Kamma and vipaka

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Oct 20, 2011 5:42 pm

daverupa:

"This is false. If one intends to go to college, that choice has repercussions in more than the immediate now. One could even argue that the consequences in the immediate now were negligible in such a case, and that a concatenation of relevant intentions was required to actualize the eventual result(s), quite non-immediate. Examples such as this can be multiplied at will."

Sorry, I should have expressed myself better. I meant that intention is only ever known with certainty to be the sufficient condition for proximate changes in one's own mind and body. As soon as the change then affects something else, we cannot be sure that our intention had anything to do with it. This is the heart of the problem that I posed. If intentions have effects at a distance, then I want to know how the intention can be a feeling experienced by the person who had the intention. How does kamma give rise to vipaka? What sense can we make of the fact that it does so?

" The point was to convey an image of kamma-vipaka as a process such as one might observe when watching the color red shade into the color orange. The beginning red and ending orange would be discernible, but there would not be a point where one could say objectively "There is where it changed from one to the other!" It's nothing to do with ethics at all: it was simply a model."

Well, fair enough, but it is a model that does not illustrate the salient point I was making. Red might merge imperceptibly into orange, but intention does not merge imperceptibly into feeling; they remain different. And the moral status of the intention is one of the reasons that intention is different from feeling, which is exactly my point. How can an intention give rise to a feeling, when they are two demonstrably different things?

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daverupa
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by daverupa » Thu Oct 20, 2011 6:12 pm

Sam Vega wrote:If intentions have effects at a distance, then I want to know how the intention can be a feeling experienced by the person who had the intention.
Tread carefully here:
SN 12.46 wrote:
Then a certain brahman went to the Blessed One and... said to the Blessed One: "What now, Master Gotama: Is the one who acts the same one who experiences [the results of the act]?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is the same one who experiences,' is one extreme."

[The brahman:] "Then, Master Gotama, is the one who acts someone other than the one who experiences?"

[The Buddha:] "[To say,] 'The one who acts is someone other than the one who experiences,' is the second extreme. Avoiding both of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by means of the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition...
Sam Vega wrote:...but intention does not merge imperceptibly into feeling; they remain different. And the moral status of the intention is one of the reasons that intention is different from feeling, which is exactly my point. How can an intention give rise to a feeling, when they are two demonstrably different things?
I'll quote this again:
'After doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as pleasure, he feels pleasure; after doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as pain, he feels pain; after doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as neither-pain-nor-pleasure, he feels neither-pain-nor-pleasure'
Note there is not "intentional kamma" in isolation - the Buddha does not allow that intentional kamma exists as such. Instead, he is careful to say "intentional kamma to be felt as X". Your claim that intention and feeling are demonstrably different ignores this subtlety.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Prasadachitta
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Prasadachitta » Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:03 pm

daverupa wrote:
MN 136 wrote:'After doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as pleasure, he feels pleasure; after doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as pain, he feels pain; after doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as neither-pain-nor-pleasure, he feels neither-pain-nor-pleasure'
It doesn't seem to me that intention functions across temporal space, according to the Dhamma. This is because the idea of time as a container within which things occur is a view solidly rooted in substance metaphysics, which the Buddha rejects. Instead, idapaccayata insists on a processual view, on which "kamma" and "vipaka" are distinguished as an explanatory aid but not reified as discreet atomistic entities. In other words, "kamma whose result is to be felt as X" is referring to the process of idapaccayata, in this case with a beginning called kamma and an ending to be felt accordingly. There is no action between intention and result, there is simply that process in toto.

Let's hope this doesn't run afoul of your criteria for sophistry...
:goodpost: All of it up till now

Thanks
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Oct 20, 2011 11:17 pm

daverupa:

"Note there is not "intentional kamma" in isolation - the Buddha does not allow that intentional kamma exists as such. Instead, he is careful to say "intentional kamma to be felt as X". Your claim that intention and feeling are demonstrably different ignores this subtlety."

Well, in this Sutta he uses the term, but in others he does not. So it might be that the Buddha does allow that intentional kamma exists as such. And even this formulation ('Y to be felt as X') does not mean that either or both of the terms do not exist as such. It is merely a predication.

