Does astrology matter to you?

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Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:22 am

In my study of Buddhist astrology I came across a good paper by Bill Mak available here:

http://www.econ.kyoto-u.ac.jp/daikokai/ ... 20Mark.pdf

This is a key point:

    Broadly speaking, we can see that jyotiṣa materials are often incorporated into Buddhist texts somewhat apologetically in the early phase. In the Mahāyāna case, jyotiṣa knowledge is often considered a form of expedient (upāya), employed for the benefits for the sentient beings though they are not considered genuine Buddhist teachings per se. In the late stage, in particular among the so-called Tantric works, they are seen as authentic Buddhist teachings and are often employed directly with no justification given or required.


So, it begs the question, if astrology was incorporated into Buddhism over time, to the point that it essentially became naturalized knowledge that needed no further justification for its existence in the literature, does it still matter to you?

One thing that can't be denied is that historically it has often played a very important role in Mahāyāna Buddhism from India to Tibet to China to Japan (maybe Theravada, too, but I honestly don't know). Astrological texts provided auspicious dates for events as well as horoscopes and other such occult knowledge. They still do, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, but elsewhere as well, but perhaps less so. A lot of very eminent and wise thinkers in the past took astrology very seriously.

Nevertheless, it doesn't seem to get much discussion in the English speaking Buddhist world. Is it not so important?
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:09 pm

Since astrology has its own tradition in the Western culture it'd be difficult to show how a Buddhist version is in any way more sensible.

"Career interests are advanced through clear, logical thinking and the sound application of good business sense. Financial interests look especially promising now, Virgo, so seize any opportunities for advancement that come your way. Working with others is likely to prove profitable, and could bring you closer to them, too. Roll up your sleeves and go to it. The results could surprise you." (Daily Horoscope)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:21 pm

Astus wrote:Since astrology has its own tradition in the Western culture it'd be difficult to show how a Buddhist version is in any way more sensible.


On one hand it provides apparently auspicious days for certain things (like receiving precepts), but then on the other hand it does provide horoscopes and advice on what to do when certain constellations are in certain places.

Regardless of how we might feel about it, it has been held as important in the past and still is.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:50 pm

Anything based on the on the observation of constellations is unreliable, because constellations as we see them from Earth do not actually exist. It is only our perspective, which presents stars and planets as appearing on a sort of flat surface, that creates the illusion of the sort of relative placement we see.

Basing any information about where the stars appear to be in the sky at the moment of one's birth is unreliable, because by the time the light from those stars reaches the Earth, at that moment when someone is born, those stars have long since shifted to a different location anyway. A star that you see twinkling in the night may have, in fact, ceased to exist thousands of years before the Earth even existed, its light only now reaching us.

Any claim that the stars and planets exert some kind of gravitational or magnetic influence is unfounded. There is more gravitational attraction between you and the metal stove in your house than to any star.

I don't know that there is any way, aside from anecdotal reports, to measure 'auspiciousness'. I suppose two crops of vegetables could be planted, one of them on an auspicious day, and the determine if, by some standard, that crop did better than the other.

However, contemplating the implications of Eastern astrology, that we are microcosms of the universe in general, much like studying the Tao Te Ching, I think, will give one an appreciation for how things really work together. That will naturally lead one to have better success in one's undertakings.

The only real noticeable benefit from Buddhist astrology that I see, is that it provides those monks and lamas who master it and provide its guidance to others with a good source of income.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:53 pm

Astus wrote:Since astrology has its own tradition in the Western culture it'd be difficult to show how a Buddhist version is in any way more sensible.


Hmmm... let's try that on:

Since [morality] has its own tradition in the Western culture it'd be difficult to show how a Buddhist version is in any way more sensible.

Since [religion] has its own tradition in the Western culture it'd be difficult to show how a Buddhist version is in any way more sensible.

Since [epistemology] has its own tradition in the Western culture it'd be difficult to show how a Buddhist version is in any way more sensible.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:22 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Anything based on the on the observation of constellations is unreliable, because constellations as we see them from Earth do not actually exist. It is only our perspective, which presents stars and planets as appearing on a sort of flat surface, that creates the illusion of the sort of relative placement we see.


