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Karma

In: Philosophy and Psychology

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INTRODUCTION
"Countless rebirths lie ahead, both good and bad. The effects of karma (actions) are inevitable, and in previous lifetimes we have accumulated negative karma which will inevitably have its fruition in this or future lives. Just as someone witnessed by police in a criminal act will eventually be caught and punished, so we too must face the consequences of faulty actions we have committed in the past, there is no way to be at ease; those actions are irreversible; we must eventually undergo their effects."
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from 'Kindness, Clarity and Insight'
The Sanskrit word Karma (or kamma in Pali) literally means action. In Buddhism however, karma mainly refers to one'sintention or motivation while doing an action. The Buddha said:
“It is volition that I call karma; for having willed, one acts by body, speech, and mind.”
AN 3:415, from In the Buddha’s Words, p. 146.
(In the west, the word karma is often used for the results of karma; the Sanskrit words for the effects or results of karma are 'vipaka' or 'phala'. )
The shortest explanation of karma that I know is: 'you get what you give'. In other words; whatever you do intentionally to others, a similar thing will happen to yourself in the future. Causing suffering to others will cause suffering to ourselves, causing happiness to others will result in happiness for oneself.
Perhaps our biggest to understanding or even believing in karma may be time. The 're-actions' or results of our actions usually show up with a big time delay, and it becomes extremely hard to tell which action caused which result. Actions done in a previous life can create results in this life, but who can remember their past life, and who can tell exaclty which action caused which result? For ordinary humans, the mechanisms of karma can be intellectually understood to some extent, but never completely "seen".
The idea behind karma is not only found in Buddhism and Hinduism; it seems that the Bible certainly conveys the same essence. although here God is the medium that links actions to their results:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A person reaps what he sows.
(Gal. 6:7)
All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
(Matthew 7:12)
Also the 'Golden Rule' of Confucianism makes a similar statement:
Tzu-kung asked, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?"
Confucius answered, "Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."'
From His Holiness the Dalai Lama's book Path to Bliss:
"Some people misunderstand the concept of karma. They take the Buddha's doctrine of the law of causality to mean that all is predetermined, that there is nothing that the individual can do. This is a total misunderstanding. The very term karma or action is a term of active force, which indicates that future events are within your own hands. Since action is a phenomenon that is committed by a person, a living being, it is within your own hands whether or not you engage in action."
You can find suggestions for a meditation on karma (or other subjects) in the List of Sample Meditations.

