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Thread: Karmic Turn?

  1. #1

    Karmic Turn?

    As most folks know, I spent most of my adult life in the military, only leaving after injuries rendered me useless to the service.
    After finding my way to Buddha and Zen, I started a new career as an aide at the physical therapy clinic where I was a patient. I've been working there while going to school.
    They recently offered me a permanent, full time position, licensure and tuition reimbursement.
    I love what I'm doing, and I believe that having spent so many years at war, and all that entails, spending the rest of my life learning to use my hands to help people heal has just got to be good karma.
    So what I'm getting at is this: how do you change your karmic essence? Is there ever anough good a person can do to shift the karmic balance after what happens in war? Is it possible that the feeling that nothing would be "good enough" to tilt the scales simply proof that the tilt has already begun?
    Just curious as to other, wiser folks' ideas about "Karmic Debt."

  2. #2
    Stephanie
    Guest
    Not sure about "wiser," but--

    No karmic essence.

    Cause and effect--wherever you were before, here you are now, and ain't it grand. Sounds to me like you are now in full-on bodhisattva mode, so where's the problem?

    Don't believe "redemption" is as strong a thematic thread in Buddhist storytelling as it is in Christianity, but it's a theme I'm rather fond of. Part of what I like about it is that having done something painful or bad before, having walked through the "valley of darkness," how much sweeter and more powerful it is to step into the light & lay down the burden of 'sin.'

    I'm a big fan of the idea of "restorative justice," the notion that people who have committed wrongs (not saying this necessarily applies to you, just the topic of 'karmic debt') can not only pay back their debt, but heal themselves when they do whatever needs to be done to set it right, when that action is socially constructive.

  3. #3
    HI Kvon,

    I think Stephanie is right, and I think what Will posted about Karma on the other thread is right too.

    So, yes, all Karma is burned up in this moment. Be the man you are now and the past is gone, the future is wide and clear. One moment of Zazen is said to extinquish all past causes.

    But, too, we must bear the weight and effects of our past ... even if we were in an ugly situation not of our choosing, and were forced into actions that did harm ... or even if we truly acted badly in the past but have now made a clean break ... we should reflect on the past, carry the weight of what was done at our hand. We should recognize the wounds caused to self and others and not hide them. We should work to heal them no matter how impossible sometimes.

    So, all perspectives are true I think, without conflict:

    -Past Karmic causes have effects.
    -Present actions can redirect the course of our lives.
    -No causes no effects.

    Gassho, J

  4. #4
    If the law of cause and effect is always at work, and. . .

    If there is truly now separation between you and I (and anyone else), then . . .

    Your "Karmic Debt" is really Our "Karmic Debt". Anything one person does to add to the debt increases it for all of us. Anything one person does to repay it, eases the burden for all of us.

    We each have a responsibility to pick up our part of the "tab", but sometimes we have the opportunity to pick up somebody else's tab. And sometimes we get lucky and somebody picks up the tab for us.

    Perhaps the operative word is "Redemption"?

    That's how it seems to me, this morning.

    (Acknowledging we're probably misusing the word "Karma".)

    Best wishes,
    Terry

  5. #5
    Kvon,

    I had some similar thoughts on Karma, cause and effect that I had been reflecting on for a while. I had asked and looked around quite a bit ... But this is what I came up with, reposted from my bolg:

    The other day a friend had brought up that old dilemma about predetermination regarding cause and effect.
    I have been trying come up with my own words to express it and up until a few moments ago I did not know how so I fed him some of the stuff I had found in my research on the web and an answer I had received from Nishijima Roshi on the same subject.

    But a few moments ago I had a bit of an epiphany.

    To explain, for those who have not been following along, I want to first say that Karma is just a foreign word for action. It might be helpful to just drop the idea of karma all together. Put it out of your head.

    Now we have Action, Cause and Effect. But it is out of order!
    It should be Cause, Action and Effect!!!

