Karma

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Karma

Postby kresh » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:41 pm

I understand what the concept of karma is; actions have consequences. What my question is: what renders those actions good or bad? For example: In Hitler's mind he was justified and right in killing the millions of people he did. He thought he was doing the world good.
That doesn't necessarily make what he did right, obviously, but what makes it wrong? Our moral values? A child raised with the notion that killing, stealing, and rape are all good things would think that those things are good, would he not? Without a person to teach him right from wrong he would know no different.
So I ask you, what makes a good action good and a bad action bad? Perhaps it is dictated by the consequence of the action. But the consequence is still more or less dependent on interpretation.
Look at women's rights and how long it took us to give them the rights they have today in most countries. The men suppressing them were indeed performing bad actions, but they thought they were right in doing so. They thought women to be lesser than men.

Would they have bad karma for this, even though they believed what they were doing was in the best interest of the world?

I'm not saying I want to justify Hitler's actions, or the sexist actions of men. I am merely curious as to what you all think dictates a good and bad action, and if the karma that follows is remnant of the universal view of the action or the individuals view.


Thank you
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Re: Karma

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 02, 2014 3:59 am

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,
that's bad.
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Re: Karma

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Mar 02, 2014 4:23 am

Kresh wrote:So I ask you, what makes a good action good and a bad action bad? Perhaps it is dictated by the consequence of the action. But the consequence is still more or less dependent on interpretation.


What I think you're wrestling with is the question of whether moral judgements have any basis in reality. It is one of the difficult questions we face nowadays because 'science' appears to tell us that 'the universe' is devoid of anything which could be called 'moral', and that, therefore, 'morality' is something which is devised by human beings. 'Things are neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so', is the popular saying from Shakespeare.

In some ways that is true, but it is also the fact that as living beings, we are liable to suffer for a variety of reasons, and 'the causes of suffering' are often not the kinds of things whch science itself can address. Certainly medical science can and has ameliorated an enormous amount of physical suffering, but the suffering that arises from clinging, hatred and aversion is another matter. Such things can lead us to an impoverished form of existence, sometimes physically, other times emotionally and mentally, and I think that is a matter of fact, not simply of interpretation. Furthermore 'greed' on a large scale, for instance on the part of economic and political elites, might generate suffering for very large numbers of less fortunate people and other beings, and I think the argument can be made that this is objectively bad, and that it is not just a 'matter of interpretation'.

So I think it is fair to say that as Buddhism believes there is a true good, a real good, which is the release from suffering by the abandonment of the hindrances, and so on, and then whatever assists with that, either individually or socially, is a real good, and not simply a matter of convention or opinion. All that said, what you're asking about is moral philosophy, which is a very deep subject, and often defies easy answers. There are many vexed questions, and the more technologically advanced we become, the more they tend to proliferate. But if you believe there are real goods, then such difficulties don't mean that value judgements are simply a matter of opinion.
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Re: Karma

Postby dude » Sun Mar 02, 2014 5:25 am

Causes which lead to suffering for self and others are bad, ones that lead to non suffering are good.
It's not a judgment call, it's a natural law.
The root cause of all suffering isn't hatred or selfishness, it's ignorance.
One awakened to the law of causality understands that to hate, kill or harm others is to do violence to oneself.
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Re: Karma

Postby KeithBC » Sun Mar 02, 2014 3:05 pm

dude wrote:Causes which lead to suffering for self and others are bad, ones that lead to non suffering are good.
It's not a judgment call, it's a natural law.
The root cause of all suffering isn't hatred or selfishness, it's ignorance.
One awakened to the law of causality understands that to hate, kill or harm others is to do violence to oneself.

:good:
Good or bad are relative terms, but they are based on the consequences. An action is good if it reduces suffering. An action is bad if it increases suffering. (And I would add another classification: An action is evil if it intentionally causes suffering.)

Whether or not Hitler thought he was doing good is immaterial to the consequences. His actions caused suffering. That he was obviously deluded about the outcome only proves the point that the ultimate cause of suffering is ignorance and delusion.

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Re: Karma

Postby Jesse » Sun Mar 02, 2014 7:56 pm

It really depends what you mean by karma. As far as your question goes, what renders thing's good or bad probably comes down to the effects on yourself, and others. Most of what we are is habitual tendencies, when we act, think, etc we re-inforce these tendencies. So an act based on anger, would reinforce angry tendencies in yourself, and likely cause the same in the person who is the target of your anger.

Morality really is just an illusion, it has no basis in reality. I read somewhere before it's more accurate to describe thing's in terms of; causing suffering or not. I think that's probably the closest to the truth.
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
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Re: Karma

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Mar 02, 2014 9:50 pm

An action is good if it reduces suffering. An action is bad if it increases suffering.


What about actions that increase suffering in the near term, with a view towards eliminating it completely?

Siddhartha Guatama went through a great deal of suffering after his renunciation in his search for Enlightenment. Did he know for sure that he would ultimately succeed in 'going beyond suffering'?

It seems a truism to say 'good actions have good results' - but what is 'good'? What is it that makes the compass point in one way and not another? Especially when they way it points seems like the most difficult option. That is the hard question.