WHY BELIEVE IN KARMA?
Simply said, if we chose to ignore the workings of karma, we tend to create many problems for ourselves.
For example, if we like to have something expensive, but we cannot afford it, it becomes very tempting to steal. If we are smart and attentive enough, we may never be caught stealing. However, by stealing, (according to the law of karma) we create problematic situations for ourselves in the future, like poverty, or being the victim of robbers. Therefore, if we chose to ignore karma, the results of our actions will still haunt us.
Every mainstream religion teaches us about the consequences of our actions. The explanations may differ, but does it really matter in the end whether the law of karma causes us trouble or God himself in his final judgement?
When we meet with big problems; disease, loss of family or friends, getting trapped in a war or natural disaster. At those times, we suddenly wonder: "Why me?" The law of karma does not look for a reason outside ourselves for our good or bad fortune, it simply explains our own suffering as a result of our negative deeds towards others, and our happiness as a result of our actions to help others.
Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
Unknown source
Two of my personal favourite reasons to believe in karma, are that it represents ultimate justice as everyone will harvest the results of their actions, and even if karma would not exist, as long as I try to avoid negative actions, the world would be a better place to live in for everyone anyway.
Science itself comes with another argument for karma. In physics. like every other Western science, there is a direct causal relationship between action and reaction. It may be interesting to look at the next explanation of the four laws of karma and see how "scientific" it sounds.
As the Buddha taught:
"Do not think a small sin will not return in your future lives.
Just as falling drops of water will fill a large container,
The little sins that steadfast accumulate will completely overwhelm you.
Do not think a small virtue will not return in your future lives.
Just as falling drops of water will fill a large container,
The little virtues that steadfast accumulate will completely overwhelm you."
The Auspicious or Endless Knot (see image on the right) symbolises the nature of reality where everything is interrelated and only exists as part of a web of karma and its effect. (It can also be seen as an auspicious sign for long life, as it is endless.)
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HOW KARMA WORKS
A very good and succinct explanation by Geshe Tashi Tsering in his book The Buddha's Medicine for the Mind: Cultivating Wisdom and Compassion:
"Intention is the most important of all mental events because it gives direction to the mind, determining whether we engage with virtuous, non-virtuous, or neutral objects. Just as iron is powerlessly drawn to a magnet, our minds are powerlessly drawn to the object of our intentions.
An intention is a mental action; it may be expressed through either physical or verbal actions. Thus, action, or karma, is of two types: the action of intention and the intended action. The action of intention is the thought or impulse to engage in a physical or verbal act. The intended action is the physical or verbal expression of our intention. Karma actually refers to the action of intention but in general usage it includes the intended action and the seeds that are left in the mind as a result.
How do we accumulate karmic seeds? Every physical and verbal action is preceded by mental activity. Goodwill motivates a kind gesture; ill will motivates nasty words. Ill will is the intention to cause mental, emotional or physical harm. Thus, before and during a bad action, ill will is present in our mind. The presence of ill will before and during this act has an impact and influence on the mind due to which a certain potential is left behind. This potential is a karmic seed, a seed planted in our mind by physical, verbal or mental action. The strength or depth of this seed is determined by a number of factors, including how strong our intention is, whether we clearly understand what we are doing, whether we act on our intention and whether the physical and verbal action is completed.
Seeds will remain in the mind until they ripen or are destroyed. Seeds left by negative mental events and actions can be destroyed by the four opponent or antidotal powers. The most important of these four powers are regret for the negative act and a firm resolve not to act that way again in the future. Seeds left by positive mental events and actions can be destroyed by anger.
Even if we do not act on a negative intention, a karmic seed of diminished potency is still left in the mind. This incompleted seed is easier to remove. If it is not destroyed, a negative seed will eventually produce an unpleasant and negative effect while a postive seed will produce a pleasant and positive effect. Karmic seeds do not go to waste even after one hundred aeons. They will come to fruition when the time comes and the conditions assemble.
Actions motivated by the wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings and dedicated to that end have a special feature. The positive effects of such an act will be experienced many times over without being exhausted. For this reason, virtue dedicated to complete enlightenment is likened to a magnificent tree that bears fruit every season without fail. Such virtues will bear fruit until Buddhahood is attained."
A fragment of the The Sutra of the Causes and Effects of Actions by Shakyamuni Buddha, from Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archives that probably conveys the idea very straight-forward:
"Then the Buddha spoke to Ananda thus, “This question that you are asking--it is all on account of a previous existence, in which every one’s mind was not alike and equal. Therefore, in consequence, the retribution is of a thousand and a myriad separate and different minds.
Thus the person who in this world is handsome comes from a patient mind, and the ugly comes from amid anger; the needy come from meanness.
The high and noble comes from prayer and service, and the lowly and base comes from pride.
The great and tall person comes from honor and respect and the short-legged person comes on account of contempt.
The person who hinders the bright splendor of the Buddha is born black and thin; and the one who tastes the food of the fast is born deprived of food.
The person who is too sparing of fire and light is born infirm; the one in whose eyes fault always appears is born night-blind.
The person who slanders the Law is born dumb; and the person who does not want to hear the Law is born deaf. .....
The person who is compassionate is born long-lived, and the one who kills living beings is born short-lived.
The one who gives gifts is born rich.
The one who gives a gift of horse and carriage to the three jewels has many horses and carriages.
Then the person who reads and asks about the sutra is born intelligent; but the stupid person comes from an animal existence.
The person who cannot stay in his place comes from among the apes; the one who binds the hands and feet of living beings is born paralyzed in hand and foot.
The person who is of evil passions comes from snakes and scorpions; the one who keeps the precepts (sila) is complete in the six kinds of organ, but the person who breaks the precepts is incomplete in the six kinds of organ.
The unclean person comes from the existence of pigs; the person who likes song and dance comes from among actors. The one who is greedy comes from dogs; the one who eats alone, their neck is goiterous.
The one who castrates living beings has incomplete pudenda; the one who on one side abuses his superior has a short tongue.
The one who seduces the spouse of another, after dying falls among the geese, and a person who commits incest will fall into the existence of sparrows."

THE FOUR LAWS OF KARMA 1. Results are similar to the cause. Simply said, when I cause other people harm, I will harvest suffering myself. It is important to note here, that "positive" actions are defined as actions that have happiness as a result; "negative" actions are defined as actions that lead to suffering as a result. 2. No results without a cause. As is obvious within science, things do not just appear out of nothing. 3. Once an action is done, the result is never lost. Similarly as above, things do not just disappear into nothing. 4. Karma expands. Once we have an imprint of an action in our mind, it tends to be habit-forming. As is often said in wars for example, killing the first enemy is tough, but after a handful, one quickly loses count and it becomes "normal". Also psychology often stresses a similar point when e.g. explaining actions of adults from their childhood experiences.

WHAT IS NEEDED FOR KARMA TO RIPEN? 1. A previous action, or karmic potential. 2. Conditions: the circumstances must be available before I can undergo a specific result (vipāka). 3. A deluded mind. Without delusions in our mind, we will never experience the results of previous actions. This happens to Arhats and Buddhas; their minds have been purified from delusions, and they are beyond the realm of karma.
It should be realised that without any karma to ripen at all, we could never experience anything unpleasant - most likely, when this occurs, we are in a blissful state of nirvana or full enlightenment.

