origin of karma

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tomschwarz
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origin of karma

Post by tomschwarz » Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:49 pm

hello my dear friends. i hope that you are all well and making real accomplishment! here is another post about which i have been confused....

his holiness the dalai lama wrote in "the four noble truths, the truth of suffering" 1996, pg 83:
At what point does karma play a casual role in producing sentient beings and the natural environment in which they live? Perhaps we can say that there is a natural process in the world, and at a certain point when its evolution has reached a stage where it can affect the experiences of beings - giving rise to either painful experiences of suffering or joyful experiences of happiness - that is the point where karma enters the picture.
please let me know how you see this... ...but i am thinking about billions of years ago when simple single celled beings started eating each other or helping each other, this was the origin of karma on earth -- yes? no? then, so you know where i am going with this ))), you would have to wonder, if our goal as buddhists is to reverse the 12 inks of dependent origination, including consciousness, then are we trying to be like life was before single-celled beings appeared, along with consciousness and karma?
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Jan 30, 2015 9:50 pm

This reply is from the 'Buddhist studies' perspective of a Western student.

I used to think that there was a link between evolution and the idea of re-birth, but now I'm not so sure. It seems that Indian religious thinking is open to the notion of evolution, due to the ancient idea that beings can be re-born in various realms, such as being re-born in the animal realm, so when I first started exploring Buddhism, I thought the idea that beings 'evolve towards higher forms of consciousness' was a natural fit with evolution. But I don't think that any more. The way evolution is envisaged by Western science, it is a purely material process, there is no sense of 'higher' or 'lower' - only some species which survive, and others which don't. It really is first and foremost a biological theory, and I now think to try and read a lot more than that into it is a mistake (and a mistake which is very widespread in the West where 'evolution' has become a substitute for 'God' - evolution 'doing' this and 'doing' that.)

As for 'karma' - the root of the word is the Sansrkit root 'kr-' for 'hand', which means 'action performed by a do-er'. We all know the basic meaning of the term. But the Buddha refined the idea of karma; in the tradition of his day, 'good karma' was generated by performance of the appropriate rituals by the priests who were paid by the householder to perform them. So if you fulfilled the ritual requirements and supported the priestly caste, that was 'good karma'. The Buddha radically extended to scope of 'karma' to being all kinds of intentional actions, and took away the emphasis on rites and rituals. (This is covered in Richard Gombrich's book What the Buddha Thought.)

In my understanding of karma it is obviously linked with 'the ability to act intentionally', which in turn is dependent on the emergence of self-consciousness and self-awareness. As I see it, that would co-incide with the period during which tool use and language began to emerge in early humans. That is the point where concepts of 'self', 'ownership', 'action and consequence', and so on, become meaningful. So I do agree with that quoted passage, but I don't think it is useful to consider karma in terms of biological evolution.


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Re: origin of karma

Post by tomschwarz » Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:49 pm

moved the discussion of evolution to a new thread http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=52&t=18687

wayfarer let's continue this journey into our heart level understanding.... regarding the historical time for the origin of karma, you wrote "the period during which tool use and language began to emerge in early humans. That is the point where concepts of 'self', 'ownership', 'action and consequence', and so on, become meaningful.". but all sentient beings have karma. you can see how a self-centered female goat has her influence on the happiness of a new-comer to the herd as she butts the poor new-comer and makes her feel like an outsider. and that is part of the web that holds the bully in the cycle of suffering/rebirth.

let's assume that all sentient beings have consciousness, as you said "the ability to act intentionally". and lets assume that in order to attain enlightenment we have to return to a form of life where "consciousness" and "intention" operate within the context of emptiness. emptiness has 8 characteristics (from his holiness the dalai lama, either "atisha's lamp" or "heart sutra" reference coming...):
1 - all things are empty
2 - absence of defining characteristics
3 - absence of origination
4 - absence of cessation
5 - absence of defilement
6 - absence of undefilement
7 - no decrease
8 - no increase

and 3 doors (to emptiness) :
emptiness the thing itself (1, 2 above)
signlessness, the cause (3, 4, 5, 6 above)
wishlessness, the result (7, 8 above)

so my questions for you, and for all my friends in the vast expanse of reality, are: 1 - what was life like before karma arose? when was it? 2 - was that enlightenment, the buddha realm?
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Paul » Mon Feb 02, 2015 6:51 pm

tomschwarz wrote:so my questions for you, and for all my friends in the vast expanse of reality, are: 1 - what was life like before karma arose?
Karma is caused by ignorance. Ignorance has been around since beginningless time. So there's no real way to talk about a 'life before karma'.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal
the modern mind has become so limited and single-visioned that it has lost touch with normal perception - John Michell

