Thread: How Does Karma Really Work?

  1. #1

    How Does Karma Really Work?

    From the Lion's Roar website:


    How Does Karma Really Work?

    Norman Fischer, Robin Kornman, and Ajahn Amaro get to the bottom of a question that baffles so many of us. Introduction by Andy Karr.

    https://www.lionsroar.com/forum-how-...a-really-work/
    (Ajahn Amaro is now Abbot of Amaravati Monastery UK).


    Any thoughts about what the three teachers had to say?



  2. #2
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    Wow. That's a lot to chew over. I like the conversational structure where they bounce ideas off each other. One of the best books on philosophy I have is based on a television series and is basically a transcript of conversations between the guy running the series and another who is an important teacher of each philosophy, or rather philosopher, looked at. In this particular discussion I think they range over much of the Karma debate, and is well worth a read.

    My own view on Karma is that it is the pattern we see of cause and effect. Every action or inaction brings consequences, often unknowable but nevertheless the aim of developing mindfulness and understanding in order to play our part as Buddhists. The aspect that is trickiest is of course the notion of rebirth or even reincarnation, which I personally don't find very useful but I am aware that others do.

    We, as a species, are pattern seeking animals who desperately look for cause and effect to give us the survival edge. Causes can be tricky too, as discussed in the article. In the West we have a long history of attributing cause to outside, somewhat magical, agencies which are to be feared or revered in case the agency is keeping tabs on us and responds accordingly. Karma is one of those 'outside' words which we often translate within the context of our own culture.

    Maybe if we had used versions based on secular wisdom on thinking before you act, 'Look before you leap', rather than more religious types, 'The sins of the fathers are visited on the sons', we might have a different understanding, although this last one is perhaps more apt than the idea of rebirth in which your sins or otherwise are visited on you in the next life.

    I think the Western idea of an immortal soul separate from a corporeal body hangs about in our minds, which then latch on to the idea of karma and rebirth in Western terms when we explore Buddhist ideas which seem similar on the surface. The easiest thing in the world is to transfer such an idea and then impose it on Buddhist karma, which, as the discussion shows, is more complex that it would appear.

  3. #3
    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    The Treasury of Abhidharma by Vasubandhu (fifth century: .... "If you worry about the karmic consequences of all the dead bugs splattered on your windshield, don’t. When there is no intention to cause harm, no negative karmic seeds are planted."
    Don't buy it! If you are aware that driving at high speeds during summer evenings at the peak of insect airborne reproduction is going to result in death to said insects and you personally choose to do it anyway, then that is your "intentional action" (kamma) which resulted in all those needless deaths. Kamma-result: vipāka

    Resource for more study: http://www.what-buddha-said.net/dic3-k/
    Last edited by Olderon; 09 Feb 20 at 21:07.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    I like the conversational structure where they bounce ideas off each other
    Yes, me too, because I think that a lot of nonsense often gets talked about karma/kamma both on and off the internet!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Olderon View Post
    Don't buy it! If you are aware that driving at high speeds during summer evenings at the peak of insect airborne reproduction is going to result in death to said insects and you personally choose to do it anyway, then that is your "intentional action" (kamma) which resulted in all those needless deaths. Kamma-result: vipāka

    Resource for more study: http://www.what-buddha-said.net/dic3-k/
    I'm always fascinated by such ideas and enjoy spending hours arguing with myself about the pros and cons of following some rigid rule (I've usually got no one else to argue with). It's pretty obvious to me that when you look closer at things they bring up new problems. At what stage do you say that it's ok to kill? What about antibiotics? Look at it more closely and your body is a continual battleground of disturbing ferocity, even on a good day health wise. Reductio Ad Absurdum is key to understanding why we as Buddhists prefer to develop mindfulness as a code to live by rather than have a set of rigid laws to follow.

    It's like the rule against eating animals. Fine, but what about plants? Are they just our playthings to be used and abused at whim? After all they carry over 50% of our genetic information, they are alive, have the ability to sense what is happening to them, and even, in the case of trees, the ability to use fungi to communicate with other trees and warn them about things which are happening. And what about those living things you can't classify as either plant or animal? And what about, to look into the not too distant future, meat which was grown in a factory and never was part of an animal? Is it ok to eat sheets of cells which, although living, were never part of a whole living animal?

    And then, if we do away with cattle and sheep and so on, is it ok that we do not have such living things again? If we gave them the chance of being born or not, would they take the chance of being alive for a few months rather than never have lived? I don't know either, but when I think about some of the issues raised in Buddhism (and other such strategies to live by) these are the kind of things that pop into my head. The more I read the more mystifying things are. A relative of mine is vegan, which is fine, and won't eat, say, honey as the bees are farmed. But what about fruit and nuts, where farmed bees are used to pollinate the blossom? Apparently millions of bees are destroyed producing the almond crop in the USA.

    I don't honestly think that there are any definitive answers, but I do know that the journey in pondering the issues is worth while. This process is part of the path, I think. Being mindful is not the same as knowing all the answers, but the nearest thing to taking responsibility for the results of your own actions. Without being able to say, "The laws of what I believe in tell me to do or not do X, so it's not my fault" it's down to us to develop ourselves and choose our own actions.