WHAT DECIDES THE SEVERITY OF THE RESULTS?
The severity of the results of our actions depends on various factors: 1. Our intention or motivation - the intention is the most important aspect by far, as karma is mainly connected to the intention of the action, be it positive or negative. 2. The nature of the action: obviously, gossiping is less severe than killing. 3. The actual deed: whether we kill in self-defence or sadistically torture someone to death does make a difference, usually this directly related to intention. 4. The basis or object: it does make a difference whether we kill our mother or an ant. 5. Repetition; how often do we repeat the action, which reinforces the habit, and makes even killing feel less negative. 6. Doing the reverse: if we always behave negatively to others and never try to do any good, consequences will be severe.
How we experience the result of an actions does depend on our other actions in life. For example, if we experience the result of being hungry for a day, there is a huge difference whether we experience this as a malnourished person in a hopeless situation, or as a healthy fast for an obese person.

WHAT DECIDES WHEN A CAUSAL EFFECT WILL OCCUR?
From: The Four Noble Truths by His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
Question: "Could Your Holiness please explain why the result of karma is sometimes instant and why on other occasions we have to wait lifetimes before the causal effect occurs?"
Answer: "One factor would be the intensity of the karmic action itself. Another factor is the extent to which the various other conditions that are necessary for that karma to ripen are complete, and this is dependent, in turn, on other karmic actions. Vasubandhu addressed this in the Abhidharmakosha, in which he states that, generally speaking, the karmic actions which are the most forceful tend to produce their effects first. If the intensity of a karmic action is euqal to that of another karmic action, then the result of the action with which the individual is most familiar tends to ripen first. However, if two karmic actions are equally forceful and equally familiar, then the one that is committed earlier tends to produce its results first."
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WHAT IS "GOOD" AND "BAD" KARMA?
Interestingly enough, the Buddhist answer to this question forces you to think and decide for yourself.
Positive actions are defined as their result being a pleasant experience, negative actions are defined by their unpleasant results.
Obviously, the results mentioned here are unlikely to come immediately (so-called 'instant karma' is considered rare), instead the karmic result may take lifetimes to ripen. For example, if I steal an ice-cream and enjoy eating it afterwards, the enjoyment is not a karmic result of stealing the ice-cream; it may be the result of helping someone else long ago. The karmic result of stealing an ice-cream is an unpleasant experience, such as being robbed.
In A Living Buddhism for the West, Lama Anagorika Govinda expresses another approach:
"All the suffering of this world arises from a wrong attitude.
The world is neither good or bad.
It is only the relation to our ego that makes it seem the one or the other."
This approach relates to the way our mind perceives the world; see the page on delusions.

WHAT CAN I DO TO REMOVE PREVIOUS NEGATIVE KARMA?
Nobody likes to suffer, so we all like to rid ourselves of negative karmic potential.
There are several possibilities, and in fact we may need to try and apply all of these methods as much as we can: • To avoid having negative thoughts that lead to negative actions in the future, we need to observe and control our own thoughts and behaviour, and destroy our negative attitudes. • Similarly, we can observe/study (meditate) our own mind and encourage positive thoughts that lead to positive actions. • We can avoid negative karmic seeds to ripen by purifying it, using the four powers of purification (see below). Although this does not eliminate the negative karmic actions, it can avoid the results to occur. • Ultimately, when we realise emptiness directly (see the page on Wisdom), and remove all our delusions, we are not under the control of past karma anymore.