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Grigoris » Mon Feb 02, 2015 7:04 pm

I think you will find he is talking specifically in regards to the evolution of life on this current earth.
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Re: origin of karma

Post by tomschwarz » Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:42 am

right Sherab Dorje -- this current period of sentient beings on planet earth (last 3 billion years). please let me know if you have any ideas regarding the 2 question....
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Feb 04, 2015 1:07 am

I don't know how useful it is to consider the karma of animals. Sometimes I have wondered if it is possible for animals to generate karma, but it seems anthropomorphic to me - attributing human capabilities to animals.

The thing about karma is that I don't think we can ever 'work it out' - we'll never get to understand how it works, really, and wondering about it isn't really the point. The point about karma is mainly to understand that actions and intentions have consequences. Likewise when people start thinking that misfortune has befallen others 'because of their karma', I don't think that is beneficial. I read once 'the wise only concern themselves with causes, not with effects'. So creating theories of karma or trying to understand the relationship of karma and evolution might not be that useful.

Right now I'm experiencing the karma of joblessness, after having had a secure and good job for 8 years. So now I'm in the same position as many others who don't have sufficient means of livelihood. I suppose part of that is because of the kind of occupation I have and maybe my lack of diligence earlier in life. But it doesn't really help to think about that. What helps is to be able to see that feelings of helplessness arise and pass away, and not let them take over my mind. It's the same with a lot of karma-related questions; all kinds of things happen as a consequence of karma, it doesn't help much trying to piece together the back-storry; what helps is present awareness.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: origin of karma

Post by tomschwarz » Wed Feb 04, 2015 11:23 pm

i understand. you are right, when something bad happens, compassion is the absolute truth, for the sake of all sentient beings. and i also agree that life can appear utterly cruel and heartless, like when my 4 year old sister died in a car accident with my family in jamaica and her bloody life poured out over my mother's shoulder. but everything that happens to a person is not simply "karma". karma is a small subset of greater causes (and effects) that directly impact sentient beings (see the five niyamas).

karma is a special subset of cause and effect that relates to consciousness: when one sentient bring can effect the happiness of another sentient being, "giving rise to either painful experiences of suffering or joyful experiences of happiness -- that is the point where Karma enters the picture", "the four noble truths", his holiness the dalai lama 1996, pp 83.

i think that there is no magic in karma, it is an internal system of the mind, such as when i do something wrong, my buddha nature of my mind knows that i am guilty and i seek my own retribution against myself. as his holiness the dalai lama often mentions, our _real_ enemies never sleep/eat, will never forget you, will never become your friend: those enemies are inside our own mind.

about loosing jobs or not getting a job following an interview, it is painful to hear about others' choices when they exclude us. we are "left out". but that is our ego perspective. back straight, shoulders back, eyebrows up, heart open, ...what did we want? to be the king? heheheee let's respect their conceptual choice and join them in agreement that we don't fit in their current schema from their valid, current perspective. so perhaps it is good that they excluded us for their current situation. if nothing else, for their self-efficacy, which is a key (albeit early) step on the path to selflessness.

now back to the subject.
I don't know how useful it is to consider the karma of animals. Sometimes I have wondered if it is possible for animals to generate karma, but it seems anthropomorphic to me - attributing human capabilities to animals.
this is key for this thread, "when did karma begin (on this earth)?" so let's explore this point. the dalai lama would disagree with you here. he often talks about animals creating good or bad karma, like my experiences with my goats. do the goats have that guilt/buddha nature, internal kleshas/ mind-enemies, and so on? well, i have seen my goats dreaming, cats and dogs too, and those dreams can be very conflicted, evidenced by the way they shake around... so it is only logical to assume that they are subject to neurosis which is a subset of karma, no?

