Thursday, May 26, 2016

Sutra: The Buddha explains KARMA

Ven. √Ďanamoli Thera, The Buddha's Words on Kamma (Wheel 248, BPS) edited with preface and introductions by Ven. Khantipalo edited by Ashley Wells, Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly
So that's why things happen. Karma is what I do, my action, not what happens to me.
Karma means deed, action, cetana. The result (vipaka) of karma is called fruit (phala).
Karma (Pali kamma, English "action with the power to bear a result") concerns everyone. We make it, a great deal of it, every waking day.

We decide whether or not to get up — karma. (Good karma if we get up vigorously, bad karma if we do it slothfully or grudgingly). Let's have a cup of tea, breakfast — maybe some greed is involved, so bad karma.

We sympathize with someone's illness and help — good karma. We get flustered because the bus is late to get us to work — bad karma. Once we're there perhaps we get annoyed with someone, or say something, or threaten them — worse and worse karma.

Perhaps we are generous and kindly to someone there — excellent karma. Work brings on dull mental states, then we shake ourselves out of such listlessness and resentment (bad karma) and vigorously try to get back to mindfulness of the present moment (good karma).

Someone steps on our foot, we curse — bad karma — but after quick reflection we realize, "Ah, where's my mindfulness gone!" Good karma.

At home at last...exercise, clear the mind, meditate, read some Dharma, some Jataka stories — all good karma. Or, tired and dull, we switch on the radio or television and, not listening to it, leave it going to drown out the silence. Then we eat too much and feel lethargic — bad karma.

But perhaps instead we reflect on the Buddha, chant, then meditate — all kinds of good karma. When the body is tired one goes to sleep holding some meditation subject in mind — good karma.
All of these decisions, choices, and urges are mental karma. More karma is made when we talks after having decided. Still more karma is added if after this we act as well.

[Good vs. Bad]
Karma is deed, action, doing (Wayne Dyer).
"Good" and "bad" karma -- who decides what's good and bad? It's impersonal. "Good" and "bad" are distinguished by the roots (mula) of our actions.

There are only three roots for ALL "bad" actions, that is, deeds that ripen in unpleasant, unwanted, unwelcome results:
  • greed (bias, passion, grasping, clinging, attachment)
  • hatred (aversion, fear, anger, disgust)
  • delusion (wrong view, confusion, ignorance).
Similarly, there are only three roots for all "good" actions, which are simply the opposite of the same three motivations:
  • nongreed (letting go, generosity, renunciation)
  • nonhatred (friendliness, kindness, compassion)
  • nondelusion (mindfulness, right view, wisdom).
These are all translations of wide Pali and Sanskrit terms. In those languages, a single term has a very broad range of meanings representing whole categories. That makes it impossible to provide a single English translation for any word. This leads to confusion and argument. Usually we are arguing about what a word means in English. But this is not English.

It is clear in Pali and Sanskrit, muddied in English. So instead of arguing using our Western "common sense," it is better to turn our attention to which term is being translated. The terms are lobha, dosa, moha, and their opposites alobha, adosa, and amoha. It is more than non- this and non- that; the negative form (with the prefix a-) means that the term includes all of the positive aspects of the word.

For instance, non-greed (a-lobha) is synonymous with giving, generosity, openhandedness, renunciation, letting go, unselfishness, charitable, liberal, kind, and so on.
What is motivating what we think, say, and/or do? There are various possibilities. So we must get down to the root-motivation.

Greed or compassion? We'll always rationalize and say "compassion" and then try to find some way to make that so, some mental gymnastics as to how our misdeed are actually good deeds. But it's impersonal. There's no one to explain it to or plead our case. Karma knows at the level of mental moments (cittas) in the stream of consciousness. Impulsions (javanas) are fixed in roots. The intention or volition behind an act (cetana) distinguishes it as good or bad.

So socially we have cause to defend our reputations and fool ourselves, but in  our quiet reflection, there is no need for such gymnastics. We can dispassionately, without bias look in the mind door mirror at our hearts and see what's motivating us; in this way, we'll know our hearts for certain: I am being motivated by good roots or bad. And those roots are coloring my karma, meaning it will bear welcome or unwelcome fruits (phala) and resultants (vipaka).
Forgive the person and their actions. Never give in to hate. Let it go. Set it free. Karma will take care of what is meant to be (
Killing, for example, can never be good karma because it is rooted in hatred. "Aha," we foolishly say, "it is not always rooted in hatred!" Sometimes it's rooted in compassion, like when it's euthanasia. But, in fact, euthanasia is always rooted in hatred (dosa). Why? First, let's remember that this is not English. This is Pali.