THE FOUR POWERS OF PURIFICATION
The purification practices found within Buddhism are not unlike the practices applied in many other religions. The most essential mental factor that one requires is sincerity or honesty with oneself. When one wants to purify past negative karma, one has to do some action with the correct motivation.
This is summarised in the following Four Powers of Purification: 1. Power of the Object: One should practice thinking of all sentient beings one may have hurt. Traditionally, one remembers all sentient beings and the Three Jewels of Refuge (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha), by generating compassion for all sentient beings and taking refuge. 2. Power of Regret: This should not be senseless guilt or self-recrimination, which are said to be useless emotional torture. What is intended here is to examine oneself and one's actions and to recognise that negative actions done in the past were very unwise. 3. Power of Promise: As a logical consequence of the above, one should promise not to repeat these negative actions. It is good if one can promise to avoid a negative behaviour for a specific time, or at least promise that one will put effort in avoiding repetition. Not being honest at this stage makes the practice useless or even harmful to oneself. 4. Power of Practice: Basically any positive action with a good motivation can be used as practice. Traditionally in Buddhism, one can practice e.g. making prostrations (throwing oneself to the floor - as a means to destroy pride), making offerings (to counteract greed), reading Buddhist texts (to counteract ignorance and negative thoughts), reciting mantras etc.
It is often explained that one needs to clear a field by purifying it from rocks and weeds, then planting seeds by study and meditation, giving water and fertiliser by doing positive actions, and automatically new harvest will grow.
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PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES OF KARMA
"What fisherman looks for water in dry, dead riverbeds?
He who hopes for spiritual progress, but cultivates neither wisdom nor merit."
His Holiness the 7th Dalai Lama, from 'Songs of spiritual change' translated by Glenn Mullin.
To begin with, I need to understand that I cannot immediately change my present situation, but I should understand that: • The reason why I am experiencing this is only due to my own actions in the past, my mind filled with delusions or positive thoughts, and the right circumstances for the karma to ripen. • I can chose to have a selfish reaction to my situation and create my own suffering in the future. • I can chose to have a reaction considering others' welfare and create happiness for myself as well in the future. • If I react without thinking, it is easy to create negative results for the future, and even make that a habit. • The others whom I like to blame for hurting me, are merely the circumstances that make my negative karma ripen. • Understanding karma means that I have full responsibility for everything that happens to me in the past, present and future. • Positive thinking and acting will do others and myself much more good than being negative and acting that way.
"Karma is not something complicated or philosophical.
Karma means watching your body, watching your mouth, and watching your mind.
Trying to keep these three doors as pure as possible is the practice of karma."
Lama Thubten Yeshe, "The Bliss of Inner Fire"

FATE IS IN OUR HANDS - A PARABLE
In a time long past, there was an old monk who, through diligent practice, had attained a certain degree of spiritual penetration.
He had a young novice who was about eight years old. One day the monk looked at the boy's face and saw there that he would die within the next few months. Saddened by this, he told the boy to take a long holiday and go and visit his parents. 'Take your time,' said the monk. 'Don't hurry back.' For he felt the boy should be with his family when he died.
Three months later, to his astonishment, the monk saw the boy walking back up the mountain. When he arrived he looked intently at his face and saw that they boy would now live to a ripe old age.
'Tell me everything that happened while you were away,' said the monk. So the boy started to tell of his journey down from the mountain. He told of villages and towns he passed through, of rivers forded and mountains climbed.
Then he told how one day he came upon a stream in flood. He noticed, as he tried to pick his way across the flowing stream, that a colony of ants had become trapped on a small island formed by the flooding stream. Moved by compassion for these poor creatures, he took a branch of a tree and laid it across one flow of the stream until it touched the little island. As the ants made their way across, the boy held the branch steady, until he was sure all the ants had escaped to dry land. Then he went on his way. 'So,' thought the old monk to himself, 'that is why the gods have lengthened his days.'
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POSITIVE KARMA IS JUST A MOUSE-CLICK AWAY!
In case you came this far, and the above did not bore you away, you are already creating positive energy or karma.
It takes nothing special to create positive actions, you can do it, even with a few simple clicks of your mouse and a compassionate thought.
Interested? Why not click one or all of the buttons below while you think of the benefit to others.
If you want to go a simple step further, change the home page of your browser to www.thehungersite.com and take a second to donate food for free every day you go on the Internet (see below how to do that). Can it be made any easier? http://viewonbuddhism.org/karma.html karma

". . . . good and evil fortunes fall to the lot of pious and impious alike . . . ." ---Spinoza

