Applying buddhist teachings real life situations

Text loosely translated by | Oh Puay Fong 
Original Chinese article (published in Awaken issue 51) , 《畏因·畏果》written by | Dingdian (丁点) 

Stepping out from the lift, I deliberately walked under the void deck to avoid walking under the windows. Suddenly, there was a loud crash around two metres from where I was. Something had fallen from above. The two people walking in front of me instinctively ducked to the side. Even though their reactions were a bit slow, thankfully they were not hurt. They looked back anxiously to check on me. We were lucky to escape unharmed. I glanced up and saw a woman sticking her head out of an open window to see what had happened, but she quickly retracted her head. 

On the eighth floor, someone had placed three pots of plants on the 5-inch wide outer ledge of the corridor handrails. I guess this was so the plants could get some sunlight. When I looked more closely, there were no safety measures taken at all to secure the potted plants. This is a common scenario. We often see clothes, shoes, sofa cushions, or bird cages placed precariously at open window ledges. Some people even use the bamboo poles for hanging laundry, or the laundry scaffoldings to hang heavy items. Whenever there is a loud thud, we know that something has dropped a great height; which causes fear and anxiety. 

I avoid walking under overhanging air-conditioner condensers, even if it means that I have to make a detour. Past incidents of window glass panes and air-conditioner condensers dislodging and crashing down, have struck fear in me. The government has enforced strict measures to prevent such accidents, so there are fewer such mishaps nowadays. Nonetheless, I am highly attuned and sensitive to such safety concerns. I have witnessed many major and minor accidents in my line of work, which makes me ponder: Why do these accidents happen? Are they inevitable? How can they be avoided?

I am an electrician. Working with many different types of motorised tools is a necessary part of my work. The high speed of such motorised devices increases efficiency, but the potential harm and damage that they can inflict should not be underestimated. Thus, it is imperative to understand thoroughly the functions and capabilities of such equipment, plus their correct usage to ensure personal safety, while increasing work efficiency and productivity. 

“Working from heights” is another occupational hazard. A moment of distraction or a misstep can result in a fall from heights with debilitating consequences. I once climbed a 10-foot  ladder to examine and repair a broken lamp. However, the ladder was not tall enough, so I could not reach the lamp. As a result, I was forced to climb up to the highest rung and half-squatting, I placed one foot in front with the other foot behind to straddle across the very narrow space of the highest rung, balancing myself in this way. Standing erect is strictly prohibited at this height due to the inherent danger, but I had no choice. Just changing position from the half-squat to standing upright was precarious because there were no handles around to steady myself. If there were any slight movements in the ladder, or if I moved too abruptly, I could have lost balance and resulted in dire consequences. Even though I managed to complete that job, whenever I recall that episode, it still frightens me and causes me to shudder. I have asked myself repeatedly since: Is this cavalier attitude to safety justifiable? Would I be lucky a second time?

The law of karma states that all actions (causes) necessarily result in their consequences (effects). That is why the Buddha taught us to always uphold virtue and eradicate non-virtue. Unfortunately, people frequently focus only on their short-term gains or convenience, without any regard for the possible consequences. When the negative consequences materialise, they cry their hearts out but it is too late by then. 

There is a Buddhist saying, “Bodhisattvas heed the causes, lay people heed the consequences.” The Bodhisattvas in their wise discernment realise the immutable law of karma, and thus refrain from sowing any bad karmic seeds. In contrast, lay people in their ignorance and confusion take the contrary approach.   

I got to know the Buddha Dharma by chance, and learned about impermanence and the law of karma as a result. I now understand that all phenomena arise or manifest due to the ripening of their causes, which further interact and give rise to other changes or phenomena in an endless cycle. Phenomenal developments, changes, growth or cessation do not have eternal, unchanging existence; and they are beyond individual control. Even though they may be expressed differently in different contexts or languages, the basic idea is that change is the only constant, the ultimate principle. Acquiring this insight has not only changed me profoundly, it also overturned my old thoughts and ideas, setting new standards and cautioning me about my future choices. At the same time, my previous doubts are clarified through applying what I have learnt to my daily work.