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Thread: Considering Karma

  1. #1

    Considering Karma

    A 12 minute video from Secular Buddhist Doug Smith ...






    Any comments ?


  2. #2
    The above video from Doug Smith makes a lot of sense to me, its definately worth listening to and I like the way he emphasises that karma was never intended to be fatalistic or a perfect justice "pay-back".... and also that the Buddha said that karma is intention:


    "Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect." (AN6.63)

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipi...an.html#part-5

    This morning I came across this short article on Stephen Batchelor's website and thought I'd add it to the thread:



    Karma and its Fruits


    Recently a person new to Buddhism told me that she liked meditation but did not find Buddhists very compassionate. I asked her why. She told me that she had been very ill and the people in her Buddhist group told her that it was her karma. She did not find that remark very comforting.

    Karma as a word has become quite popular and is often equated with fatality as in “too bad, it’s your karma!’ This attitude can lead to the popular notion that it is people’s faults “in their past lives” for what they are enduring now, and that little can be done about it, apart from behaving better and waiting for the next life to come around! But the Buddha did not see karma as a fatality, nor did he see it in an exclusive manner. Moreover he did not think that rebirth was a good idea. His aim was to get out of rebirth!

    Karma means ‘action’, it is a means to look closely at causality and conditionality. As it is stated in a sutra: “whatever arises, ceases” or “When this is, that arises”. Once someone stated in front of the Buddha that everything one experienced was due to karmic consequences. The Buddha replied that it was not so, this was stretching karmic consequences too far. He then went on to state that they were eight reasons for people to experience something: phlegm disorders, bile disorders, wind disorders, all previous three together, seasonal change, improper care, exertion, and ‘ripening of former actions’ (i.e. karma).

    Reflections on causality and conditionality can help us to look at how things arise, how we respond to them and how we become habituated to certain behaviours, and how to free ourselves from negative and destructive patterns. We have to be careful not to use the idea of karma as a way to justify indifference or harsh judgements.


    https://www.stephenbatchelor.org/ind...and-its-fruits

    In the past I've certainly met people who viewed karma as a justice system pay-back, nodding wisely about someones illness or misfortune and declaring "Its their karma!"

    Any thoughts?

  3. #3
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    Yes, a good video, explaining the problems behind the notion of Karma. Unfortunately part of being human is to seek out patterns where none exist, or to appeal to magical causation for explanations of why things are as they are. 'Skillful or unskillful intentions' is a good alternative, as the video suggests. I would also add a causation element in that things that people have done actually do affect the present, such as the invention of weapons of mass destruction. Our misuse of the environment will have an effect on both the present and the future. If I do harm to someone, I am making sure that doing harm exists in the world. But there is nothing magical about such causation, no judgments happening, or pay back, or anything like that.

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    Forums Member Polar Bear's Avatar
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    I think the suttas certainly present the idea that at least some of our misfortune is the result of unwholesome deeds performed in a past life or the present one. And this can be misused or misappropriated to lead to a kind of callous disregard of others' suffering. But I think if one does actually believe in the early buddhist doctrine of kamma (which necessitates rebirth) then there are enough suttas to provide a wider perspective that makes such disregard appear clearly misguided and that instead should allow great compassion to arise relatively naturally.

    According to the suttas it is hard to find a being who has not at one time or another been one's mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, or friend. And we have all experienced divine happiness as well as hellish suffering. When I read all these suttas and imagine myself as a being in such a vast narrative of lifetimes and experiences and connection with others then I get a sense of camaraderie, and rather than being indifferent to others, it makes me feel like I and every ant, elephant, and human being are in this together and are similar in so many ways and that I should help them.

    I don't think the samsaric narrative is necessary for that, I think the fact that ants, elephants, and humans are all sentient as I am is enough to inspire compassion, but the samsaric karmic narrative isn't harmful to the development of altruism if viewed properly.

    All that being said, I take it to be pretty clear that there is no scientific reason to believe in karma and rebirth. But if some individual on reading the early buddhist texts comes to reasonably believe in an historical Buddha, and comes to reasonably believe that the teachings ascribed to the Buddha provide the wisest comprehensive means to transform the mind and become free of suffering and agitation, and comes to reasonably believe that the only reasonable interpretation of the texts involving this assumed historical Buddha is an interpretation whereby the Buddha almost definitely taught karma and rebirth on the basis of some meditative experiences he had, then for that individual to accept teachings on karma and rebirth on the basis of faith in the Buddha, despite the fact that there is no other obvious reason to have such beliefs, is acceptable if you ask me. (I apologize for writing such a long sentence).

    Since karma is already a colloquialism I don't see any problem with it being used in the secular sense. But in more formal contexts it should perhaps be made clear what is meant by karma so as not to muddy the waters by using a term that has so many different senses/connotations.