Morality really is just an illusion


That is the view of many in modern society, but I can't see how it can be reconciled with the idea that sila (morality) is one of the 'three supports' for the spiritual life (the others being wisdom and meditation). Seen this way, morality is indispensable for seeing through illusion.
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Re: Karma

Postby dude » Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:18 pm

What about actions that increase suffering in the near term, with a view towards eliminating it completely?

Well of course. Good medicine tastes bitter. Washing a wound hurts, but letting it get infected leads to much greater pain.
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Re: Karma

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:22 pm

dude wrote:Causes which lead to suffering for self and others are bad, ones that lead to non suffering are good.
It's not a judgment call, it's a natural law.


What if an action does both at the same time?
What does 'natural law ' mean?
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Re: Karma

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Mar 02, 2014 10:24 pm

jeeprs wrote:
An action is good if it reduces suffering. An action is bad if it increases suffering.


What about actions that increase suffering in the near term, with a view towards eliminating it completely?


bad in the short term, good in the long term.

But at that point, you have to start looking at the nature of emptiness in suffering.
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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: Karma

Postby dude » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:04 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
dude wrote:Causes which lead to suffering for self and others are bad, ones that lead to non suffering are good.
It's not a judgment call, it's a natural law.


What if an action does both at the same time?
What does 'natural law ' mean?
.
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Don't be ridiculous.
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Re: Karma

Postby Malcolm » Sun Mar 02, 2014 11:20 pm

kresh wrote:I understand what the concept of karma is; actions have consequences. What my question is: what renders those actions good or bad?


The Buddhas defined ten natural non-virtues: taking life, taking what has not been given and sexual misconduct, lying, harsh speech, calumny and gossip, malice, greed and ignorance (of cause and effects).

That is what makes a given action non-virtuous. The opposite are virtuous karmas.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

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Re: Karma

Postby KeithBC » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:20 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:What if an action does both at the same time?

What if it does? An action can both cause suffering and relieve suffering. The karma is then both good and bad.

It is too easy to think of karma as a bank balance that has only one value at any one time. That good and bad balance each other out to produce some kind of net bottom line. It isn't that way. If you do an action that causes some suffering and relieves some suffering, then you experience some consequences that are pleasant and some that are unpleasaant. The pleasant we call "good karma" and the unpleasant we call "bad karma".

If I kill a hijacker to prevent him crashing the plane (to modernize one of the Buddha's parables), I will experience some "bad" karma for the killing, and some "good" karma for the deaths prevented. The point of the Bodhisattva path is being willing to accept that price.

Why do we need good and bad to be mutually exclusive?

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Karma

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:17 am

Malcolm wrote:
kresh wrote:I understand what the concept of karma is; actions have consequences. What my question is: what renders those actions good or bad?


The Buddhas defined ten natural non-virtues: taking life, taking what has not been given and sexual misconduct, lying, harsh speech, calumny and gossip, malice, greed and ignorance (of cause and effects).

That is what makes a given action non-virtuous. The opposite are virtuous karmas.


Yes, and what differentiates this from, say, religious laws or the ten commandments or something like that,
where some kind of sin has been committed if you do this or do that bad thing,
is that these 'prohibitions' set forth by the Buddha are to guide one away
from engaging in the actions of body, speech and mind which bind one further to samsara.
So, if liberation from samsara is one's goal, and one engages in activities which are counterproductive,
those actions have consequences.
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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.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: Karma

Postby smcj » Mon Mar 03, 2014 4:21 am

If you build a chair unskillfully it will collapse when you sit on it. That's the clue that tells you that you did it wrong.

When you do something karmically unskillful, you will end up with suffering. That's the clue that tells you that you did it wrong.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Karma

Postby muni » Mon Mar 03, 2014 10:39 am

I am now listening here to this very humble Master :buddha1:

:smile:
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Re: Karma

Postby oushi » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:39 am

kresh wrote:What my question is: what renders those actions good or bad?

The Self.
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Re: Karma

Postby seeker242 » Mon Mar 03, 2014 1:16 pm

kresh wrote:I understand what the concept of karma is; actions have consequences. What my question is: what renders those actions good or bad?


What makes an action good or bad is whether that action is born of greed, ignorance, hate or non-greed, non-ignorance, non-hate. But since Hitler was blinded by hate, he could not see this, so he made up his own theory about it. But since the theory was invented by a blind man, the theory was wrong!
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Re: Karma

Postby kresh » Mon Mar 03, 2014 5:54 pm

thanks for the replies!!
I have a follow up question:
is there an amount of good or bad karma? what I mean by that is: is there a difference in bad karma between say stealing a candy bar or killing someone? good karma? picking up somebodies garbage verses helping a homeless man/woman in need?
sorry for going a little off topic here... just curious as to what you all have to say.

thanks
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Re: Karma

Postby Malcolm » Mon Mar 03, 2014 6:00 pm

kresh wrote:thanks for the replies!!
I have a follow up question:
is there an amount of good or bad karma? what I mean by that is: is there a difference in bad karma between say stealing a candy bar or killing someone? good karma? picking up somebodies garbage verses helping a homeless man/woman in need?

thanks


Yes, there are differences, but it mostly has to do with the force of your intention.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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