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Thread: Karma's place in the early Buddhist view of reality

  1. #1
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    Karma's place in the early Buddhist view of reality

    I have recently read "What the Buddha Thought" by Richard Gombrich, a book I can unreservedly recommend

    On page 11 of the introduction, Mr Gombrich states "I believe that it (karma) is not only fundamental to the Buddha's whole view of life, but also a kind of lynchpin which holds the rest of the basic tenents together by providing the perfect example of what they mean. "

    The view of karma Mr Gombrich says was unique to the Buddha was the ethicization of Karma with individual responsibility

    What do you think of this idea

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    Technical Administrator woodscooter's Avatar
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    I've not read the book, so my reply is based entirely in what you've said in your post.

    Karma is a powerful concept and it has been expressed in different ways by many people. It is sometimes presented as a system of reward and punishment, sometimes it is thought of as explaining events working out from one lifetime to the next. It's also simply put as "what you sow, so shall you reap".

    However you view karma, acceptance of karma does lead to acceptance of a system of ethics. For you are responsible for what you do, and the Buddha's eight-fold path certainly sets out a direction for the individual to tread.

    Personally, I have no belief in karma as some kind of universal mechanism determining outcome. I believe that you can lead a bad life and get away with it, lead a good life and be consumed with misfortune. You can lead a bad life and die early, lead a good life and be happy. And everything in between.

    Despite my rejection of the laws of karma (and the idea of living one mortal life after another) I still accept the basic tenets of Buddhism. So I would disagree with Prof. Gombrich that karma is a lynchpin holding it all together.

    Still, Richard Gombrich is an accomplished academic who has devoted much of his life to the study of the languages and concepts of Buddhism and I have a great respect for him.

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    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    No way! Kamma is not a lynchpin neither fundamental to the buddha's whole view of life. Kamma as rebirth are only a teaching to improve ethical conduct in lay followers that are used to believe in future lives after death. Indeed, in order to practice lokutara teachings you have to forget about kamma and rebirth and do good and behave just because.


  4. #4
    I think its worth noting that the idea of Kamma/Karma already existed in Brahman and Jain beliefs at the time of the Buddha, so it wasn't something exclusive to the Buddha's teachings.

    Also worth remembering:


    The theory of karma should not be confused with so-called 'moral justice' or 'reward and punishment'. The idea of moral justice, or reward and punishment, arises out of the conception of a supreme being, a God, who sits in judgment, who is a law-giver and who decides what is right and wrong. The term 'justice' is ambiguous and dangerous, and in its name more harm than good is done to humanity. The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of action and reaction; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with the idea of justice or reward and punishment. Every volitional action produces its effects or results. If a good action produces good effects and a bad action bad effects, it is not justice, or reward, or punishment meted out by anybody or any power sitting in judgment on your action, but this is in virtue of its own nature, its own law.

    (from Ch 3 of "What the BuddhaTaught" by Walpola Rahula)

    returning to the OP #1,

    Quote Originally Posted by McKmike

    Mr Gombrich states "I believe that it (karma) is not only fundamental to the Buddha's whole view of life, but also a kind of lynchpin which holds the rest of the basic tenents together by providing the perfect example of what they mean.
    I find this idea of Karma holding "the rest of the basic tenets together" quite puzzling - and wondered if you had any example's which were given by Professor Gombrich, Mike?




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    Forums Member Avisitor's Avatar
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    If the idea of Karma predates the Buddha then would re-birth also?
    Is this idea of Karma part of the teachings of Buddha?
    Or is it a part of someone's writings who came after the Buddha??

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor
    If the idea of Karma predates the Buddha then would re-birth also?
    Yes

    Is this idea of Karma part of the teachings of Buddha?
    Yes

    If you write" karma or kamma" or "rebirth" in the search box under the banner you''ll be able to find several previous topics on the subject.

    Here are two of them:

    "How does karma really work":

    https://www.buddhismwithoutboundarie...ght=karma+work

    and

    "Considering karma"

    https://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/showthread.php?6996-Considering-Karma

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    Forums Member Avisitor's Avatar
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    To me, it seems that people have a belief and one does not fight the flow of people's beliefs
    It is either to flow with the river or to get washed away.
    This from experience.

    Also, I would believe that Buddha himself would not be discussing matters that put more thought into one's mind that distracts from the practice.

    It borders on the impractical And, seems to serve as fodder for more discussion than understanding the truth of one's nature



    Sorry, going against the flow again
    Last edited by Avisitor; 13 Mar 20 at 10:10.

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    The definition of karma that works for me is that things arise on conditions. In a Buddhist context it means that what you do has consequences, so take care over what you do. The positive thing is that if you follow the path you create the conditions for changes you want within yourself and, hopefully, for changes in how you interact with others. Whether or not others put an emphasis on different definitions of karma is pretty much irrelevant to me, except that I wish everyone well with working with their interpretation.

    I'm pretty sure the Buddha would have redefined Karma for the individual he was talking to at the time, having the skills to know what each person needed to make progress, so would not have been propagating any single definition that we could now access from the Dharma.

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    Why would Buddha need to redefine Karma for each individual?
    Progress along the path is not dependent upon Karma but upon the efforts of the individual.

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    I should have been a bit clearer. The idea of karma was around at the time, so the Buddha would have taught each individual what they needed when they needed it. If they needed the idea of karma he would have taught them it, if they needed to get rid of the idea of karma he would have done that too. The idea is that he aided each individual to achieve what they needed. That's my understanding after 35 years of teaching too.

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