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Thread: Karma survey...

  1. #1

    Karma survey...

    Hello everyone,

    I wanted to get everyone's opinion on Karma. For some time now, I've heard people in many different traditions speak about karma, but what does it really mean? Some have said that karma is your past life deeds catching up with you, while others have said that if you consciously commit wrongs in this life without attempting to better yourself, then you'll need to answer for the karma in the here and now. I bring this up because I've heard some people (Buddhists and Non-Buddhist alike) speak about the tragedies that we all have witnessed in the last few years. We have leaders from Christian views that believe these horrible global disasters are a pack with the devil, or that September 11 was a punishment by God for people being homosexual. From the Buddhist thought, some have said that these tragedies are because of some collective karma by everyone impacted by these disasters. For example, the earthquake in Haiti happened because the populous had negative karma as a whole, so the disaster was a way of "punishing" (lack of a better word) those misdeeds. I don't really believe this to be the case, but I really wanted to get more of an explanation on karma and what everyone in the sangha believes. I for one think that karma is real, but only impacts your current life. If you do bad now, bad things will happen to you now. However, if past lives do exist, then I would have to still believe that karma only impacts our lives now. If my life is being impacted by my past life karma now, then am I not a slave to karma? I believe that if past lives do exists and we are on this earth again because of our choices in a former life, then wouldn't that be like getting a second (third, fourth, etc.) chance to do right in this life? Thank you everyone, and I look forward to reading your replies.

    Gassho,

    Adam

  2. #2

    Re: Karma survey...

    Hi Adam,

    I would like to toss in a post (a LONG post) on this subject, in a series I write from time to time on "the BIG questions". I hope it offers some fruit for thought (and silence) on some of these issues ...

    viewtopic.php?p=17953#p17953

    I hope we can talk about it some more too, and that others in the Sangha will offer their perspectives.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Karma survey...

    Hiyas
    Im a bit of a simple (ton) guy and i always thought of karma like this:




    If your not familiar with the work above its an exaggeration of the events rippling out from one seemingly innocuous event (read it to the kids at
    bed time).

    That said I also believe we are not to live in fear of, or in search of, ways to generate karma - example... you got your foot ran over because you stole some shoes.... hmm maybe, or maybe- you got your foot run over because you got your foot run over (inattention? bad driver? both?) - the bad karma there is the shop owner perhaps loosing his cool with a clerk over it and the clerk then mouths off.. gets written up, goes home and is pissy with their significant other.... Same coin shinier side... oooh if i help that old lady cross the street ill GET good karma...lol okay but ... dont expect a cheque in the mail. that kinda my own take on things

    Gassho
    Shohei

  4. #4
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Karma survey...

    Hello all,

    Hi Adam - in my limited understanding and experience, I do believe in Karma - I'm from the what goes around, comes around school. If you do harm continuosly and put negative thoughts, actions, words out there - then it will come back to you. I do believe that. If you do your best, are compassionate, loving, kind and hardworking - then good things will come from them too.

    But like Shohei, I don't believe in trying to 'create' good karma. Which is sometimes harder than it sounds. I'm sure alot of us have done things with the idea of "well, I did my good deed for the day". I know I've been there, and then I get mad at myself for thinking that way. :wink:

    This may not be as deep as what you were looking for, but it's my take on things.

    Gassho,
    Kelly-Jinmei

  5. #5

    Re: Karma survey...

    My simple view of karma is that it is cause and effect. In our present state of having a body-mind it's easy to see this. For example, I just went for a long walk in the snow and now my legs are tired, I'm hungry, my lungs and heart are stronger and on and on. Now, since this makes so much sense in our present state why not use it to explain past 'lives'. Need to meditate on that. It's kind of a don't know thing. something about one/many, universal substance. more later, maybe.
    /Rich

  6. #6

    Re: Karma survey...

    Hi.

    About "good" vs "bad" karma, ponder the following.
    A big rock lies on a narrow mountainpath blocking all passage.
    A guy comes along, picks it up and throws it away, clearing the path.
    The stone he threw away landed on a village at the foot of the mountain, killing a lot of people.
    What was good karma/bad karma? (Other variations to the story is around, but you get the picture...)

    I don't think you can create good/bad karma.
    You just create an "action", if it's good or bad is up to what happens next...
    I also believe that the belief in good/bad karma is a way to regulate people (especially in a religion where there is no bearded man who can "smite you down with with great vengeance and furious anger" (Ezekiel 25:17)).
    It has it's usages.

