How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

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Lazy_eye
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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Lazy_eye » Thu Nov 12, 2009 6:36 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Dugu,

I think the common perceptions of kamma and what it is tend to be a little over inflated and lead people into thinking it's some kind of unproveable mystic force in which you believe or do not.

Kamma is a volition action, and volitional activity is a formation (sankhara) conditioned by ignorance. Thus, kamma is representative of samsaric existence or 'being'. Actions which are generally considered to constitute good kamma (wisdom, generosity, lovingkindess) are such because these actions inherently involve a degree of renunciation of self-interest and a reduction of craving and clinging. This is how they yield good vipaka (kammic result). Not because they somehow coerce and manipulate external events, but because of their very nature....

Nothing particularly mystical and incomprehensible there, is there?
This topic has been a stumbling block for me, and I hope to refrain from tripping over it again. :? But I did want to suggest, though, that one of the major areas of difficulty concerns the scope of kamma. Basically, the wider the scope, the more "mystical" kamma becomes. This is especially so when we seek kammic explanations for what are sometimes referred to (in a similar spirit?) as "acts of God".

Some accounts of kamma (probably found more in Mahayana, though not exclusively so) hold it accountable for practically every experience we have, including those involving natural or cosmic processes, or other phenomena over which we have no apparent control. Not only that, but kamma is held to be an inviolable law, one which "never misses, not even by a hair's breadth". That leaves us pondering how someone's volitional actions could have triggered a chain of causality which eventually led them, for instance, to perish in a typhoon or plane crash. We could say the catastrophe was an occasion for the kamma to ripen, but how did the plane (or typhoon) know? This is where the element of mystery starts to sneak in.

Retro, I think you discussed this at length on the "grey forum". Would you mind a recap?

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Thu Nov 12, 2009 7:53 pm

One should read several sources on Kamma to understand this very profound topic. Simplistic explanations such as one can provide in a forum like this cannot give the full picture.

What Kamma Is? by Sayādaw U Titthila is a good starting point.

Four Points to Bear in Mind from Mahāsi Sayādaw's Discourse on Dependent Origination should also be reflected on to avoid the extreme wrong views of eternalism and nihilsm, and between the extreme wrong views of moral impotency and rigid determinism.

Past kamma is the seed, but there are also supportive kamma, counter-active kamma, destructive kamma, which can effect the outcome. To get a healthy mango tree from a mango seed requires soil, sunlight, water, and protection from insects and animals. A chili seed won't give you a mango tree, no matter how carefully you nurture it.
One should read several sources on Kamma to understand this very profound topic. Simplistic explanations such as one can provide in a forum like this cannot give the full picture.

What Kamma Is? by Sayādaw U Titthila is a good starting point.

Four Points to Bear in Mind from Mahāsi Sayādaw's Discourse on Dependent Origination should also be reflected on to avoid the extreme wrong views of eternalism and nihilsm, and between the extreme wrong views of moral impotency and rigid determinism.

Past kamma is the seed, but there are also supportive kamma, counter-active kamma, destructive kamma, which can effect the outcome. To get a healthy mango tree from a mango seed requires soil, sunlight, water, and protection from insects and animals. A chili seed won't give you a mango tree, no matter how carefully you nurture it.

The mechanism of rebirth is that the final moment of consciousness (cuti citta) is the cause for the arising of relinking-consciousness (patisandhi). A dying person's last thoughts are therefore crucial in the matter of determining rebirth. They will see either a kamma they have done, a sign of that kamma, or a sign of their destiny. During one life we may perform billions or trillions of kammas, but only one can bear fruit in the next existence.

Next to heavy kamma, death-proximate kamma is most significant in causing rebirth. In the absence of any significant death-proximate kamma, habitual kamma will take precedence. Failing that, any other kamma from this life or from previous lives may give its results.
The mechanism of rebirth is that the final moment of consciousness (cuti citta) is the cause for the arising of relinking-consciousness (patisandhi). A dying person's last thoughts are therefore crucial in the matter of determining rebirth. They will see either a kamma they have done, a sign of that kamma, or a sign of their destiny. During one life we may perform billions or trillions of kammas, but only one can bear fruit in the next existence.

