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According to the Buddha, our voluntary actions, our intentional actions, produce effects that ultimately return to us. One effect is the immediate, visible psychological effect. Another is the effect of moral retribution.
First of all, let’s look into the psychological effect of Karma (Action). When an action is performed intentionally, it leaves a trajectory in the mind, a footprint that can signal the beginning of a new mental tendency. It tends to recur, to be reproduced. As these operations multiply, they become our character and our personality.
Our personality and character is merely a sum of all our voluntary actions and deeds, a representative sample of all our accumulated Karma (Actions). So, by succumbing (starting with simple things) to the vicious impulses of the mind, we slowly build a greedy or hostile or confused character. On the other hand, by resisting these vile
impulses, we replace them with their opposites, i.e. good qualities. Then we develop a virtuous character or we could become wise and enlightened.
As we gradually change our habits, we change our character and as we change our character, we change our whole existence.
This is why the Buddha so strongly emphasizes the need to pay attention to every action, every choice. Because our every choice holds enormous potential for the future.
Let us now consider the effects of moral retribution. The most important aspect of Karma (Action) is its tendency to mature in the future and produce effects according to the moral law.
Every time we perform an action, an intentional deed, that action plants a “seed” in our mind, a seed with the capacity to produce effects in the future. These effects correspond to the nature of the original action. They arise from the inherent moral tone of the action, i.e. the intention.
Our bad Karma (Action) returns to us and leads us to harm and misery. Our good Karma (Action) ultimately returns to us and leads us to happiness and prosperity.
Thus the law of Karma (Action) is a moral application of the general fundamental principle that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. However, the function of Karma (Action) is not spontaneous.
Karma (the Action) is a voluntary action, a voluntary deed, and thus it is something alive and dynamic. Therefore, Karma allows for variations and changes.