Natural disasters and collective morality.

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Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 22, 2010 7:03 pm

In a lot of ancient thought there is this idea that the collective morality of human beings can prevent and cause natural disasters such as earthquakes and so on. This line of thought was held as extremely important throughout most of East Asian civilization up until a few years ago. The "Mandate of Heaven" (天命) in China, which was a kind of heaven sanctioned right to rule bestowed upon a household, when about to be lost would be heralded by natural disasters.

In a Buddhist context in East Asia states employed monks to basically recite sutras with the idea that it prevented disasters (消災) and helped maintain the safety and security of the country. Many Buddhist rituals were done not to cultivate personal qualities or liberate beings from samsara, but were simply thought to have a magical quality that helped maintain peace and order in the world.

Anyway, in modern thought this kind of correlation between morality and natural disasters is prone to be ridiculed and mocked as primitive and superstitious.

However, if you're something of an idealist in the philosophical sense or see reality as consciousness or mind, then is such a correlation so unrealistic? The negative actions of people produce the fruits of suffering. At a collective level it would amount to much more than a single individual suffering alone. If reality is the collective totality of consciousnesses and the physical world is a product of mental activities, then the stability of the "natural world" is not a matter of chance beyond our control.

I sense in our present day a lot of people thinking that natural disasters are larger, more severe and far more devastating than before and this trend is continuing to grow both in frequency and scale. Of course in the popular ideologies of our present day there is no correlation between the actions of people and earthquakes and to say such things has one ridiculed as superstitious. Are earthquakes so much the more severe now because of higher population densities and the concrete jungles we live in?

I guess I find it interesting that for thousands of years in many cultures people saw a correlation between human morality and the occurrence of natural disasters, but nowadays at least in the "modern world" we've mostly abandoned such thinking altogether, though of course exceptions exist here and there.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Bodhi » Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:16 pm

This might be interesting.

Buddha spoke of Dharma Ending Age
"When the Dharma is about to disappear, women will become vigorous and will at all times do deeds of virtue. Men will grow lax and will no longer speak the Dharma. Those genuine Shramanas they see will be looked upon as dung and no one will have faith in them. When the Dharma is about to perish, all the gods will begin to weep. Rivers will dry up and the five grains will not ripen. Epidemic diseases will frequently take the lives of multitudes of people. The masses will toil and suffer while the local officials will plot and scheme. No one will adhere to principles. Instead, all people will be ever more numerous like the sands of the ocean-bed. Good persons will be hard to find; at most there will be one or two. As the aeon comes to a close, the revolution of the sun and the moon will grow short and the lifespan of people will decrease. Their hair will turn white at the age of forty years. Because of excessive licentious behavior they will quickly exhaust their seminal fluids and will die at a young age, usually before sixty years. As the life-span of males decreases, that of females will increase to seventy, eighty, ninety, or one hundred years.

"The great rivers will rise up in disharmony with their natural cycles, yet people will not take notice or feel concern. Extremes of climate will soon be taken for granted. . . .
Wherever you are, that is where the mind should be. Always be mindful, and be your own master. This is true freedom. - Grand Master Wei Chueh
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Will » Sun Aug 22, 2010 10:32 pm

Many people still think there is a causal effect from our actions that is linked to disasters. But they rely on the intermediate technology as the critical factors. That is, we humans are selfish & comfort seeking so we invent pollution-causing cars & busses; dams & power plants etc. So if we did not have cars & busses etcetera, but were still selfish, there would be no disasters related to our labor saving devices - they think. Of course there are still fires, floods & earthquakes in parts of the planet where technology is still non-existent or of the 14th century. That fact is never pondered on much.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Astus » Mon Aug 23, 2010 8:46 am

Indeed, it's this ancient belief that if one lives according to whatever rules (morals) the god(s) came up with the nation will be in peace and prosper. Although in many cases this "morality" included certain rituals from grain to human sacrifice. The very concept that rules and rituals have soteriological relevance is a wrong view - unlike in Brahmanism and others. To say that what I do can in fact change the weather, well, I'd love to see this explained either from the physical-scientific, or the Abhidharmic side. Which mental factor is the condition for water particles in the sky? And how do millions of minds (not counting the animals, but we could) living in a single city define the wind currents? Isn't it the case that we cannot even control our own bodies even if we like to believe that it is "me, mine, my self"?