"Whatever karma I create, whether good or evil, that I shall inherit." Anguttara Nikaya v.57 - Upajjhatthana Sutta Karma is a law in Hinduism which maintains that every act done, no matter how insignificant, will eventually return to the doer with equal impact. Good will be returned with good; evil with evil. Since Hindus believe in reincarnation, karma knows no simple birth/death boundaries. If good or evil befall you, it is because of something you did in this or a previous lifetime.
Karma is sometimes referred to as a "moral law of cause and effect." Karma is both an encouragement to do good and to avoid evil, as well as an explanation for whatever good or evil befalls a person.
On one level, karma serves to explain why good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. The injustices of the world, the seeming random distribution of good and evil, are only apparent. In reality, everybody is getting what he or she deserves. Even the child brutalized by drugged adults deserves the horror. The mentally ill, the retarded, the homosexuals, and the millions of Jews killed by the Nazis deserved it for evil they must have done in the past. The slave beaten to within a breath of death deserved it, if not for what he did today, then for what he did in some previous lifetime. Likewise for the rape victim. She is just getting what she deserves. All suffering is deserved, according to the law of karma.
Despite the fact that there could be no evidence for a metaphysical belief in karma, the idea of karma is popular among many in western cultures where it has become detached from its Hindu roots. Thetheosophists, for example, believe in karma and reincarnation. So does James Van Praagh, who claims to be a psychic conduit for all the billions of people who have died over the centuries.
Let's say someone kills someone . . . at a bank machine.... It could be two things. It could be, the person who committed the crime used their free will to do that. Or this might sound weird, but it could have been a karmic situation where that person who was murdered had to be paid back for murdering the other person in a previous incarnation. [Amazon.com interview with James Van Praagh, 2 February 1998]
Van Praagh makes it clear that he thinks it is karma, not free will, that leads people to kill one another. If Van Praagh is right, we may as well dismantle our ethical and criminal justice systems. Everybody is just playing out his or her karma. Nobody is really good or evil. Nobody is really responsible for anything they do. We're all just karmic pawns doing a dance with destiny.
On the other hand, Van Praagh's conception of karma as negatingfree will is not accepted by Buddhists and others adhering to non-Western religions. Van Praagh's view is more akin to fatalism than to the idea of karma as understood by those who have adhered to this notion for thousands of years. Many in the West who reject karma as a meaningful concept deny the existence of free will. In short, karma is not about free will but about reaping what you sow. In the Abrahamic religions, god will reward the good and punish the wicked. Even though good people suffer and wicked people prosper on earth, in the end god will sort it all out and make sure everybody gets his just deserts. The karmic religions see things differently:
In theistic schools of Hinduism, humans have free will to choose good or evil and suffer the consequences, which require the will of God [sic] to implement karma's consequences, unlike Buddhism or Jainism which do not accord any role to a supreme god or gods.*
Van Praagh presents what might be called the New Age version of karma. Why would such an amoral principle be paraded forth as if it explained the ultimate justice of an indifferent universe? Because, says Van Praagh, "We are on this earth to learn lessons. This is our schoolroom here. . . .We must go through certain lessons in order to grow." According to Van Praagh, life on earth is actually life in purgatory. We are here working out our sins, evolving our souls, burning off some karma. These are the same feeble reasons given for the existence of evil in a world allegedly created by an omnipotent, all-good god. Van Praagh's version of karma is not likely to be accepted by Hindus or Buddhists. They would maintain that when a person does evil, they are acting freely. And when a person suffers evil, it is because of some evil freely done by that person in the past.
Karma as understood by Van Praagh seems to make life trivial, a mere working out of a metaphysical "law" which reduces all humans to creatures devoid of morality and responsibility, mere causes and effects in a pointless system. Karma, as understood by Van Praagh, does not allow that the evil which befalls you may be undeserved. Nor does his concept capture the essence of the original idea: actions freely chosen have personal consequences, though those consequences may not be experienced in this lifetime. What one chooses in this lifetime determines whether one progresses toward escape from the cycle of rebirth and gets closer to nirvana. http://www.skepdic.com/karma.html

Karma is one of those words we don't translate. Its basic meaning is simple enough —action — but because of the weight the Buddha's teachings give to the role of action, the Sanskrit word karma packs in so many implications that the English word action can't carry all its luggage. This is why we've simply airlifted the original word into our vocabulary.

But when we try unpacking the connotations the word carries now that it has arrived in everyday usage, we find that most of its luggage has gotten mixed up in transit. In the eyes of most Americans, karma functions like fate — bad fate, at that: an inexplicable, unchangeable force coming out of our past, for which we are somehow vaguely responsible and powerless to fight. "I guess it's just my karma," I've heard people sigh when bad fortune strikes with such force that they see no alternative to resigned acceptance. The fatalism implicit in this statement is one reason why so many of us are repelled by the concept of karma, for it sounds like the kind of callous myth-making that can justify almost any kind of suffering or injustice in the status quo: "If he's poor, it's because of his karma." "If she's been raped, it's because of her karma." From this it seems a short step to saying that he or she deserves to suffer, and so doesn't deserve our help.

This misperception comes from the fact that the Buddhist concept of karma came to the West at the same time as non-Buddhist concepts, and so ended up with some of their luggage. Although many Asian concepts of karma are fatalistic, the early Buddhist concept was not fatalistic at all. In fact, if we look closely at early Buddhist ideas of karma, we'll find that they give even less importance to myths about the past than most modern Americans do.

For the early Buddhists, karma was non-linear and complex. Other Indian schools believed that karma operated in a simple straight line, with actions from the past influencing the present, and present actions influencing the future. As a result, they saw little room for free will. Buddhists, however, saw that karma acts in multiple feedback loops, with the present moment being shaped both by past and by present actions; present actions shape not only the future but also the present. Furthermore, present actions need not be determined by past actions. In other words, there is free will, although its range is somewhat dictated by the past. The nature of this freedom is symbolized in an image used by the early Buddhists: flowing water. Sometimes the flow from the past is so strong that little can be done except to stand fast, but there are also times when the flow is gentle enough to be diverted in almost any direction.