    Now, karma, i wrote this a while back.
    I once got asked if it matters if we do or not do.
    I would say it matters, sometimes much, sometimes little.

    When doing this, this happens.
    When doing that, that happens.
    other than that, I don't know.
    And i don't really think it matters.
    What matters is that you try ("beyond trying") to see and do what's right.
    http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/w ... s-now.html

    Thats about it really, it's not about what you think will happen/benefits for you, it's about doing the right thing at the right moment...

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  7. #7
    Senior Member KellyRok's Avatar
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    Re: Karma survey...

    hello all,

    Rich and Fugen - very good points you both brought up. I do see Karma as a cause and effect and agree with you both.

    Fugen - Thank you for your teaching - so clear you make your point.

    Gassho,
    Kelly-Jinmei

  8. #8
    Senior Member Martin's Avatar
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    Re: Karma survey...

    I tend to agree with Rich, karma is cause and effect. Our life is the intersection/manifestation of limitless cause and effect/karma with/in the present moment.

    Gassho

    Martin

  9. #9

    Re: Karma survey...

    Hello,

    I would like to thank everyone that has replied so far, and I'm glad to see that so many have. Well, I agree with many of the posts. We cannot "buy" good karma. We cannot intentionally do right in hopes of getting something good out of it, because that in and of itself is committing an act with wrong intention. I agree with the older post that Jundo has supplied in his reply. We do create our own heaven and hells in this life, and it doesn't matter if there are past or future lives. We are here NOW and we need to try our best to do good. Not to achieve some sort of reward, but rather, to be helpful and compassionate for the sake of being helpful and compassionate. I truly believe that what we do now is what matters. Thank everyone again for the replies.

    Gassho,

    Adam

  10. #10
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Karma survey...

    grr original post accidently deleted by pressing of key...to me that is karma. I was not paying much attention, clicked wrong key..effect was that post was wiped.

    I do believe in past lives myself. Something about it has always "hit home" with me. But that being said i think it's kind of an irrelevant point. Does the source of my karma matter? or just that x occurred and now y is going on because of it.

    I see it as many inter-woven, inter-penetrating levels of cause and effect.

    Shonin _/_

  11. #11
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Karma survey...

    The funny thing about reality is that it doesn't really care what you believe.

    Now try to figure out if that's a pro-karma or anti-karma view. LOL!

    (het

  12. #12

    Re: Karma survey...

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    The funny thing about reality is that it doesn't really care what you believe.

    Now try to figure out if that's a pro-karma or anti-karma view. LOL!

    (het
    That's true but I still need some good structure like buddhist thinking to keep me on the path of being present for reality. Dropping thinking is good practice but there is a time for thinking just as there is a time for the sun to rise. Which brings me back to past lives (the ones before you were born) . This might be the same as before thinking but I just don't know. I believe that all the karma or cause and effect from beginingless time has put me right here, right now and my job is to accept and make peace with this. If someone needs to literally believe in past and future lives that's OK too. Whatever gets you thru the night.

    /Rich

  13. #13
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Karma survey...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rich
    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    The funny thing about reality is that it doesn't really care what you believe.

    Now try to figure out if that's a pro-karma or anti-karma view. LOL!

    (het
    That's true but I still need some good structure like buddhist thinking to keep me on the path of being present for reality. Dropping thinking is good practice but there is a time for thinking just as there is a time for the sun to rise. Which brings me back to past lives (the ones before you were born) . This might be the same as before thinking but I just don't know. I believe that all the karma or cause and effect from beginingless time has put me right here, right now and my job is to accept and make peace with this. If someone needs to literally believe in past and future lives that's OK too. Whatever gets you thru the night.

    /Rich
    Shockingly little is actually required to get one through the night! You'd be surprised!

    But I'm not knocking on ya. Personally, I actually do have inklings of faith re: karma. Either way though, you are where you are and you deal with the facts on the ground, so to speak.

    IMHO.

    (het

  14. #14

    Re: Karma survey...

    Hello Folks,

    according to my arguably limited understanding of Karma (which just means action), the Pali sources and most Mahayana texts and commentaries I've come across all seem to agree, that Karma does not equal cause and effect as such. Volitional action is needed. Intention is needed to create Karma. I won't bore you or myself with all the different kinds of Karma mentioned in the Abidharma works, suffice it to say that non volitional actions may well lead to very painful consequences, but these consequences fall more under the "shit happens" category than anything else and are not per se Karma.

