"taking someone else's negative karma"

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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby kirtu » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:18 am

Mr. G wrote:
xabir wrote:So the story in the sutras about mogallana saving his mother in hell by dedicating merits have no basis in dharma at all?


Well, there are some issues when reading the Ullambana Sutra.


I had thought there was a version of the Ullambana Sutra in the Nikayas but apparently there is not.

The suttas referenced wrt merit transfer for dead relatives are the Sigaloavada Sutta, Tirokudda Kanda Sutta, and the Janussonin Sutta.

However Bhikkhu Punnadhammo states that the basis of merit transfer comes from the Khuddaka Nikaya and a story about King Bimbisara being harassed by relatives reborn as pretas:

What is the basis in the Pali cannon for transference of merit by sponsoring prayer or sutta recitation?

Answer

In one of the minor books of the Khuddaka Nikaya there is passage concerning this. The story, partly commentorial, is that King Bimbisara gave a meal for the monks and was subsequently troubled at night by the wailing of ghosts. The Buddha explained that this was because he failed to offer any of the merit to his deceased relatives. He gave another meal and transferred merit thereby pacifying the ghosts.

This has caused some difficulty in the exegesis, because according to strict theory karmas cannot be made for another. The explanation arrived at is that when one transfers merit the beings in the ghost realm rejoice and rejoicing in the wholesome is itself a good karma.


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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Will » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:28 am

Mr. G wrote:
Will wrote:A bad karmic effect takes the form of a demonic being. This demon attaches itself to the human & precipitates illness or injury. When a bodhisattva "takes on negative karma" he is taking the demonic being upon himself and away from the one healed.


But, that's the issue. I don't think a bodhisattva can take on a demonic being. I don't think a demon can get near a bodhisattva.


You have it backwards Mr G; if a bodhisattva wants to pull a demon off someone, the demon cannot stay where the demon wants. Might as well say a surgeon cannot remove a tumor because the tumor is bad and the doctor is good.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:34 am

kirtu wrote:
This has caused some difficulty in the exegesis, because according to strict theory karmas cannot be made for another. The explanation arrived at is that when one transfers merit the beings in the ghost realm rejoice and rejoicing in the wholesome is itself a good karma.


Yes, this is what I believe and have mentioned in this thread. When the party rejoices, that his how they acquire merit. It is not really a literal "transfer".
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:43 am

Will wrote:
Mr. G wrote:
Will wrote:A bad karmic effect takes the form of a demonic being. This demon attaches itself to the human & precipitates illness or injury. When a bodhisattva "takes on negative karma" he is taking the demonic being upon himself and away from the one healed.


But, that's the issue. I don't think a bodhisattva can take on a demonic being. I don't think a demon can get near a bodhisattva.


You have it backwards Mr G; if a bodhisattva wants to pull a demon off someone, the demon cannot stay where the demon wants. Might as well say a surgeon cannot remove a tumor because the tumor is bad and the doctor is good.


Your taking what I wrote in the wrong context. I was referring to what you wrote here:

    When a bodhisattva "takes on negative karma" he is taking the demonic being upon himself and away from the one healed.

A bodhisattva can't "take on" the negative karma of a demonic being. It can't transfer the negative karma of the demonic being on to himself.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Sherab » Thu Jan 26, 2012 6:46 am

Mr. G wrote:Are you losing sleep over this?

Nope. Just questioning your response and its underlying thinking/rationale/logic/degree of relevance.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:51 am

Mr. G wrote:Are you losing sleep over this?
I don't know about losing sleep, but I believe that his concern is valid. Why? Because what this discussion is saying is that Vajrayana practice is, in the worst case, a con OR in the best case, a series of complicated mind training practices/procedures!

As for the "taking on of karma". It seems to me that it is possible to a degree at the relative level.

The following is pure speculation.

Let's say a person (A) commits an action which will have some negative consequences. Person B, out of compassion for A, intervenes and takes responsibilty for the action thus diverting/deflecting the relative consequences from A onto themselves (B).
Okay, one might argue that B is merely experiencing the consequences of the action of intervention, rather than the consequences of the initial action. One may also say that A will ultimately still (possibly) undergo the consequences of their action in the future, especially if they do not do something to generate merit and/or purify.