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    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    Polarbear: But in more formal contexts it should perhaps be made clear what is meant by karma so as not to muddy the waters by using a term that has so many different senses/connotations."
    Agreed! Kamma (Pali) simply means "intentional action", whereas Buddha taught and it can be demonstrated that there are consequences for most natural and psychological actions when those intentions are acted upon. Buddha clearly taught this, and from a secular perspective it can be well demonstrated in reality. What it boils down to for the sake of those, who don't like the idea, is cause and effect, or acts and their consequences. In the case of the woman, who didn't like this teaching, "tough titty!" , said the kitty. That's just the nature of the universe in which we live.

    From a moral perspective, which is what gets conflated with cause and effect in physics, chemistry, and biology, my observation is that it falls into the same category as, "If there wasn't a God we would invent one." ...for the simple sociological reason that we need some means of behavior control, while teaching morals and ethics to our children, otherwise, children would have no reason not to kill their parents when being disciplined for sticking the cat in the microwave just for fun, or poking their sibling's eye out for not letting go of their Eggo!

    The Jataka tales tells of Buddha's deep belief in The Law of Kamma in a story about his pretending to be an idiot-prince, because he did not want to suffer the consequence of rebirth in the hell-realms for having to punish crime-doers in his kingdom, if and when he became king. Consequently in this story Buddha feigned idiocy to avoid his inheritance out of fear of the hell realms.

    "Not sure what the consequence for feigning idiocy was for him, though.", at least it wasn't released in this particular tale.
    Last edited by Olderon; 16 Mar 18 at 11:20.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Olderon
    In the case of the woman, who didn't like this teaching, "tough titty!" , said the kitty. That's just the nature of the universe in which we live.
    Sorry but I'm not understanding who you're talking about here, Ron, or why you're choosing to using this crude expression which women may find offensive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Olderon

    The Jataka tales tells of Buddha's deep belief in The Law of Kamma in a story about....
    Its always worth remembering that the Jataka Tales are based on ancient myths and folk tales though, rather than being literal events connected to the historical Buddha.

    https://www.thoughtco.com/the-jataka-tales-450050


    .

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    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Sorry but I'm not understanding who you're talking about here, Ron,..
    I am referring to this from the OP:
    ..a person new to Buddhism told me that she liked meditation but did not find Buddhists very compassionate. I asked her why. She told me that she had been very ill and the people in her Buddhist group told her that it was her karma. She did not find that remark very comforting.



    Aloka: "..or why you're choosing to using this crude expression which women may find offensive."
    Apologies to anyone who might take offence to the axiomatic phrase used to illustrate my point:

    I guess you and I have a difference of understanding of the word "titty" and/or "kitty". I understand a titty to be a mammalian organ on a cat, which allows it to feed her kittens, hence the word "kitty". This is a very commonly used phrase in my parts to indicate conditions, which must be endured, regardless of our feelings or complaints about it. It is similar to phrases like "suck it up", or "snap out of it", or "tough "s__t".

    Here is what I consider to be a reasonable explanation of the source of the axiom:

    What is the etymology of “Tough titty”

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    This is a phrase I've heard used on several occasions by different people. I'm interested about what it's origins are, and whether it should be considered rude.

    Essentially it means "That's tough luck!", but with an unapologetic undertone.


    Response: "Chambers Slang Dictionary dates it to the 1920s, and also records the variants hard titty, tough tiddy, tough tit, tough titties and tough tits. It is defined as ‘bad luck’ and shown to produce tough tits, toots, described, accurately enough, I would imagine, as ‘a phrase of dismissal’. A hardened nipple is, presumably, less likely to deliver the sustenance, or any other comfort, normally expected of it and so those, infants or others, who encounter such an anatomical feature might be thought unfortunate."
    Aloka continues: "Its always worth remembering that the Jataka Tales are based on ancient myths and folk tales though, rather than being literal events connected to the historical Buddha."

    https://www.thoughtco.com/the-jataka-tales-450050
    Nothing in Buddhist literature is considered to be literal, nor reliable since it was passed on by word of mouth, memorized, and then a few hundred years later translated and recorded, and then translated again into many different languages. My guess is that the Jataka tales were used to teach morals and ethics ascribed to The Buddha to children and the simple and ignorant. However, the essence of the teachings are beneficial: Don't do violent or harmful acts to others or you will wind up in the hell realms, which isn't going to be much fun.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Olderon
    I am referring to this from the OP:
    Ah, OK, it wasn't very clear to me that you were refering to the video, sorry.

    Quote Originally Posted by Olderon
    I guess you and I have a difference of understanding of the word "titty" and/or "kitty"
    I wasn't refering to "kitty" I was refering to "titty" which in my country is a slang term for a woman's breast. (An example being workmen calling out as a woman passes by: "Cor, look at her titties!" - or something similar).


    Anyway.....

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