Some questions on Karma and Merit

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sth9784
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Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by sth9784 » Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:01 am

These terms seem to be common, and I thought I understood some basic concepts about them, but recently I have been thinking more deeply about these things and have come to some questions that I hope have not been covered elsewhere.

I understand Karma as basically ones physical, verbal, and mental volitional actions which when performed result in an experience in accord with the volition behind the action, be it good, bad, or neutral that will eventually come to fruition. Merit seems to me to be a sort of collection of ones virtuous actions which seems to be none other than the generation of good Karma.

If my understanding of these two terms are wrong, these questions might become unintelligible, but hopefully they will still be able to be answered in some way, even if not completely.

In Jainism, you accumulate Karma (thought of here as physical particles, or dust) in basically the same way through actions which then adheres to the Jiva (or Soul for lack of a better word), and moksha and complete liberation is not attainable until all Karmas, beneficial, negative, or neutral adhering to the Jiva are destroyed. Is this the same in Buddhism, minus the physical dust of Karmas clinging to the Jiva?

If so, if my understanding of merit is correct then would an over abundance of merit, which seems to me to be the the future fruition of good Karmas prevent the eventual attainment of Buddhahood?

I hope someone can make some sense of these questions, or even provide links that may help. Thank you in advance.
Crom!

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Grigoris » Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:52 pm

sth9784 wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:01 am
These terms seem to be common, and I thought I understood some basic concepts about them, but recently I have been thinking more deeply about these things and have come to some questions that I hope have not been covered elsewhere.

I understand Karma as basically ones physical, verbal, and mental volitional actions which when performed result in an experience in accord with the volition behind the action, be it good, bad, or neutral that will eventually come to fruition. Merit seems to me to be a sort of collection of ones virtuous actions which seems to be none other than the generation of good Karma.

If my understanding of these two terms are wrong, these questions might become unintelligible, but hopefully they will still be able to be answered in some way, even if not completely.

In Jainism, you accumulate Karma (thought of here as physical particles, or dust) in basically the same way through actions which then adheres to the Jiva (or Soul for lack of a better word), and moksha and complete liberation is not attainable until all Karmas, beneficial, negative, or neutral adhering to the Jiva are destroyed. Is this the same in Buddhism, minus the physical dust of Karmas clinging to the Jiva?

If so, if my understanding of merit is correct then would an over abundance of merit, which seems to me to be the the future fruition of good Karmas prevent the eventual attainment of Buddhahood?

I hope someone can make some sense of these questions, or even provide links that may help. Thank you in advance.
The accumulation of Wisdom and Merit are prerequisites for enlightenment in the common Mahayana. Accrued merit is not an impediment or obstacle to Buddhahood, quite the opposite.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by sth9784 » Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:15 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:52 pm
The accumulation of Wisdom and Merit are the prerequisites for enlightenment in the common Mahayana. Accrued merit is not an impediment or obstacle to Buddhahood, quite the opposite.
Thanks for the reply. That actually makes sense of the passage in Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas, where in Chapter 3 it mentions that the Bodhisattvas can not progress without their 'garland of merits' (as this translation has it).
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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Nyedrag Yeshe » Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:24 pm

sth9784 wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:15 pm
Grigoris wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:52 pm
The accumulation of Wisdom and Merit are the prerequisites for enlightenment in the common Mahayana. Accrued merit is not an impediment or obstacle to Buddhahood, quite the opposite.
Thanks for the reply. That actually makes sense of the passage in Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas, where in Chapter 3 it mentions that the Bodhisattvas can not progress without their 'garland of merits' (as this translation has it).
There is mundane Karma and supramundane karma. In Mahayana, we generate supramundane karma with bodhicitta aspiration in mind in order to free ourselves and all beings from suffering. This kind of action leads to supramundane results that is Buddhahood!
“Whatever has to happen, let it happen!”
“Whatever the situation is, it’s fine!”
“I really don’t need anything!
~Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje (1161-1211)
ओं पद्मोष्णीष विमले हूँ फट । ओं हनुफशभरहृदय स्वाहा॥
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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Grigoris » Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:34 pm

