A proof of the inviolability of karma

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
Hoo
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Hoo » Sat Jun 12, 2010 3:34 pm

Hi alexryan,

Lots of good constructive observations above. JMHO, but I believe many of them could be guidance to changing the title of the blog article. Whenever I've used absolute terms I've always had to eat them :) The burden of proof was on me to show that there were no exceptions or no equally useful ways to see what I was describing. I've always lost that particular battle :)
(from the blog)...The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others.
Escaping that delusion is a great set of goals! :) I worked in something similar for most of my working career, which was all before I began practicing Buddhism, btw. If you can imagine someone trapped in samsaric processes working to relieve suffering of others, that was me - chuckle.

My two cents worth, I wonder how many of our 6+ billion particualr species have that belief, especially that "bringing unhappiness" to others is a requirement. I don't have that motivation, for example. Even pre-Buddhism, I knew that happiness didn't require bringing unhappiness to others. Treatment could have been indicated for for persistent beliefs like that, though I may be wrongly reading how you are using the terms.

Re animals can't have an abstract concept....my dog would argue with you, then ask if you had interviewed all members of all animal species ;) She does communicate to me that she wants to play - an abstract concept. She knows when it is time for supper or a treat and comes to get one of us if we are late according to her internal clock - then leads us to where we are supposed to be. Experiencing hunger might not be conceptual. Getting someone's attention that we are off schedule and correcting it sure seems that way. Without communicating it (a concept), she would be left simply feeling hunger, but she's learned to associate us with the process of getting fed. That association is part of the hard-wiring for survival, in most Western thought, but that process is one of forming concepts to interface with data.

So as a reader, I would take issue with "proof" and "inviolability." There are differences in the understanding of kamma/karma according to which tradition you are looking at. But just the other day I read one from Pema Chodron in her book, "Start where you are." She said that karma gives us the lessons we need to soften the heart, or words like that. I don't believe she was describing an aware process that karma chooses. It was more in line withpast karma "sets the stage" to repeat past life choices, but we can choose differently (my interpretation of what she said). I've read similar in Ajahn Chah's books, I think, that life gives us plenty to practice on each day, and that today is made (largely) of past kamma.

I don't think that is inconsistant with part of what you say. It says that the process of kamma is inviolabile - like the natural law quotes above, you can't escape physics. The results of kamma can certainly be subject to change and there's a lot written on that. I actually like the part of Tiltbillings tag line that "karma is the way to freedom (or words to that effect)" because I can choose in eadch moment to repeat the mistake or to choose the intent and my action.

Mawkish1983
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Mawkish1983 » Sat Jun 12, 2010 5:57 pm

Don't forget the forth kind of kamma: "neither black nor white kamma", as I understand it, that's the way to freedom

Anicca
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Anicca » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:13 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:Don't forget the forth kind of kamma: "neither black nor white kamma", as I understand it, that's the way to freedom
Good shot, Mawk!
AN 4.232
These four types of kamma have been understood, realized, & made known by me. Which four? There is kamma that is dark with dark result; kamma that is bright with bright result; kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result; and kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.

And what is kamma that is dark with dark result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an injurious bodily fabrication... an injurious verbal fabrication... an injurious mental fabrication... He rearises in an injurious world where he is touched by injurious contacts... He experiences feelings that are exclusively painful, like those of the beings in hell. This is called kamma that is dark with dark result.

And what is kamma that is bright with bright result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates an uninjurious bodily fabrication... an uninjurious verbal fabrication... an uninjurious mental fabrication... He rearises in an uninjurious world where he is touched by uninjurious contacts... He experiences feelings that are exclusively pleasant, like those of the Ever-radiant Devas. This is called kamma that is bright with bright result.

And what is kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result? There is the case where a certain person fabricates a bodily fabrication that is injurious & uninjurious... a verbal fabrication that is injurious & uninjurious... a mental fabrication that is injurious & uninjurious... He rearises in an injurious & uninjurious world where he is touched by injurious & uninjurious contacts... He experiences injurious & uninjurious feelings, pleasure mingled with pain, like those of human beings, some devas, and some beings in the lower realms. This is called kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result.

