Refrain From Evil

Daniel Scharpenburg
3 min readNov 9, 2021

“All the sufferings of the lower realms, so extremely difficult to bear,

Are taught by the Sage to be the fruit of one’s evil actions.

Therefore, it is the practice of bodhisattvas

To constantly refrain from evil actions, even at the cost of one’s life.”

-the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, verse 8.*

Today we are talking about karma. Specifically there is this belief that the good and bad things you do in this life will have an impact on you in future lives. And if you do things that are really really bad, you can be reborn in a place of true horror.

I have wildly oversimplified this and I want to make that really clear.

But there are a couple things to address. This kind of teaching is really hard for us to wrap our minds around. It’s really difficult to relate to “i better not do this because in a future life i’ll be harmed.” Even if we believe wholeheartedly in future lives, it’s still hard to really think about. And many of us don’t believe in future lives. When teachings like this were written in Tibet and India the people receiving them believed in rebirth as a part of life. In this time and place many of us have a more ambivalent attitude toward rebirth. We didn’t grow up hearing about rebirth all the time.

But that doesn’t take away from this teaching. Why?

Because harmful effects of negative actions ripen in this life too.