what is and isn't Karma

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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:09 pm

Yeah, it's a good analogy..but it also means that by default, not everything that happens is due to Karma..doesn't it?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby futerko » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:23 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, it's a good analogy..but it also means that by default, not everything that happens is due to Karma..doesn't it?

Maybe nothing actually happens and karma is the word for the mistaken idea that it does.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby justsit » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:30 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, it's a good analogy..but it also means that by default, not everything that happens is due to Karma..doesn't it?

Do you think that every single thing that "happens" is a karmic result?
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Seishin » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:37 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, it's a good analogy..but it also means that by default, not everything that happens is due to Karma..doesn't it?


That is how I understand it.

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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:50 pm

justsit wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, it's a good analogy..but it also means that by default, not everything that happens is due to Karma..doesn't it?

Do you think that every single thing that "happens" is a karmic result?


No, I don't think this personally, nor have I read much that indicates this, though admittedly what I have read directly on karma is sporadic. The distinction of "conditioned not determined" makes the most sense to me, like in the S. Dhammika explanations I posted earlier. I see conversations on DW alot that seem to connote things like the idea that genetics must always be due to Karma etc., so I am just wondering if there are people who believe that everything is due to Karma. I also got weird looks in conversations in person with other Buddhists when i said something like "well maybe it had nothing to do with Karma anyway" when a certain life event was mentioned as a result of Karma. So I have seen people balk at the mere possibility that there are causal factors other than Karma, not sure if that means they actually believe that it is the cause of everything, or it was just a reflexive thing.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby anjali » Mon Jan 14, 2013 5:57 pm

greentara wrote:Mirage 'Whatever text on this topic I try to read, I can still find no convincing explanation of how could anything NOT be predetermined. I just don't get it. Logically everything seems to point to complete predetermination"
The finger does seem to point to predetermination. Everything that is meant to happen will happen....the only possible escape route is to keep quiet!

Not sure how many here will catch the veiled reference. :thumbsup:
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  • All activities are like the games children play. If started, they can never be finished. They are only completed once you let them be, like castles made of sand. --Khenpo Nyoshul Rinpoche
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Nikolay » Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:00 pm

The seed analogy is good, but I don't see how it refutes predetermination. So, everything is determined not by karma alone, but by karma plus conditions. But aren't the conditions themselves determined by pre-existing stuff, whatever it is in this case?
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby justsit » Mon Jan 14, 2013 6:38 pm

mirage wrote:The seed analogy is good, but I don't see how it refutes predetermination. So, everything is determined not by karma alone, but by karma plus conditions. But aren't the conditions themselves determined by pre-existing stuff, whatever it is in this case?

Not following your line of thinking.
How are you differentiating between "determined" and "pre-determined?"

You may also want to read the Berzin archives article question on predetermnation, a segment quoted here:

...according to Buddhism, things are not predetermined. There is no fate or destiny. When karma is explained as impulses, it implies that impulses are things that we can choose to act on or not. Based on actions we have done in this and previous lives, we can explain or predict what might occur in the future. We know that constructive actions bring happy results and destructive ones bring undesired consequences. Still, how a specific karmic action ripens will depend on many factors, and thus, many things can influence it. An analogy would be: if we throw a ball up in the air, we can predict that it will come down. Similarly, based on previous actions, we can predict what will happen in the future. If, however, we catch the ball, it will not come down. Likewise, while we can predict from previous actions what will come in the future, it is not absolute, fated, and carved in stone that only that outcome will happen. Other tendencies, actions, circumstances and so on can influence the ripening of karma.
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Nikolay » Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:00 pm

justsit wrote:Not following your line of thinking.
How are you differentiating between "determined" and "pre-determined?"

You may also want to read the Berzin archives article question on predetermnation, a segment quoted here:

...according to Buddhism, things are not predetermined. There is no fate or destiny. When karma is explained as impulses, it implies that impulses are things that we can choose to act on or not. Based on actions we have done in this and previous lives, we can explain or predict what might occur in the future. We know that constructive actions bring happy results and destructive ones bring undesired consequences. Still, how a specific karmic action ripens will depend on many factors, and thus, many things can influence it. An analogy would be: if we throw a ball up in the air, we can predict that it will come down. Similarly, based on previous actions, we can predict what will happen in the future. If, however, we catch the ball, it will not come down. Likewise, while we can predict from previous actions what will come in the future, it is not absolute, fated, and carved in stone that only that outcome will happen. Other tendencies, actions, circumstances and so on can influence the ripening of karma.

I still can't see how this solves anything. So, we can choose to catch the ball. Where does our choice come from? Isn't it likewise conditioned - by our mood, our memories, our personality, by things we see, hear and feel - tendencies, actions, circumstances, endless conditions, which are conditioned themselves and so on? How is predicting our choice different from predicting where the ball will fall?
How are you differentiating between "determined" and "pre-determined?"

I'm not really differentiating. Is there a difference?
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:11 pm

From what I can tell the argument that karma is everything (which still seems iffy to me), and is also "conditioning" rather than specfics would go like this:

Things are generally determined to go in such and such way by your past Karma, but within those general tendencies one has some independence of action, which means that one's choices within these options which generally available can later on come to fruition and turn into what is generally possible.