And what is kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma? The intention right there to abandon this kamma that is dark with dark result, the intention right there to abandon this kamma that is bright with bright result, the intention right there to abandon this kamma that is dark & bright with dark & bright result. This is called kamma that is neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright result, leading to the ending of kamma.
Metta

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alexryan
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:46 pm

Annica,

Thank you for your thoughts.
Perhaps what I like best about the Buddha was that he challenged us to not take anything that he said as scripture.
He challenged us to think for ourselves.

We should remember that Buddha was not a god.
He was just a dude.
A very smart dude, but just a dude nonetheless.

He was not all-knowing and all-seeing.
He was a flawed human being just like the rest of us.
Is it possible that he himself did not truly understand karma?

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
~Buddha

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bodom
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by bodom » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:50 pm

alexryan wrote:We should remember that Buddha was not a god.
He was just a dude.
A very smart dude, but just a dude nonetheless.

He was not all-knowing and all-seeing.
He was a flawed human being just like the rest of us.
Is it possible that he himself did not truly understand karma?
This is not the Buddha I have taken refuge in.

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

Anicca
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Anicca » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:52 pm

Howdy Alex!
alexryan wrote:We should remember that Buddha was not a god.
He was just a dude.
A very smart dude, but just a dude nonetheless.
Er, ah, just a Rightly Self-Awakened Dude who happened to *teach* the gods!
alexryan wrote:He was not all-knowing and all-seeing.
He was a flawed human being just like the rest of us.
Is it possible that he himself did not truly understand karma?
I'll step back from arguing at this point - but, please enlighten me - what were the Buddha's flaws and what did he not understand about kamma that you can teach us?

Metta

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alexryan
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:13 pm

Hoo,

Thank you for your very thorough comments.
Two issues that you mentioned ...

Issue #1:

Re:
".The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others."
You said ...
"I wonder how many of our 6+ billion particualr species have that belief, especially that "bringing unhappiness" to others is a requirement. I don't have that motivation"
I would respectively challenge that.
There is always a "moment of decision".

In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong desire to obtain the thing that we believe with bring us happiness against our desire not to harm others.

In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong fear to avoid the thing that we believe will bring us pain against our desire not to harm others.

There is always a moment of decision.

Issue #2:
"as a reader, I would take issue with 'proof' and 'inviolability.' There are differences in the understanding of kamma/karma according to which tradition you are looking at."
What I am suggesting is that the concepts of the "golden rule" and its converse "the ethic of reciprocity" go beyond Buddhism altogether. They are found at the heart of all moral systems. The reason for this is that they have a biological origin. The fact that different traditions have different understandings just means that we haven't yet as a species discovered the scientifically accurate understanding.

We know from the history of science that there are often many different attempts to describe a phenomenon when we do not truly understand the underlying mechanism.

As science progresses and knowledge is advanced our theories as to why things are the way that they are should be continuously refined until we truly understand the phenomenon in its entirety should they not?

We who value truth should welcome such things should we not?

Metta
Last edited by alexryan on Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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alexryan
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:23 pm

Annica,

You said ...
please enlighten me - what were the Buddha's flaws and what did he not understand about kamma that you can teach us?
My logic is ...
All human beings are flawed.
The Buddha was a human being.
Therefore the Buddha was flawed.
:)

Honestly, I am not an expert on everything the Buddha said and did.
All that I am saying is that if the Buddha thought that karma was too complex to be fully understood, he was mistaken.
That may have been true 2600 years ago.
That is not true today.
I am absolutely positive of that. :)

What can I teach you about karma that Buddha could not.
The Buddha did not have access to findings from neuro-science 2600 years ago.
He could not prove to you that the anterior cigulate cortex hub will send unremitting signals of pain to the amygdala hub for the duration of our disharmony with our conscience and the intensity of these signals will increase in proportion to the intensity of our disharmony. This neurological process is the force that leads us to be the unconscious enforcers of karma.

With Metta,
Alex

Anicca
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Anicca » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:54 pm

alexryan wrote:What can I teach you about karma that Buddha could not.
The Buddha did not have access to findings from neuro-science 2600 years ago.
He could not prove to you that the anterior cigulate cortex hub will send unremitting signals of pain to the amygdala hub for the duration of our disharmony with our conscience and the intensity of these signals will increase in proportion to the intensity of our disharmony. This neurological process is the force that leads us to be the unconscious enforcers of karma.
No more questions here. Thank you for sharing and caring, Alex.