    You see the cause is everything that brought you here to this present moment. That’s it. Nothing mystical about it at all. Stuff happens. So we could say that the cause is just the past that led you to this present moment. Now here is the Important Question… In this present moment are things predetermined? Well yes and no. You see, because Iris is not sleeping when she should be it had the effect of me being awake. Because I was awake I was pondering a thought loop, which brings me to the present moment of typing away at this blog. Sound predetermined? Maybe so when it is written. But while I am typing this now I could have just rolled over and went to sleep. In the present moment anything can happen. Limited by all those causes for sure, but not totally predetermined. For example I find it doubtful that because of this explanation you will begin levitating off of your chair, but you may for just a moment see something the way I do, or not.

    So to sum up:
    Cause is just because. As in: this happened because… A side note that this can be a real rabbit hole to go down since we can’t always tell the cause. Because might also be before's cause

    Action is the choice you make in the present moment.

    Effect is just what happens afterwards, and also the next cause.

    I hope someone will find this helpful.

    May you be free from suffering.
    Jordan
    Be safe, Gassho
    Jordan

  6. #6
    Here is a little tidbit on karma that I found a while back. It stuck with me after I read it.

    http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/karma.htm

  7. #7
    I read the article that you linked to Rev, but I had real trouble getting past something. From the article:


    Either this inequality of mankind has a cause, or it is purely accidental. No sensible person would think of attributing this unevenness, this inequality, and this diversity to blind chance or pure accident.

    In this world nothing happens to a person that he does not for some reason or other deserve.
    This to me is anti-reason; anti-science. it's the sort of thing that gives rise to views like creationism. Anybody who believes in the modern theory of evolution knows that things do happen precisely by accident, and those accidents benefit one species to the detriment of another.

    To say that no 'sensible person' would believe in chance is frankly not sensible to me.

    The law of karma is the law of infinite causation, and we all play a part in it, and we're all responsible for the whole of it, but practically speaking the only thing we can possibly do about karma is to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" right now in this moment.

    Or I could be wrong about that.



    [/quote]

  8. #8
    I didn't write it, so I can't say that it is pro this or anti that. Perhaps the author doesn't have the benefit of a vast knowledge concerning evolution so it never entered his mind that rationalists may have a problem (or just assumed that rationalists would work around it). Honestly, I got a little hung up on that bit at first since that statement and the following paragraphs seem to support the supernatural view of karma. I don't really think it should be a point of contention since it is a view of a different school of thought. Sayadaw takes a different stance later.

    Ven. Sayadaw does offer a very concise and verbally light definition of karma later in the article. "Karma is the law of cause and effect in the ethical realm."

    We could go further with it and get into the mechanics of karma and the relativism of "good" karma and "bad" karma...but I think I'll leave that to the Headmaster.

  9. #9
    Who once was heedless,
    but later is not,
    brightens the world
    like the moon set free from a cloud.

    His evil-done deed
    is replaced with skillfulness:
    he brightens the world
    like the moon set free from a cloud.

    Whatever young monk
    devotes himself
    to the Buddha's bidding:
    he brightens the world
    like the moon set free from a cloud.

    May even my enemies
    hear talk of the Dhamma.
    May even my enemies
    devote themselves
    to the Buddha's bidding.
    May even my enemies
    associate with those people
    who — peaceful, good —
    get others to accept the Dhamma.
    May even my enemies
    hear the Dhamma time & again
    from those who advise endurance,
    forbearance,
    who praise non-opposition,
    and may they follow it.

    For surely he wouldn't harm me,
    or anyone else;
    he would attain the foremost peace,
    would protect the feeble & firm.

    Irrigators guide the water.
    Fletchers shape the arrow shaft.
    Carpenters shape the wood.
    The wise control
    themselves.

    Some tame with a blunt stick,
    with hooks, & with whips
    But without blunt or bladed weapons
    I was tamed by the one who is Such.

    "Doer of No Harm" is my name,
    but I used to be a doer of harm.
    Today I am true to my name,
    for I harm no one at all.

    A bandit
    I used to be,
    renowned as Angulimala.
    Swept along by a great flood,
    I went to the Buddha as refuge.

    Bloody-handed
    I used to be,
    renowned as Angulimala.
    See my going for refuge!
    Uprooted is [craving],
    the guide to becoming.

