Collective karma

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:46 pm

The teaching of Thubthen Chodron is a commentary on a Mahyana sutra. On page 9. he comments a sentence from that sutra which begins: "I have created, caused others to create (negative karma)..."
The action is causing others to create negative karma, and it does exist in a sutra.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:09 pm

Borders are an action shared in common in the sense that you think, and you take it for granted, that for ex. Switzerland exists. You would be very offended if Switzerland didn't exist, and if anybody could move to Switzerland whenever they wanted. You also consume goods that are produced in countries that are protected by borders. You also say that a person is Swiss, etc... In these ways You take part in the action of national borders everyday of your life.

Action shared in common exists in Yogachara scriptures, it is found in the Five Works of Maitreya.
It is a cause for the perception of similar and dissimilar realms. Yogachara uses it in explaining the arising of the perception of the six realms.
How else could you explain the arising and manifestation of the six realms?

Salistamba sutra that explains the Conditioned Genesis or Pratitya Samutpada had a greatest number of commentaries written to it in India of all sutras, says the David Ross-Reat who translated it. I haven't seen them, but I think there must be something about this topic in them. There are tibetan commentaries on the Pratitya Samutpada and Salistamba sutra, you could find out what ancient tibetan scholars have written about it ?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:26 pm

The teaching of Thubthen Chodron is a commentary on a Mahyana sutra. On page 9. he comments a sentence from that sutra which begins: "I have created, caused others to create (negative karma)..."

You obviously do not know what the word karma means. Karma means action. The quote quite clearly says that one has been the cause for other people to act negatively, not that one's karma vipaka has been transfered to others.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby viniketa » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:34 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:PS I believe that the major problem in this discussion is that people consider karma in terms of guilt/innocence, justice, retribution, reward/punishment, deservable outcome, providence, etc... ie that they consider karma through the prism of ethical/moral/legal values instead of what it actually is: a natural law.


I agree that early Western translators did a disservice by translating karma as "retribution", which has led to it being described in the various terms above. For some reason, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of some teachers to designate karma a "natural law", but it is certainly an impersonal "law" of cause and effect. Impersonal is the key descriptor, here. No retribution, punishment, providence, etc.

That said, and with all due respect to gregkavarnos, I have both heard and read teachings that "collective karma" does exist. Berzin (here) says it is more correctly termed "shared karma", but then goes on to use the more common term "collective karma". While I have heard/read of it most from Tibetan Buddhist teachers (including HHDL and Lama Zopa Rinpoche), it have also read Theravāda teachers who use the term. Apparently, even academics have read/heard such teachings (see this PDF from Richard Hayes).

My understanding, briefly, is that certain cultures and groups share a "worldview" to the extent that it affects intentional action and therefore karma.

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:49 pm

Aemilius wrote:Borders are an action shared in common in the sense that you think, and you take it for granted, that for ex. Switzerland exists. You would be very offended if Switzerland didn't exist, and if anybody could move to Switzerland whenever they wanted. You also consume goods that are produced in countries that are protected by borders. You also say that a person is Swiss, etc... In these ways You take part in the action of national borders everyday of your life.
Borders are commonly agreed to definitions/conventions of essentially non-existent phenomena. But this is completely irrelevant to the discussion.
Action shared in common exists in Yogachara scriptures, it is found in the Five Works of Maitreya.
It is a cause for the perception of similar and dissimilar realms. Yogachara uses it in explaining the arising of the perception of the six realms.
How else could you explain the arising and manifestation of the six realms?
I do not disagree that beings with similar mental predispositions give rise to similar phenomena. But am I responsible for your name and form just because we are both human beings?

To build a house you need the concerted effort of builders, plumbers, electricians, architects, etc... right? But, let's say, that the plumber did not fit the pipes properly and the house floods the first time you flush the toilet. Is the architect to blame because he was part of the comon intention to build the house? The electrician? The builder?

This is the key concept that you have continuously, throughout this entire thread, failed to address (ignored actually).