So, I see no reason why it should be that there is such a group karma causing disasters.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Aug 24, 2010 5:46 am

This thing is not simple but most complex. Per example.... when one has great spiritual advancement of a sort invariably that is accompanied by bad things happening.

Things seem to go on like in america prior to the oil spill....totally idiotic until catastrophy proves difference. But would not a karmic event linked to peoples idiocy be effected perhaps prior to a election not mid term.

So it is most complex and simple approximations are mostly unlikely. WE being human cannot approach the complexity.

Some relationship certainly.

Earthquakes....my theory....the incredible changes in stress to the worlds crust which precipitate the immediacy of a earth quake..is due directly to the enormous changes in mass occuring with the melting of the ice caps and increasing sea levels. Each gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Imagine the stressors involved with increasing weight and mass to seas as opposed to land with the sea level rises we are already seeing.

So....yes it will get much much worse as this thing progresss, and is in a sense a direct karmic consequence.
As will intensity of hurricanes, and floods and fires and a lot of what we see going around....consequences of global warming. HUman created.
My personal conclusion is this thing called global warming is largly caused by greed which could be called a lack of collective morality....so this is direct consequence in that fashion, of kamic nature.

Absolutely how it will play out....we can't really say.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby mudra » Sat Sep 04, 2010 4:55 am

There's a big difference between a group of individuals similarly having the karma to be where there is a natural disaster, and their collective karma causing it.

The collective karma causing natural disasters like earthquake is pretty simplistic and misguided. Let's not go there.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby kirtu » Sun Sep 05, 2010 4:47 pm

mudra wrote:There's a big difference between a group of individuals similarly having the karma to be where there is a natural disaster, and their collective karma causing it.

The collective karma causing natural disasters like earthquake is pretty simplistic and misguided. Let's not go there.


What do Buddhist teachings say about it?

Because one of my teachers definitely indicated that collectively sentient beings are producing karma that results in disasters. He even said "... and it's not so much the animals ... " and spoke a little about their "quaint" perceptions.

On collective karma causing natural disasters - it is factual that people have a simplistic view and then misconceive of karma as punishment. And historically have viewed rituals as means of warding off disasters. But in fact the environment does respond to sentient beings' karma.

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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Indrajala » Sun Sep 05, 2010 8:15 pm

mudra wrote:There's a big difference between a group of individuals similarly having the karma to be where there is a natural disaster, and their collective karma causing it.

The collective karma causing natural disasters like earthquake is pretty simplistic and misguided. Let's not go there.


However, from a perspective of citta-matra or mind-only where all phenomena essentially are mental activity, then there is no "natural environment" apart from the collective totality of all minds.

It follows that earthquakes just don't happen at random.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Sep 05, 2010 9:59 pm

To my opinion as has been mentioned, most look at this through only a theistic perspective.
As in a direct consequence of some wrong or tendency performed in this lifetime. Those people are bad so bad things happen to them..that way of thinking. LIke a god deeming out good to good and bad to bad.

Buddhists perhaps add the perspective of tendencies and events that preceeded this present circumstance of life by many many lifetimes.

So clear unequivocal cause and result determination is not so easy to come by.
Do humans tend to screw up everything by virtue of being human and thusly ignorant....I'd say firmly yes. Their perceptive inadequacies due to ignorance lead to ways of acting that are personally detrimental but cannot be seperate from their environment. Is the complexity of the environment and karmic result so great we cannot see directly relationship....certainly. Do we as sentient beings tend to present in circumstance that displays the fruitation of our tendencies....generally yes.