But in any case, if we agree that the Buddha denies that it is possible or valid to separate intention from feeling, then we are back to taking this issue on faith. I experience intention and feeling as different things. Sometimes I intend, and sometimes I feel. I experience connections between these states on some occasions, but not all, and it is self-evidently true to me that they are different mental states. This might be the result of my stupidity, a mind that is not subtle enough to see where its error lies in construing mental processes like this. But it is a very common error in our culture, and there might be some way of explaining where my error is. A person might understand that the Buddha said "intentional kamma to be felt as X", but it seems reasonable that a person who understands it (i.e. the subtle but indissoluble link between intention and feeling) should be able to paraphrase it and show where it is instantiated in a way that it can be understood by another. Otherwise they will have to rely on faith: the Buddha said it, but I can't get it yet.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sylvester » Fri Oct 21, 2011 1:33 am

daverupa wrote:
Sylvester wrote:But I think the Buddha was a practical "realist", ie to the extent necessary for us to accept that the external world is "out there".
I don't think the Buddha intended that we accept an external world out there, I think he was practical insofar as he accepted it as the naturally-occurring human perception of things (avijja, anyone?) and was at great pains to distinguish the Dhamma in contradistinction to those natural assumptions. This is why paticcanirodha is described as "against the grain", and as hard to see.
I guess this is where we have to agree to disagree. I always found it striking that the vipallasa-s (AN 4.49) are only fourfold with respect to sanna/perception. They are described only in terms of permanance, pleasant, self and attractive, but not in terms of manufacturing the external ayatanas as a basis for contact.
It may help to consider the "three phases of matter" in the Dhamma, as it were: arising is manifest, ceasing is manifest, change while standing is manifest. Here's the Pali for us:
Rūpassa [Vedanāya; Saññāya; Sankhārānam; Viññānassa] kho āvuso uppādo paññāyati, vayo paññāyati, thitassa aññatthattam paññāyati.
There is no change of one thing into another thing, there is simply conditionality. The fact that the order is not "arising - change-while-standing - ceasing" is logically significant, despite the fact that this order would seem to make more sense. If it were "arising-changing-ceasing", it would make sense as a characteristic of a thing-in-time that arises-changes-ceases.

Rather, there is arising OR ceasing OR change-while-standing - i.e. a process 'beginning', a process 'ending', or a process '-ing'. If you like, the nature of ones experience is such that the process is not perceived as a whole, but it is perceived piece-meal - which is to say, "over time". However, it is illegitimate to infer ontological entities on that basis.
I wholeheartedly agree!

MN 136 wrote:'After doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as pleasure, he feels pleasure; after doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as pain, he feels pain; after doing an intentional kamma by way of body, speech and mind (whose result is) to be felt as neither-pain-nor-pleasure, he feels neither-pain-nor-pleasure'
It's that "to be felt as" component which is bracketing kamma-vipaka together as a process in toto, rather than as two discreet events. Of note here is that suffering is not a required component - after doing kamma, there is concomitant vipaka, but dukkha is not a requisite component of that vipaka.
I understand your approach, even if I don't use such a model. After having wasted 2 decades trying to find that "agent" for kamma to manifest as vipaka, I eventually abandoned that search and have instead taken the 2nd nidana on faith alone. While the "process" model certainly abrogates the need for a substance ontology to describe an "agent" and its "patient", the question could be raised - But what mediates the process? I think that would be the crux of Sam Vega's query.

The difficulty I faced with the process model was the fact that none of the participants in the process, ie none of the constituents of Namarupa, could "perdure" long enough to account for vipaka (as the terminal point of a process) being experienced into the future. Unless an allowance were made for either -

1. a poly-citta model where the process is never interrupted by the cessation of a citta before the next citta arose; or
2. alaya vijnana,

the process model still does not explain how it works.

Thankfully, I've gotten past the urge to know "how"...