Next to heavy kamma, death-proximate kamma is most significant in causing rebirth. In the absence of any significant death-proximate kamma, habitual kamma will take precedence. Failing that, any other kamma from this life or from previous lives may give its results.
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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Clueless Git » Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:04 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Its generally accepted within most schools of Buddhism Clueless Git that the Buddha's understanding of kamma and vipaka and of the Dhamma in general arose from his Enlightenment, That at the moment of his Enlightenment he rediscovered the Dhamma that had been taught by all of the previous Buddhas. Describing what he discovered as musings is problematic in that he makes it plain that what he saw to be the case was not as a result of discursive thought, but rather the arising of deep insight into the nature of things beyond all discursive thought.

:anjali:
I would not wish to get into an argument over that most estimable lady :)

Do you think it is mere coincidence though that the evolutionary/biological factors I mentioned happen to support what the buddha taught as a result of his own insight?

To be clear my personal interest is limited to the notion that non-buddhism based factors that support buddhist teachings are valuable as external verifications.

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Dugu » Fri Nov 13, 2009 2:51 am

Clueless Git, you gave a interesting take on Karma there. I like it. :)

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Nov 13, 2009 5:05 am

Greetings Lazy_eye,
Lazy_eye wrote:Retro, I think you discussed this at length on the "grey forum". Would you mind a recap?
Oh, you remember that... :tongue: The amount of times spent going in circles...

Further to Bhikkhu Pesala's recommendation on checking out multiple sources, I would recommend investigating the five niyamas. Check out...

The Manual of Cosmic Order - Mahathera Ledi Sayadaw
http://www.dhammaweb.net/html/view.php?id=5
Some accounts of kamma (probably found more in Mahayana, though not exclusively so) hold it accountable for practically every experience we have
Well in a way it is, but you need to understand what existence/experience consists of in a Dhammic sense (rather than a worldly sense) in order to grasp why it is so. It's not in the sense of coercion of other niyamas, required for typhoons, killer comets and such. Consider the following, as explained by Venerable Nanananda in his 8th Nibbana Sermon as he quotes from the Theragatha.
While going through a forest Venerable Adhimutta got caught
to a band of robbers, who were just getting ready to offer a human
sacrifice to the gods. So they got hold of this arahant as
their victim. But the latter showed no consternation. There was
no fear or terror in his face. The bandit chief asked him why
he is unmoved. Then the Venerable Adhimutta uttered a set of
verses in reply. Out of them, we may quote the following four
significant verses:

Natthi cetasikaṃ dukkhaṃ,
anapekkhassa gāmani,
atikkantā bhayā sabbe,
khīṇasaṃyojanassa ve.

"There is no mental pain
To one with no expectations, oh headman,
All fears have been transcended
By one whose fetters are extinct."

Na me hoti `ahosin'ti,
`bhavissan'ti na hoti me,
saṅkhārā vibhavissanti,
tattha kā paridevanā?

"It does not occur to me `I was',
Nor does it occur to me `I will be',
Mere preparations get destroyed,
What is there to lament?"

Suddhaṃ dhammasamuppādaṃ,
suddhaṃ saṅkhārasantatiṃ,
passantassa yathābhūtaṃ,
na bhayaṃ hoti gāmani.

"To one who sees as it is,
The arising of pure dhammas
And the sequence of pure preparations,
There is no fear, oh headman."

Tiṇakaṭṭhasamaṃ lokaṃ,
yadā paññāya passati,
mamattaṃ so asaṃvindaṃ,
`natthi me'ti na socati.

"When one sees with wisdom,
This world as comparable to grass and twigs,
Not finding anything worthwhile holding on as mine,
One does not grieve: `O! I have nothing!'"
Because the arahant has transcended becoming, there is no more samsaric existence, or in other words no kamma and therefore no fruit. Sankharas are dependent on ignorance, and when there is no ignorance, there are no sankharas.

