Collective karma

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Collective karma

Postby lotwell » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:22 am

Is there any historical or sutric basis for such a concept or is it merely a figment of modern syncretic blending of religious ideas?

with love,

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Indrajala » Sat Nov 10, 2012 12:01 pm

Vasubandhu:

When many persons are united with the intention to kill, either in war, or in the hunt, or in banditry, who is guilty of murder, if only one of them kills?

As soldiers, etc., concur in the realization of the same effect, all are as guilty as the one who kills.

Having a common goal, all are guilty exactly as he who among them kills, for all mutually incite one another, not through speech, but by the very fact that they are united together in order to kill.

But is the person who has been constrained through force to join the army also guilty?

Evidently so, unless he has formed the resolution, "Even in order to save my life, I shall not kill a living being."


Vasubandhu, Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya. Vol. 1. Translated into French by Louis de La Vallee Poussin, English translation by Leo M. Pruden (Berkeley, CA: Asian Humanities Press, 1991), 649.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby joda » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:11 pm

lotwell wrote:Is there any historical or sutric basis for such a concept or is it merely a figment of modern syncretic blending of religious ideas?

with love,

Lotwell


It has been an aspect of Buddhist thought since the beginning. In the Pali canon the Buddha does explain that low or high status, good or bad health etc are all due to karma. The Abhidharma explains that all sense-consciousnesses are Vipaka (karmic reaction). This leads to the conclusion that all the 32 planes of existence show themselves thru typical setups of kalapas (dharmic molecules) which are again brought forth through the karmic dynamics of the individual mindstreams which we usually call "beings". In other words collective karma arises where several beings have reactive karma which is alike.
The term "collective karma" itself is not found in the old texts tho.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:48 pm

The term collective karma is found in the 100 000 Songs of Milarepa, when Milarepa is discussing with an indian yogi the difference between tibetan and indian collective karma. I don't know the corresponding tibetan word, the idea seems to exist in older buddhist sources too. It is a sensitive question, you would have to define it more accurately: what is collective karma?

There certainly are basic tendencies that you will have because you have been born and educated in Africa, in America, or in Europe. These are a result of common values and common habitual views and national customs. They become so inbred that you are hardly even conscious of them. Presumably you didn't have them before your birth into that particular life, so what are they? Collective karmic patterns, maybe? Or did you take birth there because you already had some of them? As a not-yet-manifest habitual tendency.

And: is there karma that is a result of collective action, like what a whole nation does? There are examples of collective action in Jataka Tales, and the collective results of these actions.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby KeithBC » Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:58 pm

Karma is individual and personal. However, several people can perform similar actions with similar motivations and therefore experience similar consequences (perhaps in a single event). "Collective karma" is simply a somewhat misleading term for these similarities. It does not mean that there is some causal connection, or that my action causes your consequence.

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Re: Collective karma

Postby duckfiasco » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:28 pm

How does collective karma impact entire societies, like the United States? On the one hand, I feel responsible somehow for the fact that the country I live in uses 25% of the world's resources for 5% of the population, uses military strength to enforce unfair trade agreements that hurt others, and any huge litany of complaints with the military industrial machine that is the US.

On the other, I feel like a tiny cog in a huge machine. I'm doing my best, but will contributing even indirectly to the suffering the US inflicts on the world make it harder to try to liberate other beings and myself?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:44 pm

If one lives in America, but for instance does not believe, or act from a viewpoint of American Exceptionalism, and is is no position of power, do they share the same Karma as someone who believes America's position in the world is justified, should be reinforced and acts accordingly, and is closer to the power required to more effectively perpetuate the status quo?

In other words, does the negative Karma, or potential for it increase as one goes "upwards" in society, or do we all share an equal chunk culpability, and the karmic effects?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby jikai » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:06 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:If one lives in America, but for instance does not believe, or act from a viewpoint of American Exceptionalism, and is is no position of power, do they share the same Karma as someone who believes America's position in the world is justified, should be reinforced and acts accordingly, and is closer to the power required to more effectively perpetuate the status quo?

