Over the past few days I have looked for teachings on karma in my favorite Dharma books to help me start reflecting on my new topic. I always find stories about the Buddha very inspiring and was delighted when I found some anecdotes on how Buddha realized the truth of karma in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche:
“On that momentous night when the Buddha attained enlightenment, it is said that he went through several different stages of awakening. In the first, with his mind “collected and purified, without blemish, free of defilements, grown soft, workable, fixed and immovable,” he turned his attention to the recollection of his previous lives. This is what he tells us of that experience:
I remembered many, many former existences I had passed through: one, two births, three, four, five . . . fifty, one hundred . . . a hundred thousand, in various world-periods. I knew everything about these various births: where they had taken place, what my name had been, which family I had been born into, and what I had done. I lived through again the good and bad fortune of each life and my death in each life, and came to life again and again. In this way I recalled innumerable previous existences with their exact characteristic features and circumstances. This knowledge I gained in the first watch of the night.
… In the second watch of the night when Buddha attained enlightenment, he gained another kind of knowledge, which complemented his knowledge of rebirth: that of karma, the natural law of cause and effect.
With the heavenly eye, purified and beyond the range of human vision, I saw how beings vanish and come to be again. I saw high and low, brilliant and insignificant, and how each obtained according to his karma a favorable or painful rebirth.
The truth and the driving force behind rebirth is what is called karma. Karma is often totally misunderstood in the West as fate or predestination; it is best thought of as the infallible law of cause and effect that governs the universe. The word karma literally means “action,” and karma is both the power latent within actions, and the results our actions bring.” (p.86 + 96)