karma question

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: karma question

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala »

It's not difficult to find the Pāḷi Canon, but finding good translations of every sutta is not so easy.

Many translations can be found on Access to Insight, and a few of the more popular discourses — such as the Mangala Sutta — are translated and explained on my own web site.

The famous Maṅgala Sutta was taught to a god (deva), who approached the Buddha during the night and asked questions about the most auspicious signs or blessings that bring future happiness.
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Re: karma question

Post by Prasadachitta »

Hello jakartaguytebet,

Here is how I understand karma.

Karma is action which is tinged by the ignorance of separateness of self in beings and things. The way we understand existence and non existence is directly informed by our ignorance and it is very hard to discern this. There are effects which karma brings and this is called vipaka or literally fruit. Karma and Vipaka can be understood as the way ignorance is perpetuated without a discernible end. To model this in your mind you must use some form of "self" view which means that however you think about existence that is never how it is.

With regard to the Buddha he did away with ignorance so that he had no need to model existence in his mind to understand it. He just knew and did his best to communicate the way in which we too can come to know. He also did a very good job of showing us how to live happily so that our happiness would support the long term welfare of one and many.

Karma is simple but that does not mean it is easy to understand.

Take Care

"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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Re: karma question

Post by HumbleThinker »

jakartaguytebet wrote:I have some questions about karma. Its intriguing how Buddha never purported to know about heaven, gods, etc and yet talked of karma, past lives, and so on. Is this a contradiction?

And once we snuff out the flame and our mind becomes still, we are free from the cycle of rebirth. But doesn't this spell death? Wouldn't it be better to be reborn, albeit into suffering, but at least we would be alive. Nirvana seems to be an emptiness, a cessation of life.

I am obviously missing something.

Or is my concept of karma wrong: perhaps the release from karma can be interpreted as the release from impermanence in thought alone. We have only one life and nirvana is simply a higher realm of existence.

Thank you for your comments.
The Buddha did speak of gods, but not in the sense of omnipotent eternal beings. These beings, which supposedly the Buddha had discussions with on more than a few occasions, are called devas, beings of long but finite life with often immense but finite power. He talked about heaven, but again not the eternal abode of god(s) where one's soul goes for eternal bliss if they are good. Heaven is simply another realm among many for beings of a specific karma who will, upon their inevitable death, be reborn in another realm. Buddha talked about past lives because he lived them and directly perceived them. The Buddha talks about karma because he had direct insight into the entire web of karma.

Nibanna, to the best of my understanding, is neither life nor death, neither existence nor not-existence. All labels of Nibbana are false, though we of course must utilize words and labels to discuss the concept. And while I understand your perception of Nibbana as it honestly reflects some of my apprehensions about Buddhism, Nibbana certainly is not death. Death is dukha, or what is commonly translated as suffering, and leads to rebirth. Nibbana is certainly not suffering, nor does it lead to rebirth. It is also not emptiness. While quite a high level of attainment, attaining the insight of emptiness, the seventh jhana, is not Nibbana. Emptiness itself is empty.

This is a Mahayana text, so I do not know how well this coincides with Theravada Buddhism, but Nagarjuna wrote that

Samsara does not have the slightest distinction from nirvana.
Nirvana does not have the slightest distinction from samsara.

Whatever is the end of nirvana, that is the end of samsara.
There is not even a very subtle slight distinction between the two.

IOW, one lives Nibbana after one attains it, then, upon death, will cease to be reborn. From what little I have gathered from my limited experience with Buddhism, the time that one lives in Nibbana, no matter how short, will overshadow any good that one could do in their next lives. Thus there are no regrets necessary for not being reborn again, not to mention that one no longer experiences dukha.
"I know that I know nothing" -Socrates

IOW, take what I say with a grain of salt, for I likely know as little or less than you do.

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