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daverupa
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by daverupa » Fri Oct 21, 2011 11:32 am

Sylvester wrote:The difficulty I faced with the process model was the fact that none of the participants in the process, ie none of the constituents of Namarupa, could "perdure" long enough to account for vipaka (as the terminal point of a process) being experienced into the future. Unless an allowance were made for either -

1. a poly-citta model where the process is never interrupted by the cessation of a citta before the next citta arose; or
2. alaya vijnana,

the process model still does not explain how it works.
This idea "cessation of a citta before the next citta" strikes me as interesting, in that I don't see the implied ontology here as being part of the Suttic worldview. Therefore, I don't see it as a problem needing to be overcome, but instead as a later imputation (momentariness :tantrum: ). Why each citta needs to be construed as sequential and singular in this way puzzles me; why not a notion of any instantiated citta as having variable degrees of "force" or "impact" with respect to moral valence? Perhaps sankharakhanda is able to sustain multiple intentional trajectories (via a plurality of underlying tendencies, for example)?
SN 22.79 wrote:"And why do you call them 'fabrications'? Because they fabricate fabricated things, thus they are called 'fabrications.' What do they fabricate as a fabricated thing? For the sake of form-ness, they fabricate form as a fabricated thing. For the sake of feeling-ness, they fabricate feeling as a fabricated thing. For the sake of perception-hood... For the sake of fabrication-hood... For the sake of consciousness-hood, they fabricate consciousness as a fabricated thing. Because they fabricate fabricated things, they are called fabrications.
I would want to have another translation, of course, if this has any traction. If so, trying to account for this might be where the imponderable-ness sets in, per the Anguttara.

As to alaya-vijnana: get thee behind me, Satan! :tongue:
Sylvester wrote:While the "process" model certainly abrogates the need for a substance ontology to describe an "agent" and its "patient", the question could be raised - But what mediates the process? I think that would be the crux of Sam Vega's query.
Indeed, generating an answer seems to converge on the necessity of seeing for oneself - I'm very sorry, Sam Vega, but I'm coming up against atakkāvacara on this. It may simply be that we're at the limits of my explanatory ability.
Sam Vega wrote:Otherwise they will have to rely on faith: the Buddha said it, but I can't get it yet.
Well, since we are invited to come and see such things for ourselves, I am altogether willing to allow this so long as one makes the attempt to come and see via bhavana, not vitakka-vicara exclusively.

On that note, we might try a new tack.

Does "how", in this context, argue for or against whether one takes up (a certain) Dhamma practice? In other words, is this an attempt to ground Buddhist ethics in an objective, knock-down argument prior to a practical engagement?
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

whynotme
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by whynotme » Fri Oct 21, 2011 2:13 pm

My thoughts:

As I read the suttas, the Buddha taught very little on fixing this life like modern day concept we could change our life. Instead, his teachings made me think that most of these lives are the result of our past lives, we nearly can't change them and his teaching is all about next lives. Even a monk ask him why someone succeeds and other fails, he said it is because of their merits in their past lives.

I believe the mind is very powerful as the ability of the Buddha and his noble disciples. Once we create bad action, the mind makes us pay for that like when we did bad actions, we could have bad dreams. The world in the dream is the creation of the mind, and also the real world is the creation of the mind

Just my opinions
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by kirk5a » Fri Oct 21, 2011 3:04 pm

Is the psychological concept of conditioning relevant here? Doesn't that explain how present actions are influenced by what happened in the past? Or the looser notion of "character development" ? There is the significant influence of memory, as well. That's my working principle on understanding the following, anyway. Something along the lines of the mind carrying it's actions forward, embedded within, as they shape it's very.. "character."
"'I am the owner of my actions (kamma), heir to my actions, born of my actions, related through my actions, and have my actions as my arbitrator. Whatever I do, for good or for evil, to that will I fall heir'...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/ptf/dham ... kamma.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:57 pm

Sylvester:

"While the "process" model certainly abrogates the need for a substance ontology to describe an "agent" and its "patient", the question could be raised - But what mediates the process? I think that would be the crux of Sam Vega's query. "

Yes, you have understood. I'm glad that you have got past the urge to know the "how", but thank you for your attention to this - you have presented me with a lot to think about.

daverupa:

"Indeed, generating an answer seems to converge on the necessity of seeing for oneself - I'm very sorry, Sam Vega, but I'm coming up against atakkāvacara on this. It may simply be that we're at the limits of my explanatory ability."

No need to apologise, daverupa, your explanatory ability is amazing, and you gave this one a good run for its money. Again, I thank you for your contributions. I have sometimes needed to google the terms you used, but I guess that's one way that I can learn!

