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Thread: Karma

  1. #1

    Karma

    The great teacher Daido Loori indicated quite often that he regarded reincarnation as doubtful, and from his viewpoint somewhat irrelevant. From where I stand, the whole possibility of karma operating as an inexorable law of cause and effect is self-evidently, utterly and completely false unless there is reincarnation. Why? Well, is it not eminently clear to anyone with eyes that in this life, many millions of people who do very bad shit - again and again and again - thrive; while many millions who live wonderfully compassionate and generous lives suffer endlessly? So, no reincarnation, no karma. If the doers of bad shit so obviously don't get their recompense here and now, where do they get it? Without reincarnation, they don't, or at least, they can't. When I ask about this matter in the sanghas I visit, the sound of brooms sweeping dirt under the carpet is heard loud and clear. Or I am given evasive bollocks about taking this contradiction as a koan. I recall the words of a feminist practitioner who tried to ask about the suppression of women in Zen only to be told by her male teacher "We're all women here" or words to that effect. She got pissed and wrote "Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters". If I had the talent and learning, I'd write a little book called "Karma and Reincarnation: You Can't Have One Without The Other". Instead, I'd like to hear from any one of the millions of practitioners who understand more than I ever will about the dharma, and who can shed light on this problem. Thanks.

  2. #2

    Re: Karma

    check out this link from our forum

    viewtopic.php?p=17953#p17953

    it deals with Karma

    see if that can answer you questions

    Gassho

    Rafael/Seiry?

  3. #3

    Re: Karma

    That's a pretty interesting question, David. It seems the thread given by Seiry? covers it.. and embedded within Jundo's message is a link wherein there's a passage "I see many people doing evil things .. and living a good life, while there are ..very religious .. struck down by a terrible disease. How do you explain this?"

    http://www.londonbuddhistvihara.org/qa/ ... #qa_kamma4

    It suggests that without clarity in our view, and what could be taken as complete visibility to all workings, that seeing the impacts of karma on an individual isn't going to happen. E.g. you may not see the karmic influences on the people doing all the bad shit.. just the same as if you see someone born with a terrible disease, you don't see the influences leading up to that.. and in either case, it doesn't mean we should relish or await the 'bad' consequence on the evildoer or lack compassion on the ill since its 'his karma'. In so doing, we sow are own seeds. And as Jundo's message also tackles, reincarnation and rebirth are different.. to be reborn or reincarnate indicates some self or permanence beyond who we are now, when who are now changes itself from moment to moment.

    I often get hung up on questions like this and many others - just last week or so posting a debate on whether life is 'fair'. Then later I laugh at myself because my most immediate need is right now and clarity.. to tame my own mind and views.. and so I think until I'm able to see clearly, not get caught up in dualisms, to cultivate consistent mindfulness, I have nothing more immediate. Best wishes...

    _/_ Nate

  4. #4

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by David Hallam
    The great teacher Daido Loori indicated quite often that he regarded reincarnation as doubtful, and from his viewpoint somewhat irrelevant. From where I stand, the whole possibility of karma operating as an inexorable law of cause and effect is self-evidently, utterly and completely false unless there is reincarnation. Why? Well, is it not eminently clear to anyone with eyes that in this life, many millions of people who do very bad shit - again and again and again - thrive; while many millions who live wonderfully compassionate and generous lives suffer endlessly? So, no reincarnation, no karma. If the doers of bad shit so obviously don't get their recompense here and now, where do they get it? Without reincarnation, they don't, or at least, they can't. When I ask about this matter in the sanghas I visit, the sound of brooms sweeping dirt under the carpet is heard loud and clear. Or I am given evasive bollocks about taking this contradiction as a koan. I recall the words of a feminist practitioner who tried to ask about the suppression of women in Zen only to be told by her male teacher "We're all women here" or words to that effect. She got pissed and wrote "Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters". If I had the talent and learning, I'd write a little book called "Karma and Reincarnation: You Can't Have One Without The Other". Instead, I'd like to hear from any one of the millions of practitioners who understand more than I ever will about the dharma, and who can shed light on this problem. Thanks.
    Hi David,

    As the cited essay I wrote describes ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiry?
    check out this link from our forum

    viewtopic.php?p=17953#p17953

    it deals with Karma

    see if that can answer you questions
    ... I call myself an "open minded skeptic" who tends to doubt overly literal, mechanical images of rebirth. Anyway, it is not central to my practice here and now, for I believe that people create very real "heavens and hells" for themselves and those around them in this world, through their actions in this world. If you act now through constant greed, anger, attachments ... well, you may have a million bucks in the bank, but I am sure that you are not content much (not in a good way, anyway).

    But Dogen Zenji offered a very simple answer to why it looks like "bad things happen to good people in this life." (It is in the Shobogenzo Section, "Deep Belief in Cause and Effect", if I recall). He tended to be rather more traditional in his views on rebirth and future lives. Basically, he said ... folks may look like they are doing well (financially, for example) in this life now although doing bad, but some "effects" don't play out until next life, or the lives after that. On the other hand, they may be doing bad now, yet they may have done good in a past life ... so that is why they have some good effects now. In the end, everyone get's their just desserts.

    One of the first talks I ever gave at Treeleaf a few years ago was after the great Tsunami, about perspectives on bad things to good people and our response ...

    http://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/with ... tance.html

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: Karma

    I think Buddha said there is no permanent self or atman so reincarnation is a mute point. I don't believe there is any philosophical requirement in order to practice zazen. Over time ideas align with experience. too much thinking about stuff like this is pointless and unnecessary. Actions create effects but we don't have know about every little one. Don't know is enough.

    Just thinking.

