Personal Karma and Social Domination

My freedom is limited in two ways: I am limited by others through systems of social domination that obstruct my ability to procure all of my needs, and I limit myself by giving into the habituated karmic compulsions that trap me into cycles of attachment, self-sabotage and disappointment.

In order to increase my freedom from social domination, I must organize and participate with others in order to change the existing conditions for the better. In order to increase my freedom from karmic compulsion, I must train my own mind in order to overcome these habituated tendencies through cultivating love and wisdom.

In one sense, these seem to be two relatively autonomous, independent project with their own respective grounds, means, and ends. In this sense, when we do not consider the variable of time, this is true.

But in another sense, when we take into consideration the variable of time, it would seem that the fulfillment of each would require, to some significant extent, a fulfillment of the other. Rather than being absolutely independent projects with no room for cooperation and exchange, they can be understood as mutually implicated aspects of the same overarching aim to realize our highest potential.

In order to change the social conditions of existence for the better, we need to be able to work together harmoniously, where there is a proper balance between individual self-expression and collective social cohesion in which neither the individual nor the collective is given preeminence over the other and where each functions as the necessary condition for the other. But if we are burdened by and burden others with our habituated karmic propensities for committing unwholesome actions, being willfully ignorant and sabotaging our own desires, then we undermine this harmony. Thus the project of overcoming karmic compulsion is a part of the project of overcoming social domination.

In order to change the conditions of our mind for the better, we need to be able to identify, analyze, and eliminate cognitive obstructions to our natural wisdom while also cultivating wholesome, positive states of love and compassion as the energy that motivates our care and concern for others, including ourselves. But if the conditions of social domination make it difficult to have the supporting conditions for mind training (such as the supportive conditions of a precious human birth graced with the opportunity to encounter dharma and meditation, ample leisure time to dedicate practice, adequate finances, a community or “sangha” from which to receive instruction, guidance and support, etc.), then the conditions of social domination can be considered to be obstructive conditions to proper mind training. Thus it can be said that the elimination of the conditions of social domination is actually a supportive condition for mind training.

So even if they start off as relatively autonomous, independent projects with their own respective grounds, means and ends, the project of overcoming social domination and the project of training the mind for the better will have to function as mutually supportive, cooperative aspects of the same process of achieving the conditions for realizing our highest potential, for oneself and others. Without a basis in the support of the other, each project is doomed to fail in achieving its own highest aim. The liberation of my mind is inextricably bound up with the liberation of myself and others from social domination.

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