But hasn't B, in a sense, taken on and reduced the suffering (at least temporarily) that is an outcome of the action of A? Haven't they taken on some of the karma vipakka?
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Pero » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:58 am

Sherab wrote:
Mr. G wrote:
Sherab wrote:When we request monks in Tibetan monasteries in Nepal, India or Tibet to recite prayers for us or for someone else, whether living or dead, are we cheating ourselves since nothing can be transferred or given? Are the monasteries, the lamas and the rinpoches cheating us by allowing us to believe that the prayers can be effective since nothing can be transferred or given? Have we all been taken for a ride and Vajrayana is just a big con job? Are we to pack up our intellect and stuff it aside and believe all is well as along as we follow instructions?


Of course not. If a person or spirit is in the presence of someone reciting prayers and mantras and are able to rejoice in it, it's beneficial. But rejoicing in merit isn't the same as taking on negative karma.

The key word is "if". What if you did not tell that someone that you are arranging for prayers to be said on his behalf? What if the beneficiary is not a buddhist? What if the spirit is somewhere else, and so on and so forth. Big if isn't it?


Not really, I don't think it matters.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby lumed » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:55 am

i have attended some pujas conducted by lamas and monks.

from my basic understanding, pujas do help to elevate certain bad "karmas" of the dead and sick.

so to take on someones' bad karma, i think it is not that far fetched.

when i was terribly sick some years ago, many prayed and chanted for me, is it my karma that they prayed and chanted for me or their karma that they chant for me? I don't really know, but i am thankful for their actions.

it is my personal belief that karma is a little more than just cause and action,,,,,
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:18 pm

Sherab wrote:
Mr. G wrote:Are you losing sleep over this?

Nope. Just questioning your response and its underlying thinking/rationale/logic/degree of relevance.


Yes, my concerns are the same towards your views as well.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:35 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I don't know about losing sleep, but I believe that his concern is valid. Why? Because what this discussion is saying is that Vajrayana practice is, in the worst case, a con OR in the best case, a series of complicated mind training practices/procedures!


No, not at all. I don't follow your reasoning here.

As for the "taking on of karma". It seems to me that it is possible to a degree at the relative level.


But how did you derive this?

Let's say a person (A) commits an action which will have some negative consequences. Person B, out of compassion for A, intervenes and takes responsibilty for the action thus diverting/deflecting the relative consequences from A onto themselves (B).
Okay, one might argue that B is merely experiencing the consequences of the action of intervention, rather than the consequences of the initial action. One may also say that A will ultimately still (possibly) undergo the consequences of their action in the future, especially if they do not do something to generate merit and/or purify.

But hasn't B, in a sense, taken on and reduced the suffering (at least temporarily) that is an outcome of the action of A? Haven't they taken on some of the karma vipakka?


Your example is missing a lot though when you wrote this:

    Person B, out of compassion for A, intervenes and takes responsibilty for the action thus diverting/deflecting the relative consequences from A onto themselves (B).


How does this taking on of responsibility happen?

Here's an example I offer. Someone who is feeling sick or believes they are under negative influences goes to a Chod ceremony. After the ceremony, that person is alleviated of their problems. How did this happen? My speculation:

The person undergoing the Chod ceremony has the karma to be a human being and have sense organs which allow them to hear sacred prayers and mantras. They rejoice in this and receive merit which alleviates them of their problem. What the Chod Master is doing is not "taking on" or projecting their good karma at the person undergoing the ceremony. They are bodhisattvas who provide the teachings. This is similar to how Mogallana used to travel to the heavenly realms to teach.

Shakyamuni Buddha cured sick people too - but it wasn't through taking on karma, it was through teaching. HIs words were sacred too:

    Thus I heard: At one time the Buddha was living at Rajagaha, at Veluvana, in the squirrel's feeding-ground. At that time the Venerable Maha Kassapa, who was living in Pipphali Cave, was sick, stricken with a severe illness. Then the Buddha, rising from his solitude at eventide, visited the Venerable Maha Kassapa, took his seat, and spoke to the Venerable Maha Kassapa in this wise:

    "Well, Kassapa, how is it with you? Are you bearing up; are you enduring? Do your pains lessen or increase? Are there signs of your pains lessening and not increasing?"