Nyedrag Yeshe wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:24 pm
sth9784 wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:15 pm
Grigoris wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 1:52 pm
The accumulation of Wisdom and Merit are the prerequisites for enlightenment in the common Mahayana. Accrued merit is not an impediment or obstacle to Buddhahood, quite the opposite.
Thanks for the reply. That actually makes sense of the passage in Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas, where in Chapter 3 it mentions that the Bodhisattvas can not progress without their 'garland of merits' (as this translation has it).
There is mundane Karma and supramundane karma. In Mahayana, we generate supramundane karma with bodhicitta aspiration in mind in order to free ourselves and all beings from suffering. This kind of action leads to supramundane results that is Buddhahood!
Supramundane karma? Can you give some examples/sources please?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Malcolm
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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Malcolm » Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:52 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:34 pm
Nyedrag Yeshe wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:24 pm
sth9784 wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:15 pm


Thanks for the reply. That actually makes sense of the passage in Sūtra of the Garland of a Bodhisattva’s Primary Karmas, where in Chapter 3 it mentions that the Bodhisattvas can not progress without their 'garland of merits' (as this translation has it).
There is mundane Karma and supramundane karma. In Mahayana, we generate supramundane karma with bodhicitta aspiration in mind in order to free ourselves and all beings from suffering. This kind of action leads to supramundane results that is Buddhahood!
Supramundane karma? Can you give some examples/sources please?
Pretty sure he means inexhaustible merit which arises from making dedications knowing there is no one dedicating, no dedication, and not object of dedication in ultimate truth. For example, the Verses Summarizing the Perfection of Wisdom (Saṇ̃cayagathā) state:

If that is made into a sign, there is no dedication.
If there is no sign, it is a dedication to awakening.
The victor has said that the perception of positive phenomena
is just like eating good food mixed with poison.
Last edited by Malcolm on Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Grigoris » Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:06 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:52 pm
Grigoris wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:34 pm
Nyedrag Yeshe wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:24 pm


There is mundane Karma and supramundane karma. In Mahayana, we generate supramundane karma with bodhicitta aspiration in mind in order to free ourselves and all beings from suffering. This kind of action leads to supramundane results that is Buddhahood!
Supramundane karma? Can you give some examples/sources please?
Pretty sure he means inexhaustible merit which arises from making dedications knowing there is no one dedication, no dedication, and not object of dedication in ultimate truth. For example, the Verses Summarizing the Perfection of Wisdom (Saṇ̃cayagathā) state:

If that is made into a sign, there is no dedication.
If there is no sign, it is a dedication to awakening.
The victor has said that the perception of positive phenomena
is just like eating good food mixed with poison.
In which case the motivation or view is supramundane, not the karma itself? For example: giving without conceiving of the three objects (the giver, the thing being given and the receiver of the thing) vs giving based in a dualistic view; where the karma in both cases is giving, whereas the view/motivation differs?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Malcolm
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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Malcolm » Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:21 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:06 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:52 pm
Grigoris wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 3:34 pm
Supramundane karma? Can you give some examples/sources please?
Pretty sure he means inexhaustible merit which arises from making dedications knowing there is no one dedication, no dedication, and not object of dedication in ultimate truth. For example, the Verses Summarizing the Perfection of Wisdom (Saṇ̃cayagathā) state:

If that is made into a sign, there is no dedication.
If there is no sign, it is a dedication to awakening.
The victor has said that the perception of positive phenomena
is just like eating good food mixed with poison.
In which case the motivation or view is supramundane, not the karma itself? For example: giving without conceiving of the three objects (the giver, the thing being given and the receiver of the thing) vs giving based in a dualistic view; where the karma in both cases is giving, whereas the view/motivation differs?
Yes, the view differs. Again from the Verse Summary:

Having understood such an accumulation of merit is
empty, hollow, vacant, and lacking a core,
as such, if one practices the sugatas’ perfection of wisdom,
one holds inestimable merit when it is practiced.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by pael » Sat Feb 24, 2018 8:20 am