    Having done the type of kamma
    that would lead to many
    bad destinations,
    touched by the fruit of [that] kamma,
    unindebted, I eat my food.

    They're addicted to heedlessness
    — dullards, fools —
    while one who is wise
    cherishes heedfulness
    as his highest wealth.

    Don't give way to heedlessness
    or to intimacy
    with sensual delight —
    for a heedful person,
    absorbed in jhana,
    attains an abundant bliss.

    This has come well & not gone away,
    it was not badly thought through for me.
    From among well-analyzed qualities,
    I have obtained
    the best.

    This has come well & not gone away,
    it was not badly thought through for me.
    The three knowledges
    have been attained;
    the Buddha's bidding,
    done.

    ~Angulimala the bandit

  10. #10
    Always got the good stuff Paige. *thumbs up*

  11. #11
    It's funny, because I'm new to Dogen, but when I hear Jundo describing Dogen's beliefs about certain things, it sounds like he's talking about quantum theory. In the quantum world things can be this way and that way even though we might think of those two states as being mutually exclusive. Light is both particle and wave at the same time, yet neither. Although it gets even funkier, because if we're talking about cause and effect, the normal order doesn't always apply at the level of quantum reality. Cause may come before effect, effect may come before cause.

    I think I just gave myself a headache.

  12. #12
    I think that the concept of Karma is very complex in the Buddhist world. I know that in Vajrayana Buddhism, the concept is not purely cause and effect. I believe that Karma is an attempt to explain why good people suffer. (i.e.,Negative karma left over from past lives)

    The Angulimala story http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angulimala is an early Buddhist story that talks about redemption (or the mediation of bad Karma) in a single lifetime. This theme has been present in Buddhism from very early on.

    Of course, all this doesn't really help Kvon. I think that it is important to let go of the past as much as possible; to not agonize too much about the future and to do our very best in the now. Zazen has helped me in this.

    Good luck,

    Gassho,

    Linda

  13. #13
    From lindabeekeeper:

    I know that in Vajrayana Buddhism, the concept is not purely cause and effect. I believe that Karma is an attempt to explain why good people suffer.
    From Kvon:

    Is there ever anough good a person can do to shift the karmic balance after what happens in war? Is it possible that the feeling that nothing would be "good enough" to tilt the scales simply proof that the tilt has already begun?
    I'm just curious. What is the Soto view of "good." Is anything really good? Or bad for that matter? If everything is just as it is, perfectly as it is, then nothing can be either good or bad. Though certainly someone can perceive a thing as being good or bad, and someone else might perceive that thing as being just the opposite.

    Even war, as horrifying as it is to anyone experiencing it, can't be said to be bad or good necessarily, can it? War has given rise to this moment. Without war I wouldn't be sitting where I am, writing this on the internet, which also would not exist without war.

    And terms like the 'balance of karma' or 'karmic debt' are as ineffable as talking about God. They're merely empty shells with no intrinsic meaning. It seems that all we know; all we can know is that things are as they are, and that we must each act anew in this moment now. We are not defined by our past actions, nor can we make up for past "bad" or "wrong" actions done by us or others with new actions that we perceive as "good" or "right."

    This, of course, is only my perception.

  14. #14
    Thank you all for your replies... reading a lot, putting together a little, probably use all. Thanks!

  15. #15
    As long as there are ordinary people and Buddhas in the world, there will be suffering. A Buddha doesn't need to worry about Kamma because a Buddha has stopped all Kamma and views of Kamma. However, the world is full of dellusion and those that suffer with a limited view are caught in the middle of good and bad, right and wrong and Karmic results.

    Gassho Will

  16. #16
    I think that a lot of guilt and remorse is really a way of trying to keep the past alive. That the reason I keep re-playing events and agonising over what I did or didn't do is that part of me still hasn't really accepted that I can't go back and change it. Forgiveness means giving up all hope of having a better past.

    If I've planted beans in the Spring, then I won't harvest melons in the Fall, that's all there is to it. But that's OK. I messed up, and things didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped. So what next? Dig into the dirt, but not too deeply. Then, plant new seeds.