That does not mean for a second relationship does not exist. Thusly we can not with a blanket exclude any event from being karmically related. Exactly how things may be related is however most difficult to determine, and it seems mostly beyond our capeabilities as humans.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby mudra » Fri Sep 10, 2010 3:39 am

kirtu wrote:
mudra wrote:There's a big difference between a group of individuals similarly having the karma to be where there is a natural disaster, and their collective karma causing it.

The collective karma causing natural disasters like earthquake is pretty simplistic and misguided. Let's not go there.


What do Buddhist teachings say about it?

Because one of my teachers definitely indicated that collectively sentient beings are producing karma that results in disasters. He even said "... and it's not so much the animals ... " and spoke a little about their "quaint" perceptions.

On collective karma causing natural disasters - it is factual that people have a simplistic view and then misconceive of karma as punishment. And historically have viewed rituals as means of warding off disasters. But in fact the environment does respond to sentient beings' karma.

Kirt


Hi Kirt,

Of course the environment can be affected, and is of course affected by people's actions/karma. It's not the same thing.

I was more pointing at a kind of primitive thought that "we have all been naughty so therefore God has punished us with a great big earthquake (you's be surprised at how many modern, high ranking officials in many countries actually think like this). The natural outflow of that is: "well they deserved it.."
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby mudra » Fri Sep 10, 2010 4:18 am

Huseng wrote:
mudra wrote:There's a big difference between a group of individuals similarly having the karma to be where there is a natural disaster, and their collective karma causing it.

The collective karma causing natural disasters like earthquake is pretty simplistic and misguided. Let's not go there.


However, from a perspective of citta-matra or mind-only where all phenomena essentially are mental activity, then there is no "natural environment" apart from the collective totality of all minds.

It follows that earthquakes just don't happen at random.


Interesting.

A. not everyone subscribes to Citta-matra/Chittamatrin thought.
B. the logic that (even if you did subscribe to Cittamatrin thought) therefore
earthquakes don't happen at random is - if you are implying in the context of our discussion they are caused by collective karma - a little sketchy. Is everything in the mind karma? Is the mind nothing but karma?

Earthquakes don't happen at random. Nothing does. Everything that functions (entities, events) are dependent on causes and conditions. The causes and conditions are various.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:53 am

mudra wrote:A. not everyone subscribes to Citta-matra/Chittamatrin thought.
B. the logic that (even if you did subscribe to Cittamatrin thought) therefore
earthquakes don't happen at random is - if you are implying in the context of our discussion they are caused by collective karma - a little sketchy. Is everything in the mind karma? Is the mind nothing but karma?

Earthquakes don't happen at random. Nothing does. Everything that functions (entities, events) are dependent on causes and conditions. The causes and conditions are various.


Sure, but in this case "natural disasters" are not strictly a result of "natural causes and conditions" that exist apart from the causal ability of the collective consciousnesses of all sentient beings.

Basically if nobody (or any being) is around a volcano erupting, does anyone hear it?
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 10, 2010 10:59 am

OK, so let's work within Yogacara premises. It accepts the existence of rupadharma, so there is a causal reality of them. We can agree that whatever we could name as existent must be a mental existence. So if there's a volcano that erupted 2000 years ago and today we learn about it what we see are the effects. Then through reasoning we are able to state that there must have been an eruption. But we could bring here any geological research going back to tens of thousands of years.

If we say all those phenomena were a result of collective karma, well, whose collective karma? Dinosaurs'? Also, should we count all sentient beings or only humans?

So there are big problems here if one insists that it is only karma that causes everything.
"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: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:18 am

Astus wrote:OK, so let's work within Yogacara premises. It accepts the existence of rupadharma, so there is a causal reality of them. We can agree that whatever we could name as existent must be a mental existence. So if there's a volcano that erupted 2000 years ago and today we learn about it what we see are the effects. Then through reasoning we are able to state that there must have been an eruption. But we could bring here any geological research going back to tens of thousands of years.