Grigoris wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:06 pm
In which case the motivation or view is supramundane, not the karma itself? For example: giving without conceiving of the three objects (the giver, the thing being given and the receiver of the thing) vs giving based in a dualistic view; where the karma in both cases is giving, whereas the view/motivation differs?
[/quote]
How do you give without conceiving? Is it when you give thinking: ''there is no three objects''? How does differ from nihilism or from wrong view according to Maha-cattarisaka Sutta
And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.
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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Malcolm » Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:52 pm

pael wrote:
Sat Feb 24, 2018 8:20 am
Grigoris wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:06 pm
In which case the motivation or view is supramundane, not the karma itself? For example: giving without conceiving of the three objects (the giver, the thing being given and the receiver of the thing) vs giving based in a dualistic view; where the karma in both cases is giving, whereas the view/motivation differs?
How do you give without conceiving? Is it when you give thinking: ''there is no three objects''? How does differ from nihilism or from wrong view according to Maha-cattarisaka Sutta
And what is wrong view? 'There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed.
.
[/quote]

The difference is the two truths; relatively, there is a subject, object, and action; ultimately, there is no subject, no object, or action —— subject, object, and action are free from inherent existence.

This passage is criticizing materialists:

There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed. There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. There is no this world, no next world, no mother, no father, no spontaneously reborn beings; no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.' This is wrong view.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 25, 2018 4:10 am


How do you give without conceiving?
Conceiving of things per se isn't really the issue.
Suppose you are making an offering of flowers in a vase, on a shrine. It's not as though you can't have any concepts,
otherwise, you might just end up with water and flowers all over the floor..

Here is an example of non-conceptualization in a sort of practical context:
(true story)
At an American Buddhist center, there were some people who always complained about being asked to help by donating money.
This was especially the case during weekend-long teachings by visiting monks. Although nobody was ever turned away if they couldn't pay the suggested donation, the suggested amount was still a big chunk of money for many people, sometimes $60 or $80.

Again, I want to say, nobody was ever turned away, and every visitor was always welcomed

So, A solution was devised. Since most members of the center, and most regular visitors also, had some kind of shrine thing at home where they did morning bows and made offering of fruit or incense or whatever, the buddhist center sold simple coin banks with a buddhist image attached, and this was to be set on or near the shrine, with the instruction that every day, the person should put a very small amount of money into the bank. 25 cents was the suggestion. The idea was inspired by the tradition in Thailand, where monks go begging. Nobody has to give the monk too much, but if everyone puts a little into the monk's bowl, the monk won't starve.

So, here's the thing: 25 cents is not a lot of money. But, 25 cents a day for 365 days = $91.25. This made it easy for people to save up money to donate for special events, or to give as a gift of financial support every year to help the center.

So, people who had trouble letting go of a big chunk of money could now practice a little bit of generosity every day, without it hurting, worrying about it, without feeling like they were having to part with a huge sum of cash. Just 25 cents.

But also, it helped some people to avoid feeling as though they were a big shot donor, which is another kind of ego trip.

So, this is a practical example of giving without attachment, or without conceptualization.
If you think, "I'm going to donate a large sum of money to the buddhist center (or some project or charity, anything like that, really) and you think, "everybody will see how generous I am!" or, "I will surely have a good rebirth" or, "I will give more than anybody else" then this is conceptualization.

Likewise, if you think, "everybody gave more than I did. I am ashamed at not having more to give", this too is conceptualization.

If you think, "this is the finest gift anyone can give, this is such fine silk, or expensive incense" and so forth, this is conceptualization.

If you think, "This person should be grateful for getting this gift" or, "I will give some money to help this person, but he sure is lazy and doesn't really deserve it" then this is also conceptualization.

So, really, any kind of "extra baggage" you attach to virtuous actions is a conceptualization.

If the conceptualizations are self-directed, as in the examples above, then, its really all about you. So, even if your generosity is great, even if it is enormously helpful, It is your motivation which determines your degree of merit. You won't get much merit from that.