the deeper meaning of this thread is that the path to enlightenment is two-way. it is very interesting to explore the path to suffering, the 2nd noble truth. and a key part of that is the origin of karma. if time has no beginning, then in all likelihood, sentient beings have been going up and down the path(s) of enlightenment an infinite number of times. if it was one-way (to enlightenment), and time has no beginning, than statistically speaking, we would all be enlightened, right? wrong?

another very important question, i have no idea where this came from, but can anyone clarify? ...is karma as a whole something that we will leave behind (and all traces of karma) when we become enlightened? or will we still practice positive volition/good karma? something tells me that when karma started, suffering started. and when it ends, suffering ends. is that simply because in enlightenment, the good karma or positive and skillful volition becomes emptiness and orthogonal to karma? any dharma references deeply appreciated...
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Feb 05, 2015 10:46 am

Sadhu

:namaste:

My reply would be that karma would have begun on this earth along with creatures capable of forming intentions. But it is hard to know when that was. I disagree with materialists who say the formation of life was a purely material affair, like a chemical reaction. I think of it more like 'the manifestation of intention', but these are deep and difficult questions, and many people will mock ideas like that.
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Re: origin of karma

Post by Wayfarer » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:41 am

is karma as a whole something that we will leave behind (and all traces of karma) when we become enlightened?
I think that is a very hard question. There is a famous koan about it called the Wild Fox Koan but it is a very hard koan to interpret; it is the kind of thing one should really consult with a teacher about in my view.

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Re: origin of karma

Post by LastLegend » Thu Feb 05, 2015 11:51 am

tomschwarz wrote:hello my dear friends. i hope that you are all well and making real accomplishment! here is another post about which i have been confused....

his holiness the dalai lama wrote in "the four noble truths, the truth of suffering" 1996, pg 83:
At what point does karma play a casual role in producing sentient beings and the natural environment in which they live? Perhaps we can say that there is a natural process in the world, and at a certain point when its evolution has reached a stage where it can affect the experiences of beings - giving rise to either painful experiences of suffering or joyful experiences of happiness - that is the point where karma enters the picture.
please let me know how you see this... ...but i am thinking about billions of years ago when simple single celled beings started eating each other or helping each other, this was the origin of karma on earth -- yes? no? then, so you know where i am going with this ))), you would have to wonder, if our goal as buddhists is to reverse the 12 inks of dependent origination, including consciousness, then are we trying to be like life was before single-celled beings appeared, along with consciousness and karma?
Karma is dependent origination/emptiness coming together by causes and conditions which themselves are empty of inherent self. Another way I see it is karma is mind, beyond mind there is no karma. When mind creates fabrication for itself and hold it to be true, it will manifest by that fabrication.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Odsal » Sat Feb 07, 2015 4:34 pm

tomschwarz wrote:hello my dear friends. i hope that you are all well and making real accomplishment! here is another post about which i have been confused....

his holiness the dalai lama wrote in "the four noble truths, the truth of suffering" 1996, pg 83:
At what point does karma play a casual role in producing sentient beings and the natural environment in which they live? Perhaps we can say that there is a natural process in the world, and at a certain point when its evolution has reached a stage where it can affect the experiences of beings - giving rise to either painful experiences of suffering or joyful experiences of happiness - that is the point where karma enters the picture.
please let me know how you see this... ...but i am thinking about billions of years ago when simple single celled beings started eating each other or helping each other, this was the origin of karma on earth -- yes? no? then, so you know where i am going with this ))), you would have to wonder, if our goal as buddhists is to reverse the 12 inks of dependent origination, including consciousness, then are we trying to be like life was before single-celled beings appeared, along with consciousness and karma?
I would think that karma IS what triggers off the formation of the universe (six realms). When the previous universe ended all the beings had to die. So that would mean all beings experienced the bardo. Some beings recognized their true nature and became liberated and the rest didn't. The non-recognition (ignorance) of the beings that didn't become liberated set off the formation of a new universe.