  6. #6
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Karma

    Thank you for this Rich. A voice arises from the field of experience. Thank you again.


    gassho

    Taigu

  7. #7

    Re: Karma

    I think when we focus too much on rebirth, it makes our motivation a little selfish. To westernize the idea, I'm thinking of my aunt, who was something of a wild woman and had a terrible temper, but now that she's older, attends Mass daily and approaches the world with a saccharine smile. She has said before that she's trying to get into heaven. (She takes Catholic doctrine VERY seriously and VERY literally.) My thinking is that while that's all well and good, it means that her "niceness" and "piety" are born of purely selfish motive, and it makes it hard to see as her giving and kindness as being for anyone but herself.
    If I, as a Buddhist, am behaving in a certain way with the motive of attaining a good rebirth, then the boddhisattva Vows I've taken are a lie, aren't they? I'm not out to "free all beings," I'm looking to get myself a cooshy next life!
    I just figure I am who I am, I've done what I've done, and where I am right here, right now is what matters. Karma will take care of Karma - and will, in the end, be its own absolute truth and right- without my help.

  8. #8
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Karma

    In my experience, the "problem" lies in the "wheres" and "hows." Where do we look to see karma-vipaka taking action? How do we think it works?

    Of all the Buddha's teachings, I found the twelvefold chain of Dependent Co-Arising the most impenetrable. It made absolutely no sense at all, the order in which one chain was said to link to the next. Ignorance and perception happen before birth? WTF? I puzzled over it, wrote out diagrams, and just couldn't get it. Very frustrating.

    It wasn't until I read Steve Hagen's explanation of the twelvefold chain in Buddhism Plain and Simple that I got it. Suddenly, it all made sense. Perfect, beautiful sense.

    I had originally read the twelvefold chain as sort of a 'metaphysical-worldly' unfolding. But Hagen presented it in the context of Mind--of conscious experience. The twelvefold chain is not how mountains and stars form--it is how the human world forms. The human world as we experience it, through the perceptions of our mind. It starts with ignorance because it is our ignorance of mind as mind that keeps us taking our thoughts and views of the world as the reality of the world.

    Think about karma in terms of mind. There is no deity or personality behind karma, so our ideas of it as some sort of cosmic punishment and reward system are hopelessly misplaced. The world is not fair, in the sense that people that steal don't always get the money they stole taken away from them. Immoral people live lives of wealth and luxury. Good people suffer misfortunes they don't "deserve." Trust me, I've seen it all even just in the context of my family.

    BUT... this sphere, this outward material sphere, is not where karma unfolds. Karma unfolds in the subjective sphere. The way the Buddha taught karma, it was about what we do with our minds. Thinking and reacting in a certain way creates a mental "groove" that we get stuck in. The way we think creates our world. Not in some magic, "The Secret" sense. But in the sense that our mind dramatically shapes how we experience the world.

    People that live their lives violently, live in a subjective world of violence. The "karma" of violence is not that if you shoot someone, then someone shoots you--though it often happens that way--it's that you live in the mental abode of violence. The abode of violence is a paranoid place, fearful, edgy, aggressive. There's no place to relax and feel at peace. If you ever watched the TV show The Sopranos, the show creators did this tremendously well--showing that no matter how much opulence and luxury Tony Soprano enjoyed, his life was hellish, he was always looking over his shoulder, always having to assert his power.

    If you are a thief, whether by stealing in the grossest sense or in the corporate sense of taking more money and resources than you need at the expense of destroying the environment and hoodwinking honest people, you live in a thirsty, fast-paced, hungry world, where you're always obsessed with getting more. You might get to keep everything you steal and never get called to "justice," but you never get to fully enjoy it, because the very mind that accumulates material wealth is incapable of stopping and enjoying it.

    And so on... I think this is very important because it gets at the heart of what the Buddha's teaching was all about. Which is that we look to the wrong place for answers and for happiness. We look to the world outside, not to the thinking that makes that world seem a certain way. We believe our thoughts and don't look to the thinker. As long as we keep looking outside ourselves, we stay stuck in the same repetitive cycle of dissatisfaction. The Buddha's revolutionary insight was that we can stop this cycle of frustration and dissatisfaction by placing our attention correctly. This means not automatically believing our thoughts or getting caught up in the content of our minds.

    One of my favorite Zen koans is the "fox koan," which basically boils down to a question about karma and reincarnation. The question is, does waking up mean we are freed from karma? The person that answers that waking up means we are no longer affected by karma, who says that we transcend cause and effect when we wake up, spends 500 lives as a fox! The wiser person says we do not transcend cause and effect, but we see cause and effect. At any time, we can see what we are doing and the crazy things we are playing out inside our heads, and stop.

    "Good karma" doesn't mean that because we handed a beggar a dollar that the prize patrol shows up on our doorstep and hands us a check for $100. It means that an act of true generosity--as opposed to 'generosity' done in hopes for a reward--creates a lightness and freedom, a joy, in our subjective experience. The more generous and kind things we do, the kinder world we live in, subjectively.

  9. #9
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Karma

    "Good karma" doesn't mean that because we handed a beggar a dollar that the prize patrol shows up on our doorstep and hands us a check for $100. It means that an act of true generosity--as opposed to 'generosity' done in hopes for a reward--creates a lightness and freedom, a joy, in our subjective experience. The more generous and kind things we do, the kinder world we live in, subjectively.
    Beautifully put Stephanie.

    A Boddhisattva fully and utterly embraces his fall. No hope. No heaven to be.Destiny? Just this dust to kiss. He-she sees how selfish, vain and stupid he-she is. Dust. And this dust, totally seen as such, is the true land, the very other shore. A shore he doesn't care about, dream about, aim at...A shore that appears to everything that meets his gaze. She-he sees the world as open. And open again.

    A Boddhisattva is the closest thing I know to a clown.

    Opening people's eyes with a bit of dust-dream-clumsy like act.

    Don't expect glory and bliss.

    Dust.