I think ancients were aware of that as well, but used them for convenience's sake and as a way of easily referring to points in the sky.



The only real noticeable benefit from Buddhist astrology that I see, is that it provides those monks and lamas who master it and provide its guidance to others with a good source of income.


You're basically saying then that a lot of eminent figures are simply full of it. Many of the most respected figures in Mahāyāna Buddhism practised it, presumably not to make a quick buck.

The idea, as I understand relates, to the macrocosm-microcosm perspective: so above, so below. What happens in the stars is a reflection of what is occurring on other dimensions of reality like human social relations and the natural world.

I don't think you could prove astrology, though I did talk to a professional astrologer who did an experiment with a clam that only would open when the moon was directly above even if you moved it to another side of the continent. He said it demonstrated that celestial events do indeed affect the natural world in predictable and replicable ways.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Seishin » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:39 pm

I know virtually diddaly squat about Buddhist astrology. Are there any good reads (preferably free) out there so one can learn? :smile:

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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Feb 12, 2013 3:17 pm

Astus wrote:Since astrology has its own tradition in the Western culture it'd be difficult to show how a Buddhist version is in any way more sensible.


Jyotiṣa, is actually more accurate than western astrology, believe it or not, if one subscribes to using jyotiṣa in life planning. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayanamsa Whether either version is sensible or not, I can't say, as I don't use any system of astrology, except for propitiating Shanidev on Saturdays. He rules Saturn, and is said to be either a friend or foe in one's life. Though I think jyotiṣa is interesting, I don't know if or how much Buddhist astrology has diverged from Vedic astrology. Considering they both originate in India, I'd bet they are almost identical.

Hindu astrology
Main article: Ayanamsa
Further information: Jyotisha

Traditional Hindu astrology is based on the sidereal or visible zodiac, accounting for the shift of the equinoxes by a correction called ayanamsa. The difference between the Vedic and the Western zodiacs is currently around 24 degrees. This corresponds to a separation of about 1,700 years, when the vernal equinox was approximately at the center of the constellation Pisces, and the tropical and sidereal zodiacs coincided (around AD 290, or at 23.86° as of 2000, according to N. C. Lahiri, renowned author of Lahiri's Ephemeris, published in Kolkata, India. The separation is believed to have taken place in the centuries following Ptolemy (second century AD), apparently going back to Indo-Greek transmission of the system. But earlier Greek astronomers like Eudoxus spoke of a vernal equinox at 15° in Aries, while later Greeks spoke of a vernal equinox at 8° and then 0° in Aries (cf. p. 16, S. Jim Tester in ref.), which suggests the use of a sidereal zodiac in Greece before Ptolemy and Hipparchus.

Sidereal western astrology

Some western astrologists have shown interest in the sidereal system during the 20th century.

Shifted zodiac

Cyril Fagan assumes the origin of the zodiac in 786 BC, when the vernal equinox lay somewhere in mid-Aries, based on a major conjunction that occurred that year,[1] corresponding to a difference of some 39 degrees or days.

Most sidereal astrologers simply divide the ecliptic into 12 equal signs of 30 degrees but approximately aligned to the 12 zodiac constellations. Assuming an origin of the system in 786 BC, this results in a system identical to that of the classical tropical zodiac, shifted by 25.5 days, i.e., if in tropical astrology Aries is taken to begin at March 21, sidereal Aries will begin on April 15.

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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby maybay » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:19 pm

Seishin wrote:I know virtually diddaly squat about Buddhist astrology. Are there any good reads (preferably free) out there so one can learn? :smile:

Gassho,
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http://www.kalacakra.org/
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:50 pm

Karma Dorje,

It's not just that. Astrology is considered pseudo-science, because it wants to look like a rational system but it is not. There are many other areas of Buddhism that are clearly at odds with the modern world view, especially in areas that natural science covers (cosmology, elements, laws of physics, etc.) Since the greatest appeal of Buddhism in the West is its use of reasoning instead of relying on pure faith propagating astrology is against that. On the other hand, for those who are fine with supernatural things might be attracted to use Buddhist astrology, like other fortune telling systems.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:06 pm

Astus wrote:Astrology is considered pseudo-science, because it wants to look like a rational system but it is not.


