Monday, October 15, 2012


Seth Auberon and Amber Dorrian and Seven, "Karma Class," Wisdom Quarterly
"Take that, #$%@%!" "Sticks and stones, @#$%-&)(@r!, sticks and stones!" (
Ever notice that, judging by the Ten Courses of Unwholesome Karma (Action), the most dangerous part of a person is his or her tongue?
The mind as the source of intention, and therefore karma, is capable of many misleading deeds. (Intention means what we will to do, not what we wish would happen as a result of doing). The body misbehaves, too. But it is the tongue that we really need to watch out for.

"How can I say this more skillfully?"
Intentional actions merely constitute "karma" (action with the capacity to bring about results in the future). The Buddha singled out these ten as "courses." That is, they are conduct capable of guiding one to an unfortunate rebirth all by themselves.

How? If they come to fruition around the time of passing from one existence to the next, they may serve as the basis of rebirth-linking-consciousness. They act as a corridor, a course, a fairway, a path, a set of wardens dragging one along to some unwished for destination.

"I was worried for a moment," we may say, "but thank goodness I don't actually believe in rebirth in any literal sense." We have three choices: Annihilationism, Eternalism, or the Middle Way that avoids both of these extremes in view. Are we only physical and therefore die utterly at death? Then we can do whatever we want and expect no result. Are we eternal with both physical and beyond-physical components? Then we should plant seeds of future experience we want growing and avoid those unwished for ones. The Buddha actually rejected both points of view, science vs. religion. Beings are not technically eternal but the stream-of-being will go on and on without no foreseeable end until it is brought to an end as unsatisfactoriness comes to an end. The view that there is nothing before and nothing to follow is patently mistaken and a very dangerous view to hold, one that in and of itself can lead to catastrophic results. That is, however, where most Westerners rest their bets, relying on professors and unseen scientists as their authorities. (Fortunately, try as we might, few of us actually believe that we came from nothing only to go to nothing.) Few have insight into the liberating Middle Way the historical Buddha taught.
Of the ten three are bodily, three are mental, whereas four are verbal. We can hardly help the way we think, our patterns having become so ingrained that we feel helpless against them. Even our bodies seem to react by instinct, by genetics, by physiology, and the habitual patterns we have trained them in. But the mouth and the deadly weapon in it! They are all ways of expressing intention (the will to carry out some act aiming for a desired end):
  1. taking life
  2. taking what is not given
  3. misconduct with regard to sensual pleasures
  4. false speech
  5. slanderous speech
  6. harsh speech
  7. idle speech
  8. covetousness
  9. ill will
  10. wrong view
The questions to ask, then, regard practical definitions for these ten. They are not self-explanatory. The Buddha had something very specific in mind. As with other lists, that information is packed away. Only when the information is unpacked do the lists suddenly seem useful. What is the Path?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Fantastic post! I just read a great book you might like called "Lifting the Wheel of Karma" by Paul H. Magid, you can check it out and get it right off of his website It's a great read and you might find it quite interesting. Thanks for the post!