In another thread I was just getting into a good conversation with two posters who were helping me to understand what they understand about what the Buddha taught about karma and rebirth, because my understanding differs. The thread got shut down because it was perceived that all I was doing was trying to put my view across thinly disguised as a conversation. The thread was about non-standard views, and while it did start out being about how Buddhists with non-traditional views perceive the teachings, the conversation had just begun to move on to a point where *this* non-traditional Buddhist was working on trying to understand where the differences are, and come to understand how those who perceive these things differently than I do come to understand it the way they do. I don't see a way to do that without reference to how I see it (since we're talking about differences in understanding), but we had just gotten to a point where the person who was being combative had stopped posting -- so that I was able to leave off politely trying to answer him -- and we were just getting down to good discussion that was helping me to understand where others were coming from, when the thread was abruptly closed.
Since our discussion has been focused primarily on how karma works with rebirth, this seems like the best place to continue a conversation in which traditional Buddhists try to help me understand the basis for their understanding. I am going to continue to try my best to just genuinely question where the differences are and try to understand what the non-combative conversationalists are saying -- I guess I'll just ignore posts from those whose aggressive style seems to be as much about picking fights as about actually trying to understand anything -- and I'd like to start with retro's attempt to help me understand how it is that karma is the forerunner to the aggregates. If anyone here perceives a post of mine as me proselytizing rather than me asking questions in an attempt to discover the differences in understanding, please let me know.
Are there any suttas you can point out that show that the Buddha says that the aggregates are generated by karma, rather than karma being generated by the aggregates?
Karma is cetana (action).
I'm not quite understanding this, so I'm going to go through this slowly.
The version of PED I have has:
Cetanā state of ceto in action, thinking as active thought, intention, purpose, will .
So I can see saying "Karma is cetana (active thought)" but it seems to add fuzziness to equate cetana with pure action because, since the original meaning of karma is action, this leaves us with action is action. Telling an American just exploring Buddhism that karma is action is actually useful (because karma isn't its results, as most Americans understand it to be). But is that what the Buddha was saying when he said "cetanāhaṃ kammaṃ vadāmi"?
I'm not, then, really sure what you're conveying by translating cetana as action with no reference to thought. If you are just trying to say that karma is action, I can understand that this is so, but don't see your point. If you're wanting to say karma is action to do with thought, I agree with that, also. But maybe you're trying to say something else, so I'm asking. But for the purposes of this post, I'm going to assume you mean that karma is action to do with thinking.
Appropriating aggregates is an action, so it is the first of the two.
I asked about the above in the original thread, and you indicated that you mean that "Appropriating aggregates is an action, so of the two things I described at the top, it is 'the aggregates are generated by karma'".
If I take your "Karma is cetana" above to mean "Karma is active thought" then you are saying that "appropriating aggregates" is karma.
This means that it is the appropriating that is the karma (aggregates are not activities, while appropriating is, and karma has to equate to the active bit).
The aggregates themselves are empty bundles of appropriation (upadana).
I can understand and agree with that.
More precise causes and conditions involved are depicted in the following sutta.
MN 109: Maha-punnama Suttahttp://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka
"Lord, what is the cause, what the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of form? What is the cause, what the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of feeling... perception... fabrications... consciousness?"
"Monk, the four great existents (earth, water, fire, & wind) are the cause, the four great existents the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of form. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of feeling. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of perception. Contact is the cause, contact the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of fabrications. Name-&-form is the cause, name-&-form the condition, for the delineation of the aggregate of consciousness."
 - Delineation (paññapana) literally means, "making discernible." This apparently refers to the intentional aspect of perception, which takes the objective side of experience and fabricates it into discernible objects. In the case of the aggregates, the four great existents, contact, and name-&-form provide the objective basis for discerning them, while the process of fabrication takes the raw material provided by the objective basis and turns it into discernible instances of the aggregates. This process is described in slightly different terms in SN 22.79.
Using note 2 above, it seems the question being asked is "What is the cause or condition for the aggregate of form to become visible? (aka "to be made discernible"). The answer is that it's the material elements that make the aggregate of form visible. That's logical and easy to see.
In turn the other four aggregates are addressed: What makes the aggregate of feeling visible? contact. Same for the aggregates of perception and fabrications. The last, like the first, is different from the other three: the aggregate of consciousness is made visible by name and form.
I am not sure how this sutta demonstrates your point that active thought (karma) is the cause or condition that brings the aggregates into being, since the elements are not active thought, and neither is contact. I probably would agree that name-and-form is active thought (given my understanding of its place in dependent origination) but it is only one of the five aggregates. More to the point, the question in the sutta is *what makes the aggregates discernable*, not what has us appropriating them.
Can you explain in more detail how you see this as "karma is the cause of the aggregates"?