In other words, does the negative Karma, or potential for it increase as one goes "upwards" in society, or do we all share an equal chunk culpability, and the karmic effects?


I would assume that as motivation is a conditioning factor of the act itself that the potential for negative karma would increase if one were of the belief that America's position in the world were justified, and decrease accordingly if they did not feel such a position were justified.

I guess the same would apply re your position of power or lack there-of?

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Jesse » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:23 am

what is collective karma


I would guess society.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:55 am

NO, there is no sutric evidence for collective karma. Even the Vasubhandu quote by Huseng shows that it is the common intention shared by each individual in the group that gives the personal outcome. If you do not have the intention, then you will not have the outcome (or the same outcome). Karma is personal.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Thu Nov 22, 2012 2:44 pm

The article Kamma: The creative life-force of human beings by Nalin Swaris argues that there is collective karma in buddhism: http://www.purifymind.com/KammaLifeforce.htm

Action occurs in a society, acts are done in the context of other beings, karma itself is social by nature.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby floating_abu » Thu Nov 22, 2012 4:34 pm

lotwell wrote:Is there any historical or sutric basis for such a concept or is it merely a figment of modern syncretic blending of religious ideas?

with love,

Lotwell


It's actually as obvious as pie, no backups even needed...please just observe the world for yourself, your actions, words, your government, your choices, your life, and those of those around you....look what it makes up. It all - every single theme and thread -- makes up THIS life, and it will for evermore i.e. whilst this world is in operation.

Best wishes,
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:10 pm

Aemilius wrote:The article Kamma: The creative life-force of human beings by Nalin Swaris argues that there is collective karma in buddhism: http://www.purifymind.com/KammaLifeforce.htm

Action occurs in a society, acts are done in the context of other beings, karma itself is social by nature.
Yes, but the consequences of your actions are yours, not somebody elses. If a general orders a massacre they do not have the karma of killing, as such, to deal with, but the karma of wrong speech. The soldiers may have the karma of wrong view (I must obey the general) and definitely have the karma of wrong action (killing). But even then, each soldier will undergo the consequences of: their actions, their intentions and their joy or sorrow about the action they executed. If somebody in the group kills with glee they will not have the same consequences as those that kill with hesitation. If someody in the group kills many while another kills one... If somebody in the group kills with a slow and tortuous manner while the other tries to kill their victims as painlessly as possible... Etc... So even though it is one group engaged in a single event, well it is pretty obvious that they will ot suffer the same consequences. ie NO COLLECTIVE KARMA.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Collective karma

Postby duckfiasco » Thu Nov 22, 2012 6:56 pm

TNH has written about collective karma before. I guess how I would understand it now is that it's more like collective influence. If you're in a society that values wholesale consumerism, you'll take part in that to some extent despite your best intentions. Wouldn't that entail some kind of weak karmic continuation? Or another example that I can think of, in France where it's almost cultural to be racist against English and Belgian people. A child learns that from their parents and becomes a racist adult through osmosis instead of negative intention to irrationally hate a nationality. Of course, no one's stopping them from going "wait a minute!" if they get a twist on their perspective. But maybe collective societal influence can look a lot like karma in those instances?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:36 am

gregkavarnos wrote:
Aemilius wrote:The article Kamma: The creative life-force of human beings by Nalin Swaris argues that there is collective karma in buddhism: http://www.purifymind.com/KammaLifeforce.htm