  6. #6
    Forums Member Olderon's Avatar
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    Hi, philg.

    I am with you. Your logic is impeccable with the exception that Buddha's teachings about kamma had to do with eliminating behaviors, which allowed us to escape from the samsaric cycle of birth, aging, disease, death and rebirth, not what is logical.

    I wrote many responses and arguments regarding plants being "living beings" as sometimes the precept against killing is translated as "cause no harm to living beings" and not "sentient beings" with the idea that plants aren't sentient beings, and variously I have seen justification for being allowed to kill plants, because they are possessed of only minor degrees of sentience, when folks like vegans argue in defense of their being allowed to eat plants, fungi, and algae.

    Fact is, in this samsaric realm in which we live, life must consume other life in order to live with the exception of plants, which can produce their own nutrients by way of absorbing carbondioxide from the atmosphere, water and other trace nutrients from the soil and through cellular ad / absorption, a process driven by solar radiation (photosynthesis) which animals use for nutrients in exchange for spreading plant seeds and pollen.

    Another fact is: "Evolution leads to symbiotic relationships for all life-forms."

    Still, if you want to practice Buddhism, then we are karmically obligated to avoid unecessary cause of death for the sake of our convenience.

    Lastly, there are effective means of gaining nutrients without killing. Buzzards, bacteria, mold, plants and other scavengers do it all the time. And then there are nectar and "fruitatararians". As previously stated:
    Plants provide fruit and nectar as mentioned previously to animals in exchange for seed & pollen transport all the time, and apparently gladly for they have survived on our planet far longer than animals according to fossil records.
    'World's oldest plants': 472 million-year-old fossils are unearthed in Argentina
    By CAROLINE WESTBROOK
    UPDATED: 05:14 EST, 13 October 2010


    16

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    Fossils of the oldest plants ever to colonise land have been discovered in Argentina, scientists claim.

    The amazing find indicates that plants had already colonised the earth 472million years ago - a full ten million years earlier than first thought.

    Experts have confirmed that the fossilised plants are liverworts, a simple species which has no roots or stems. They have suggested that the discovery indicates they are likely to be the ancestors of all land plants.

    Liverworts are one of the oldest known species of plant, thought to have evolved from algae
    Fossils found: Modern liverworts are one of the oldest known species of plant, thought to have evolved from algae. Experts have confirmed that the fossilised plants discovered are 472million-year-old liverworts

    The discovery was made by a team of researchers at the Department of Palaeontology at the Argentine Institute of Snow, Ice and Environmental Research in Mendoza, Argentina.

    Chief researcher Claudia Rubinstein and her team found five fossilised species in sediment samples collected from the Sierras Subandinas in the Central Andean Basin of northwest Argentina.
    source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencet...Argentina.html
    Last edited by Olderon; 10 Feb 20 at 13:34.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by philg
    what about plants? Are they just our playthings to be used and abused at whim?

    There are some rules for buddhist monks and nuns regarding "Destroying Vegetation" and they can be found at this link, together with other rules that they have to follow, for anyone who's interested.

    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/...de.html#veggie

    Anyway, moving on from plants and fossils and returning to the subject of karma/ kamma again, I thought I'd add some comments from the late Thai teacher Buddhadasa Bhikkhu in "Two Kinds of Language":



    KAMMA


    We come now to the word "kamma" (Sanskrit, karma). When ordinary people say, "That's kamma!" they mean "Too bad!" Bad luck as punishment for sins previously committed is the meaning given to the word "kamma" by ordinary people. But in Dhamma language the word "kamma" refers to something different. It refers to action. Bad action is called black kamma; good action is called white kamma. Then there is another remarkable kind of kamma which is neither black nor white, a kamma that serves to neutralize the other two kinds. Unfortunately, the more people hear about it, the less they understand it. This third kind of kamma is the realization of not-self (anatta) and emptiness (sunnata), so that the "self" is done away with. This kind of action may be called Buddhist kamma, the real kamma, the kind of kamma that the Buddha taught. The Buddha taught the transcending of all kamma.

    Most people are interested only in black kamma and white kamma, bad kamma and good kamma. They take no interest in this third kind of kamma which is neither black nor white, neither bad nor good, which consists in complete freedom from selfhood and leads to the attainment of Nibbana. It wipes out every kind of bad and good kamma. People don't understand the method for wiping out kamma completely. They don't know that the way to put an end to all kamma is through this special kind of kamma, which consists in applying the Buddha's method. That method is none other than the Noble Eightfold Path.

    The practice of the Noble Eightfold Path is kamma neither black nor white, and it is the end of all kamma. This is kamma in Dhamma language. It is very different from the "kamma" of immature people, who exclaim "That's Kamma!" meaning only "Too bad!" or "Bad luck!" Kamma understood as bad luck is the kamma of everyday language.


    http://www.buddhadasa.com/naturaltru...language4.html



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