    Just dust.

    gassho

    Taigu

  10. #10

    Re: Karma

    Stephanie, that's probably one of the most lucid and unfettered explanations of karma I've read. This is how I've always thought of karma, but could never explain it this well. I very much agree with your understanding that karma isn't some cosmic justice system, where every good deed is rewarded and vice versa. Rather, you make heaven or hell in your own life with your thoughts and actions.

    Cheers,
    Matt

  11. #11

    Re: Karma

    Hello Stephanie,


    great post. In this context I am reminded of the Buddha holding a handful of leaves in his hands, representing the teachings he was giving us, as opposed to the uncountable leaves of the forest behind him (which were there but not essential as the marrow of the Dharma he re-discovered).

    All he has given us are tools that can be and have to be applied in the fiery furnace that is our lives...the teachings are road maps that must be traveled through within the context of our own personal experience. That is all he taught, and with this, he taught it ALL.

    Mind you, that doesn't mean that the old Zen ancients or disciples got "karma" wrong and we enlightened westerners got it right. It just means that the Buddhadharma is so deep and diamond like that it reflects light even when turned to a different angle that we might be more able and willing to look at.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  12. #12

    Re: Karma

    Thank you so much for that, Stephanie!

    () josh

  13. #13

    Re: Karma

    Ah, Stephanie ...

    I hope it okay, as I did not want to see this one writing blow away so fast. So, I made it part of the explanation for newcomers on Karma. (At the end of the long post here). Your words are so crystal clear.

    viewtopic.php?f=24&t=1281&p=17953#p17953

    Wonderful. Wonderful.

    Gassho, J

  14. #14
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Karma

    _/_

  15. #15
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Karma

    I'm glad my fingers and brain connected today!

    I kind of feel like a dumbass though, because I feel like the people giving me positive feedback understand what I'm writing about better than I do :lol:

    Nonetheless... gassho!

  16. #16

    Re: Karma

    I think that it's important to remember that karma is more cause and effect than a cosmic balancing system. The old president of Uganda, Idi Amin, was a brutal man. The number of people that died under his rule was in the neighborhood of 100,000 or more. He enjoyed every luxury that one could think of when one rules the entirety of a country, no matter how lavish.

    But his actions got him deposed and exiled. But even if he didn't get deposed or exiled, how did he end up living his life? He became unstable and confused, he became deranged. People left him and those that remained, he knew were there only because they feared him. What must that do to a person, to know that your wife married you because to say "no" was as good as a death sentence for her? The absence of love, trust, friendship, caring, eventually even the departure from reality to the point he thought he was the last king of Scotland. Is it fair? Does that make things "Even-Steven"? No, not really, but then karma isn't a set of metaphysical scales trying to make everything square. It is simple cause and effect, but it doesn't simply stop at the physical world, or rather the world that can be objectively measured. Those that do all the "bad shit" have to live with it. Even with good intentions that's hard. One of my best friends, a US soldier, has been in every major conflict since 1997. He's a Purple Heart recipient, and has medals for bravery. He joined with the idea of defending the freedoms of Americans. He wakes up at night, sometimes screaming, the memories of the men whose lives he had to take (or loose his own) haunting him. Is that "right"? Or deserved? No, not in my mind, but then karma isn't making sure people get what they deserve. It is the result of the actions he took, well intentioned, good, bad, indifferent, survivalist, pragmatic or what have you.

    You might not always end up "balancing the ledger" in the eyes of the world, but good or bad you will never escape the karma of your actions.

  17. #17

    Re: Karma

    Great speech! Thank you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    It starts with ignorance because it is our ignorance of mind as mind that keeps us taking our thoughts and views of the world as the reality of the world.


    BUT... this sphere, this outward material sphere, is not where karma unfolds. Karma unfolds in the subjective sphere. The way the Buddha taught karma, it was about what we do with our minds. Thinking and reacting in a certain way creates a mental "groove" that we get stuck in. The way we think creates our world. Not in some magic, "The Secret" sense. But in the sense that our mind dramatically shapes how we experience the world.


    And so on... I think this is very important because it gets at the heart of what the Buddha's teaching was all about. Which is that we look to the wrong place for answers and for happiness. We look to the world outside, not to the thinking that makes that world seem a certain way. We believe our thoughts and don't look to the thinker. As long as we keep looking outside ourselves, we stay stuck in the same repetitive cycle of dissatisfaction. The Buddha's revolutionary insight was that we can stop this cycle of frustration and dissatisfaction by placing our attention correctly. This means not automatically believing our thoughts or getting caught up in the content of our minds.

    One of my favorite Zen koans is the "fox koan," which basically boils down to a question about karma and reincarnation. The question is, does waking up mean we are freed from karma? The person that answers that waking up means we are no longer affected by karma, who says that we transcend cause and effect when we wake up, spends 500 lives as a fox! The wiser person says we do not transcend cause and effect, but we see cause and effect. At any time, we can see what we are doing and the crazy things we are playing out inside our heads, and stop.
    This takes a lot of practice.

  18. #18

    Re: Karma

    Thank you Stephanie! That really clarified a lot for me.

    Gassho,

    Risho

  19. #19
    Senior Member Shonin's Avatar
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    Re: Karma

    Stephanie, you have far more profound thoughts on many topics than what seeps into my brain. So you shouldn't feel like a dumbass at all.

  20. #20

    Re: Karma

    Stephanie! That was very clear! Thank you for sharing!

    Gassho,

    Jonathan

  21. #21
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Karma

    Agreed! Great post, Stephanie.

    Gassho

    Jennifer

  22. #22

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    It wasn't until I read Steve Hagen's explanation of the twelvefold chain in Buddhism Plain and Simple that I got it. Suddenly, it all made sense. Perfect, beautiful sense.
    Dusting off that book....do your remember the pages where he writes about this subject?