If you do not address this point, if you cannot come up with a logical answer to this hole in your theory, then it sinks.

Can you address this point?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Nov 28, 2012 5:41 pm

If karma cannot be shared why do bodhisattvas return to nama-rupa and teach compassionate behavior to persons? Wouldn't they already have the karma to realize compassion themselves without being taught?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:37 pm

Teaching is definitely one way of sharing the merit accumulated from ones practice, BUT what happens in a situation when I teach somebody and the teaching falls on deaf ears? Does this mean that the (my) karma was not transferred properly, or does it just mean that essentially the students actions are the only things which will generate their karmic outcomes for them? If karmic transference was possible (in a literal sense, I take my karma and give it to you) then why don't the Buddhas, that have an unlimited store of merit, just transfer all their infinite merit to us and liberate us? Because they cannot. Only we can liberate ourselves. I can be shown the door, but if I want to exit, I have to walk through it.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby catmoon » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:28 am

Suppose you put rifles in the hands of 1000 men and put them on the battlefield and ordered them to start shooting. And let us suppose they do so and they all kill someone. All but one, who refuses to shoot out of compassion.

If collective karma existed, that one guy would suffer the exact same consequences as the others in his unit. Thus, the causative link between one's actions and results would be broken, and karma itself could not exist.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Caz » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:35 am

Collective Karma would imply a collective consciousness which is something that isn't taught by Buddha.
Abandoning Dharma is, in the final analysis, disparaging the Hinayana because of the Mahayana; favoring the Hinayana on account of the Mahayana; playing off sutra against tantra; playing off the four classes of the tantras against each other; favoring one of the Tibetan schools—the Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu, or Nyingma—and disparaging the rest; and so on. In other words, we abandon Dharma any time we favor our own tenets and disparage the rest.

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:25 am

Caz wrote:Collective Karma would imply a collective consciousness which is something that isn't taught by Buddha.


The six realms do not exist, but their perception arises due to the habitual tendencies of beings. This means that we, as humans, see the sun and we see lakes and we see oceans. This is all due to our karmic tendencies. The world outside has no real and true existence.
At the same time there are beings who have the perception of darkness, the perception of smoke, etc... There is only the appearance of a world. This appearence is similar to a group of beings, like the six groups of beings (i.e. hell beings, hungry ghosts, etc...). The appearance is similar because beings share similar tendencies in their consciousness.

How did these similar tendencies come about? They came about as a result of accumulated karma over long period of time. In a sense there is collective consciousness because we agree that there is the sun, that there are lakes and there are seas. We strengthen each other's belief that the outer world is true when we perceive a similar realm. Our perception of the appearence of a world is never exactly the same even in the human realm, because our minds and our senses are slightly different, or much different.
There is collective consciousness in the sense that devas perceive the heavenly realms, titans perceive the titan realm, humans perceive the human realm, etc...

Buddha describes karmic results that are experienced collectively when he teaches about the future development of the Dharma and Sangha, (that they will go through 500 year phases of degeneration, and so on...). In so doing he is describing a collective situation of humanity and a collective situation of Dharma and Sangha. Buddhist commentarial literature ascribes this development/degeneration of Dharma and Sangha to collective karma or lack of morality etc, more often than not this is the view. The collective situation described or manifested is merely mind or consciousness, it has no independent existence.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Jan 24, 2015 6:35 am

Ven. Shravasti Dhammika has made an update with some additional information to his article on collective karma. Here it is reprinted with his permission:

(note: he uses Pali spelling most of the time; kamma = karma)

