Thursday, September 3, 2020

Can we change a deed? (Karma and its Fruit)

Ven. Nyanaponika Thera aka Seigmund Feniger (Kamma and its Fruit via, BuddhaNet edition, 1996) edited by Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly 2020 

The causes are our deeds.
The Buddha taught: "If one says that in whatever way a person performs a karmic deed [an intentional action], in that very same way one will experience the result (vipaka, phala) -- in that case there is no [possibility for a successful] spiritual life and no opportunity would ever appear for the complete ending of all suffering [enlightenment and nirvana].

"But if one says that a person who performs a karmic deed [that bears results] that are variably experienceable [that is to say that ripen differently] will reap that deed's results accordingly -- in that case there is [the possibility for a successful] spiritual life and an opportunity for making a complete end of all suffering" (AN 3.110).

Most writings on the doctrine of karma emphasize the strict lawfulness governing karmic actions and results, ensuring a close and clear correspondence between deeds and their fruits.

While this emphasis is good enough, there is another side to the complex working of karma, a very important side that is rarely noted. This is the modifiability of karma.

The fact is that the lawfulness (regularity, predictability) that governs the working out of karma does NOT operate with mechanical rigidity like the "laws" of physics are said to behave. It allows for a considerably wide range of modifications in the ripening of the fruit.

If karmic action were always to bear fruit invariably in the same way and with the same magnitude, and if modification or annulment of karmic results were excluded, liberation (moksha) from the cycle of suffering (samsara) would be impossible. Why?

An inexhaustible past amount of unwholesome karma would always throw up new obstructive results (mental resultants and fruits). So the Buddha taught:

"If one says that a person who performs a karmic action [deeds that have the power to produce a distant result] that can be experienced in a variety of ways will reap the results of that deed accordingly — in that case there will be [a good purpose for leading this] spiritual life [taught by the Buddha as a means of waking up and] making a complete end of suffering" (AN 3.110).

Like any event in physics, the mental process constituting a karmic action never exists in isolation. It always exists in a field. So its efficacy (the power to produce its results) depends on its own potential AND variable factors of its field. These things can modify the results of an action (a karmic deed) in numerous ways.

Hey, that means there's hope! We can be free!!
For example, we see that a particular karma (an intentional physical, verbal, or mental act), either whether it's skillful or unskillful (good or bad) may sometimes have its result strengthened by "supportive karma," or weakened by "counteractive karma," or even annulled by "destructive karma."

The occurrence of the results can also be delayed if the coming together of outer circumstances required for the ripening of a deed are not complete. That delay may then provide a chance for counteractive or destructive karma to operate.

[In other words, there is hope no matter what we have done or are doing. We can turn it around and progress to a "successful" spiritual life crowned with awakening/enlightenment and nirvana, which is the end of all suffering. This is what the Buddha taught when he talked about the hopelessly complex teaching of karma and karmic results.] More

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