kresh wrote:I understand what the concept of karma is; actions have consequences. What my question is: what renders those actions good or bad?
Ultimately, it's how well it keeps you focused or distracts you from attaining enlightenment.
My parents met during WW2, because Hitler had invaded Europe.
So, here I am (YAY!) but as a result, or perhaps a remote by-product, of something horrible.
Every action has a ripple effect of unlimited consequences.
Chasing them all down is impossible,
so we can't look at something in retrospect and say,
"oh, that happened because of good karma or bad karma".
I asked my teacher (lama) about this very thing, and I mentioned the status of women in different societies, and how in some places, if you are born female people will say it is because of some negative karma. My teacher said that this is a misunderstanding. The outward appearances are not what is the result of karma. karma is carried in the mind.
As an example, it is said that if you are greedy and miserly in this life, you will be reborn in poverty in the next.
What does this mean?
On the surface, it appears to mean exactly that. You will be born into a family living in a slum or something.
But that isn't what it means.
What it means is, because you have set into motion this habit of greed and miserliness,
even if you are reborn into a rich family and live your entire life in luxury,
you will always suffer the experience of never having enough.
You will always be wanting more and more, always feeling that you are being deprived.
you will feel like you are living in wretched poverty even though you have more than you need.
But this concept of "this life" and "next life" should also be understood in the context of 'non-self'.
Who "we" are is a mental construct as well.
"We" die and are reborn with every breath, every moment of the day.
Many people think of karma as some kind of force in the universe
that hands out rewards and punishments for actions
but that isn't what it is at all. How could it be?
karma and the effects of karma appear as real
because our experience, this world we live in, appears "real",
meaning that we take the passing arising and falling of phenomena to be solid and substatial
and we rely on temporary things for happiness.
of course, temporary things can only bring temporary happiness.
karma is the perpetuation of this reliance on temporary phenomena.
Whatever actions bring you toward realization, that's good.
Whatever actions bring you away from realization, and thus, perpetuate more suffering,