In recent decades something referred to as collective kamma or group kamma has been posited and discussed. The term has been used not only in popular writing but occasionally even by psychologists, therapists, sociologists and other professionals. If by collective kamma one means something like Emile Durkheim’s concept of collective consciousness then this would be quite acceptable. By collective consciousness Durkheim meant that a large number of people with shared history, language, customs and beliefs may well think and behave in ways that are similar or that have modalities in common. Collective kamma, however vaguely understood or interpreted, is quite different from this. It is the notion that the kamma a person or group of people created by acting in a particular way can have the same or similar vipāka on another person or number of people who did not act that way. For example, the revered Tibetan master Lati Rimpoche recently claimed that the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust was the result of great wickedness some of them had committed in previous lives. Others have claimed that the murderous rule of the Khmer Rouge was likewise kammic retribution for past evil done by the Cambodian people. The most recent mass tragedy to be dubbed an example of collective kamma was the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. In the days immediately after this disaster a prominent Singaporean monk was reported in the local newspaper as saying that most of the tsunami victims were fishermen suffering the kammic consequences of decades of killing fish.

Nothing explicitly mentioning the idea of collective kamma is found in the Buddha’s teachings and there is no Pāḷi or Sanskrit terms for collective kamma in the traditional lexicons. The idea also seems to be absent from later Buddhist texts also. However, in his Abhidharmakośabhāsya Vasubandhu has a comment that could be interpreted as suggesting collective kamma. He says: “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 is the one who kills. Having a common goal, all are guilty just 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’.”
If indeed Vasabandhu was positing collective kamma the example he gave for it is not very convincing. Let us consider it carefully. All the persons mentioned in this example would have come together with a common negative purpose and thus would have all committed some negative kamma, as Vasubandhu correctly says. However, the nature and intensity of their individual intentions may well have varied. Some might have been enthusiastic about what was planned, others less so, one or two may have had serious reservations. Further, the kammic background of each person would have been different. One could have been a hardened criminal who had committed many crimes before, another might have been a novice in crime, while a third might have been basically good but weak and easily led by his friends. With such a variety of motives and backgrounds how each member of the gang would have felt and acted subsequent to their crime is likely to have been just as diverse, ranging all the way from cruel satisfaction, to cold indifference, to regret. Taking all these quite plausible and even quite likely differences into consideration, it is only realistic to imagine that the vipāka of each person in the group would be of very different strength and that it would manifest at different times and in very different ways. Thus a second look at this passage will show that it is not a convincing argument for collective kamma, if indeed that is what it is meant to be.

One incident from the Buddhist tradition that could be suggesting something like collective kamma is a story about the Sakyans, the Buddha’s kinsmen. Viḍūḍabha, the king of Kosala, massacred “all the Sakyans” including even “the suckling babes”, and they suffered this fate supposedly because “the Sakyans” had sometime previously poisoned a river in a dispute over its water (Ja.IV,152). In reality, only a few Sakyans would have committed this evil deed, and although the Sakyan chiefs probably authorized it and a number of others may have approved of it, the majority, particularly the babies and children, would have had nothing at to do with it. Thus the idea of collective kamma idea is implicit in this story. How are we to explain this? The story is not in the Tipiṭaka but comes from the of the Jātaka commentary, a text of uncertain but late date. Some scholars consider it to have been composed in Sri Lankan rather than India. But whoever the author was it seems likely that he was just storytelling, rather than positing the idea of collective kamma as a specific doctrine. The fact that no later commentators took the story as a cue to develop the idea of collective kamma strengthens this assumption. Also, another version of the story, from the Mahāvaṁsa Ṭīkā, says that there were survivors of the massacre, thus undermining that claim that “all Sakyans” suffered the negative vipāka of the kamma created by others.

The version of collective kamma which maintains that the consequences of deeds done by some within a group can be experienced by others within the same group, contradicts one of the most fundamental Buddhist concepts; that each individual is responsible for themselves.

The earliest unambiguous mention of collective kamma that I have been able to find is in the writings of the 19th century occultist Helena Blavatsky. In her The Key to Theosophy, 1889, Blavatsky make reference to what she called “National Karma”. The idea seems to have subsequently been taken up by various believers in the occult, then absorbed into New Age thinking, from where it has spread to Buddhism. It is surprising how many Buddhist teachers, learned and otherwise, speak of collective kamma as if it were a part of authentic Dhamma, despite its recent origin and it having no precedence in traditional Buddhism.