So, instead of promoting resigned powerlessness, the early Buddhist notion of karma focused on the liberating potential of what the mind is doing with every moment. Who you are — what you come from — is not anywhere near as important as the mind's motives for what it is doing right now. Even though the past may account for many of the inequalities we see in life, our measure as human beings is not the hand we've been dealt, for that hand can change at any moment. We take our own measure by how well we play the hand we've got. If you're suffering, you try not to continue the unskillful mental habits that would keep that particular karmic feedback going. If you see that other people are suffering, and you're in a position to help, you focus not on their karmic past but your karmic opportunity in the present: Someday you may find yourself in the same predicament that they're in now, so here's your opportunity to act in the way you'd like them to act toward you when that day comes.

This belief that one's dignity is measured, not by one's past, but by one's present actions, flew right in the face of the Indian traditions of caste-based hierarchies, and explains why early Buddhists had such a field day poking fun at the pretensions and mythology of the brahmans. As the Buddha pointed out, a brahman could be a superior person not because he came out of a brahman womb, but only if he acted with truly skillful intentions.

We read the early Buddhist attacks on the caste system, and aside from their anti-racist implications, they often strike us as quaint. What we fail to realize is that they strike right at the heart of our myths about our own past: our obsession with defining who we are in terms of where we come from — our race, ethnic heritage, gender, socio-economic background, sexual preference — our modern tribes. We put inordinate amounts of energy into creating and maintaining the mythology of our tribe so that we can take vicarious pride in our tribe's good name. Even when we become Buddhists, the tribe comes first. We demand a Buddhism that honors our myths.

From the standpoint of karma, though, where we come from is old karma, over which we have no control. What we "are" is a nebulous concept at best — and pernicious at worst, when we use it to find excuses for acting on unskillful motives. The worth of a tribe lies only in the skillful actions of its individual members. Even when those good people belong to our tribe, their good karma is theirs, not ours. And, of course, every tribe has its bad members, which means that the mythology of the tribe is a fragile thing. To hang onto anything fragile requires a large investment of passion, aversion, and delusion, leading inevitably to more unskillful actions on into the future.

So the Buddhist teachings on karma, far from being a quaint relic from the past, are a direct challenge to a basic thrust — and basic flaw — in our culture. Only when we abandon our obsession with finding vicarious pride in our tribal past, and can take actual pride in the motives that underlie our present actions, can we say that the word karma, in its Buddhist sense, has recovered its luggage. And when we open the luggage, we'll find that it's brought us a gift: the gift we give ourselves and one another when we drop our myths about who we are, and can instead be honest about what we're doing with each moment — at the same time making the effort to do it right.

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...Karma From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to: navigation, search This article is about the Indian religious concept. For other uses, see Karma (disambiguation). "Karmic" redirects here. For Ubuntu v9.10 "Karmic Koala", see List of Ubuntu releases#Ubuntu 9.10 (Karmic Koala). For the EP by Nada Surf, see Karmic (EP). "Kharma" redirects here. For the professional wrestler, see Kia Stevens. Karma (Sanskrit: कर्म[1] IPA: [ˈkarmə] ( listen); Pali: kamma) in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect (i.e., the cycle called saṃsāra) originating in ancient India and treated in the Hindu, Jain, Buddhist, and Sikh religions.[2] Contents * 1 Origins * 2 Views * 3 In the Indian religions * 3.1 Hinduism * 3.2 Sikhism * 3.3 Buddhism * 3.4 Jainism * 4 In Falun Gong * 5 Western interpretation * 6 Spiritism * 7 New Age and Theosophy * 8 Karma and emotions * 9 See also * 10 References * 11 External links | Origins A concept of karma (along with samsara and moksha) may originate in the shramana tradition of which Buddhism and Jainism are continuations. This tradition influenced the Brahmanic religion in the early Vedantic (Upanishadic) movement of the 1st millennium BC. This worldview was adopted from this religious culture by Brahmin orthodoxy, and Brahmins wrote the earliest recorded scriptures containing these ideas in the early Upanishads. Until recently, the...

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Karma

...CHAPTER – VIII CONCEPTS HARMONY WITH ENVIRONMENT The term can be best described as “Ethico moral reponsiveness of business to all the members of the environment.” Man and nature are deeply interconnected and interdependent. The social responsibility of business must ensure that dealings and transactions with its stakeholders are ethico-moral. Ecology or nature is also an important stakeholder. Hnece there is no such right to exploit nature for purely selfish motives. As some one rightly said, “Man, nature, divine are one, attack one, the other two get the impact. They are part of a grand cycle. Hold a global vision and do not be greedy. Dependence of any business on its social and ecological environment is so complete that the very existence, survival and growth of any enterprise depends upon its acceptance by society and environment (who provide all inputs of resources). If it outlives its utility to the Society and environment it has no place and reason to exist. Today, we insist on the social responsiveness and awareness, the ability to relate the plans, policies and programmes to the social environment in such a way that these are mutually beneficial to the organization, society and ecology. The current trend is an organizations’ involvement in social actions. The mission and vision of any organization must express deep involvement in social actions to improve the quality of life in the society and quality of the environment. SELF CONTROL ...