    Leaving all the doctrinal stuff aside for a moment, I personally "trust" in the teachings of Karma, whether these teachings have to have a 100% correlation with the workings of the universe I cannot know, but I do know that I "trust" the map of the London underground when I want to get somewhere, though the map is just a very useful approximation of the complicated reality of tunnels, crossings etc.


    Gassho,

    Hans

  15. #15

    Re: Karma survey...

    Quote Originally Posted by Fugen
    Hi.

    About "good" vs "bad" karma, ponder the following.
    A big rock lies on a narrow mountainpath blocking all passage.
    A guy comes along, picks it up and throws it away, clearing the path.
    The stone he threw away landed on a village at the foot of the mountain, killing a lot of people.
    What was good karma/bad karma? (Other variations to the story is around, but you get the picture...)
    In my view,

    intention is everything in Buddhism, unlike in Jainism. The guy clearing the path, wanting to help others, performed good karma (or neutral, if he just threw the rock because he felt like it). Unintentionally, someone was killed. The consequences of your actions can be good or bad, but the karmic effect is affected by your own intention.

    It's the same as with accidentally swallowing a bug, or stepping on a snail. It's not bad karma because it wasn't your intention to kill the bug/snail, it was just an unfortunate consequence.

    It's the same with vegetarianism. Living beings are killed when harvesting beans and what not, but the vegetarian's intention is not to kill any being. That's just an unfortunate consequence.

    Intention is everything.

    "Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect. / Nibbedhika Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit....063.than.html


    EDIT: Hans beat me to it!

  16. #16

    Re: Karma survey...

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Quote Originally Posted by Fugen
    Hi.

    About "good" vs "bad" karma, ponder the following.
    A big rock lies on a narrow mountainpath blocking all passage.
    A guy comes along, picks it up and throws it away, clearing the path.
    The stone he threw away landed on a village at the foot of the mountain, killing a lot of people.
    What was good karma/bad karma? (Other variations to the story is around, but you get the picture...)
    In my view,

    intention is everything in Buddhism, unlike in Jainism. The guy clearing the path, wanting to help others, performed good karma (or neutral, if he just threw the rock because he felt like it). Unintentionally, someone was killed. The consequences of your actions can be good or bad, but the karmic effect is affected by your own intention.

    It's the same as with accidentally swallowing a bug, or stepping on a snail. It's not bad karma because it wasn't your intention to kill the bug/snail, it was just an unfortunate consequence.

    It's the same with vegetarianism. Living beings are killed when harvesting beans and what not, but the vegetarian's intention is not to kill any being. That's just an unfortunate consequence.

    Intention is everything.

    "Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect. / Nibbedhika Sutta http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipit....063.than.html


    EDIT: Hans beat me to it!
    Hi.

    Yes, intention is the key.

    Karma is just action.
    The good/bad i see more as two sides of the coin as something happened.
    Whether good/bad is up to the ones affected by it, and what they deem to be good/bad.

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

  17. #17

    Re: Karma survey...

    A friend of mine many years ago liked to say "you make your own reality". She wasn't a Buddhist, but every time the topic of karma comes up I think of her.

    I find karma to be a helpful principle on the whole, personally, but one thing that seems inadvisable is to use it to retroactively explain things that have happened to others. We're not Buddhas (yet) and none of us can really know much about the complex intersection of causes and conditions which led to someone's life playing out in a certain way. Better, I think, to keep it in mind when making present-time choices. Not so much a question of seeking to "create" good karma or living in fear of its opposite. More about being aware of moral causality -- if I make choice A, result B may follow...and is B what I want?

    Just my two cents.

    Gassho,

    Rob

  18. #18

    Re: Karma survey...

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans
    Hello Folks,

    according to my arguably limited understanding of Karma (which just means action), the Pali sources and most Mahayana texts and commentaries I've come across all seem to agree, that Karma does not equal cause and effect as such. Volitional action is needed. Intention is needed to create Karma. I won't bore you or myself with all the different kinds of Karma mentioned in the Abidharma works, suffice it to say that non volitional actions may well lead to very painful consequences, but these consequences fall more under the "shit happens" category than anything else and are not per se Karma.