Action occurs in a society, acts are done in the context of other beings, karma itself is social by nature.
Yes, but the consequences of your actions are yours, not somebody elses. If a general orders a massacre they do not have the karma of killing, as such, to deal with, but the karma of wrong speech. The soldiers may have the karma of wrong view (I must obey the general) and definitely have the karma of wrong action (killing). But even then, each soldier will undergo the consequences of: their actions, their intentions and their joy or sorrow about the action they executed. If somebody in the group kills with glee they will not have the same consequences as those that kill with hesitation. If someody in the group kills many while another kills one... If somebody in the group kills with a slow and tortuous manner while the other tries to kill their victims as painlessly as possible... Etc... So even though it is one group engaged in a single event, well it is pretty obvious that they will ot suffer the same consequences. ie NO COLLECTIVE KARMA.
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The example of the general doesn't hold, if you have ordered a deed, you are responsible for it. If you have caused the performance of a deed, you are responsible for the action itself, it is not "false speech"! This is kind of wrong action of causing to be done is enumerated in the Sutra of Confession before the 35 Buddhas, it is also mentioned in the Dhammapada.
The example of collective karma that is found in the sutras is the appearance of the castes or classes in human society. They appear gradually as a result of collective Pratitya Samutpada, this is what Nalin Swaris has found out and what he explains. Same kind of collective course of events, collective Pratitya Samutpada, is described in the Aggañña sutta, when it describes the beginnings of human society.
As an example of collective action we could take the existence of national borders or the existence of sovereign states. We all take part in this action daily, we all benefit (or suffer) from it, and we are karmically responsible for it.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:14 am

Aemilius wrote:The example of the general doesn't hold, if you have ordered a deed, you are responsible for it. If you have caused the performance of a deed, you are responsible for the action itself, it is not "false speech"! This is kind of wrong action of causing to be done is enumerated in the Sutra of Confession before the 35 Buddhas, it is also mentioned in the Dhammapada.
Mind quoting some sources?

Needless to say I disagree. If you have not commited the act (karma) of killing you will not undergo the effect of the act of killing. If the order to kill, by itself, made one a killer of sentient beings, then even if the order was not executed, you would still undergo the effects of the act of killing. This is obviously not logical. This is not a case of trying to allocate blame or responsibility for the killing, nor is it a legalistic debate about what is a more heinous crime. You kill, you will have the karma vipakka of killing (and always in dependence upon your intention for carrying out the act and your subsequent mental state regarding the act). If you order a killing, you will have the karma vipakka of wrong speech.
The example of collective karma that is found in the sutras is the appearance of the castes or classes in human society. They appear gradually as a result of collective Pratitya Samutpada, this is what Nalin Swaris has found out and what he explains. Same kind of collective course of events, collective Pratitya Samutpada, is described in the Aggañña sutta, when it describes the beginnings of human society.
Nonsense. It is a refutation of the brahman claim (wrong view) to liberation by right of their belonging to a certain caste. It actually supports the idea of individual action (the choice to become a sravaka) and not caste membership as the defining characteristic of liberation.
As an example of collective action we could take the existence of national borders or the existence of sovereign states. We all take part in this action daily, we all benefit (or suffer) from it, and we are karmically responsible for it.
Again this is nonsense. I may, for example, support national boundaries but oppose armed guarding of the boundaries. Does this mean I will experience the karma viapkka for a racist border guard, for example, shooting and killing a refugee? Obviously not!

In any group/collective, even a group taking part in a concerted action, there as just as many individual differences as there are similarities.
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:10 pm

Here is a teaching on the confession for the 35 Buddhas, see page 9. http://www.thubtenchodron.org/PrayersAndPractices/35Buddhas.pdf

According to Sravasti Dhammika Buddha says that "one should not kill, encourage others to kill, approve of killing, or speak in praise of killing", (Ang. Nik. V 306). Sravasti Dhammika has recently written about vegetarianism and Buddhism in his blog Dhamma Musings, and this question of causing others to kill or abstaining from it, quite naturally belongs to the topic of vegetarianism, don't You think so?

