Many Buddhists treat karma teachings as if they were some sort of absolute truth. Various notions and beliefs concerned with karma are taken as givens, without much questioning. Elaborations are made on the basis of such beliefs and confusion about karma's place in Buddha-Dharma. At times, this involves a deleterious error.
The basic message of Buddhist karma teachings is that:
Our actions have consequences (vipaka).
We choose our actions due to motivation (cetana).
The character of the motivation determines
the character of the results or consequences.
We are responsible for our actions and their consequences.
Our choices subjectively determine our world.
These karma principles raise questions concerning recent events. What are the motivations of the hijackers, their supporters and leaders, our governments, the media, ordinary citizens, and so on? What consequences will follow for those involved? What will be the character of such consequences -- good, bad, or mixed? Were the people in the WTC towers and other victims of hideous crimes responsible for those crimes and their own victimhood? How are the rest of us responsible, if at all, for what happened on September 11th and the ensuing events?
Before consider-ing such questions let's revisit the traditional view. This perspective holds that we are reborn into this Samsara due to past karma (not that the Buddha ever used the term "past karma" in this traditional sense). Through choices, we con-stantly reinvent ourselves within a system governed by ignorance, craving, and clinging.
Applied to the 9/11 crimes, we might observe that through very ordinary human pursuits, many tens of thousands of people chose to be in the WTC on September 11th.
Over five thousand of those souls died there. Did they choose to do so? I don't think so. The traditional Buddhist view does not get so specific. "Karmic formations" are cumulative, not one-to-one causation, let alone simplistic determinism.
People were in the WTC due to their choices and this put them in harm's way, as well as providing certain opportunities and benefits. Some of the dangers that their career and other choices brought them to are: The dangers of living, working, and traveling in a big city; the dangers of working in big skyscrapers; the dangers of being enmeshed in the economic system; the dangers of being close to the heart of that system (one which many people, rightly or wrongly, blame for their suffering).
Life is dangerous and some places and modes of living are more dangerous than others. Right now, Kabul is very dangerous. It seems to me that Manhattan is more dangerous than where I have been living. But no place on this planet -- within this entire Samsara -- is not dangerous.
Things in this world have their causal lineages and we may be connected with them somehow, more or less. We need not, however, assume close connections. Sometimes the connection has just happened and is not necessarily due to previous direct connections.
Here, it might be wise to recall that the Buddha included karma-vipaka among the four imponderables (acinteyya) that transcends the power of thinking and therefore should not be pondered. Given the other three in the set, the range of the Buddha's mind, wisdom, and powers; the range of the jhanas; and brooding over the world -- I take this to mean one may think about these things profitably only with the understanding that they can never be fathomed by thought.
Who Crashed the Planes Into the WTC Towers?
Did the collective karma of the people who died in the WTC suck those airliners into the towers? I phrase the question so baldly to caution Buddhists to look very carefully at the implications of their karmic mouthings. Too often, karma statements seem to go much further than what I have ventured above. Read more
- Who crashed the planes on 9/11? (911Truth.org)