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Re: origin of karma

Post by tomschwarz » Sun Feb 08, 2015 7:26 pm

odsal wrote: I would think that karma IS what triggers off the formation of the universe (six realms). When the previous universe ended all the beings had to die. So that would mean all beings experienced the bardo. Some beings recognized their true nature and became liberated and the rest didn't. The non-recognition (ignorance) of the beings that didn't become liberated set off the formation of a new universe.
hm -- wonderful insight.

allow me to add that the universe itself is more than the six realms (of suffering of sentient beings) , by way of another quote from his holiness the dalai lama, "the four noble truths" 1997, pp84,
his holiness the dalai lama wrote: now when we turn to the evolution of the universe at large, we can not say that the natural processes of cause and effect are a product of karma. the process of cause and effect in the natural world takes place regardless of karma. nevertheless, karma would have a role to play in determining the form that the process takes or the direction in which it leads.
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Odsal » Mon Feb 09, 2015 11:54 am

allow me to add that the universe itself is more than the six realms (of suffering of sentient beings) , by way of another quote from his holiness the dalai lama, "the four noble truths" 1997, pp84,
his holiness the dalai lama wrote: now when we turn to the evolution of the universe at large, we can not say that the natural processes of cause and effect are a product of karma. the process of cause and effect in the natural world takes place regardless of karma. nevertheless, karma would have a role to play in determining the form that the process takes or the direction in which it leads.
The way I currently see it is that the process of cause and effect itself is not created or started by karma or anything and continues whether one is a Buddha or a sentient being. However, I do not believe it is an impersonal process that exists on its own simply rolling along as a type of scientific law of the universe. Instead, I believe that it is inseparable from personal experience and the ability to think and act. Therefor recognition results in Buddhahood. Nonrecognition results in the suffering of cyclic birth and death as a sentient being.

If all beings had recognized their true nature at the ending of the previous universe then this present universe wouldn't have formed. That's not to say that nothing would have formed. I believe there would still be formation, but since all beings would be fully liberated Buddhas formation would appear as a pure and non-afflicted display of liberation.
But that did not happen. All beings did not attain enlightenment at the end of the previous universe, that is because they (we) did not recognize their (our) true nature and as a result of that nonrecognition this universe formed. Why? Because a beings non-recognition of the emptiness of phenomena means that that being assumes phenomena to be inherently existent. He assumes that his experience is an inherently existent self that stands in contrast to inherently existing things that are not himself. As a result, that misconception or ignorance, through the process of dependent origination, becomes a reality.

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Ayu » Mon Feb 09, 2015 1:59 pm

I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. -

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Re: origin of karma

Post by Ayu » Mon Feb 09, 2015 3:21 pm

Ayu wrote:For further investigation:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pratītyasamutpāda
:thinking: The link has difficult special characters. Try to copy " Pratītyasamutpāda " and paste it in search at http://en.wikipedia.org
I have decided to stick with love.
Hate is too great a burden to bear.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. -

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Re: origin of karma

Post by tomschwarz » Tue Feb 10, 2015 8:52 am

great article, comments and insights. thank you so much dear friends. here is an observation: perhaps karma has many beginnings and endings.

daily, karma ends when the ground luminosity dawns at the bardo between awake and sleep. then if we do not realize and stabilize that ground luminosity, karma begins again with a night full of dreams driven by fundamental ignorance and the three poisons.

once per life, karma ends when the ground luminosity dawns in the bardo between dying and the intermediate state. then if we do not recognize our own mind, karma starts again driving us on to an unfortunate rebirth.

i think that this is a positive way of looking at karma. because we all have the seed of buddha nature, we can say that ending karma is aways within reach, and logically we will have glimpses of that possibility. and also, without question, there is a waning of the strength of karma's ups and downs as we make progress on the path.

so then to play the devil's advocate, the fact that karmic traces span these points (above) where karma "ends" shows that even though karma may end, is it also ready and willing to be reborn with great vigor should our ignorance suffice! )))))))
i dedicate this post to your happiness, the causes of your happiness, the absence of your suffering the causes of the absence of your suffering that we may not have too much attachment nor aversion. SAMAYAMANUPALAYA

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