Nonetheless, it could be argued that just because collective kamma is not mentioned in any Buddhist scriptures does not mean that it is false. After all, Buddhism does not have an exclusive claim to all truths. Perhaps Madam Blavatsky and others had insights that the Buddha or later Buddhist masters lacked. So it will be worthwhile to examine the idea of collective kamma more carefully to see if it has any validity.

There are various versions of the collective kamma idea. One maintains that large numbers of people can be reborn into a particular group which then suffers together because of their shared negative kamma. Another version maintains that a small number of innocent individuals belonging to a group can suffer the negative kamma made by a larger number of individuals within that group. In these first two versions the suffering supposedly comes in the form of war, famine, plague, earthquakes or other natural disasters. Yet another version of this second theory is that individuals can suffer for evil they have done by having something horrible happen to someone related to them. I have heard people, in one case a senior monk, say that giving birth to a handicapped child is not a result of the victim’s bad kamma but of the parents’.

The dilettante exponent of Buddhism and so-called “perennial philosophy”, Ananda Coomaraswamy, was unable to understand how kamma could be transmitted through a series of lives without a soul and so he read into Buddhism a kind of universal heredity kamma. “No man lives alone, but we may regard the whole creation…as one life and therefore as sharing a common karma, to which every individual contributes for good or ill…The great difficulty of imagining a particular karma passing from individual to individual, without the persistence of even a subtle body, is avoided by the conception of human beings, or indeed of the whole universe, as constituting one life or self. Thus it is from our ancestors that we receive our karma, and not merely from ‘our own’ past experience; and whatsoever karma we create will be inherited by humanity for ever.” Garma C. C. Chang’s unique interpretation of Buddhism allowed for collective kamma. According to him: “The evidence of collective karma is not lacking in our own world” and he gave as evidence of this “the fate of the American Indians, of Aztecs, of Mayans and to a certain extent Negroes and Jews…” Unfortunately, the evidence of collective kamma is noticeably lacking from Buddhist scriptures and Chang was unable to quote any in support of his claim.

There are numerous doctrinal, logical, evidential, moral and even common sense problems with the collective kamma idea in any of its forms. Let us examine some of them. Proponents of collective kamma are long on generalizations but noticeably short on details. How, for example, does kamma organize all its mass causes and effects? How and in what form does it store and process all the data needed so that one individual experiences this kammic consequence and another one experiences that? How do the logistics work that would be needed to guarantee that a large number of individuals are reborn at this time, within that group and at a certain location so as to experience the required suffering? And what is the force or energy by which kamma makes all these extraordinarily complex arrangements? No explanations are forthcoming.

If we explore specific examples of what is claimed to be collective kamma we will see just how problematic the idea is. Let us look at the monstrous crimes the Nazis committed against European Jewry during the Second World War. If some form of collective kamma really operates something like this would have be necessary. Kamma would have had to somehow construct things so that six million evil-doers were reborn in what was to become Nazi occupied Europe and be living there between 1939 and 1945. It would have had to pre-plan decades ahead to arrange the social and political situation in Germany so that a fanatical anti-Semite came to power. Concordant to this it would have been necessary to select millions of other people to be reborn in Germany with attitudes and outlooks that either supported Nazism, or were too apathetic or too timid to oppose it. And when the required six million victims had suffered sufficiently for their past evil deeds, kamma would then have had to arrange and manipulate innumerable complex causes and effects in such ways that the war ended when everyone had got their just deserts. For those Buddhists unacquainted with the most ancient texts or have never bothered to study them, kamma is little different from an omnipotent, omniscient god. Grama C. C. Chang again: “In many ways karma, in the Buddhist tradition, is almost equivalent to what general expression calls the Will of God.”