  23. #23

    Re: Karma

    Many thanks to everyone who commented on my post concerning Karma. I'm very grateful, but not convinced. The only comment with which I strongly disagree is the 'get back to meditation and drop this thinking stuff'. The Buddha thought a lot, so I guess I can try to sometimes as well.

    The idea that we can, as it were, read the mind of someone who appears to be very much contented while living a life of nastiness is, I believe, a quite dangerous fiction. No doubt many people who do a lot of nasty stuff are in torment in their heart-minds, maybe even a lot of torment. And no doubt that shows sometimes, in at least some of these people, to the point where we can all see it when we see them. And I imagine there are lots of people who have much greater subtlety of perception than me who can see torment I couldn't in apparently contented people.

    But my experience of people who do nasty stuff - an unfortunately wide experience - is nonetheless that many of them are very clearly contented, even what we call 'well-balanced'. Many of them - if asked - say they are contented, act contented, and believe that their lives are fulfilling and stimulating. Were I to say that they're in some private Hell of the mind that doesn't show, I'd be doing nothing more than speculating rather wildly. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and so on. The manifest and unarguable contentment of these people who do nasty stuff is what I have in mind when I say: No reincarnation, no karma. The fact that karma is the law of cause and effect par excellence happens to mean that effects are sometimes, perhaps even very often, a balancing of the scales, a simulacrum of what we call 'justice'. This does not mean, to me at least, that karma thus has a moral dimension.

    And the fact that the so-called self has no independent existence doesn't mean that it goes poof when breathing stops. Indeed, as I understand some teachings of the vajrayana, the empty self may persist for what is a very long time indeed in human terms; as may the sublimely empty self of such as the first Karmapa. The Fox koan is one of my favorites too, and look how long it took that foxy old master to work off his karma. But if this self and all its works really does go poof when breathing stops, then, given the fact of the many contented nasties I've talked about, karma is as empty as it is. Or not?

  24. #24

    Re: Karma

    brilliant Stephanie that was a wonderful response.

    I always thought of Karma as not something that comes back to us at a certain time, but I think of Karma as this:
    In every moment we are the complete manifestation of all of our previous Karma. which is why one must practice wholeheartedly in the present moment otherwise we will bring ourselves, with our Karmic baggage with us to the next moment.

    When we see that this very moment contains all of the teachings of the Buddha, and that this very moment is the only time period that actually exist, we can be freed from our Karma and become a Buddha at the very instance.

    I think positive and negative Karma are just words and cannot be understood intellectually but they can be experienced.


    *Endless Bow*

    Seiryu

  25. #25

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by David Hallam

    But my experience of people who do nasty stuff - an unfortunately wide experience - is nonetheless that many of them are very clearly contented, even what we call 'well-balanced'. Many of them - if asked - say they are contented, act contented, and believe that their lives are fulfilling and stimulating. Were I to say that they're in some private Hell of the mind that doesn't show, I'd be doing nothing more than speculating rather wildly. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and so on. The manifest and unarguable contentment of these people who do nasty stuff is what I have in mind when I say: No reincarnation, no karma.
    Hi David,

    Well, I don't know. A traditional view would be that people who do nasty stuff volitionally will incur the effects ... if not in this life, then in the next ... or after that. So, being content in this life is not the whole picture.

    I would also argue that people who do "nasty" stuff will tend to be people filled with "nastiness", and not happy campers, even though ... as you say ... there might be exceptions. Sociopaths, for example, may not feel any remorse for their actions or empathy for those who are hurt. In any event, if one wants to taste the fruits of Buddhist Practice ... the peace and and wholeness ... then it is usually much easier to do if one is not killing, pillaging and robbing old ladies.

    Also, harmful actions do have effects for those who are harmed, certainly. And the people harmed, in some Buddhist way, be just the harmer in another guise (I am he and you are he and you are me and we are all together ... I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob 8) )

    Anyway, the best comment I received all week was from a friend who has really had a tough time of late, one thing after another. I wrote him to say that it was such a run of bad events, that maybe, if the traditional Buddhists were right, it was Karma working out ... or something like God and the Devil playing games in the Book of Job ... or just a run of really really bad luck. He wrote me back to say something like, "I've just come to the conclusion that it's not karma or a trial of Job, but instead "just life". Whatever it is, although not the hand I would have wished life to deal me, its ok."

    Gassho, J

  26. #26

    Re: Karma

    But my experience of people who do nasty stuff - an unfortunately wide experience - is nonetheless that many of them are very clearly contented, even what we call 'well-balanced'. Many of them - if asked - say they are contented, act contented, and believe that their lives are fulfilling and stimulating. Were I to say that they're in some private Hell of the mind that doesn't show, I'd be doing nothing more than speculating rather wildly. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and so on. The manifest and unarguable contentment of these people who do nasty stuff is what I have in mind when I say: No reincarnation, no karma. The fact that karma is the law of cause and effect par excellence happens to mean that effects are sometimes, perhaps even very often, a balancing of the scales, a simulacrum of what we call 'justice'. This does not mean, to me at least, that karma thus has a moral dimension.
    I don’t know that I agree with this statement. I, personally, have not gotten into deep discussion with people who do really evil deeds, but I don’t know that (unless as Jundo said, there was some type of chemical imbalance, genetic flaw, or madness in them) that they would be content. So many people who do these things are relegated to a life of having to always look over their shoulder. I saw an episode of a new show called “I almost got away with it” and even the guy who professed his innocence over the murder of his wife, ran because he said he thought the police were going to shoot him whether he surrendered or not. He lived free for about 3 years after going on the lamb, and from his statements, it was 3 years of Hell. 3 years of being convinced every seat belt check point, every police car driving by, every traffic ticket would break the cover of his stolen identity. Three years of never being able to do anything that might require any level of scrutiny into his prior life, taking only jobs where credit checks and such were not required. Eventually, he turned himself in because he couldn’t take it anymore.