I need to make a point about whether my question is an attempt to find a "knock down" argument for ethics as a precondition for practice. In my case, it certainly isn't. I know that the practice "works", and that my life and the lives of others seem to somehow improve as a result of good intentions. I was trying to get some insight into how or why this happens. A bit like trying to understand physics because I am grateful for gravity! As I have said all along, I would be OK taking this on faith.

I will keep returning to the thread to see if anything else crops up, but again thanks for your help.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by chownah » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:16 am

Sam Vega,
In the original post you wrote:
"My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs."

I suggest that there is no "mechanism that brings this about."....or at least there is no mechanism that we can rationally understand that does this......the Budda seems to teach a sort of mechanics for some things but I'm pretty sure that this is just conventional speech and it is best to remember that all dhammas are empty.......didn't the Buddha teach that the exact workings of kamma were not knowable?
chownah

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by ground » Sat Oct 22, 2011 2:34 am

Sam Vega wrote:... My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs. I don't think it is a stupid question, as normally we think of intentions as bringing about an immediate mental change (as when I intend to think about an elephant, or recollect things that make me happy); or bringing about an immediate physical change (as when I intend to raise my arm, etc.). The rest of the universe seems immune and indifferent to my intentions. I cannot cause a change in the weather by means of an unmediated intention. Nor can I alter your thoughts by merely intending to.
...

If the answer is that this must be taken on faith, I am happy with this. I would in fact prefer it to sophistry intended to demonstrate that someone knows more than me. All vague ideas and admissions of bafflement are welcome, as they would reassure me!
Actually I don't care about a mechnism but I am content with being able to observe the recurring effects of actions and mental conditionings (thinking about, having intentions, i.e. creating habits) in what is called "this present life".
It is all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself.

Kind regards

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:18 am

chownah wrote:Sam Vega,
In the original post you wrote:
"My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs."

I suggest that there is no "mechanism that brings this about."....or at least there is no mechanism that we can rationally understand that does this......the Budda seems to teach a sort of mechanics for some things but I'm pretty sure that this is just conventional speech and it is best to remember that all dhammas are empty.......didn't the Buddha teach that the exact workings of kamma were not knowable?
chownah
It might be that there is no such mechanism, but I believe the Buddha said that things arise due to causes. The workings of kamma seem to require some kind of mediating cause which I don't understand. It might be, of course, that I/we can never understand it, but this is an odd statement as we can never know unless we try. Certainly I am prepared to take it on faith. I think that the Buddha's point about kamma being unknowable was relating to the specific outcomes of kamma, not a clearer understanding of the principle.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:26 am

TMingyur wrote:
Sam Vega wrote:... My specific question is about the mechanism that brings this about. I would like to know people's thoughts on how this occurs. I don't think it is a stupid question, as normally we think of intentions as bringing about an immediate mental change (as when I intend to think about an elephant, or recollect things that make me happy); or bringing about an immediate physical change (as when I intend to raise my arm, etc.). The rest of the universe seems immune and indifferent to my intentions. I cannot cause a change in the weather by means of an unmediated intention. Nor can I alter your thoughts by merely intending to.
...

If the answer is that this must be taken on faith, I am happy with this. I would in fact prefer it to sophistry intended to demonstrate that someone knows more than me. All vague ideas and admissions of bafflement are welcome, as they would reassure me!
Actually I don't care about a mechnism but I am content with being able to observe the recurring effects of actions and mental conditionings (thinking about, having intentions, i.e. creating habits) in what is called "this present life".
It is all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself.

Kind regards
Well, it's good that you care enough about my caring in order to post! It may be all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself, but this formulation might not mean as much to other people as it does to you.

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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by ground » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:40 am

Sam Vega wrote:Well, it's good that you care enough about my caring in order to post!
I understood that you requested responses, didn't you?
Sam Vega wrote: It may be all about experience conditioning itself through grasping itself, but this formulation might not mean as much to other people as it does to you.
Of course. Everybody has to walk with her/his own shoes. I just showed one of my pairs.

Kind regards

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Sam Vara
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Re: Kamma and vipaka

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Oct 22, 2011 11:02 am

TMingyur wrote:
Sam Vega wrote:Well, it's good that you care enough about my caring in order to post!
I understood that you requested responses, didn't you?

Yes, I did! As I said, it is good of you and all the others to care enough to take time out to reply.

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