Now let us examine the 2004 tsunami, another event often cited as an example of collective kamma. The tsunami killed some 200,000 people, injured another million and left hundreds of thousands of others homeless. Even the most ill-informed person knows that the directly observable cause of the tsunami was an earthquake that shifted the tectonic plates on the floor of the ocean off the coast of Sumatra. This released a vast amount of energy which in turn caused huge waves to form. For the tsunami to be collective kamma it would require several things. As with the Holocaust, kamma would have had to pre-plan things so that vast numbers of people were in the affected area, either because they were reborn there and lived there, or that they were visiting the area at the required time, i.e. in the late morning of the 26th December. Extraordinarily, amidst the chaos of the deluge, the panic, the collapsing buildings and the debris being swept along, kamma would have had to contrive things so that the thousands of victims involved got their exact kammic retribution, no more and no less; so that those whose kamma required them to be killed were killed, that those whose kamma required them to be seriously injured were so injured, that those who only had to sustain minor injuries did so, and those whose kamma required only that their houses be destroyed suffered only that loss, and so on. But even more extraordinary, for the tsunami to be an example of collective kamma would require accepting that kamma is able to influence, not just humans, but even the Earth’s tectonic plates, making them move to just the right extent and at just the right time so that the resulting waves were able to play out on thousands of people’s vipāka. There seems to be no end to the extraordinary abilities that speculation is able to attribute to kamma. And of course all this may be true. Just let it be known that nothing even remotely like this was taught by the Buddha.

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Sat Jan 24, 2015 10:27 am

Apparently there are many kinds of laughable versions of karma-result/vipaka and collective karma-result. But that doesn't annihilate the existence of collective action and collective result.
When you accept to work in a company or when you take birth in a country, you accept to share all kinds of habitual ways of action and habitual views of existence, that are taken for granted in that particular company or in that particular country.
In this sense collective action and the results of collective action really exist. Because these karmic results exist in the continuums of companies and in the continuums of countries, you can speak of them as entities that have discernible qualities and habitual views and behaviour.

In the famous case of Vajjians, and their possible future fate, Buddha clearly speaks of the nation of Vajjians as a collective entity. In the same Sutta He also speaks of the Sangha as a collective entity, that will have future collective results or collective conditions.
Buddha, and Buddhism after him, have held that countries and nations, and religious communities, exist as entities. That these entities have common or shared acts, common or shared principles, laws and customs. And that these automatically have results/vipaka.

(If you don't know the story of Vajjians, it is here: http://www.budsas.org/ebud/budtch/budteach14.htm)
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Nicholas Weeks » Sat Jan 24, 2015 11:57 pm

The Venerable's explanation denies collective kamma and thus any collective karmic fruit - OK. So was the slaughter of many, whether by man or nature, uncaused? If the cause be not karma, then what - niyamas?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Jan 25, 2015 12:33 am

Will wrote:The Venerable's explanation denies collective kamma and thus any collective karmic fruit - OK. So was the slaughter of many, whether by man or nature, uncaused? If the cause be not karma, then what - niyamas?

If a whole lot of people who can be labelled by a collective term - Vajjians, for instance, or Monsanto employees - all individually reap the kamma of their individual actions at the same time, and those individual actions are quite similar because they are actions of the nation/group/corporation, then thinking in terms of collective kamma can be really tempting.
That doesn't make it accurate, though.
We're enduring an election campaign at the moment and in a week's time the news will be full of "Queensland voted for X" but that also is a convenient shorthand for a much more complicated sequence of events.

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Nicholas Weeks » Sun Jan 25, 2015 2:36 am

The Venerable's examples of the tsunami & the Holocast are just as inexplicable for individual kamma fruit to occur as a supposed collective kamma.

The Dhamma Niyama seems the most inclusive of the five. Rather like dependent origination - 'When that is, this will occur...' etc. So it may be the better rationale for Buddhists.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Fri Jan 30, 2015 9:58 am

In the modern juridical theory and practice there are legal persons. These can be companies or various other kinds of corporations of beings. Corporations, companies etc are responsible units, they perform actions and are responsible for the consequences of these actions.