    Leaving all the doctrinal stuff aside for a moment, I personally "trust" in the teachings of Karma, whether these teachings have to have a 100% correlation with the workings of the universe I cannot know, but I do know that I "trust" the map of the London underground when I want to get somewhere, though the map is just a very useful approximation of the complicated reality of tunnels, crossings etc.


    Gassho,

    Hans
    Good point, Hans. Intention brings it to personal level. For me, this intent is trying to be present for the moment, the will to be present, the letting go of thoughts and feelings, trying to just do it. Without the will to the truth, you will be led around by your strong habits of greed, anger and ignorance. To certain situations you will react with anger, to others greed etc. If you have a dog mind, you will become a dog. But the question raised by Adam, does this karma carry over from past, to present, to future lives? I think yes, at least in the past, present and future lives of this life, The most important thing is we can change it right now if we just keep trying, just keep practicing.
    /Rich

  19. #19

    Re: Karma survey...

    Hi all, I'm back from about 10 days on the road.

    When I think about "karma" and all,

    • This universe is causal except at the subtlest levels, but the subtlest levels are beyond time and space and "mind". A physical parallel is quantum vacuum. It fizzes with creative potential, and anything might pop into being, but as they do they are subject to what we would consider normal physical laws. Similarly the universe fizzes with manifestation at the subtlest levels and that manifestation becomes input into the cause-and-effect, space-and-time universe.
    • Causality leads things to appear to be substantial. There are interweaving cause-and-effect chains. Multiple causes can lead to a particular effect or a particular cause can have multiple effects, and there are cause-and-effect cycles that regenerate themselves. All of this gives the appearance of sustained things -- like "ganglia" in the mesh of cause-and-effect flows.
    • Cause-and-effect flows can be very complex and not obvious.
    • Interweaving cause-and-effect flows can and will include things that you feel are part of "you" (they may include some things you consider you and some you don't, but in any case sometimes the primary cause-and-effect components are in what you call "you"). They might be like Jungian "complexes", but I never understood what those are.
    • So far everything above is true of rocks, moss, ants and humans. What's different about humans seems to be self-awareness. I don't know where that came from but it means that you can enhance or dissolve complexes. Much of "your" interaction with the mesh of cause-and-effect flows is with external phenomena. If a complex is primarily based "inside" of "you", it could be due to your past responses to externally originating flows leading to the formation of relatively tight cycles.


    So, as far as I interpret what I've heard, "karma" is all those cause-and-effect flows going through your experience. There can be "environmental" karma, genetic karma, and self-generated karma, which is the interesting one -- causal cycles that are particularly associated with "you" due to past responses generated in "you". But forget about guilt, that's not the point. All of those flows going through your experience are yours to do with as you will. Karma is an opportunity. "You" can add to it all or you can ease the burden on yourself and -- since anything you emit is someone else's experience, on all levels -- ease the burden for others as well. Every response you make, in every microsecond, to everything going on outside and inside of "you" (that boundary doesn't matter), is a chance for a gift to the universe.

    IMHO, FWIW.

    Gassho ... Scott

  20. #20

    Re: Karma survey...

    I am also in the "cause and effect" camp, but I'm not completely sold on past/future lives...

    Hey, there's my first post here....so I'll also say "hello."

  21. #21

    Re: Karma survey...

    I would have to agree that karma is a "cause and effect" type of occurrence, and that intent is what drives it. Shakyamuni Buddha, in his Dhammapada, said "With our thoughts, we make the world", much like Ghandi's "We must be the change we wish to see in the world". Both statements point to one thing. Your intent, the driving force behind your action, determines the action, and therefore determines its effect on the world. This can also be seen in non-Buddhist law, where a person who is killed accidentally and a person who is killed with intent is the difference between murder and manslaughter. Karma, I feel, has gotten so much mysticism around it that we forget that it boils down to "if I hit my hand with this hammer, it will hurt." That being said, there is still room for delusion to completely derail the train of intent, I'm not 100% on this but I think that people like Mao and Pol Pot probably actually thought that they were doing what was necessary at some level. Which is where the idea of buddha nature or "essential nature" comes into play, whereby we divest ourselves of these delusions and (for lack of a better word) "see" the true nature and reality of what is positive and negative, helpful and hurtful. As for past lives, I don't know what I think about that quite yet. I think you'd have to do some pretty messed up stuff (like Mao and Pol Pot) for it to continue to color your future existence, regardless of your present intent and works.

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