Robbers didn't come to get the arahant because of his kamma (which would be the conventional worldly way of explanation in most discussions about kamma), but rather... because of the absence of kamma, becoming, existence etc. in the arahant there was no dukkha entailed on account of the event.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

“Truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” (Flannery O'Connor)

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Nov 13, 2009 8:40 am

Clueless Git wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:Its generally accepted within most schools of Buddhism Clueless Git that the Buddha's understanding of kamma and vipaka and of the Dhamma in general arose from his Enlightenment, That at the moment of his Enlightenment he rediscovered the Dhamma that had been taught by all of the previous Buddhas. Describing what he discovered as musings is problematic in that he makes it plain that what he saw to be the case was not as a result of discursive thought, but rather the arising of deep insight into the nature of things beyond all discursive thought.

:anjali:
I would not wish to get into an argument over that most estimable lady :)

Do you think it is mere coincidence though that the evolutionary/biological factors I mentioned happen to support what the buddha taught as a result of his own insight?

To be clear my personal interest is limited to the notion that non-buddhism based factors that support buddhist teachings are valuable as external verifications.
That might be Clueless Git. For myself I am still after many years unpacking what The Buddha said and taught about kamma and vipaka , if I ever reach the end of that unpacking and if there is any of my lifetime left over then I might take a peek at what non Buddhist verification supports that. In the mean time its the fact that we live in an era that produced a Buddha whose teachings are still accessable which drives my own search for his meaning, that and the fact of dukkha, a teaching that imo needs no external verification apart from the experience our everyday lives. But clearly there are a number of approaches to Dhamma.
:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Clueless Git » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:14 am

Dugu wrote:Clueless Git, you gave a interesting take on Karma there. I like it. :)
Thank you for those kind words Dugu :)

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by pegembara » Fri Nov 13, 2009 10:55 am

The principle of Dependent Origination shows the interdependence and interrelation of all things in the form of a continuum. As a continuum, it can be analyzed from a number of different perspectives:

In essence, this general principle corresponds to what is known in Pali as idappaccayata, the principle of conditionality.

A. Imasmim sati idam hoti: When there is this, that is.
Imasuppada idam upajjati: With the arising of this, that arises.

B. Imasmim asati idam na hoti: When this is not, neither is that.
Imassa nirodha idam nirujjhati: With the cessation of this, that ceases. [S.II.28,65]


All things are interrelated and interdependent; all things exist in relation to each other; all things exist dependent on determinants; all things have no enduring existence, not even for a moment; all things have no intrinsic entity; all things are without First Cause, or Genesis.

The functioning of the principle of Dependent Origination applies to all things, both physical and mental, and expresses itself through a number of natural laws. These are:

1. Utuniyama: the natural law pertaining to physical objects and changes in the natural environment, such as the weather; the way flowers bloom in the day and fold up at night; the way soil, water and nutrients help a tree to grow; and the way things disintegrate and decompose. This perspective emphasizes the changes brought about by heat or temperature.
2. Bijaniyama: the natural law pertaining to heredity, which is best described in the adage, "as the seed, so the fruit."
3. Cittaniyama: the natural law pertaining to the workings of the mind, the process of cognition of sense objects and the mental reactions to them.
4. Kammaniyama: the natural law pertaining to human behavior, the process of the generation of action and its results. In essence, this is summarized in the words, "good deeds bring good results, bad deeds bring bad results."
5. Dhammaniyama: the natural law governing the relationship and interdependence of all things: the way all things arise, exist and then cease. All conditions are subject to change, are in a state of affliction and are not self: this is the Norm.

Essentially, kamma is intention (cetana), and this word includes will, choice and decision, the mental impetus which leads to action. Intention is that which instigates and directs all human actions, both creative and destructive, and is therefore the essence of kamma, as is given in the Buddha's words, Cetanaham bhikkhave kammam vadami: Monks! Intention, I say, is kamma. Having willed, we create kamma, through body, speech and mind.

One instance of intention is one instance of kamma. When there is kamma there is immediate result. Even just one little thought, although not particularly important, is nevertheless not void of consequence. It will be at the least a "tiny speck" of kamma, added to the stream of conditions which shape mental activity. With repeated practice, through repeated proliferation by the mind, or through expression as external activity, the result becomes stronger in the form of character traits, physical features or repercussions from external sources.