Companies consist of individual human beings. The beings that they consist of can change in the course of time.
Corporations and companies often have a longer continuous existence than the single human beings that they consist of.
Corporations act as causal agencies. Corporations depend on causes and conditions.

Corporations exist as units or entities in the minds of people, who think of them, who experience the results of the actions of corporations.
In the present moral and legal theory and practice these larger units really exist.
The responsibility of corporations for their past actions doesn't cease with the death or expulsion of one or more individuals who have formed these collective or larger units.

More: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_personality
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Inge » Fri Jan 30, 2015 10:31 am

Do you think collective karma is transmitted through the DNA?
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Kim O'Hara » Fri Jan 30, 2015 12:19 pm

Aemilius wrote:In the modern juridical theory and practice there are legal persons. These can be companies or various other kinds of corporations of beings. Corporations, companies etc are responsible units, they perform actions and are responsible for the consequences of these actions.

Companies consist of individual human beings. The beings that they consist of can change in the course of time.
Corporations and companies often have a longer continuous existence than the single human beings that they consist of.
Corporations act as causal agencies. Corporations depend on causes and conditions.

Corporations exist as units or entities in the minds of people, who think of them, who experience the results of the actions of corporations.
In the present moral and legal theory and practice these larger units really exist.
The responsibility of corporations for their past actions doesn't cease with the death or expulsion of one or more individuals who have formed these collective or larger units.

More: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_personality

That's all true, Aemilius, but we do know the law's an ass, don't we? And we know the law is not at all the same thing as the dharma, don't we?
So let's not be led astray by the law.

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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Sat Jan 31, 2015 12:41 pm

Inge wrote:Do you think collective karma is transmitted through the DNA?


I don't think it is.
DNA doesn't carry the results of your purposeful actions, or the results of the purposeful actions of your employer.
Whether you train your body or not, it doesn't change your DNA. This is a basic axiom in genetics. Some people will immediately say that it is not wholly true anymore, because of certain new developments. But it is still the starting point, if you want to understand the science of genetics. You have to start from the general laws of hereditary science.

How does the whole field of genetics relate to karma-results? -this I don't know. At one time I studied or read genetics intensively to get a precise understanding of it. If you read genetics long enough and when you get deeper into it, you will get some glimpses and ideas of how it relates to karma.

A much more important area is image building, advertisement and all the psychological laws, that these people know and employ, who create the public images, advertisement campaigns etc for different companies and corporations. These campaigns seek to alter and change the collective karma of various companies and corporations. These branches of activity seek to create positive images in the minds of people. They seek to alter or strengthen the karma-results of companies or corporations, and also to wipe out some unpleasant results of actions.
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Re: Collective karma

Postby Aemilius » Sat Jan 31, 2015 12:55 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Aemilius wrote:In the modern juridical theory and practice there are legal persons. These can be companies or various other kinds of corporations of beings. Corporations, companies etc are responsible units, they perform actions and are responsible for the consequences of these actions.

Companies consist of individual human beings. The beings that they consist of can change in the course of time.
Corporations and companies often have a longer continuous existence than the single human beings that they consist of.
Corporations act as causal agencies. Corporations depend on causes and conditions.

Corporations exist as units or entities in the minds of people, who think of them, who experience the results of the actions of corporations.
In the present moral and legal theory and practice these larger units really exist.
The responsibility of corporations for their past actions doesn't cease with the death or expulsion of one or more individuals who have formed these collective or larger units.

More: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_personality

That's all true, Aemilius, but we do know the law's an ass, don't we? And we know the law is not at all the same thing as the dharma, don't we?
So let's not be led astray by the law.

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Kim


Dharma is a collection of different laws that describe the universe. It describes how all things arise and how they cease, this is the short form of dependent arising.
There is a science that describes the existence of human corporations, how they function and what they are.
Your life is wholly dependent on many different kinds of human corporations. Why can't You then be grateful for their existence?
They don't exist without accepted rules of behaviour, that are usually called laws.
svaha
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Aemilius
 
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