    "No, Lord, I am not bearing up, I am not enduring. The pain is very great. There is a sign not of the pains lessening but of their increasing."

    "Kassapa, these seven factors of enlightenment are well expounded by me, cultivated and much developed by me, and when cultivated and much developed, they conduce to full realization, perfect wisdom, to Nibbana. What are the seven?

    "Mindfulness. This, O Kassapa, is well expounded by me, cultivated and much developed by me, and when cultivated and much developed, it conduces to full realization, perfect wisdom, to Nibbana.

    "Investigation of the dhamma...

    "Energy...

    "Rapture...

    "Calm...

    "Concentration...

    "Equanimity, O Kassapa, is well expounded by me...

    "These seven factors of enlightenment, verily, Kassapa, are well expounded by me, cultivated and much developed by me, and when cultivated and much developed they conduce to full realization, perfect wisdom, to Nibbana."

    "Verily, Blessed One, they are factors of enlightenment! Verily, O Welcome One, they are factors of enlightenment!" uttered Maha Kassapa. Thus spoke the Buddha, and the Venerable Maha Kassapa, rejoicing, welcomed the utterances of the Worthy One. And the Venerable Maha Kassapa rose from that illness. There and then that ailment of the Venerable Maha Kassapa vanished.

    — SN 46.14
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 26, 2012 2:38 pm

lumed wrote:
from my basic understanding, pujas do help to elevate certain bad "karmas" of the dead and sick.

so to take on someones' bad karma, i think it is not that far fetched.



I think it's very far fetched. However, using my Chod example above where people are rejoicing in merit, then it's not that far fetched. Or looking at the Shakyamuni story regarding how Kassapa was healed, that is not far fetched. It offers a much more reasonable way of how karma functions between people. As Namdrol said, if Buddha's can take on bad karma, we should all be doing pretty well on the path then, if not close to enlightenment, or fully enlightened with signs to prove it.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Malcolm » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:27 pm

kirtu wrote:
The suttas referenced wrt merit transfer for dead relatives are the Sigaloavada Sutta, Tirokudda Kanda Sutta, and the Janussonin Sutta.



Sigaloavada Sutta has alms offerred on behalf of the dead -- which is clearly a pre-Buddhist custom such as that mentioned in the first part of the Mahāparinibbana.

Tirokudda Kanda Sutta: has clean good and drink offereed to pretas, but the merit accrued is one's own.

Janussonin Sutta: http://online-dhamma.net/nanda/AccessTo ... .than.html

This sutras says that gifts made to one's ancestors who have been reborn as hell beings, animals, gods or human cannot be enjoyed by them. However, gifts made to hungary ghosts can be enjoyed by them. In all cases the donor enjoys the merit of the gift.

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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Jan 26, 2012 3:53 pm

Mr. G wrote:
lumed wrote:
from my basic understanding, pujas do help to elevate certain bad "karmas" of the dead and sick.

so to take on someones' bad karma, i think it is not that far fetched.



I think it's very far fetched. However, using my Chod example above where people are rejoicing in merit, then it's not that far fetched. Or looking at the Shakyamuni story regarding how Kassapa was healed, that is not far fetched. It offers a much more reasonable way of how karma functions between people. As Namdrol said, if Buddha's can take on bad karma, we should all be doing pretty well on the path then, if not close to enlightenment, or fully enlightened with signs to prove it.

