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

  1. #11
    Forums Member rocala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by philg View Post
    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.
    Hi philg, I am struggling somewhat with your post here. It comes over, to me at least, more like therapy than education. What is this need that consists of opposites?

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    I guess it's different from the kind of education where you learn 'stuff' for an exam, more like that where you are to gain skills, in this case skills of seeing the world in a different way. If he thought karma was useful he would teach karma, if he thought it was holding someone back, he would teach that karma didn't exist. Just as you would tell a worried young child, "Don't worry, you aren't going to die" rather than the truth that they are going to die someday.

    Some would say that what the Buddha taught is indeed a therapy, a therapy for the mind which doesn't need 'facts' but the ability to see for itself. Zen is full of similar stuff such as koans, which are questions that have no set answer, despite many set answers being written over the years, but designed to build up a tension in the mind. the teacher insists on an answer, but also insists that any answer is wrong.

    In the Buddha's case it's written that he gave individual answers to individual people according to their need at the time, which makes sense when there was no 'revealed knowledge' such as the Ten Commandments to anchor a religion but rather the ability to gain enlightenment through enlightenment experiences. Of course, if this meant imparting a bit of knowledge which sparked this off, all well and good. There are different strands of Buddhism which developed along such lines, but it wasn't what the Buddha was really about.

    I guess I'm an adherent to the Heart Sutra which is, for me, about the path to enlightenment being about shedding all ideas, even saying there is 'no wisdom to attain' but instead to lose attachment to everything, including losing attachment. I remember my Buddhist teacher saying that it was like climbing a large pole and then coming to the top. What do you do then? Climb higher.

  3. #13
    Forums Member rocala's Avatar
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    Thank you, that is a good explanation. I guess what we are discussing is an example of upaya?

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    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor View Post
    Progress along the path is not dependent upon Karma but upon the efforts of the individual.
    Hello AV

    It appears you have made a number of posts using certain terminology, such as 'karma' & 'rebirth' but have not implicitly defined the meaning of these words. In other words, the efforts of an individual is also 'karma'. The word 'karma' means 'action'.

    Regards

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    Quote Originally Posted by rocala View Post
    Thank you, that is a good explanation. I guess what we are discussing is an example of upaya?
    Yes, the idea of using expedient means. Ok if you understand the consequences of doing so, as the Buddha did, tricky for the rest of us. One problem I find in Buddhism is that there are a lot of seemingly conflicting ideas, such as one person all you need is to master one type of meditation, another that there are different types for different purposes. They are both 'right' in that they can both work.

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    Forums Member Avisitor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Element View Post
    Hello AV

    It appears you have made a number of posts using certain terminology, such as 'karma' & 'rebirth' but have not implicitly defined the meaning of these words. In other words, the efforts of an individual is also 'karma'. The word 'karma' means 'action'.

    Regards
    Did not think anyone cared for my opinion.
    Karma is defined as the sum of a person's actions in this or previous existence in deciding the fate of their future existence.
    Internet dictionary defines it as such.
    I put it as what you sow is what you reap.
    If you plant an orange seed then you will have oranges, not apples or pears.
    Effort of an individual is more about the present efforts or actions rather than previous actions
    So, not so much about Karma. More about present action.
    Be here, now ... (loved Ram Dass)
    And so progress along the path is dependent upon one's present efforts.

    Of course, anyone can and will disagree.
    Because talking about Karma is just more "grist for the mill"
    More stuff to churn. It may help a little towards understanding with this mind
    But, does nothing towards progress on the eight fold path.
    If this type of understanding made a difference then scholars would see their Buddha nature
    Reading and thinking would be the way of Buddha??
    I just don't think Buddha would be expounding Karma as a way to receive the transmission??

    Sorry, way off base and topic.
    I apologize for this tirade.

  7. #17
    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor View Post
    Karma is defined as the sum of a person's actions in this or previous existence in deciding the fate of their future existence.
    Thank you A.V.

    In the Pali suttas, 'kamma' is separated into 'old kamma' and 'new kamma'. 'Old kamma' is (ultimately) considered to be impersonal and merely something to be 'felt' rather than 'identified with' (SN 12.37). 'New kamma' is new intentional action of body, speech & mind' (SN 35.146).

    AN 3.61 says if unknown/speculative past/old kamma is considered to determine one's current state, then this would result in inaction & confusion about how one should act & not act.

    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor View Post
    I put it as what you sow is what you reap.
    In Buddhism, the above is general rather than absolute truth.

    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor View Post
    If you plant an orange seed then you will have oranges, not apples or pears.
    The above is a general truth but not absolutely true. For example, you can ignorantly or naively do a harmful action and learn from that action, which gives rise to enlightenment & doing good actions. Therefore, sometimes you can plant smelly shit and reap fragrant flowers.

    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor View Post
    Effort of an individual is more about the present efforts or actions rather than previous actions
    As referenced above, they are both called 'kamma' according to the Pali suttas.

    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor View Post
    But, does nothing towards progress on the eight fold path.
    The noble eightfold path is called the 'kamma that ends kamma' (SN 35.146) because when the delusion of 'self' is abolished, no 'doer' of kamma exists (apart from ignorance).

    Quote Originally Posted by Avisitor View Post
    I just don't think Buddha would be expounding Karma as a way to receive the transmission??
    He didn't. 'Kamma' is never called the 'special/unique teaching of the Buddhas' in the scriptures. 'Kamma' is merely a moral teaching, found in every religion. The special or unique teaching of the Buddha is how to end kamma.

    Kind regards

  8. #18
    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    That was an excellent post by Element! I think every thought and action is 'kamma' - I presume it has to be volitional. I have a side question regarding the following statement. As stated by Element
    The noble eightfold path is called the 'kamma that ends kamma' (SN 35.146) because when the delusion of 'self' is abolished, no 'doer' of kamma exists (apart from ignorance).
    So I was thinking that there are miniscule number of processes (thoughts and actions) that are actually done at the conscious level. Most of the stuff that keeps us alive and kicking happen at the unconscious level. One way to interpret that would be to say that there is no 'Self' that does those actions. Can this interpretation be applied to 'removing delusion of self'? Can we think of it as: when your conscious thoughts and actions are as effortless and Self-less as breathing and and a million other processes that happen non-consciously, we may view it as having removed the delusion of Self?

  9. #19
    Forums Member Avisitor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Element View Post
    He didn't. 'Kamma' is never called the 'special/unique teaching of the Buddhas' in the scriptures. 'Kamma' is merely a moral teaching, found in every religion. The special or unique teaching of the Buddha is how to end kamma.

    Kind regards
    Hmm, tearing apart a post statement by statement instead of incurring the full meaning by addressing the full post,
    that I would call nit-picking or finding fault where one sees fault in the insignificant.
    It is a technique used by some to find cracks and weakness
    And ultimately to win arguments.
    Still, you have a point ....

    Karma being a teaching found in every religion means that Karma's place in early Buddhism
    means that people put in their own prejudices in the interpretation of the Buddha's Dharma.
    Some say the Buddha's special teaching is how to end Karma
    Others say it is how to end suffering.

  10. #20
    Forums Member trusolo's Avatar
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    @Avisitor: I don’t get the difference in your last line. Could you please elaborate?

    Aren’t they the same thing? Suffering is a label ascribed to fruits of kamma (some of them, as long as you are not free). So it would mean that “No kamma -> No suffering”.

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