Metta

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bodom
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by bodom » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:56 pm

Why are you under the impression "the Buddha thought that karma was too complex to be fully understood". I have never heard this before. Where did you get this idea?

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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mikenz66
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by mikenz66 » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:07 pm

Hi Bodom,
bodom wrote:Why are you under the impression "the Buddha thought that karma was too complex to be fully understood". I have never heard this before. Where did you get this idea?
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
AN 4.77 Acintita Sutta: Unconjecturable
"There are these four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them. Which four?

"The Buddha-range of the Buddhas[1] is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"The jhana-range of a person in jhana...[2]

"The [precise working out of the] results of kamma...

"Conjecture about [the origin, etc., of] the world is an unconjecturable that is not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about it.

"These are the four unconjecturables that are not to be conjectured about, that would bring madness & vexation to anyone who conjectured about them."
I understand this to mean the details of the causes of a particular result, not understanding the workings of kamma in general.

Mike

Hoo
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Hoo » Sat Jun 12, 2010 9:27 pm

".The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others."
Weaver said "I wonder how many of our 6+ billion particualr species have that belief, especially that 'bringing unhappiness' to others is a requirement. I don't have that motivation"
I would respectively challenge that.
There is always a "moment of decision".
In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong desire to obtain the thing that we believe with bring us happiness against our desire not to harm others.
In that moment of decision we have to weigh our strong fear to avoid the thing that we believe will bring us pain against our desire not to harm others.
There is always a moment of decision.
Weaver - My obervation is to still question how many of we 6+ billion have that belief that "enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others. I wondered if I misread your intent, thinking you were implying that our happiness is necessarily based on the unhappiness of others. I agree that there is always a moment of decision, if one chooses. I believe that not all will choose to decide. Not all will decide as we wish they would. The reason for my hesitation is that thousands of years of religions have not accomplished the taming of the species. You claim to have proof but seem not to have a foundation for your claim.

Please see my comments as critiques of your positions, not you for holding or presenting them. You have a marvelous goal, but I believe the foundations of your positions lack validity and proof.

Weaver said...as a reader, I would take issue with 'proof' and 'inviolability.' There are differences in the understanding of kamma/karma according to which tradition you are looking at." ....Alexryan said...What I am suggesting is that the concepts of the "golden rule" and its converse "the ethic of reciprocity" go beyond Buddhism altogether
But your presentation is about proof of the inviolability of karma. Your suggestion doesn't seem to support your stated thesis.
...They are found at the heart of all moral systems.

Except the ones that favor slowly and painfully killing your enemies and/or defiling the remains, or eating them, etc., which are also moral systems - just not ones we like :)
The reason for this is that they have a biological origin.

Which portions of our biology are responsible for them? I believe this to be not provable.
The fact that different traditions have different understandings just means that we haven't yet as a species discovered the scientifically accurate understanding.

But you imply that it is known - biological origin.

............................................
We know from the history of science that there are often many different attempts to describe a phenomenon when we do not truly understand the underlying mechanism.
Proposition one. Several problems - WE is not defined, so it may be modern Mayans disproving that human sacrifice is right, or it might be an appeal, or it might be true or not if I haven't studied the history of science.
As science progresses and knowledge is advanced our theories as to why things are the way that they are should be continuously refined until we truly understand the phenomenon in its entirety should they not?

A request for agreement or implied proposition two. Scientists YES, Luddites NO, Religions somewhat divided, "Free Earthers" HECK NO!, ;)
We who value truth should welcome such things should we not?

A request for agreement or implied proposition three. WE know the truth, and that ain't it! :guns:

I use these somewhat silly examples to ilustrate a problem. If you don't have definitive proof of your claims, any view is a valid as the one being presented.

But my opinions are as true or valid as anyone else's, so feel free to take them with a grain of salt or to just ignore them :) I admire the goal of eliminating barbarism. I just don't believe you have made a case for a proof of the inviolability of karma with the points you provide.
Last edited by Hoo on Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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bodom
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by bodom » Sat Jun 12, 2010 9:54 pm

Thanks Mike. Do you believe Neuro-science answers this question as our friend alex here maintains? Also do the four unconjecturables pertain to the Buddha himself or only to unenlightened individuals?

:anjali:
To study is to know the texts,
To practice is to know your defilements,
To attain the goal is to know and let go.

- Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo


With no struggling, no thinking,
the mind, still,
will see cause and effect
vanishing in the Void.
Attached to nothing, letting go:
Know that this is the way
to allay all stress.

- Upasika Kee Nanayan

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alexryan
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by alexryan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:10 pm

Hoo,

Thank you very much for your thorough critique.
This is exactly the kind of feedback that I need.
I still believe that the proof is valid but perhaps I am not communicating it as well as I could be?

Some of the points that you make lead me to think that you might not have read the proof in its entirety. This is understandable because it is much longer than I wish. However, I do believe that I have addressed all of the issues that you have raised in the proof itself and I would encourage you to read it if this is a subject that you are passionate about like I am. :)

Re:
"The fundamental delusion that characterizes our species in the age of barbarism is the belief that enduring happiness can be attained and sustained by bringing unhappiness to others."
My point here is that "at the moment of decision" this is the belief that we hold when we *choose* to defy our conscience.
It is true that at such times we are usually consumed by the emotional flooding of the fight or flight response such that our ability to empathize is significantly reduced.
However, when the temporary madness leaves us and our empathy and thus our conscience returns we will feel the pain of guilt if we have harmed others.
How we choose to respond to that pain determines whether we will choose to be in harmony or disharmony with our conscience.
If we consciously choose disharmony we are choosing to launch an internal civil war.
Our unconscious mind will will fight us relentlessly and seek to sabotage our efforts to achieve and maintain happiness until we choose to return to harmony.
This is the nature of the force which enforces the law of karma unconsciously.

Re:
The reason for my hesitation is that thousands of years of religions have not accomplished the taming of the species
I ask you this ...
What is the force that has lead religions to desire to tame the species for thousands of years?
What motivates people to desire this?
Have people just randomly desired that such a goal might be fun to pursue?
Or is there a burning desire within that leads people to want to achieve this goal?
From where does this desire come?
I have attempted to prove that it is innate.
This force is rooted in our biology.
It is rooted in the emotion of empathy.

Re:
"They are found at the heart of all moral systems." Except the ones that favor slowly and painfully killing your enemies and/or defiling the remains, or eating them, etc., which are also moral systems - just not ones we like"
Agreed. To say that the golden rule and the ethic of reciprocity lay at the heart of a moral system is not to say that the resultant moral system does not contradict itself.
IMHO most moral systems exist for the purpose of self-deception.
The most effective lies are those that are hidden within a truth.
Such is the case when people use religion to morally justify actions to themselves that they know to be immoral.
Self deception is one of the ways in which we attempt to battle our conscience.
I cover this in section 8.2.5 of the proof. :)
I also explain how our conscience fights back against such tactics.

Thank you very much for your very constructive feedback.
It is very much appreciated.

With Metta,
Alex

Hoo
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Hoo » Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:26 pm

Hi Alex,
Re:
"They are found at the heart of all moral systems." Except the ones that favor slowly and painfully killing your enemies and/or defiling the remains, or eating them, etc., which are also moral systems - just not ones we like"

Agreed. To say that the golden rule and the ethic of reciprocity lay at the heart of a moral system is not to say that the resultant moral system does not contradict itself.
IMHO most moral systems exist for the purpose of self-deception.
The most effective lies are those that are hidden within a truth.
Such is the case when people use religion to morally justify actions to themselves that they know to be immoral.
Self deception is one of the ways in which we attempt to battle our conscience.
I cover this in section 8.2.5 of the proof.
I also explain how our conscience fights back against such tactics.

Thank you very much for your very constructive feedback.
It is very much appreciated.
Glad I can be of some help. But I would suggest some caution if you are preparing to present your blog article as a paper or other reviewed submission. To an audience that already shares your perspective, there will be little disagreement, I suspect. We just had a discussion here about self-referential positions and I'm glad you are looking outside of neurology for further input.

You might also benefit from explorations in psychiatry/psychology for reference to the training of of social conscience, anthro for evolution of moral codes in ancient nomads and tribal peoples, and pediatrics for the latest info on conditioning as the basis for development of social capability and conscience. There are cultures that do not seem to have the Golden Rule at the center of their codes, which would be unlikely under the biological basis approach. After all, we are all female at the embryonic stage until "outside forces" cause a differentation. I believe it would be a mistake to treat all humans as female.

It's been a good discussion :) We hold different views, and that's OK.

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