You Are Solely Responsible for Yourself

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The Buddha

The Buddha was the bearer of some bad news for humans. Maybe the worst is that we are all ultimately responsible for ourselves.

A lot of humans apparently prefer to deflect as much responsibility as they can off on some god or other. The Buddha did not directly address the question in such terms, but he was very clear that karma is a law of nature that no one can escape, and that you get what you deserve.

This does invite the objection that it is cruel insofar as it suggests that people who find themselves in horrible situations deserve to be there. A chief virtue in Buddhism is compassion. If you can help another person, do so, but in general, in terms of karma, worry about your own.

The Buddha also talked ironically about the person who has suffered shooting with an arrow, but refuses to let medical personnel remove the arrow until he finds out the characteristics of the arrow itself and of the person who shot the arrow and the bow the shooter used, etc. No sane person would do that.

Given the Buddha’s claim that we are reborn countless times before our current lifetimes, the karmic events that led to any person being where they are now may well have occurred in a previous lifetime, so no one alive today can say what it was.

The Buddha was a practical guy. Don’t worry about what you have no control over. If you can fix a situation, fix it. If not, don’t worry about it.

The good news side of the Buddhist responsibility coin is that you can always start right now working to improve your behavior and your situation. Again, you can only do this for yourself. You cannot do it for anyone else. You cannot fix other people. Trying to fix other people is idiot compassion.

If everyone really took responsibility for themselves, the world would be much more peaceful and boring. Less killing, less violence in general, less discrimination.

So meditate and take responsibility for yourself.

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Written by

Uppity gay, Buddhist, author, historian.

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