Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Karma Class: How to have it ALL

Introduction by Bhikkhu Khantipalo

Interested in long life, health, beauty, power, riches, a high birth, and wisdom?

They do not appear by chance. It is not "luck" to be healthy, or lack of it to be foolish. Though it may not be clear to us now, all such inequalities among beings come about because of the karma (intentional actions) they make individually. Each person reaps fruits accordingly.

Therefore, if one is touched by short life, sickliness, ugliness, insignificance, poverty, low birth, or stupidity and one does not like these things, there is no need to accept that that is the way it is. Something can be done. The future need not be like that provided that one makes the right kind of karma now.

Knowing what karma to make and what to avoid is the mark of a wise person. It is also the mark of one who is no longer drifting aimlessly but has some direction in life and is exercising some control over the sort of events that will occur.

The Shorter Exposition of Karma
Translated by √Ďanamoli Thera (MN 135)

1. Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Buddha was living at Savatthi, Jeta's Grove, in Anathapindika's Park. Then Subha the student (brahmin), Todeyya's son, went to the Blessed One and exchanged greetings with him. And when the courteous and amiable talk was done, he sat down to one side and said:

2. "Master Gautama, what is the reason, what is the condition why inferiority and superiority are met with among human beings, among humankind? For one meets with short-lived and long-lived people, sick and healthy people, ugly and beautiful people, insignificant and influential people, poor and rich people, low-born and high-born people, foolish and wise people. What is the reason, what is the condition, why superiority and inferiority are met with among human beings, among humankind?"

3. "Student, beings are owners of karmas, heirs of karmas, they have karmas as their progenitor, karmas as their kin, karmas as their homing-place. It is karmas that differentiate beings according to inferiority and superiority."

4. "I do not understand the detailed meaning of Master Gautama's utterance spoken in brief without expounding the detailed meaning. It would be good if Master Gautama taught me the Dharma so that I might understand the detailed meaning of Master Gautama's utterance spoken in brief."

"Then listen, student, and heed well what I shall say."

"Even so, Master Gautama," Subha the student replied. The Blessed One said this:

5. "Here, student, some woman or man is a killer of living beings, murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. Due to having performed and completed such karmas, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell. If, on the dissolution of the body, after death, instead of his reappearing in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell, he comes to the human state, he is short-lived wherever he is reborn. [This may sound like the murderer got off easy; unfortunately, the heavy karma of killing is not exhausted by this one result.] This is the way that leads to short life, that is to say, to be a killer of living beings, murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. More>>

Four Courses of Action
Translated by Wisdom Quarterly (AN IV.115)
What are the four courses of action?

  1. There is a course of action which is unpleasant to do but that, once done, leads to what is unprofitable.
  2. There is a course of action which is unpleasant to do and that, once done, leads to what is profitable.
  3. There is a course of action which is pleasant to do but that, once done, leads to what is unprofitable.
  4. There is a course of action which is pleasant to do and that, once done, leads to what is profitable.

Now as for the first course of action, one considers it not worth doing for two reasons. It is unpleasant, and it leads to what is unprofitable.

As for the second, it is because of this course of action that one may come to be known either as a wise person or a fool. For a fool does not reflect, "Although this course of action is unpleasant, at least once it is done it leads to what is profitable." So one neglects to do it, and left undone it leads to what is unprofitable. But a wise person reflects, "Although this course of action is unpleasant, at least once it is done it leads to what is profitable." So one does it, and by doing it, it leads to what is profitable.

As for the third, similarly because of it one may come to be known as either a wise person or a fool. For a fool does not reflect, "Although this course of action is pleasant, once done it leads to what is unprofitable." So one does it, and it leads to what is unprofitable. But a wise person reflects, "Although this is pleasant, once done it leads to what is unprofitable." So one leaves it undone, and it leads to what is profitable.

As for the fourth, one considers it worth doing for two reasons. It is pleasant and, once done, it leads to what is profitable.

These are the four courses of action.

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