Karma’s Mark - Nalandabodhi International
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Have you ever gone back and looked at documents that you signed many years ago – maybe it’s time to renew your passport or driver’s license – and you wonder who on earth signed that? Who made that now unfamiliar mark of legitimacy on your behalf? And now, as you renew your document of identity, you have to sign new papers with a signature that convincingly matches the one from before, re-legitimizing yourself not with the elegantly fluid mark that naturally flows from your hand as it seemingly always has, but with one that appears to have been made by some mysterious imposter (in my case someone much more concerned with legibility).

This can’t be. Your signature is yours. It’s your statement of self. It’s your official mark of identity – proof of who you are to others. Who is this other “me”? What happened here?

In the world of linguistic and identity theory, signatures are examples of performative actions that gain legitimacy through repetition. Or perhaps another way of looking at them: they are a type of “hand” karma.

By making these pen gestures over and over, we are creating a model, an imaginary perfect signature, that each signing simultaneously replicates and defines. We are mimicking a pattern that in every execution makes that pattern stronger, more legitimate.

Karma works in much the same way. We act (or react), and in every repetition of that act we make that action more “natural”, more innate. And before long, it becomes law as we forget that we ourselves made it to begin with.

But just as our signature has changed, so does our karma.

Karma is not monolithic but instead is a pile of small repeated actions. As we change those small actions, the pile also changes. Imperceptibly at first perhaps, but after many repetitions, the pile starts to look different. We make a new normal, constantly. And in this constant re-making, we can choose to re-write the law of karma for the better. With a little attentiveness, patience, and perseverance, karma is in our control.

And in times like these, we are presented with an even greater opportunity to rewrite our karmic lives. Our old daily patterns have had significant disruption. As we inhabit our new schedules and adjust to our novel circumstances, we are redefining our patterns of engaging with ourselves, with others, and with our environment. We have a choice in how these patterns are shifted or re-established. We are in charge of how we start to place our mark on our new reality.

Need proof? Take a look at your old passport – what happened to that person? Or, just try to sign your name the exact same way twice – where is that perfect signature?

Then, take a look at where you’ve been, what you’ve struggled with over the years, or what you aspired towards in the past but just couldn’t work into your life.

Within this new world, where is that opening to place your new mark?

Mitch Owen
Mitch Owen

Mitch Owen is an architect and owns MOD LLC, an architecture and design firm based in New York City and Woodstock, NY. He also teaches architecture at Parsons School of Design. Mitch has been a formal student of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche since 2010.

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