    As to karma being cause and effect par excellence, it is not “justice” in any form or reflection. Justice is a human idea, a concept based on the arbitrary personal or group notion of “bad” and “good”. Is it “just” to kill? No, but we still fight wars and have the death penalty. There are still tribes that cannibalize humans, and that’s just the culture that they lived in. If you hold a ball in your hand, turn your hand over, and open your hand – the ball drops. That’s karma. It applies to action on all levels of existence, the karma of living in fear for committing a crime, no more just than a ball dropping, it just is.

    And the fact that the so-called self has no independent existence doesn't mean that it goes poof when breathing stops. Indeed, as I understand some teachings of the vajrayana, the empty self may persist for what is a very long time indeed in human terms; as may the sublimely empty self of such as the first Karmapa. The Fox koan is one of my favorites too, and look how long it took that foxy old master to work off his karma. But if this self and all its works really does go poof when breathing stops, then, given the fact of the many contented nasties I've talked about, karma is as empty as it is. Or not?
    If it lingers, then it must have some sort of substance. If it has substance then, were I to ask, you should be able to show it to me. Not your skin, not your mind, or anything like that, but your SELF. I can’t do that myself, as far as I see, my ‘self’ has no mass, displaces no volume, has no thickness, length, breadth or dimension. It exists solely as a construct of my mind, an attempt to separate “me” from “everything else”. I think that it is indeed dangerous to believe that we can tell the mind of others, that includes also thinking that they are “contented” based on either the absence of visual and verifiable proof otherwise, or based on what they tell you (how far can you trust a person like that to be honest, anyway?).

    So is it empty? Ask the ball. I don’t think it’s either empty or full. If I leave my rake in the yard and it rains, there is rust. If I park my car where I am not supposed to, there is the worry of a ticket. Even if I didn’t get a ticket, I still had to carry the worry, as though I did get the ticket.

    If we follow the Teachings, then we know that we should “be here, now” as Steve Hagan says, and live each moment as though it contains the whole of our existence. If we do that, then we should not find ourselves in a position where karma in whatever form affects us.

  27. #27

    Re: Karma

    How does the mental construct 'self' persist since it has no substance either? But it does, doesn't it? Persist that is. (Let me assure you that I'm not wasting anyone's valuable time dicing words here, even if I may be wasting it in some other way I can't see. I'm really trying to get my heart around "Whither karma?")

  28. #28

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by David Hallam
    How does the mental construct 'self' persist since it has no substance either? But it does, doesn't it? Persist that is. (Let me assure you that I'm not wasting anyone's valuable time dicing words here, even if I may be wasting it in some other way I can't see. I'm really trying to get my heart around "Whither karma?")
    Much the same way that a mirage persists to the one hallucinating. That's part of the teaching of our path, delusion keeps us in its thrall and it is because of our attachments and delusions that we suffer. We are attached to the idea that we are separate, different, special. And so we form the ego and are deluded that "I" exists apart from you.

    It only persist in the mind, in as much as any other thought or discrimination.

  29. #29

    Re: Karma

    Hi,

    Well, I believe in Karma deeply, and I believe in Rebirth.

    Now, literal, mechanical one-on-one Rebirth may or may not be ("literal" meaning, for example, that "bad David" will be reborn in some literal fiery "hell" in some way recognizable as "this specific David"). I can leave that an open question, although I am skeptical of many traditional depictions of that. However, the type of Rebirth that I believe in is sure and certain, and visible through our Practice when the eyes become clear. When the eyes become clear, it is plain as day.

    Buddhism, in all its flavors, teaches that the seemingly separate, abiding, individual self is a dream, a mirage (or, perhaps, just one way to look at things). It is much like the ring finger and middle finger thinking (if they could think) that they are not also intimately the hand, but really something separate and apart. It is like the wave which sees itself as apart from the water of the sea. These finger puppets stand for you and me!



    The pirates fighting among themselves, doing bad things, is rather like stabbing your own hand! We may not feel the mutual pain, not see the connection and damage ... but it is there.

    What are "we" when we drop all barriers and separations ... in the most radical and intimate sense ... between "you" "me" and the "ants" and "trees" and "stars", "you" and "me", and all being(s) throughout space and time?

    All one ... all connected beyond even any separation in need of "reconnect". Thich Nhat Hanh has a lovely image of this which he likes to call "interbeing" ... another way of expressing what we are discussing ...

    Imagine something as real and tangible as a piece of paper ...

    If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are. “Interbeing” is a word that is not in the dictionary yet, but if we combine the prefix “inter-” with the verb “to be,” we have a new verb, inter-be. Without a cloud and the sheet of paper inter-are.

    If we look into this sheet of paper even more deeply, we can see the sunshine in it. If the sunshine is not there, the forest cannot grow. In fact, nothing can grow. Even we cannot grow without sunshine. And so, we know that the sunshine is also in this sheet of paper. The paper and the sunshine inter-are. And if we continue to look, we can see the logger who cut the tree and brought it to the mill to be transformed into paper. And wesee the wheat. We now the logger cannot exist without his daily bread, and therefore the wheat that became his bread is also in this sheet of paper. And the logger’s father and mother are in it too. When we look in this way, we see that without all of these things, this sheet of paper cannot exist.

    Looking even more deeply, we can see we are in it too. This is not difficult to see, because when we look at a sheet of paper, the sheet of paper is part of our perception. Your mind is in here and mine is also. So we can say that everything is in here with this sheet of paper. You cannot point out one thing that is not here-time, space, the earth, the rain, the minerals in the soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the river, the heat. Everything co-exists with this sheet of paper. That is why I think the word inter-be should be in the dictionary. “To be” is to inter-be. You cannot just be by yourself alone. You have to inter-be with every other thing. This sheet of paper is, because everything else is.

