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Pujas And Patching – And Why They Work

Pujas And Patching – And Why They Work

Post Series: Buddhism For Geeks

As I already wrote in the first post of these series, the concept of Karma is at the same time simpler, but more inclusive than the popular Western belief “justice shall be made”. There is no external judge, applying some external “justice”. It’s just that the consequences of your own actions are inescapable: if you do good stuff, good stuff will happen, if you do bad stuff, bad stuff will happen.

Karma is just action, which, consistently performed, crystallizes in auto-pilot, hard to avoid activities, that we keep on doing and experiencing, often without realizing we were the ones who “planted” them in the first place.

And here comes the tricky question: can Karma be changed? For example, if you planted a lot of bad stuff in the past, does that mean you’ll be suffering the consequences of those rotten seeds for ever, trapped in eternal damnation? Or is there a way out, somehow?

The short answer: Yes, Karma can be changed.

The long answer: Well, it’s a bit more complicated, but still Karma can be changed. It involves a specific type of activity, called Puja, which is made of 4 parts. Pujas are often over-ritualized – for some reason, people tend to believe that if we add an exotic layer to an activity, like burning candles, saying complicated mantras and wearing monk-like clothes, whatever will result out of that, will be more powerful. As we will see, this is not always the case.

But before getting too deep into Pujas and their relationship with patching – and here I’m referring to “patching” as in patching an app in order to solve a bug – let me tell you a very short story.

The Salt, The Bowl And The River

An apprentice once asked his master how can one measure the “bad” in the bad stuff people do. Is there a way to know with absolute certainty the magnitude and the extent of an event caused by a bad seed? Sort of like a dictionary of “if you did this, exactly that will happen”?

The master gave the apprentice a handful of salt and asked him to put it in a bowl full of water. The apprentice did it, and the bowl almost filled up.

— Now drink it! asked the master.

The apprentice drank the salty concoction and immediately felt really bad.

The master then handed to the apprentice another handful of salt and asked him to go together to the river close by. Once they arrived, he told to the apprentice to throw the salt into the river.

— Now drink some water from the river, said the master.

The apprentice took a few sips and he could barely feel anything. All salt was dissolved.

“You see, said the master, that’s how karma works: it is always changing. If you think at the salt like being the “bad” karma, and the water being the “good” karma, now you see how one can be stronger than the other. If you did a lot of bad stuff, and very little good stuff, just some water in a bowl, then you’ll feel the toxic karma more painfully. But if you did a lot of good stuff, and, more importantly, if you keep doing good stuff, just like the river keeps flowing water, then you’ll barely feel the bad consequences”.

How Does A Puja Work?

I’m using the term in the sense of “cleansing ritual”, mostly related to the Tibetan Buddhism. The term “puja” is widely used in many traditions, especially hinduism, with significantly different meanings than the one we’ll describe.

A Puja is an introspective activity aimed at cleaning up the consequences of your bad actions. It’s done in 4 stages:

  1. Contemplate “the cause and effect law” and understand how your actions will generate consequences (also called Foundation, because it’s the fabric and structure of all that is)
  2. Regret what you did (that’s not the same with feeling guilt, just understand that you will be hurt in the future by the actions you did in the past)
  3. Resolve to stop doing that specific action for a certain amount of time (don’t start with “for ever”, go for something that you know you can do, for instance: I will stop gossiping for a week).
  4. Do a counter-activity, something that will balance the effects of what you did (if you stole something, give away something of yours).

That’s all there is to it, structurally. There are many traditions using Pujas and there are many variations. Some of them use fire and plant seeds, which are thrown into the flames, as a symbol of the bad karma being burned, but, at the end of the day, what counts is the process that happens inside yourself.

Because that’s from where your Karma originates.

The more you do this, the more introspection you apply, the more you’ll become accustomed to these new processes:

  • understanding (how your actions are generating effects)
  • refraining from toxic stuff (for longer and longer intervals)
  • increasing the amount of positive stuff (by applying counter-activities to your past toxic behavior).

And that’s how Karma will begin to change.

Patch Your Apps Often

So, to continue our parallel with the “geek” language, the closest thing to a Puja in our programmer world is patching. You know, that thing you do when you find a bug in your code. Or when a zero-day vulnerability is discovered. Or when you fire up your regression tests after six months of ignoring them and you realize that big parts of your app are completely broken by the newly added features.

Patching your code often means you’re there. You are aware and responsible. You care about the way your app behaves and don’t want to generate frustration, or, even worse, things like data losses or security breaches.

It may not be as spectacular as a fire in which you throw seeds, while reciting mantras, but it’s just as effective.

Image by tom bark from Pixabay


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This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I’m not a coder, but I understand the basics enough to be really impressed with your analogies. Thank you for sharing the dhamma in this way–a way that many people can understand and relate to. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and the previous article you wrote on Buddhism for Geeks. Thank you for the reminder to focus more on my practice. I will certainly follow your blog for more inspiration.
    May you be healthy, happy and peaceful.

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