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Karma and Reincarnation

...“if you believe in karma and reincarnation, you have more morals than believing in nothing” Personally, I agree with this statement, this is because believing in karma and reincarnation makes a person think in a long term perspective, this means they will think about their actions and positivity and how it may affect them later on or even in another life. The basic idea of karma seems to pop up in a lot of places, for example it doesn’t matter how religious you are or even if you’re not a hindu, it’s the fascinating idea itself . Reincarnation is also a very captivating idea, “You were. You will be” the initiative of the natural process of recycling human energy through birth, growth, decay and death. Reasons for view: People may agree with my belief because if we chose to ignore the workings of karma, we tend to create many problems for ourselves.  For example, if we like to have something expensive, but we cannot afford it, it becomes very tempting to steal. If we are smart enough, we may never be caught stealing. However, by stealing, (according to the law of karma) we create problematic situations for ourselves in the future, like poverty, or being the victim of robbers. Therefore, if we chose to ignore karma, the results of our actions will still haunt us. Another reason why I agree with karma is the idea of ultimate justice as everyone will harvest the results of their actions and even if karma would not exist, as long as I try to avoid negative actions, the......

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...Karma is the belief that the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences; basically, it is an effect, the cause being the actions of a person. In Buddhism, karma is viewed as a moral principal. In Jainism, karma is viewed as a way of moving up or down in status. Being prevalent in both Jainism and Buddhism, karma’s role in Jainism is a way to make life better mentally and spiritually, therefore, is considered more important in Jainism. First, I’d like to discuss karma in Buddhism and why it has a significance. Buddhism, like Jainism, recognizes inequalities in mankind. Being a religion and a way of life, they feel there is a way to explain these inequalities and that it is not purely accidental; karma being one of those explanations. The other three reason Buddhism gives for these inequalities are heredity, environment, and “nature and nurture.” Karma in the Pali term means action or doing. Any kind of intentional act is regarded as karma as intentional means there has to be thought put into it. Karma can be either good or bad, depending on the action taken by the person. If the action is unintentional or involuntary, then there is no karma present. The whole idea of karma is that a choice, whether good or bad, is being made, causing a reaction. Being good and making good choices will lead you to be happy while being bad and making bad choices will lead you to be unhappy. ("Basic Buddhism: The......

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Karma Reflection Paper

...I found karma to be a very intriguing topic within Buddhism and how they believe something such as intent of actions determine such a major part in the reincarnation of a soul and ultimately liberation from rebirth. Willful intentions, whether good or bad, create a cycle of the soul. While most people feel that karma is “what goes around comes around,” I do not feel like that saying is truly karma in the Buddhist sense. Rebirth seems to be an integral idea of karma and someone’s reality is a reflection of their thoughts and actions, not just doing one thing wrong and getting reprimanded or chastised for it. The substance of the unconscious mind and pressures of desires unfulfilled, dreams unrealized, and incompletion of the soul’s mission to the ultimate afterlife are the keys to karma. The human potential for spiritual and personal growth aids in making karma into wisdom, understanding and virtue. It seems that a Buddhist’s life and character were created by karma and that shaped by imagination and intelligence. I believe they think it is paramount for individuals to achieve a clearer understanding of their personal karma to find out what triggers it and what resolves it so they may actualize their potential and become finally free. In the good sense, karma can inspire change and it spreads good since the belief that everything a person does actively contributes to their past, present and future experiences. It isn’t necessarily about what is good or bad, but the cause...

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Karma in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism

...The Nature of Karma in Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism People of all religions partake in traditional ceremonies, have special symbols to represent what they worship, peruse different sacred writings and hold diverse theological beliefs. One tradition that is very common among Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, is the law of karma. The religious tradition is defined as the “universal causal law by which good or bad actions determine the future modes of an individual’s existence (Olivelle). This tradition has inimitable meaning in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism, with slight differences. Hindus believe that people are reborn into another life after this one and that the law of karma suggests that a person’s mental and physical actions are binding to the cycle of birth and death. The idea of karma states that actions in one’s present life will determine the condition of the next life. When people begin their current life, karma accumulates because of their actions. And when they die, they will be reborn into another life, as either a human again or in another form, depending on the quality of the former life. The ultimate goal of Hindus is to attain liberation by escaping what is known as samsara, through a process called moksha (Frisch). In Hinduism, “a man becomes pure through pure deeds, impure through impure deeds (Fisher 77). Like the Hindus, the Jain believe that one’s behaviors and motives entice karma. A person's karma from past lives determines the quality of present......