If we say all those phenomena were a result of collective karma, well, whose collective karma? Dinosaurs'? Also, should we count all sentient beings or only humans?

So there are big problems here if one insists that it is only karma that causes everything.


When you really get down to it, you just have perceptions.

Geological records are just perceptions. Beyond that they do not have any substantial quality.

That's how things are seen if everything -- including what seems like factual science -- is of the mind and does not exist apart from it. The whole physical universe has the quality of a dream no matter how verifiably real it may seem.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:02 pm

Sure, that is a valid point and a view found everywhere, starting with the Buddha saying in the Nikayas that the whole world is the six sensory fields. But then, it doesn't mean everything can be reduced to karma since not even our own deeds are karmic all the time. And to say all our experiences are directly the results of our karma is another major simplification. It is another problem to connect different karmas and minds and say that they produce a common experience to all involved.
"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: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:20 pm

Astus wrote:Sure, that is a valid point and a view found everywhere, starting with the Buddha saying in the Nikayas that the whole world is the six sensory fields. But then, it doesn't mean everything can be reduced to karma since not even our own deeds are karmic all the time. And to say all our experiences are directly the results of our karma is another major simplification. It is another problem to connect different karmas and minds and say that they produce a common experience to all involved.


I never proposed that everything can be reduced to karma. Karma is volitional action. You can't reduce everything to volitional action.

I'm saying the quality of physical reality is simply perception from a mind-only perspective.
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 10, 2010 2:49 pm

There's no disagreement here then at all. Still, the original question was if natural disasters are the results of people's bad deeds or not. How do you relate to 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: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby kirtu » Fri Sep 10, 2010 3:51 pm

Huseng wrote:
mudra wrote:Basically if nobody (or any being) is around a volcano erupting, does anyone hear it?


Not hear it but as an example we know volcanoes erupt on Io. And we can hear underwater volcanoes erupting here on Earth. Of course this is because we have spacecraft and sensors to detect these events. But on one is actually around them.

OK you cover that with your geological records being perceptions thing....

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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby kirtu » Fri Sep 10, 2010 3:57 pm

Astus wrote:OK, so let's work within Yogacara premises. It accepts the existence of rupadharma, so there is a causal reality of them. We can agree that whatever we could name as existent must be a mental existence. So if there's a volcano that erupted 2000 years ago and today we learn about it what we see are the effects. Then through reasoning we are able to state that there must have been an eruption. But we could bring here any geological research going back to tens of thousands of years.

If we say all those phenomena were a result of collective karma, well, whose collective karma? Dinosaurs'? Also, should we count all sentient beings or only humans?

So there are big problems here if one insists that it is only karma that causes everything.


You can argue that the karma causing the eruption 2000 years (or 20,000 yrs or 2 million years etc ago) is evolutionary karma coming to fruition to fashion the container of sentient beings. This volcano erupted due to the karma of sentient beings to make a change in the environment the same as the karma of sentient beings causing the universe to come into existence.

Kirt
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“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
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Re: Natural disasters and collective morality.

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 10, 2010 6:29 pm

Kirt,

Karma is not a universal creating force but a modifier of one's perception. And here we can apply the reasoning used to establish a mental continuum separate from matter, only in a reverse fashion. If material dharmas cannot cause mental dharmas, how can mental dharmas cause material dharmas? However, it is not entirely true that material dharmas don't cause mental dharmas, since a single perception of an object can trigger lot of different mental dharmas. Still, this whole field of Buddhism seems entirely unresearched. As far as I know, there is no clear description of the dharmic process of a consciousness defining the body and environment of a new birth. And if it were really the karma forming the environment, isn't it strange that nobody ever experienced that throughout the process of delivering a baby not much changes in the surroundings? Should we then say that it is about the outer conditions matching the inner causes, without there being a karma modifying the place? Also, it doesn't seem likely that a consciousness could foresee the events that will happen in one's life, therefore if it happens that a tornado blows away one's house later it's hardly one's karma causing it.
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(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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