Killing is rooted in dosa, which we are simply translating in English as "hatred" when what it really means is something closer to the very general "aversion of all kinds," here in the form of disgust and discomfort at the pain we are observing. So to free ourselves from pain, we pull away or push away the source of our distress:

If a dog is in pain, that is painful for us to watch or know about (due, it is said, to mirror cells in our brains). We are distressed by the distress we observe. So -- motivated by aversion -- we run from it or attack it. That is how dosa (hatred, aversion, disgust, fear) motivates us. We would never realize this if we narrowmindedly only consider the English words and never what they're translating.

Most action is currently rooted in delusion, wrong views, misunderstand, ignorance. Little good can come of that. Actions motivated by right view are much more powerful, meritorious, able to produce far greater results -- so it is very profitable to straighten out our views, depend less on thinking and logic grounded in assumptions, depend more on insight, learning (suta), and the guidance of the Three Jewels:
  1. the Buddha (the Enlightened One),
  2. Dharma (the Teaching leading to enlightenment), and
  3. Noble-Sangha (the "community of well taught enlightened individuals," i.e., those laypersons or monastics who have reached at least the first stage of enlightenment, which is called stream entry).
Karma in any language: Do good.
...Everyone wants happiness! But it too arises conditionally, depending on conditions. A great producer of happiness is the making of good karma (storing up merit that pays off over and over, all out of proportion to the act because what seemed a small act actually involved countless cittas, mind moments, and impulsions at a deep psychological level we are normally not aware of, but which we can become aware of directly through insight-meditation and indirectly by reading the Abhidharma).

What is good about "good" (kusala)? It is rooted in non-greed (generosity, letting go), or in non-hate (kindness, compassion), or in non-delusion (wisdom, right understanding). The sure way to gain happiness, then, is to make good karma, as much as possible every day because this life is short and it is by no means the end of life. Life after life, life goes on. We see ourselves here now, but we will be again and again and again with no end in sight until we become enlightened and glimpse nirvana, the end of all suffering.
Ven. Sivali - the best karma in Buddhism.
It is only people who make a real effort to grow in Dharma -- that is, to make good karma -- who have any chance to succeed in insight-meditation on the path to final liberation (enlightenment and nirvana).

Whatever one's goal in life -- happiness and lots of pleasure here and now, a good rebirth in the next life or some future life after that, or to end the whole rebirth/redeath process by attaining nirvana, one can never go wrong by making good karma. It helps even when we want to be "bad" in the future. It will be a lot easier to be a criminal when one is beautiful, rich, influential, long lived, and smart.

But what about those who tenaciously hold wrong views, what about those who do not believe in karma to produce results, those who say, "What comes around doesn't go around"? They still accrue karma whether they believe in it or not. And it is hard to control what kind of karma they make if they neither believe in it, study it, reflect on it, seek guidance from the Three Gems about it.

And they get the fruits of the karma they make, too. The doing, not the believing, is the important thing. 
"Do good, get good;
do harm, get harm."

The Dog-Duty Ascetic 
(Kukkuravatika Sutta, MN 57)
There are many misguided quotes about what "karma" means. This one's fun and funny.
INTRODUCTION: There were some strange people around in the Buddha's day believing some strange things -- but that is no different than our own days when people believe the oddest and most off-balance ideas.

In this sutra we meet some ascetics who believed that by imitating animals [a hardship as a kind of penance for sins, to shake off bad karma by suffering] they would be saved. Maybe they're still with us, too.

Belief is often one thing, action another. While beliefs influence actions, for other people their beliefs are quite separate from what they do. But the Buddha says all intentional actions -- whether thoughts, spoken words, bodily actions, however expressed -- are karma and lead the doer of them to experience a result sooner or later.

In this sutra the Buddha classifies karma into four groups:
(i) dark with dark results,
(ii) bright with bright results,
(iii) dark and bright with dark and bright results,
(iv) neither dark nor bright with neither dark nor bright results.
Funny karma misquote (
Dark (unskillful, unwholesome, unprofitable) karma does not give a bright (happy, desirable, pleasant, welcom) result, nor does bright (beneficial) karma lead to dark (miserable) result.

Karma can be mixed, where an action/deed is performed with a variety of motives, some good, some harmful. And that kind of karma also exists which gives up attachment to and interest in the other three and so leads beyond the range of karma.

The Sutra
1. Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living in the Koliyan country, in a Koliyan town called Haliddavasana. More

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