negative reactions generate more negativity but positive reactions cannot be depended upon to produce more of the same.
My first issue with your statement is that it assumes that we can know what is good. The assumption is that certain actions are pre-determined to be good while others are bad, irrespective of the situation or the motive involved.
Let us say that I have decided to be generous in every situation, leaving aside the fact that implementing such a decision is probably quite impossible. Some people will respond with generosity while some will ruthlessly take advantage of me. Surely this is similar to turning the other cheek and it will have positive karmic consequences for me? No. My generosity has consequences for me in work terms. My energies and resources are needlessly exhausted.
Further, my motives must also have consequences. If I am generous with my enemies in order to protect myself, perhaps this is not generosity at all but rather submitting to extortion. Would the karmic effect, if any, not reflect my intention or is it based solely on the external appearance of my action? Do I not have to know directly what my inner motives are to determine the quality of my acts? This suggests discernment based on observation of self.
It is true that I am able to put in place the circumstances that are most likely to achieve what I wish. But this is a very different matter from following the rules of ‘good’ karma. Let us suppose I wish to encourage a friendship with another person. Would I not carefully consider who this person is and what would please him? But at the same time, recognizing the nature of friendship, must I not be careful to avoid manipulation, so that the other is free to agree to the offer of friendship? If the other does not feel free to accept or reject…if I do not willingly accept his right to decline…there can be no friendship.
My point is that we must learn the path of discernment, not the path of rules. The benefit is awakening, living in the moment with an open view of the interplay of actions and reactions rather than the expectation that we will get what we want if we do the pre-determined ‘right’ thing.
I do not understand what you meant when you said there is an asymmetry between the positive and the negative.
First, let us remember that a negative reaction, which we call a negative emotion, is one that charges and discharges the sensory apparatus. It is an electrical phenomenon. A negative reaction involves the body in an energetic process which is why it has power to influence others, usually to have the same reaction. It is unconscious in nature, habitual, far faster than thought and very communicable. Negative emotions can range from anger and envy to vanity, self-pity and euphoria.
Positive thoughts of love and compassion do not have the power of sensation behind them. Thoughts alone have very little force. If the thoughts do engage sensation, they are likely only the mimicry of positive emotions, which we call feelings. Feelings are a response in the heart, not the body and they are much rarer than the ongoing reactions of the sensory machinery. Feelings may bring sympathetic sensations with them but sensations do not often invoke feelings unless the heart is open.