    Suppose we try to return one of the elements to its source. Suppose we return the sunshine to the sun. Do you think that this sheet of paper will be possible? No, without sunshine nothing can be. And if we return the logger to his mother, then we have no sheet of paper either. The fact is that this sheet of paper is made up only of “non-paper elements.” And if we return these non-paper elements to their sources, then there can be no paper at all. Without “non-paper elements,” like mind, logger, sunshine and so on, there will be no paper. As thin as this sheet of paper is, it contains everything in the universe in it.

    From: The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra
    However, even such images do not capture how intimate is our wholeness and inter-penetration with the grass and stars and trees and, most especially, every creature and, even more especially, every sentient creature ... not only now, but that has ever or will ever live throughout time. It is so intimate, so "one", so "two sides, but really a single coin" ... that it is a kind of "literal, one-on-one, Jundo catches cold and David thus sneezes (an old Koan)" Rebirth. Truly, we are all the eggman, all the walrus!

    (I am he and you are he and you are me and we are all together ... I am the walrus, goo goo g'joob )

    I tried to capture a bit of this image in an essay this week, on how we are all a grand painting ... I am the painting, you are the painting ... we are each a painted image of painters in a painting, each of us painters now painting the painting too! :shock:

    viewtopic.php?p=47402#p47402

    So, perhaps I might say that I believe in a "collective rebirth". For example, we are all "in the same boat" of this planet which we share (in fact, in my view, we are all just this planet in the most intimate and whole way! :wink: ), and what we do with it ... the constructive things we do, or the damage we do, to the planet, to other creatures, other people ... has lasting effects and determines our future (or lack thereof). It is much like the strokes of the brush ... beautiful or ugly ... that we each make in contributing to that picture will have lasting effects, determine part of the results of the ever changing painting. The brushstrokes of our actions, Karma, will be seen far into the future.

    And this world is intimately all worlds, the cosmos ... and that which is the root of all that ...

    So, "you" are reborn CONSTANTLY ... not only in each instant by instant of your life ... but also with every new blade of grass, every breeze, every baby ... not just in the future, but in the past and now as well. The "harmful effects" of what "you" do certainly has effects in the future on "you" ...

    ... because the future is you, and every creature born in the future is you ... in the most personal sense. So, since this world is "you" (and me too, and all of us) ... let us be kind and gentle with each other, not muck it up! :evil:

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Here is the trailer to a little documentary that touches on something that I have discussed from time to time with friends who are scientists from some of the robot factories we have here around Tsukuba (our town, Tsukuba, is the robot design capital of Japan, nanotechnology too). Homo sapiens are already engineering our own replacements, the first time that a species has taken the future of evolution in hand by conscious choice. Let's hope the future species is smarter than ours!

    But, whatever develops ... will be you and me too. 8)

    Within the coming decades we will be able to create AIs with greater than human intelligence, bio-engineer our species and re-design matter through nanotechnology. How will these technologies change what it means to be human?

    “The Singularity – Will we survive our technology?” is a comprehensive documentary showcasing the promises and perils of future technologies such as nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

    Serious thinkers in the science community are wowed by the techno-utopia promises of transcending our biology, merging with our machines, and creating greater than human intelligence.

    This film illustrates how these technologies may be achieved within the next two decades then questions what these technologies could mean to humanity. Not only should we be concerned with the unintended consequences of these powerful technologies, we should pause to think about what happens if these technologies actually pan out as anticipated.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kJDvdEQJOew[/video]]http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=pl ... JDvdEQJOew

  30. #30

    Re: Karma

    There was an interesting article recently about literal rebirth, which referenced some comments by Brad Warner. Some people take offense at Brad's non-literal opinion of rebirth, but as he says in the article/blog post "There is no 'literal you' to get 'literally reborn'."

    http://buddhism.about.com/b/2011/02/01/ ... things.htm

    http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/2011/01 ... birth.html

    Cheers,
    Matt

  31. #31

    Re: Karma

    I will toss in what I think may be the best 'evidence' for 'literal rebirth' ...

    ... to wit ...

    ... since we, you and me, seem to be beneficiaries of the outlandish fact that we've popped up, alive and sentient, in the middle of time and space despite the seeming unlikelihood of that having happened even once ...

    ... due to all the amazing conditions needed for us to happen even once having happened just right for us to happen ...

    ... with never one possible event needed for our births to have failed, even once, to happen right on time and in just the right way (otherwise, one might assume, we would not be here talking about it) ...

    ... then, since something so seemingly silly and improbable happened once ...

    ... well then, might as well happen twice.

    ... That would be just as silly and outlandish!

    Kind of like going to a casino and rolling, for 13.7 billion years, winning hand after winning hand of cards ... without any one of which (any one right outcome in the chain of events) ... we would not be collecting the jackpot of life right now.

    If one were to win such an amazing string of winning hands ... never a miss ... not even once for so many years ...

    ... one might be tempted to believe the cards are loaded in some way.

    And if the cards are loaded in some way to allow such a string of wins, well ...

    ... I think I will just chop wood and fetch water, and let the cards play themselves out.

    Gassho, J

  32. #32

    Re: Karma

    Kind of like going to a casino and rolling, for 13.7 billion years, winning hand after winning hand of cards ... without any one of which (any one right outcome in the chain of events) ... we would not be collecting the jackpot of life right now.

    If one were to win such an amazing string of winning hands ... never a miss ... not even once for so many years ...

    ... one might be tempted to believe the cards are loaded in some way.



    If you're rolling the cards, I can see why winning is elusive...

  33. #33

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    Kind of like going to a casino and rolling, for 13.7 billion years, winning hand after winning hand of cards ... without any one of which (any one right outcome in the chain of events) ... we would not be collecting the jackpot of life right now.

    If one were to win such an amazing string of winning hands ... never a miss ... not even once for so many years ...

    ... one might be tempted to believe the cards are loaded in some way.