Nobody ever actually proved that. A bunch of scientists signed some paper which said they denounced it as unscientific without any experimentation or evidence to prove it as irrational pseudoscience. It just doesn't jive with their theoretical framework, so they chucked it.

I don't personally practise astrology, but I know people who do. I also can't ignore the fact that plenty of intelligent people, east and west, have practised it. I'm sympathetic to Ptolemy who answered critics by saying it wasn't a perfect science, but nevertheless was reliable though limits existed.



Since the greatest appeal of Buddhism in the West is its use of reasoning instead of relying on pure faith propagating astrology is against that. On the other hand, for those who are fine with supernatural things might be attracted to use Buddhist astrology, like other fortune telling systems.


I don't think you can really escape the fact that Buddhism has a lot of magical thinking (in the sense of affecting reality by way of one's thoughts primarily), but at the same time there is what we would call a rational approach to certain things (like logic). Even the basic practices like merit dedication are essentially magic.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:49 pm

Huseng wrote:Nobody ever actually proved that. A bunch of scientists signed some paper which said they denounced it as unscientific without any experimentation or evidence to prove it as irrational pseudoscience. It just doesn't jive with their theoretical framework, so they chucked it.


You can see for yourself some resources refuting astrology in the footnotes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrology# ... _appraisal

By the way, when was there any proof of the relationship between planets and personality traits and everyday events? What kind of energy influences humans? How is it measured or perceived? etc.

I don't think you can really escape the fact that Buddhism has a lot of magical thinking (in the sense of affecting reality by way of one's thoughts primarily), but at the same time there is what we would call a rational approach to certain things (like logic). Even the basic practices like merit dedication are essentially magic.


Sure, there are some magical aspects. The meaning of merit dedication, however, is not necessarily anything magical, as it's simply about relinquishing one's attachment to positive results and also sharing the joy of one's achievements. No magic in that.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:55 pm

Astus wrote:You can see for yourself some resources refuting astrology in the footnotes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astrology# ... _appraisal

By the way, when was there any proof of the relationship between planets and personality traits and everyday events? What kind of energy influences humans? How is it measured or perceived? etc.



Like I said, I met one PhD who studied the effect of celestial phenomena on organisms to demonstrate that what goes on in the skies has an effect on beings down below, and demonstratively so. He didn't get so far in academia with such ideas by the sounds of it.




Sure, there are some magical aspects. The meaning of merit dedication, however, is not necessarily anything magical, as it's simply about relinquishing one's attachment to positive results and also sharing the joy of one's achievements. No magic in that.


Really? When you dedicate merit you're hoping your karma ripens in a way that directly benefits other beings. That's magical thinking (I'm not saying that as pejoratively because magic is essentially creating a willed change in consciousness which sets patterns in motion to some desired end).
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:33 pm

Huseng wrote:Like I said, I met one PhD who studied the effect of celestial phenomena on organisms to demonstrate that what goes on in the skies has an effect on beings down below, and demonstratively so. He didn't get so far in academia with such ideas by the sounds of it.

Really? When you dedicate merit you're hoping your karma ripens in a way that directly benefits other beings. That's magical thinking (I'm not saying that as pejoratively because magic is essentially creating a willed change in consciousness which sets patterns in motion to some desired end).


One PhD student, that's not exactly the same as actual research, is it?

Have you checked in the scriptures how dedication of merit works? The one explanation I remember from Theravada sources (e.g. this) is that the person one dedicates the merit to must know about it in order for to be transferred. And the reason for wishing all beings good is simply a personal practice and has no actual effect on others. If one could simply wish the merit to be transferred without the other's knowledge it'd result in the problem that buddhas could make all beings enlightened or at least free from ordinary suffering in no time.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Feb 12, 2013 6:39 pm

Astus wrote:One PhD student, that's not exactly the same as actual research, is it?


I would suspect there have been other projects looking for similar things.

There's also the arguments from the Stoics and Ptolemy:

http://www.iep.utm.edu/astr-hel/


Have you checked in the scriptures how dedication of merit works?