Sources: http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=Anguttara_Nikaya_3.16

The six realms arise because there is collective Pratitya Samutpada, and there further arise 100 000 realms within those six realms. They arise gradually, as a manifestation of collective and individual actions of beings. Because there is collective Depedent Arising there are different realms, realms that are products of collective habitual tendencies. There is action and karma that is shared in common, and action and its result that is individual. Because of this there are the different realms, and beings in these realms that experience the same realm. Because they share in common a similar karmic result, they experience a manifest result that is a particular realm. That realm is not experienced by other beings who share in common another type of karmic result and who are thus said to be living in another realm.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:36 pm

Aemilius wrote:Here is a teaching on the confession for the 35 Buddhas, see page 9.
This (and the other link you provided) is an interpretation, not scripture. I have asked for scripture.
According to Sravasti Dhammika Buddha says that "one should not kill, encourage others to kill, approve of killing, or speak in praise of killing", (Ang. Nik. V 306)...
Yes, but he does not say that the one that encourages another to kill will have the karma vipaka of killing. You see nobody said that wrong speech cannot lead to rebirth in a Hell realm, the Hell realm is not reserved just for those that kill, it is reserved for those that act via the three doors with a mind full of anger/aversion. The person killing may not be acting out of anger/aversion, they may be acting out of wrong view and thus take rebirth in the Animal realm. The one that encouraged them to kill may be acting with a mind full of aversion/hatred and thus take rebirth in the Hell realm.
The six realms arise because there is collective Pratitya Samutpada, and there further arise 100 000 realms within those six realms. They arise gradually, as a manifestation of collective and individual actions of beings. Because there is collective Depedent Arising there are different realms, realms that are products of collective habitual tendencies. There is action and karma that is shared in common, and action and its result that is individual. Because of this there are the different realms, and beings in these realms that experience the same realm. Because they share in common a similar karmic result, they experience a manifest result that is a particular realm. That realm is not experienced by other beings who share in common another type of karmic result and who are thus said to be living in another realm.
Says who? I mean if you read the Buddhas teachings on Dependent Origination I think you will find that it is a VERY individual process. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html I don't see any talk in there about collective arising, do you? Anyway, how far do you take this idea of the collective karma? Community? Nation? Continent? Planet? Universe? Like, how far does this apparent collective outcome stretch? Am I to undergo the karma vipaka of every being in the six realms, because we are all samsaric beings, because we share the collective action of existing in samsara? :shrug:

Sorry, but logically it just does not hold any water (and it is not verified by scripture). Feel free to continue to believe it, I will rest assured that, just because we belong to the collective category of human Buddhists, I will not suffer the consequences of your mistaken view! :tongue:

Anyway, let's look at it from another (positive) perspective: If the Buddha achieved enlightenment then we (ie all human beings) will all reap the fruits of his "achievement" due to the mere fact that we are all human beings like the Buddha was. Nonsense. If that was the case then we would all be enlightened right now due to the mere fact that all the Budhas are Buddhas already are. Unfortunately not.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Collective karma

Postby tattoogunman » Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:03 pm

For what it's worth, my visit to the local Mahayana temple this past weekend for their English language class actually covered killing/murder. They (monk/teacher) stated that the person who aids, abets, or orders a violent act (such as killing) was just as guilty of the murder as the person who actually did the killing and their karma would be affected accordingly. They didn't quote any specific source for that, it's just what they told our class. That's not to say that there aren't different schools of thought on that subject, I'm just relaying what they told the class.

For what it's worth........ :smile:
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:48 pm

tattoogunman wrote:For what it's worth, my visit to the local Mahayana temple this past weekend for their English language class actually covered killing/murder. They (monk/teacher) stated that the person who aids, abets, or orders a violent act (such as killing) was just as guilty of the murder as the person who actually did the killing and their karma would be affected accordingly. They didn't quote any specific source for that, it's just what they told our class. That's not to say that there aren't different schools of thought on that subject, I'm just relaying what they told the class.

For what it's worth........ :smile:
Karma vipaka (the outcome of an action) is not about guilt/innocence. It is about executing an act and undergoing the consequences of executing the act.
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"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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