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...independent religion was based upon the teachings of its founder Mahavira. With the lessons taught by Mahavira and my interpretation of his lessons I was able to create the following framework for understanding and comparing of Jainism. What Does It Mean To Be Human? In Jainism the soul is thought of as uncreated and eternal, and is capable of obtaining a perfect divinity. Followers of Jainism should gain liberation from the continuous cycle of rebirth, by not stirring up any bad karma, particularly any bad karma stemmed from causing harm to any and all conscious beings. What Is the Basic Human Problem? The basic human problem as seen by the followers of Jainism is finding a way of finally stopping the continuous wheel of reincarnation. In short, how does one impede this circle of endless lives and come to an end so that they can live? What Is the Cause Of the Problem? The cause of the basic human problem is the continuous wheel of reincarnation, viewed by followers of Jainism, is the karma that they create. What Is the End or Goal of Transformation? The goal of transformation for the followers of Jainism is accomplished when the soul is liberated from matter. What Are the Means of This Transformation? The means of transformation are obtained for the followers of Jainism when they follow the following vows: 1. They vow non-injury of life (ahisma). 2. They vow to always speak the truth. 3. They vow to...

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...The Hindu religion is very different than what we have always considered a religion. In reality it is a group of several smaller religions, or beliefs, that are all comprised of the same basis. Most see that there is a uniformity of behavior and not belief. Hinduism, in a general speaking though, is the belief in either several Gods and Goddesses, or the belief in one god that has many different faces. The gods would choose whether you were a good soul or bad soul, and your fate depended upon their choice and your deeds. Those that lived there lives with good karma were able to be liberated from the circle of birth, and given redemption, or Moksha meaning freedom. Those who had bad karma though, were to be punished for their sins by being forced to live in this world and be born again and again (Pecorino & Romano 2001). As said, Hinduism is a religion with various Gods and Goddesses. The three main Gods that are considered to rule the world are, Brahma: the creator, Vishnu: the preserver, and Shiva: the destroyer. For some, they believe that one God controls all three characters. Some people outside the Hindu religion do not believe it is a true religion. Some say that since it does not have one single unified structure that it cannot be. One who felt very strongly about this was Chief justice P.B. Gajendragadkar. In 1995 he was quoted: "When we think of the Hindu religion, we find it difficult, if not impossible, to define Hindu religion or even adequately describe......

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...everything in it are equal and are in search of an “eternal oneness” (Weider, L. and Gutierrez, B. p. 58). They believe that upon death they will reincarnate into another life form. The life form they are reborn as will depend on whether they performed good or bad deeds during their lifetime. This is their concept of reaping what they sow, which Buddhist call Karma. The more acts of goodness they accomplish in their life, the closer they get to reaching the state of Nirvana. This level is the highest achievement possible for Buddhist and when it is accomplished it is said that their souls become eternal. The Question of Meaning/Purpose The Buddhists main objective is to perfect their life on earth in order to end the cycle of Samsara, which in it’s simplist form is their reincarnating until they reach the state of Nirvana. The Question of Morality Because “Buddhism is more about an ethic and philosophy than an actual religion” (Hindson, E., Caner, E., p. 155), it stands to reason that they would follow a concept, rather than a god, in terms of modeling their moral identities. As such, they follow the concept of Karma and look to themselves to figure out what is proper conduct in order to...

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...Hinduism May 13, 2012 Axia College HUM 130 Hinduism is an ancient and complex religion that is composed of a variety of myths, gods, and philosophic ideas. Much like Buddhism, Hinduism is a belief structure founded on fundamental concepts such as karma and reincarnation. Hinduism believes that humans are trapped in a cycle of rebirth which places one in a particular place within the caste system in accordance with their actions in the prior life. Ultimately, the object of Hinduism is to break the cycle of rebirth by realizing the ultimate reality (Brahman) with all their being; enlightenment. For the Hindu, the liberation from the earthly existence is to become one with the Brahman (Flesher, 1998). These beliefs have a variety of interpretations and this allows for people of many different beliefs to be considered Hindu. The uniting concepts of Hinduism include: * Dharma- virtue, specifically this concept refers to one’s duties within a particular caste. It is virtuous to perform one’s duties in a willing and correct manner. * Samsara- the cycle of rebirth or reincarnation. * Karma- the belief that one’s actions accumulate over one's life and at death this accumulation of actions determines one placement in the next rebirth, either higher or lower in status. * Moksha- the end of the cycle of rebirth or liberation from it. This is the ultimate goal and result for understanding Brahman (Flesher, 1998). Hinduism is very similar to Islam in that......

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