Vasubandhu explains how an arhat can extend their lifespan through merit dedication:

    The Mūlaśāstra says: “How does a Bhikṣu stabilize the vital energies? An Arhat in possession of supernormal power (ŗddhimān-prāptābhijñāḥ), in possession of mastery of mind, i.e., one who is asamayavimukta, gives, either to the Sangha or to a person, things useful to life, clothing, pots, etc.: after having given these things, he applies this thought to his life; he then enters into the Fourth or prāntakoṭika Dhyāna; coming out of the absorption, he produces the thought and pronounces the words: 'May this action which should produce a retribution-in-joy [bhogavipāka] be transformed and produce a retribution-in-life [āyurvipāka]!' Then the action (the gift and the absorption) which should produce a retribution-in-joy produces a retribution-in-life.”


https://sites.google.com/site/dharmadep ... -longevity

In Mahāyāna thought it is said you can dedicate your merit towards receiving or creating favourable circumstances, like becoming a king or some other regal figure over vast cosmic domains.

That's all magical thinking as I define it.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby PorkChop » Tue Feb 12, 2013 7:54 pm

Astus wrote:Have you checked in the scriptures how dedication of merit works? The one explanation I remember from Theravada sources (e.g. this) is that the person one dedicates the merit to must know about it in order for to be transferred. And the reason for wishing all beings good is simply a personal practice and has no actual effect on others. If one could simply wish the merit to be transferred without the other's knowledge it'd result in the problem that buddhas could make all beings enlightened or at least free from ordinary suffering in no time.


I didn't get what you said from the explanation in that link at all.
What that link says is that burning paper money, paper houses, and building cemeteries will do nothing to generate merit for the dead.
It recommends people looking to dedicate merit to deceased loved ones should do something that actually generates merit, such as building hospitals, schools, or helping people.
It also recommends to think of memories of the deceased while performing the meritorious acts, declaring them to be the cause.
There's a popular thought in east Asian Mahayana that the dead receive about 1/6th of the merit dedicated for them.
I don't see why cause and effect would not work for indirect causes - it certainly does if one tells another to kill, steal, or lie.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:07 pm

Astus wrote:Karma Dorje,

It's not just that. Astrology is considered pseudo-science, because it wants to look like a rational system but it is not. There are many other areas of Buddhism that are clearly at odds with the modern world view, especially in areas that natural science covers (cosmology, elements, laws of physics, etc.) Since the greatest appeal of Buddhism in the West is its use of reasoning instead of relying on pure faith propagating astrology is against that. On the other hand, for those who are fine with supernatural things might be attracted to use Buddhist astrology, like other fortune telling systems.


Jyotish is a rational system, meaning it has well-known rules that are precisely ordered and can be applied by anyone who learns them to achieve the same results. What it is not is necessarily an empirically-derived system. Instead it is a matter of revelation and mystic insight by its founders. You are welcome to use it or not, according to its relevance. It is hardly a core Buddhist belief. I might add that systems don't want to look like anything, that's anthropomorphic.

Personally, I use astrology on a daily basis. The field of the five elements and nine planets are not mere abstractions for vajrayana practitioners. (Mind you, Tibetan astrology is quite distinct from jyotish... different principles and applications). I really couldn't care less about marketing and branding efforts for Buddhism in the West. I am concerned with working with my day to day reality, and I find astrology one of the more useful worldly sciences.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:22 pm

Huseng wrote: I think ancients were aware of that as well, but used them for convenience's sake and as a way of easily referring to points in the sky.


The constellations don't actually exist. Its an optical illusion.

Huseng wrote:You're basically saying then that a lot of eminent figures are simply full of it. Many of the most respected figures in Mahāyāna Buddhism practised it, presumably not to make a quick buck.

No, I am saying that a lot of them believe in it, and that doesn't meant its true, but in the meantime they make money from it, as one of my teachers does, and many use that money to benefit beings, as my teacher does. He fully believes in it, while I do not. So, he is not trying to rip anybody off.

Huseng wrote:The idea, as I understand relates, to the macrocosm-microcosm perspective: so above, so below. What happens in the stars is a reflection of what is occurring on other dimensions of reality like human social relations and the natural world.

Yes. That part i agree with.

Huseng wrote:I don't think you could prove astrology, though I did talk to a professional astrologer who did an experiment with a clam that only would open when the moon was directly above even if you moved it to another side of the continent. He said it demonstrated that celestial events do indeed affect the natural world in predictable and replicable ways.


