rybak303 wrote:Thank you for your replies. I'm still a little confused on how animals such as a cat can genuinely behave with generosity and love and hence earn good karma if they don't have freewill and are operating only on instinct. thereductor mentioned a mother cat defending her kittens as an example of cats behaving with generosity and love but this seems more like an instinct than an actual choice. For example a mother cat will also instinctively kill one of her kittens if it exhibits signs of weakness or genetic disorder. Human beings seem different in that by an act of freewill we are capable of overriding our natural instincts. Even the most advanced mammals, creatures closet to us in most regards, seem unable to override their natural instincts by an act of freewill in order to observe a moral code.
The notion of "free will" versus "determinism" is a position found in western thought, one that Buddhism never had to really answer explicitly. Perhaps it could be said that Buddhism doesn't posit either in the strict sense. Nor is there really any such notion of "instinct". So arguing that animal actions are purely instinct, therefore no free will, therefore cannot be / have karma, is applying some lines of division in western thought to a buddhist doctrine. Likewise for the "moral actions" type of thought.
Hence better to ask / say: Can an animal act with craving, aversion or ignorance? Yes.
Can an animal act with love, renuncation or insight? Yes.
This asks and then answers the question in Buddhist terms.
Moreover, the karma which determines the next rebirth is not necessarily a karma that is made in that given lifetime. At death, any one of a number of karmas (rather, tendencies) could arise. These could also come from preceding lives, quite a long way back. eg. dog dies but does so with a tendency towards kindness from a human life 100 lifetimes ago; or, human dies with a tendency towards aggression from a dog life, way back in the early holocene. (Did they have dogs then, I don't know, but you get the point.)
So "moral" is not the best word, nor "moral code". A code implies a social construct, and Buddhism argues that regardless of the social construct of what constitutes "morality", the three poisons lead to painful results, and their opposites, to happiness.
Paññāsikhara mentioned 99.9% of creatures acting with a defiled state of mind and hence being trapped in an endless cycle of rebirth but what other creature besides man even has the notion of defiled let alone a "defiled state of mind." To me this seems like a very odd phenomena and one unique to mankind.
Whether or not beings have the notion of defiled states of mind is irrelevant. Hence, the actual state is what is important, not whether or not it is identified as a moral code, or moral, or whatever.
In further response to Paññāsikhara:
"Fortunately for Buddhism, it doesn't have to answer the theodicy question - how can a compassionate god create people who have little or no way of getting out of their suffering? Something tells me that your question kind of has this sort of thinking lying in behind it. (Apologies if I'm wrong.)”
I am just curious but why doesn't Buddhism have to answer this question? No apologies necessary, your not wrong I do have this sort of thinking in my question, at least to see what the Buddhist response may be.
Because Buddhism doesn't posit a creator God who is all-compassionate. That is why it doesn't have this conundrum.
So, not only does it not have to answer it, to Buddhism, the very position is meaningless.
One can still ask: if the buddha is all-compassionate, why do people still suffer?
But this is easy: buddhism never posits that the buddha is all powerful (ie. a creator).
So, yes, compassionate, but that doesn't mean he can change it all with a wave of his magic wand (or whatever).
It seems to me that a bit more familiarity with the Buddhist system will help with some of your questions. It seems you may be reading certain views into Buddhism (implicitly, and assumed), and then finding problems which aren't really there (because Buddhism doesn't agree with some of your implicit assumptions in the first place).
Hope I'm not too blunt about that.