    If you're rolling the cards, I can see why winning is elusive...


    In some alternate universes ... cards are rolled. 8)

  34. #34

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by chugai
    Yes. a tree leafing ...

  35. #35
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by David Hallam
    The great teacher Daido Loori indicated quite often that he regarded reincarnation as doubtful, and from his viewpoint somewhat irrelevant. From where I stand, the whole possibility of karma operating as an inexorable law of cause and effect is self-evidently, utterly and completely false unless there is reincarnation. Why? Well, is it not eminently clear to anyone with eyes that in this life, many millions of people who do very bad shit - again and again and again - thrive; while many millions who live wonderfully compassionate and generous lives suffer endlessly? So, no reincarnation, no karma. If the doers of bad shit so obviously don't get their recompense here and now, where do they get it? Without reincarnation, they don't, or at least, they can't. When I ask about this matter in the sanghas I visit, the sound of brooms sweeping dirt under the carpet is heard loud and clear. Or I am given evasive bollocks about taking this contradiction as a koan. I recall the words of a feminist practitioner who tried to ask about the suppression of women in Zen only to be told by her male teacher "We're all women here" or words to that effect. She got pissed and wrote "Zen Women: Beyond Tea Ladies, Iron Maidens and Macho Masters". If I had the talent and learning, I'd write a little book called "Karma and Reincarnation: You Can't Have One Without The Other". Instead, I'd like to hear from any one of the millions of practitioners who understand more than I ever will about the dharma, and who can shed light on this problem. Thanks.
    Scripturally, I don't know where to direct you. From experience, I can say that the karma you may think about as a concept is not really karma. Regarding reincarnation - the Buddha never taught it. What he taught was rebirth. What's the difference?

    When you go to sleep, where do you go? When you wake up, where is the guy who went to sleep eight hours earlier? If you think that there's some essential 'you-ness' that made the leap from pre-sleeping to post-waking - that's at best an incomplete view and at worst a completely wrong view. And yet, when you wake up, you wake up in the bed that the guy from last night rested his body upon. If the guy from last night drank too much wine, in the morning there's a hangover.

    Most importantly though, whether you commit yourself to the wrong view of reincarnation or are skeptical of the right view of rebirth - still, the only place you can witness karma is right here and now anyway. Any speculation about future lives is just that - speculation. People who build up huge speculative fantasies about the tortures or rewards that people experience in 'future lives' - they're caught by a fiction. People who reduce the entire world to a nihilistic ball of 'frisky dust' (borrowed from Wilber - don't shoot) are likewise caught by a fiction.

    All karmas, dharmas, delusions, and rebirth happen only and always in this moment. This one, right here. That said, it doesn't mean you have to slavishly concentrate only on this moment either. I think a wise person uses abstract thoughts to propose a recipe for approaching an artificially limited problem for a specific purpose. If the purpose is illuminated by right view, there's no problem. If the purpose itself is come upon by a belief that artificially limited situations are actually the whole situation - then this misapprehension causes problems - and those problems are called 'karma'. Karma is an adhesive force that binds you to wrong view. A belief in a string of successive lives is not required to feel the pain of karma and delusion.

    As always, IMHO.

  36. #36

    Re: Karma

    But if there's no individual self, no permanent soul, what is it that is being reborn? What is it that has a primary existance of its own? :?

    For the time being I prefer to view Karma as a purely psychological mechanism, even though that might not be entirely according to buddhist doctrine. If you do nasty things, a normal person gets unbalanced, feels guilt and creates his own misfortune. If you do purely altruistic deeds (these are rare I suspect, as we often delude ourself when we do 'good') you feel self-confident, you appear attractive, you feel you are entitled to good things happening to you. And your actions also affect other people, that may feel indebted to you, impressed by you, angered by you. What about a sociopath (psychopath) that hurts and manipulates other people, but doesn't care one bit? Does he get bad Karma? If it's all about psychology, he will get some bad effects from people who want to get back at him, but he won't create any bad effects for himself, like a normal person might.

    Anyway, the exact mechanism is not important I feel. Maybe we will understand Karma if and when we attain Buddhahood. Until then our enlightenment is miniscule and our ideas just speculative.

    /Pontus

  37. #37

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    As always, IMHO.
    Wait! I know that voice!

    And now (showing my age) I'm hearing the theme song to "Welcome Back Kotter" playing in my head.

    Either way, welcome back. You never really left.

    gassho
    Greg

  38. #38

    Re: Karma

    If you swipe at a wasp, you might get stung. You might not.
    If you do absolutely nothing to a wwasp, you might get stung. You might not.
    Karma.

  39. #39

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    But if there's no individual self, no permanent soul, what is it that is being reborn? What is it that has a primary existance of its own? :?
    Nothing has a primary existence of its own; to think that rebirth has anything to do with something permanent being reincarnated is not a Buddhist notion. In classical rebirth (for a lack of a better term) the skandhas that make up "you" is part of the rising of skandhas that make up a new being, as well as they are part of the continuing creation of "you". Which means that a new sentient being is not entirely new, yet not entirely you. It's a natural continuation of the skandhas that made you into you.

    The problem, in my experience, is when we see (even when we know it's not true) our selves as being somewhat permanent. In that case, rebirth is a strange notion. However, when you see "you" as merely a collection of skandhas, always fleeting, always being reborn every second, then that more or less stable heap could be imagined being continued somewhere else, after this "me" or this "you" is gone.

    The fleeting heap just keeps going.

  40. #40

    Re: Karma

    Ah, yes! Thank you!
    Very well put.

    I remember reading about the five aggregates, Skandhas, a while back, but it still has not sunk in entirely. I need to spend some time with the Heart Sutra and "form is emptiness, emptiness is form" some day!



    I found this on a quick search on Google:
    http://buddhism.about.com/od/whatisthes ... e_Self.htm

    "If there is no soul, what is it that is reborn, one might ask.