I bet there are at least two clams that that won't work on.
And maybe an oyster, too.

Astrology can easily be disproved based on the examples I gave in my first reply.
A professional astrologer is someone who makes money promoting something as true which can easily be disproved.
To use your words,it's a way to make a quick buck.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:02 pm

The problem in dealing with unprovables isn't that they aren't true.
Maybe they can be proved, and the things people come up with under the term 'astrology' may be true.
But until you can establish some kind of standardized way of measuring results,
then one unprovable is just as good an explanation as any other.
So, if a clam opens up on the full moon, for example,
it might actually be because invisible unicorns always show up on the full moon
and pry them open with their horns.
There is no reason why that is any less valid an explanation for things
than the movement of planets and stars.
Since there is no standardized way of measuring the results,
and thus, no way of replicating the process to see whether or not the results match,
over and over again,
we can imagine any explanation that suits us.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: Does astrology matter to you?

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:19 pm

How the "transference of merit" happens? To quote from the text I have already referred to:

"When the beneficiary is aware of the act or wish, then a mutual 'rejoicing in' merit takes place. Here the beneficiary becomes a participant of the original deed by associating himself with the deed done. If the beneficiary identifies himself with both the deed and the doer, he can sometimes acquire even greater merit than the original doer, either because his elation is greater or because his appreciation of the value of the deed is based on his understanding of Dhamma and, hence, more meritorious, Buddhist texts contain several stories of such instances.

The 'joy of transference of merits' can also take place with or without the knowledge of the doer of the meritorious act. All that is necessary is for the beneficiary to feel gladness in his heart when he becomes aware of the good deed. If he wishes, he can express his joy by saying 'sadhu' which means 'well done'. What he is doing is creating a kind of mental or verbal applause. In order to share the good deed done by another, what is important is that there must be actual approval of the deed and joy arising in the beneficiary's heart.

Even if he so desires, the doer of a good deed cannot prevent another's 'rejoicing in the merit' because he has no power over another's thoughts. According to the Buddha, in all actions, thought is what really matters. Transference is primarily an act of the mind."


For more discussion of this see this thread on DWT: transfer of merit

To use a Mahayana explanation, it is practically the same. In Nagarjuna's MMK (17.4-5) there are seven types of action (karma) defined:

Speech and physical action:
Unobservable unrejected actions, and
Unobservable rejected actions;
As well as . . .
Virtuous and nonvirtuous actions
Derived from enjoyment;
As well as intention: All are maintained to be similar.
These seven phenomena are the kinds of action.


The transference of merit, just as explained above in the Theravada teachings, here is called "virtuous and nonvirtuous actions derived from enjoyment" (paribhogānvayaṃ puṇyam apuṇyaṃ ca tathāvidham / 從用生福德 罪生亦如是). Candrakirti explains this type of action (paribhogānvaya):

"So too, there is [karma that has] continuity with use; this means the merit—the virtue—that is continuous with use. ‘Use’ (paribhoga) is the employment (upabhoga) on the part of the Saṅgha and such of an item that has been given away (parityakta). [With that employment this karma has] continuity (anvaya)—in other words, there is a continuation (anugama) arisen in the continuum (santāna) of the giver, [and that continuation] is an accumulating of virtue. And [there is] the non-merit of that type—i.e., that has continuity with use. An example is the construction of a temple where beings are killed. From the use of that temple in such ways that beings are killed there, there arises in the continuum of those who built it the non-merit continuous with use. In this way, there is also nonmerit of that kind."

Why is it that it is impossible to transfer merit (or demerit) to another being without the other's knowing? Because that would mean that karma arises without intention, that one person's karma bears fruit for another individual, and that is contrary to the law of cause and effect in Buddhism. The continuum or series (samtana, defined in the Abhidharmasamuccaya (p. 69, and the Kosa on p. 1353) as "the momentary continuation of the aggregates, elements and spheres at each moment") of each person could take over another being, making the entire system of karma and the path to liberation chaotic and meaningless.

And it is because of the system of action and results that if constellations could define the events of one's life then good and bad things would not be the fruits of previous deeds, unless we can somehow establish that the stars and planets reflect one's karmic seeds.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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