A proof of the inviolability of karma

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

Post by jcsuperstar » Sat Jun 12, 2010 6:06 am

Anicca wrote:
Recent neurolgical studies show that by observing actions in others - the precise neurons 'fire' in the observer same as the observed - called "mirror firing" or something like that. Emotions perhaps produce a harmonic resonance that do the same?
mirror neurons.
they're quite interesting, they had a piece on them on npr a couple months back, and oddly enough at work some people from the school district came out around the same time to give us some lectures about bullying, spotting it, dealing with it, preventing it, and they too mentioned mirror neurons.

these IMO could actually explain a bit of "mind reading" or at least "knowing the minds of others" since our own minds can be effected by the minds of others, then in theory at least if we were to become intimate with our own minds via meditation we should be able to spot this thus knowing the other's mind as well.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

Mawkish1983
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Mawkish1983 » Sat Jun 12, 2010 7:30 am

alexryan wrote:Natural selection doesn't work by accident. Every trait that we have is there for a reason.
Except natural selection does work by accident (or rather, the changes that occur are completely unplanned and random, and if those changes cause the organism to be more successful at breeding and surviving the organism is able to pass the change on to the next generation at a slightly increased rate compared to those organisms without the same change). Any talk of traits being there 'for a reason' are clumsy, the reason is always the same: the ability to pass genes on to the next generation. Talk of reason and purpose may be more appropriate in a forum where people believe in a being dictating purpose and reason, rather than a forum where people believe in impersonal laws like gravity, natural selection and kamma. :)

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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by nathan » Sat Jun 12, 2010 8:30 am

If karma/kamma were inviolable there could be no escape from it. As there is an escape from it, nibbana, it cannot therefore be considered inviolable.
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Laurens » Sat Jun 12, 2010 10:10 am

Anicca wrote:Howdy Laurens!
Laurens wrote:Empathy is a product of something that makes us unique as a species - our imagination.
Is it possible that other species might have empathy? What makes me think you do not keep pets? The actions of dolphins are mighty suspect.

Recent neurolgical studies show that by observing actions in others - the precise neurons 'fire' in the observer same as the observed - called "mirror firing" or something like that. Emotions perhaps produce a harmonic resonance that do the same?
Because it is impossible for other animals to think of being in another's position. Our concept of empathy requires imagination in that sense at least - the very fact that we can conceive of such an abstract concept is because of our imagination. Maybe animals do mirror each other in that way, but in what sense can we apply our abstract concept of empathy to that?

As I understand it empathy is not just a neurological mirroring, its a concept that we have developed that engages certain ways of thinking - ways of thinking that animals are not capable of. Perhaps the concept of empathy was built around examining this neurological mirroring, but I fail to see how empathy could be found in the animal kingdom because empathy is an abstract concept.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Laurens
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Re: A proof of the inviolability of karma

Post by Laurens » Sat Jun 12, 2010 3:26 pm

Also I think that the statement 'Good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people' is a naive thing to say. I think we all desire that kind of balance and there is a psychological need to believe in that statement, but it doesn't apply in reality. Think of perfectly kind souls who spend their lives in trapped abusive relationships or the smartest, nicest kid who gets abused and scarred for life... That's just one example of many that illustrates the fact that this is not always true. The law of cause and effect is a tangible reality, but it has no concept of good and bad, and who deserves what.

I think its an oversimplification to say good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. It would be more accurate to say, if you put out good and do good to others, you are more likely to receive good in return from them, however simply being good is not a protection against suffering because other factors can be involved and it should not be said that doing good is alone enough to ensure a good life.
"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

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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.

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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

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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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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

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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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