Does this make logical sense or not?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby justsit » Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:27 am

OK. let's see if this is helpful.
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Nikolay » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:46 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:From what I can tell the argument that karma is everything (which still seems iffy to me), and is also "conditioning" rather than specfics would go like this:

Things are generally determined to go in such and such way by your past Karma, but within those general tendencies one has some independence of action, which means that one's choices within these options which generally available can later on come to fruition and turn into what is generally possible.

Does this make logical sense or not?

My problem is with concepts like "within those general tendencies one has some independence of action". What exactly would it mean? What does "choice" mean? As far as I can see, there are three alternative explanations:
1)Our choice is the result conditioned by pre-existing causes, whatever they are. That would mean it is pre-determined and fully predictable if we have sufficient information about those causes.
2)Our choice depends on some completely random factor. Like, quantum mechanics-class completely metaphysically random. This would mean that it is not pre-determined and is not predictable, but still we are not actually making a choice - rather, we are flipping a coin.
3)Our choice is not fully conditioned and not random, but somehow happens in some different way, that lets us make an independent decision. I fail to see how this could be possible.
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby justsit » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:58 am

mirage wrote:3)Our choice is not fully conditioned and not random, but somehow happens in some different way, that lets us make an independent decision. I fail to see how this could be possible.

Why not? Haven't you ever made a decision, then changed your mind?
Maybe started to say something unkind (an old habitual pattern?), then decided not to say it? Fully conditioned or random?
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Nikolay » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:24 am

justsit wrote:
mirage wrote:3)Our choice is not fully conditioned and not random, but somehow happens in some different way, that lets us make an independent decision. I fail to see how this could be possible.

Why not? Haven't you ever made a decision, then changed your mind?
Maybe started to say something unkind (an old habitual pattern?), then decided not to say it? Fully conditioned or random?

If I made a decision, and then changed my mind, it simply means that I made two consecutive decisions, both of them conditioned.
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby justsit » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:27 pm

Buddhist philosophy (or whatever area of study this discussion is progressing into) is not my strong suit. I came to the Buddhist path late in life, and as time is of the essence, I have chosen to place my focus elsewhere. So, I don't think I have anything else to offer you, sorry to say. Perhaps one of our more learned posters will assist.
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:37 pm

I don't remember all the fourteen unanswerables off the top of my head, nor do I remember where I read it..but I could swear in a couple of Pali suttas it's mentioned that you can't actually comprehend the workings of Karma fully..does anyone know what i'm talking about?

Also don't remember if this one was posted yet:

http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... ipt_2.html

Gotta run so i'll read it fully later, but he seems to be saying here that there are, in fact, actions that have nothing to do with Karma.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby 5heaps » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:25 pm

mirage wrote:3)Our choice is not fully conditioned and not random, but somehow happens in some different way, that lets us make an independent decision. I fail to see how this could be possible.

because you fail to understand that the mind is a functioning thing which has the capacity of action--rocks are functioning things as well, but they are just aggregrations of matter, they have no mental factors.
when karma ripens this necessitates that the person will have choice, not what it will choose. these are all different mental factors.
there are other mental factors born out of karma which actually urge/steer/force the person into a particular direction which overcome the person's ability to choose--but even then there is a choice
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby oushi » Fri Jan 18, 2013 1:41 pm

Karma is a sediment in a loop on conditioned flow. Like river that is split in two, where one part of the flow makes a bay, and then reconnects back with the main stream. So, it is fully conditioned, no free particles. Moreover, unconditioned freedom to make decisions is absurd. Choice is always based on something, it comes from somewhere. Buddha is unconditioned, because he is idle.
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby Punya » Fri Jan 18, 2013 9:44 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I brought this up in a discussion not too long ago and got weird looks:

Do people believe everything that happens is Karma?

If 100% of what you experience is your own Karma, this is essentially the same as pre-destination isn't it? Meaning that if it's all Karma there is really no possibility for the exercising of free will, other than the exercising of what you think is free which will has actually already been determined by your Karma, in which case no volitional action is necessary (or even possible) to affect your own Karma.

Karma seems to be an untenable paradox if it's assumed to be absolute...


The first thing I would say is that it is important to be clear that "karma" is the action and the "karmic result" is what we may experience although I agree that you have to have right causes and conditions for karmic seeds to ripen.

The best succinct explanation I've come across about karma is in Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche's commentary on Je Gampopa's "Jewel Ornament of Liberation" (pages 83-92). I can't see any links to it on the web so I'll try to briefly summarise it here:

[*]After studying causality we may have the idea that we have no choice at all, that everything is predetermined but this is not correct. Right from the start we have a choice about what seed we plant although once we plant a seed it may ripen.

[*]The Buddha taught that not everything comes from karma. Some things result from of our previous actions but there other things that come from immediate or accidental conditions (by chance) and that isn't karma.

[*]Karma is a very subtle subject and we cannot see karma directly because its pattern is very deep and hard to understand.

[*]If we have generated the causes we will experience the results so our actions are very important for the future.

He gives examples as well but I don't want to breach copyright and add whole slabs of text. I have heard or read other teachings on all of what I understand him to be saying except for the point that not everything comes from karma.
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Strife with outer enemies will never end.
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Re: what is and isn't Karma

Postby 5heaps » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:11 pm

oushi wrote:Like river that is split in two, where one part of the flow makes a bay, and then reconnects back with the main stream. So, it is fully conditioned, no free particles.

the metaphor doesnt hold up at all, since that division is purely conceptual, and karma is not conceptual (it is a functioning thing that is neither the same nor different as the mind ie. it is imputed onto the mind)
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