  17. #17

  18. #18
    Hi Harry,

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Isn't 'karma'/ 'kamma' etc just a simple explanation of the universal law of cause and effect?
    Well, it's certainly related, but it's not that. Kamma/karma is volition which manifests itself as an action by means of body, speech or mind and is conditioned by the presence or absence of greed, hate and delusion. It's not a physical law.

    Gassho
    Ken

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    Hi Kenneth,

    I didn't mean to suggest that it was just a physical law, our condition proves that the universe is not just a physical place (to my mind :-) ).
    Yes, absolutely.

    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    But can't the concept be applied to every phenomena?
    Nope, not if that concept is to be referred to as karma. Let me try to give an example. Take for instance the Tsunami which cost hundreds of thousands of lives in southeast Asia a few years ago. Were all those people killed and injured just victims of their own 'bad karma'? No, of course not! That was a phenomena which had nothing to do with karma. However, how the survivors reacted to that catastrophe had very much to do with karma. Did they do their best to help others in need? Did they turn to burglary or somehow try to take advantage of the situation at the costs of others? That's karma, their intentional (re-)actions based upon that specific (physical) situation. The karma produced in that situation, the karma produced as a reaction to that and to that and to that and so on and so forth, whether good or bad, will contiunue to affect the lives of those inhabitants for generations to come. It's not cause and effect in a physical sense, but there's nothing mystical or esoteric about it either, neither does it require the concept of reincarnation to be understood.

    Gassho
    Ken

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by HezB
    The quite popular idea of a karma organized universe seems flimsy.
    Yep, as are so many popular ideas about it...

    Gassho
    Ken

  21. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenneth

    Nope, not if that concept is to be referred to as karma. Let me try to give an example. Take for instance the Tsunami which cost hundreds of thousands of lives in southeast Asia a few years ago. Were all those people killed and injured just victims of their own 'bad karma'? No, of course not! That was a phenomena which had nothing to do with karma. However, how the survivors reacted to that catastrophe had very much to do with karma. Did they do their best to help others in need? Did they turn to burglary or somehow try to take advantage of the situation at the costs of others? That's karma, their intentional (re-)actions based upon that specific (physical) situation. The karma produced in that situation, the karma produced as a reaction to that and to that and to that and so on and so forth, whether good or bad, will contiunue to affect the lives of those inhabitants for generations to come. It's not cause and effect in a physical sense, but there's nothing mystical or esoteric about it either, neither does it require the concept of reincarnation to be understood.

    Gassho
    Ken
    This is wonderfully said, Ken. It is one good way to look at Karma and I can see it.

    Yet, of course, in many traditional forms of Buddhism: Tsunami = Victimes paying a Karmic debt from past lives. I cannot see that so easily.

    Gassho, Jundo

  22. #22
    Hi Jundo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Yet, of course, in many traditional forms of Buddhism: Tsunami = Victimes paying a Karmic debt from past lives. I cannot see that so easily.
    No, I can't see that either. That has lots of ugly implications and is a rather naive but dangerous misinterpretation of the Dharma.

    Gassho
    Ken

  23. #23
    Kvon.

    Might I add that you should trust your practice. Don't worry too much about Karma. If you understand it then you do. If you don't then you don't. Trust in your practice and your Zazen. If you do this with all your heart and sit when you really don't want to. When you want to sleep, when your head hurts, when you can't stop quivering and crying, when you are so full of anger and tension you are going to explode, when your happy and feel good. Sit. Just do it. Sometimes it is sooo hard. I know. But if you do this, the only thing I can see is benefit. So don't worry about Karma. Also like Jundo said in different words: we are capable of anything, so it is important to remember that. To know where the trouble begins.

    Zazen is deep. It will go deeper than anything we could possibly imagine.

    Take Care

    Gassho Will

  24. #24
    Karma is cause and effect in action. But karma is often presented as a sort of bank account or balance sheet. In an interdependent world with everything acting on everything else simultaneously, I wouldn’t want to be a karma accountant.

    I agree with an earlier post that suggested karma is both individual and collective. We are part of a dynamic system that responds to so many factors that we are not even aware of.

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