Monday, December 29, 2008

So, what is karma in Buddhism?

1. Karma is a Sanskrit word that means "intentional/volitional or
willful action" and refers to the universal law of cause and effect.
Karma is a natural order of things, like water finding its own level.

2. Karma is created not only by physical action but also by thoughts
and words. Things we choose to do or say or think set karma into

3. Karma operates by itself, justly and, one might say, unforgivingly.
But karma can be broken, in fact, unwholesome or "bad" karma (negative
habits) can be consciously broken.

4. Karma is not "destiny" or "fate" or some kind of cosmic retribution

5. Sometimes people use the word karma to mean the "result" of karma.
For example, someone might say B lost his job because "that's his
karma." However, as Buddhists use the word, karma is the action, NOT
the result. The effects of karma are spoken of as the "fruits" or the
"result" of karma.

6. In the Buddha's day, most religions in India taught that karma
operated in a simple straight line--past actions influence the
present; present actions influence the future. But in Buddhism, karma
is NON-LINEAR and complex. Karma, the Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu
says,"acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being
shaped both by past and present actions; present actions shape not
only the future but also the present."
So, although the past has some influence on the present, the present
also is shaped by the actions of the present.

7. When we seem stuck in old, destructive patterns, it may not be the
karma of the past that's causing us to be stuck. If we're stuck, it's
more likely that we're re-creating the same old patterns with our
present thoughts and attitudes. To change our karma, and change our
lives, we have to change our minds.

"Cause and effect are One thing. And what is that one thing? You.
That's why what you do and what happens to you are the same thing."

8. "The theory of karma should not be confused with so-called 'moral
justice' or 'reward and punishment'... The term 'justice' is ambiguous
and dangerous, and in its name more harm than good is done to
humanity. The theory of karma is the theory of cause and effect, of
action and reaction; it is a natural law, which has nothing to do with
the idea of justice or reward and punishment."
--Buddhist scholar Walpola Rahula.

9. Sometimes people talk about "good" and "bad" (or "evil") karma.
From the Buddhist perspectives, it's useful to substitute the words
"wholesome" and "unwholesome" for "good" and "bad/evil".
Wholesome actions spring from selfless compassion, loving-kindness,
and wisdom.
Unwholesome actions spring from greed, hate, and ignorance.

10. Although the fruits of "good" karma might be pleasant and
beneficial, ALL karma keeps one entangled in the cycle of death and
rebirth. Actions free from intention, desire, hate and delusion do not create either good or bad karma, but a third kind of karma. This karma is neither good or bad, neither black or white. This third kind of karma is very rarely discussed, but it is this one which is capable of putting an end to the other two kinds of karma. It is orld-transcending, above good and evil. To put an end to duality is to put an end to karma. Thus, this third kind of karma is the ending of all duality. In this the Buddha said,"I came to clear realization of this through my own sublime wisdom." It is something he came to realize with his own insight and then taught to all.

Merely producing good karma does not extinguish mental suffering completely and absolutely, because one goes right on being infatuated by and grasping at good karma.

sarva mangalam!
Bodhi svaha.

From Quasistellar:

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