Thursday, August 7, 2014

KARMA: The 10 Courses of Action

Seth Auberon, Ashley Wells, CC Liu (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Nyanatiloka (Anton Gueth) UPDATED AN D EXPANDED by Amber Larson, Dhr. Seven, CC Liu
Mental-karma is important as are deeds.
"Karma" refers to deeds able to produce results in the future.
"Courses of Action" (karma-patha) are a little different. This is a name for a group of ten kinds of karmic actions -- either unwholesome or wholesome -- the Buddha taught as particularly important to living beings.
The Buddha was not known as the Buddha, one of his many epithets, in ancient India. Nor was he "Buddhist," a "god" (deva), or a Brahmin (priest). He was known as a karma-vadin ("teacher of karma," teacher of the efficacy of deeds to produce results).
The Buddha's teaching concerning karma is that deeds have the efficacy to produce corresponding actions, effects, consequences, results. This is not cause-and-effect, however, if only because the results are usually exponentially larger than the original deed. One "killing" does not produce one "being killed" later on.
How well the Buddha knew! (xiangjiaocao)
That is because the seed, potentially, or karma laid down in the mind/heart is a citta, of which there are countless millions in a moment. Cittas have the potential to act as death-proximate karmas leading to rebirth, and when they serve this function, the result is very bad. Similarly, all skillful karma produces disproportionate results as well, which is beneficial and welcome by living beings experiencing the result.
Not all karmas can serve as death-proximate karmas (the thought-moment passing through the mind at the exact moment of passing from one life to yet another life), but "courses of action" (karma-pathas) can. That is why they are called "courses." Like corridors or pathways, they can lead to a consequence, welcome or unwelcome, directly.
There are three kinds of deeds -- those of body, speech, and mind -- be they unskillful or skillful:
I. Ten Unwholesome Courses of Action
  • There are 3 bodily actions: killing, stealing, sexual misconduct;
  • 4 verbal actions: perjury, slandering, harsh speech, babble;
  • 3 mental actions: covetousness, ill-will, wrong views.
Unwholesome mental courses of action comprise only extreme forms of defiled thought: The greedy (rapacious) wish to appropriate others' property, the hateful (antagonistic) thought of harming others, and the holding or clinging to pernicious wrong-views.
While milder forms of mental defilement are also unwholesome, they do not constitute "courses of action."
Karma "courses"
Karma is following us everywhere we go. It's everywhere we're going to be.
The American Theravada scholar-monk Bhikkhu Bodhi -- the most famous translator of large collections of Buddhist sutras -- explains (in "Rebirth and Karma," from Recording 5 of The Buddha's Teaching: As It Is) that these ten are called "courses" of action rather than ordinary karma.
As mentioned above, this is because they have the power, in and of themselves, to lead to rebirth. They are courses or corridors leading to particularly unfortunate or fortunate future states.
For example, even a relatively minor good intentional-action can lead -- IF it serves as the death-proximate karma -- has the power to get one into a heaven. There are many heavens, and not a single one of them is eternal, so rebirth in a heaven is not the goal of Buddhism. But it is a welcome rebirth, a fortunate destination, while cycling through samsara. Samsara is the ongoing Wheel of Rebirth and endless disappointment.

II. Ten Wholesome Courses of Action

  • There are 3 bodily actions: avoiding killing, stealing, sexual misconduct (or preserving life, protecting what belongs to others, avoiding harm);
  • 4 verbal actions: avoiding perjury, slandering, harsh speech, foolish babble (or honest, reconciling, gentle, and wise speech);
  • 3 mental actions: unselfishness, goodwill, right views.
Both lists repeatedly occur in the texts (e.g., in AN X.28, 176; MN 9), and they are explained in detail in MN 114 and in the Commentary to MN 9 (R. Und., p. 14), Atthasālini Tr. I, 126ff.
Ven. Saint Sivali
Ven. Sivali: shining example of good karma
An enlightened monastic from the time of the Buddha, Venerable Sivali, is remembered and venerated as having unbelievably good karma -- a store of "merit" (punya) that benefited many and for everyone to emulate.
There is no reason to "envy" Ven. Sivali his good fortune because he created it, and we ourselves can also create it. We can accrue a vast store of merit by good mental, verbal, and physical deeds, actions that benefit ourselves and others. Such deed will follow us through this life and future lives, redounding with welcome results whatever we are doing almost anywhere we find ourselves, until we realize enlightenment. They also help in this realization. Karma, it's everywhere you want to be (and it will even be there helping everywhere you don't want to be).
We are always generating karma, albeit we are rarely doing it consciously or with any appreciation of what we are doing and what the result will be when our deeds come to fruition for us.
And we are always passing away and being reborn. But a rebirth as a human is extraordinarily rare. It is a precious opportunity to make merit with reverberating with pleasant, pleasurable, and welcome karmic-results and effects (vipaka and phala).
"King of the 'Gods'"
Sakka is St. Michael (saintmichaelwarrior)
Sakka, the king of the devas, also made incredibly good karma -- sufficient not only to be reborn in a celestial world in space (one of the many "heavens") but as king of it and king of the four kings in the celestial world just below his world. In his world, he is lord of lords, the "lords" being the 33 deva rulers he oversees as chief among more or less equals.
Wisdom Quarterly has often shown that Sakka's fame extends around the Earth, a terrestial world in space which he protects from titans and nagas and other inimical forces. Why does he visit Earth, assign the regents of the Catumaharajika-deva-loka to guard, and get updates on human progress every fortnight?
It is because Sakka is a stream enterer devoted to the Buddha and the protection of the Dharma in the world for as long as possible. In Christendom he is known as Saint or Archangel Michael, in India as Indra (in fact the name "India" may derive from Indo, one of Sakka epithets), in Taoism as the Jade Emperor, in the Yarsanism (Islam) religion of Iraq and Iran Pir Dawud the deva (called Yazidis or Yezidis)...

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