A destructive intention does not have to be on a gross level. It may, for example, lead to the destruction of only a very small thing, such as when we angrily tear up a piece of paper. Even though that piece of paper has no importance in itself, the action still has some effect on the quality of the mind. The effect is very different from tearing up a piece of paper with a neutral state of mind, such as when throwing away scrap paper. If there is repeated implementation of such angry intention, the effects of accumulation will become clearer and clearer, and may develop to more significant levels.

Consider the specks of dust which come floating unnoticed into a room; there isn't one speck which is void of consequence. It is the same for the mind. But the weight of that consequence, in addition to being dependent on the amount of mental "dust," is also related to the quality of the mind. For instance, specks of dust which alight onto a road surface have to be of a very large quantity before the road will seem to be dirty. Specks of dust which alight onto a floor, although of a much smaller quantity, may make the floor seem dirtier than the road. A smaller amount of dust accumulating on a table top will seem dirty enough to cause irritation. An even smaller amount alighting on a mirror will seem dirty and will interfere with its functioning. A tiny speck of dust on a spectacle lens is perceptible and can impair vision. In the same way, volition or intention, no matter how small, is not void of fruit. As the Buddha said:

"All kamma, whether good or evil, bears fruit. There is no kamma, no matter how small, which is void of fruit."
:namaste:
Last edited by pegembara on Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Clueless Git » Fri Nov 13, 2009 11:12 am

Sanghamitta wrote: But clearly there are a number of approaches to Dhamma.
:anjali:
Those are wise words Sanghamitta :bow:

Sometimes I get the nagging suspicion that my own approach makes other people a tad ... errr ... uncomfortable?

I can only apologise for that if, or when, it happens. That and ask people to understand that certain aspects of the karmic fruits (vippaka?) ripening in my own life make it neccesary that the little dhamma I do understand I can back up the wisdom of without the use of internal reference to buddhist teachings. External verifications, for reasons I would have to type out a 'War and Peace' lenght essay upon just to scratch the surface of, are essential life tools for me right now.

I am very gratefull to all those here who shed light on more conventional approaches to buddhist wisdoms, btw. It is they who give me the confidence that the buddhist way (in one flavour or another) is the best way to do what I have to get done.

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Nov 13, 2009 12:32 pm

As my husband is wont to say, practice as you can, not as you cant. It might be interesting for you at sometime to compare your ideas with what is recorded in the Suttas as well as to experience. You might find some differences as well as some things in common.

:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Dugu » Fri Nov 13, 2009 7:01 pm

Clueless Git wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote: But clearly there are a number of approaches to Dhamma.
:anjali:
Those are wise words Sanghamitta :bow:

Sometimes I get the nagging suspicion that my own approach makes other people a tad ... errr ... uncomfortable?
Your own approach is your way of verifying the truth of the Buddha's teaching. It is what the Buddha insist his followers do, not just take his words blindly. This is how true insights are gain.

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Lazy_eye » Tue Nov 17, 2009 3:42 pm

retrofuturist wrote: Robbers didn't come to get the arahant because of his kamma (which would be the conventional worldly way of explanation in most discussions about kamma), but rather... because of the absence of kamma, becoming, existence etc. in the arahant there was no dukkha entailed on account of the event.
Thanks, Retro. It seems that if we concentrate on learning to "see with wisdom", the conventional worldly explanation starts to become a non-issue. In worrying overmuch about good versus bad vipaka, we're still stuck in the basic mechanism of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, no? And that doesn't sound like liberation.

I'll take a close look at the Sayadaw text and the links Bhikkhu Pesala provided. Heard a pretty good overview from Joseph Goldstein awhile back...he covers heavy kamma, proximate kamma, habitual kamma, the metaphor of the cows locked in the barn.

http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/1401/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I don't generally run into problems with kamma theory per se...it's when we try to retroactively apply kamma as an explanation for some particular happening or condition that the headaches sometimes arise. (Perhaps it's the kammic fruit of these kind of mind games...!).

Namaste,
LE

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Re: How do you suppose Karma works the way it does?

Post by Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 17, 2009 5:10 pm

Its certainly problematic to ascribe particular happenstances to particular causes, all we can really do is point to the teachings which say that this behaviour will have this result, in the case of a particular individual though we simply dont know..
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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