But, if all you have is one penny, and you donate that penny with the sincere wish that all beings will benefit, then, even though it is not much money, the merit will be great because the motivation is great.

A student once asked the teacher, "we have an expression in America, "Give 'til it hurts'. Is that encouraged?" And the teacher said, "No. You should give what you are truly comfortable with, what you feel you can afford, but not more than you can really give. Because, there will always be some hesitation or resentment connected with that. Or you may suffer. If you think you should give up money that you need for something else, like food, and you end up being hungry, that's not a good thing."
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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Supramundane » Sun Feb 25, 2018 4:19 am

sth9784 wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 2:01 am
These terms seem to be common, and I thought I understood some basic concepts about them, but recently I have been thinking more deeply about these things and have come to some questions that I hope have not been covered elsewhere.

I understand Karma as basically ones physical, verbal, and mental volitional actions which when performed result in an experience in accord with the volition behind the action, be it good, bad, or neutral that will eventually come to fruition. Merit seems to me to be a sort of collection of ones virtuous actions which seems to be none other than the generation of good Karma.

If my understanding of these two terms are wrong, these questions might become unintelligible, but hopefully they will still be able to be answered in some way, even if not completely.

In Jainism, you accumulate Karma (thought of here as physical particles, or dust) in basically the same way through actions which then adheres to the Jiva (or Soul for lack of a better word), and moksha and complete liberation is not attainable until all Karmas, beneficial, negative, or neutral adhering to the Jiva are destroyed. Is this the same in Buddhism, minus the physical dust of Karmas clinging to the Jiva?

If so, if my understanding of merit is correct then would an over abundance of merit, which seems to me to be the the future fruition of good Karmas prevent the eventual attainment of Buddhahood?

I hope someone can make some sense of these questions, or even provide links that may help. Thank you in advance.
I like the way you think, bro! You are on the right track. Yes, nirvana is beyond karma. It is not conditioned or dependent on anything, so yes, you are correct, there would be no good or bad karma.

Keep thinking 'outside the mandala'.

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Punya » Sun Feb 25, 2018 5:46 am

Thank you for the great example.

I'm also glad to see that the three dots have returned. :D
May the stupid meditators be awakened from the sleep of ignorance;
May the attacks of the logicians with their sophistries be vanquished.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche in The Rain of Wisdom

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by Supramundane » Tue Feb 27, 2018 6:29 am

To continue on the track you are on, perhaps the Twelves Nidanas are the next step.

Please let me know of your progress on this line of thought, as i am also trying to form an opinion on it as well.

One question that has come up is (1) whether a gradual lessening of the ego can lead to a gradual weakening of karmic ties. or is it an all or nothing proposition?

(2) the second is as follows:

a Western intellectual once wrote: "The question we have to ask ourselves with regard to the Buddhist conception is a simple one: Is the identity between me and the inheritor of my Karma . . . as real as the identity between the me of today and the me of 20 years hence . . . ? If it is not as real, the doctrine of reincarnation is pure nonsense."

— From an "essay on Buddha's thought contained in a translation of the Dhammapada published by the Cunningham Press," quoted in Reincarnation: An East-West Anthology.

But i think he is off the mark. Reincarnation should not be confused with rebirth. However, his argument is interesting in that it reminds me of the writings of a Theravada monk, Buddhadesa, who conceived of birth and rebirth as occurring on a regular basis during one's life. this challenges the traditional view of birth/rebirth as being a one-off episode and thus of karma itself.

As for the Mahayana view on the above, if we look to Nagarjuna, it is to view birth and re-birth, merit, etc. in light of sunyata.

All are empty and thus, all must be seen in that light.

This argument would affirm and bring us back to your initial statement:).

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Re: Some questions on Karma and Merit

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Thu Mar 01, 2018 5:03 am

Punya wrote:
Sun Feb 25, 2018 5:46 am
Thank you for the great example.

I'm also glad to see that the three dots have returned. :D
I post three dots at the end of my comments to remember to dedicate (to the three jewels) any merit (speaking of merit!)
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