Agree.
I see tonglen and merit offering in general as seeding causes for future benefits of other beings. When one ripens the effects of one's negative karma, if one has enough merits they won't be experienced in such a dire faction. A bit like diluting paint in water. The same drop in a little quantity of water turns the water black. In a lot of water, it may be nearly imperceptible. When we dedicate merits we don't remove the amount of ink. Instead we add water to the final outcome. At least this seems a simple way to explain what I think about it. We create connections with other beings and plant seeds for future positive circumstances to arise. This way we lessen the effects of negative karmic potential. We don't take their karma upon ourselves. We create connections so that we can ease their suffering and give rise to positive circumstances in their future. That's how I see it in a nutshell.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:20 pm

Mr. G wrote:How does this taking on of responsibility happen?
Actually your example is unecessarily complicated, what I had in mind was more along the lines of:

A co-worker steals an item from work.

The boss finds out that the item is missing and starts to investigate who stole it.

You know that the boss has it in for the co-worker and will fire them if he finds out and you also know that the co-worker stole the item out of need.

Feeling compassion for the plite of your co-worker and knowing that the boss won't punish you harshly you tell the boss that you stole it.

Simple, everyday, Bodhisattva practice (no bells and bone trumpets). :tongue:
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Pero » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:31 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Mr. G wrote:How does this taking on of responsibility happen?
Actually your example is unecessarily complicated, what I had in mind was more along the lines of:

A co-worker steals an item from work.

The boss finds out that the item is missing and starts to investigate who stole it.

You know that the boss has it in for the co-worker and will fire them if he finds out and you also know that the co-worker stole the item out of need.

Feeling compassion for the plite of your co-worker and knowing that the boss won't punish you harshly you tell the boss that you stole it.

Simple, everyday, Bodhisattva practice (no bells and bone trumpets). :tongue:

This however does not take away the thief's karma. It just prevents the boss firing him which may or may not have been related to the karma of stealing this item.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:56 pm

Pero wrote:This however does not take away the thief's karma. It just prevents the boss firing him which may or may not have been related to the karma of stealing this item.
After the action (karma) is executed the action no longer exists, only the outcomes (vipakka) from the ripening of the action start to come into play.

So obviously you cannot take on the karma (action) but surely you can take on some of the consequences (vipakka) of the action?

Don't forget that when most people use the word karma, they use it mistakenly for the outcomes of an action, not for the action itself. You can see that clearly in the OP opening post.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Pero » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:23 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Pero wrote:This however does not take away the thief's karma. It just prevents the boss firing him which may or may not have been related to the karma of stealing this item.
After the action (karma) is executed the action no longer exists, only the outcomes (vipakka) from the ripening of the action start to come into play.

So obviously you cannot take on the karma (action) but surely you can take on some of the consequences (vipakka) of the action?

You are assuming that being fired is what would've been the karmic consequence of stealing that item. But there is no way to know that, getting fired could've just as easily been a consequence of something the thief did in his previous life (and perhaps stealing an item was the secondary cause). And the outcome of his action in present life might not happen in his present life but in one of his next ones (and it might not be being fired but being stolen from for example).

I think what you'd do by covering for him is actually just preventing the fruit of his action to manifest at that particular time. But the potential for the fruit of this action to manifest would remain and as soon as the right secondary causes would be present the fruit would manifest. IMO it's something like this. :shrug:
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Will » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:28 pm

G: Your taking what I wrote in the wrong context. I was referring to what you wrote here:

Will: When a bodhisattva "takes on negative karma" he is taking the demonic being upon himself and away from the one healed.

G: A bodhisattva can't "take on" the negative karma of a demonic being. It can't transfer the negative karma of the demonic being on to himself.


Correct; that is why I put 'takes on negative karma' in quotes. What is transferred or destroyed is the karmic effect or phala, ie the demon itself. The immediate cause of suffering is the demonic force, which can be 'taken on', destroyed, mollified etc.
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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby Mr. G » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:36 pm

This thread reminded me of the Hong Kong movie, "Running on Karma" starring Andy Lau (in a muscle suit!) I actually enjoyed it!

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Re: "taking someone else's negative karma"

Postby kirtu » Thu Jan 26, 2012 5:48 pm

gregkavarnos wrote: a series of complicated mind training practices/procedures!


Vajrajana IS a series of mind training practices. But there are keep interconnections between beings functioning as interdependence over lifetimes. Karma is part of that story but not all of it. Unfortunately I cannot point to chapter and verse for support on the interdependence part of this.

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