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A Bouquet of Dirt: New Insight on Karma and How to Bear Adversity


New Member
Introductory Note: Hi all, the article below is the fruit of many months of thinking and has really helped me see things clearly and let go of a lot of past unhappiness. I hope others will find my insight equally useful.

In this world, we all aspire for applause and abhor rebuke ; seek success and fear failure. Any misfortune—be it slanderous gossip, physical injury or monetary loss—provokes our anger and crushes our spirit. Even the slightest slight grates on our nerves. For most of us, only when we get what we want the way we want it do we smile and feel satisfaction.

However, numerous profound Eastern teachings on karma and the Samsara warns of the great error of this common disposition. For the truth is: Loss is actually gain and failure is true success.

For example, according to the Buddhist/Taoist Kan Ying Pien karmic scripture :

“The virtuous man fears favor but loathes not affront.”

Thus, easy success is like when we receive a bouquet of blossoms—beautiful for now but soon to wilt. However, when we meet misfortune, when enemies sling dirt upon our faces, we must reflect that while dirt and soil are unclean, it is still the soil and earth that gives rise to the food we eat, harbors the ore and oil that drives our industries, and constitute the concrete that builds our cities.

The way the Samsara (this world, the wheel of death and rebirth) operates is succinctly outlined in the old Chinese proverb: “Murderers repay with their life; debtors repay with cash.”

Therefore, the principle of karma is not unlike finance: To be a creditor is to be powerful, to be a debtor is to be weak. The more a man suffers or toils without just reward, the more he is owed, and the more others owe him, the more powerful his position within the Samsara becomes. In a future life, all who have hurt or taken advantage of him in the past will have to repay him with loyalty, service, wealth or support in his time of need. For instance, Taoist beliefs teach that if there is malice involved, debts are to be repaid along with a thousandfold to ten thousandfold penalty. Thus, our karmic balance sheet becomes healthy when we bear misfortune with patience.

Just like how crops arise from the soil and gold ore is hidden in the dirt, slights and misfortunes never fail to bring a myriad blessings in due course.

As stated before, praise and good fortune are like cut flowers that wilt—pleasurable for only a moment. They are the karmic fruits of yesterday’s virtue. If we enjoy flowers by ourselves, it is lost, it cannot be kept. However, if we share it with others or use it to adorn a Buddha statue or stupa, we gain new merit due to our frugality, generosity and piety. This is similar to the concept of profitable reinvestment.

Thus, by bearing slights with a smile, we become a creditor to many debtors. By generously sharing our prosperity with others, we become well capitalized.

When our karmic situation reflects that of a well capitalized creditor, then regardless of which realm we are reborn into, we will always be prosperous, secure and influential.

It is indeed true that a bouquet of dirt can be more valuable than one of roses.