    Well, there is nothing to be reborn.

    When life ceases the kammic energy re-materializes itself in another form. As Bhikkhu Silacara says: "Unseen it passes whithersoever the conditions appropriate to its visible manifestation are present. Here showing itself as a tiny gnat or worm, there making its presence known in the dazzling magnificence of a Deva or an Archangel's existence. When one mode of its manifestation ceases it merely passes on, and where suitable circumstances offer, reveals itself afresh in another name or form."

    Birth is the arising of the psycho-physical phenomena. Death is merely the temporary end of a temporary phenomenon.

    Just as the arising of a physical state is conditioned by a preceding state as its cause, so the appearance of psycho-physical phenomena is conditioned by cause anterior to its birth. As the process of one life-span is possible without a permanent entity passing from one thought-moment to another, so a series of life-processes is possible without an immortal soul to transmigrate from one existence to another.

    Buddhism does not totally deny the existence of a personality in an empirical sense. It only attempts to show that it does not exist in an ultimate sense. The Buddhist philosophical term for an individual is santana, i.e., a flux or a continuity. It includes the mental and physical elements as well. The kammic force of each individual binds the elements together. This uninterrupted flux or continuity of psycho-physical phenomenon, which is conditioned by kamma, and not limited only to the present life, but having its source in the beginningless past and its continuation in the future — is the Buddhist substitute for the permanent ego or the immortal soul of other religions."

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  41. #41

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    But if there's no individual self, no permanent soul, what is it that is being reborn? What is it that has a primary existance of its own? :?
    Nothing has a primary existence of its own; to think that rebirth has anything to do with something permanent being reincarnated is not a Buddhist notion. In classical rebirth (for a lack of a better term) the skandhas that make up "you" is part of the rising of skandhas that make up a new being, as well as they are part of the continuing creation of "you". Which means that a new sentient being is not entirely new, yet not entirely you. It's a natural continuation of the skandhas that made you into you.

    The problem, in my experience, is when we see (even when we know it's not true) our selves as being somewhat permanent. In that case, rebirth is a strange notion. However, when you see "you" as merely a collection of skandhas, always fleeting, always being reborn every second, then that more or less stable heap could be imagined being continued somewhere else, after this "me" or this "you" is gone.

    The fleeting heap just keeps going.
    Thanks for explaining. This must be why sometimes I'm called 'a heap of shit' or full of shit :lol:

  42. #42
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: Karma

    Philip Kapleau had an interesting take on rebirth . . . he used the metaphor of a giant pool of molten metal from which little Buddha statues are being made and melted down all the time. Like it isn't just the metal from one Buddha being made into another; it all goes back into and comes out of the pool.

    Hey, are we all just part of a cosmic recycling program? 8)

  43. #43

    Re: Karma

    Heaps of waste..? :shock: :? :lol:

    Interesting metaphor! But I like the metaphor of the waves and the ocean better. We are all waves that rise from the ocean and ask "who am I?" before we return into the sea. Every moment is a new wave. Every lifetime is a wave. The wave is form. The sea is emptiness. What is the wind that is the cause and condition of the raising of the wave?

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  44. #44

    Re: Karma

    I remember in a talk Rev. Master Jiyu-Kennett describing rebirthlike mains electricity, when life comes along it plugs into this mains of conciousness, when it dies it just unplugs and another life plugs in somewhere else, no individual 'me' to flow along to the next life.

    As for the waves, it was waves that got me to make the effort to seek out a zen group. I was in a town with only Tibetan Buddhist groups in, the one I was going to every week was small but full of lovely people. When I was about to go for refuge with thier Lama in Cambridge I started meditating on the beach,( mainly to get away at lunchtime from a job I really did not suit), while watching the waves break and disappear back into the sea, all my years of zen study came to me and I realized that I was just grabbing the first Buddhism to come along, so I travelled all the way up to Throssel, it was like coming home.

    Sorry, I rambled a bit there ops: .

    Gassho

    Joe

  45. #45

    Re: Karma

    i like to think about the fact that they say all the molecules in your body change over something like 7 years, and that, for instance, everyone has breathed some of the air molecules that caesar (or likely buddha) breathed as they circulate in the atmosphere. every molecule of every thing we eat passes through our body, becomes part of the molecular structure of our eyes or brain through digestion and growth. so perhaps some molecules of the egg i ate this morning were part of a chicken living on a chicken farm, and the eggs i ate last week which are now part of my eyes and brain and fingers were part of a chicken that died last month, but those old parts of that chicken that passed into her eggs and then to my plate are alive in me, looking at this monitor and typing on this keyboard, breathing perhaps a molecule of air that louis xiv or caesar or buddha or some egyptian slave breathed centuries ago.. perhaps the chicken's karma and mine are so linked that we are now in the same body, if i do some metta practice we feel better and if i am angry with someone we feel worse..

  46. #46
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: Karma

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    But if there's no individual self, no permanent soul, what is it that is being reborn? What is it that has a primary existance of its own? :?
    Nothing has a primary existence of its own; to think that rebirth has anything to do with something permanent being reincarnated is not a Buddhist notion. In classical rebirth (for a lack of a better term) the skandhas that make up "you" is part of the rising of skandhas that make up a new being, as well as they are part of the continuing creation of "you". Which means that a new sentient being is not entirely new, yet not entirely you. It's a natural continuation of the skandhas that made you into you.

    The problem, in my experience, is when we see (even when we know it's not true) our selves as being somewhat permanent. In that case, rebirth is a strange notion. However, when you see "you" as merely a collection of skandhas, always fleeting, always being reborn every second, then that more or less stable heap could be imagined being continued somewhere else, after this "me" or this "you" is gone.

    The fleeting heap just keeps going.
    This. Rebirth is the continuation of misunderstanding - albeit a very persistent one.

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