Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Karma, Karma (explained)

Seven, Pa Auk Sayadaw, Bhikkhu Bodhi (Wisdom Quarterly)
The seeds of deeds are in other deeds. From a world to a world, we are led to a world. Mind precedes all states. Mind is their forerunner. From a word to a word, from a deed to a deed, we go on reaping. Every moment holds the possibility for realization/liberation. But with this rare opportunity to awaken, mostly we prefer to go on suffering.

Karma (intentional action capable of yielding results in the future) is very misunderstood. What we do in one life affects us in others. If people refuse to entertain the possibility of having lived countless lives, they are forced to explain everything within one life. We know "what goes around comes around."

But we insist that we know everything that went around in our lives. And most of us claim we are not responsible for anything before the age of 7 (the age of responsibility in various spiritual traditions) or 18 (or whenever society says adulthood begins). This is clearly nonsense.

We do not know what we have done. We are not a single "I." The person who was before is not now, yet the results keep coming. We ask no questions when what comes is pleasant and pleasurable. But whenever it is unpleasant, hard to bear, or terribly painful, we cry foul! We say there is NO reason for it simply we do not know the reason and cannot deduce it from our memory or understanding of how things SHOULD be.

Most motivations are mixed, and karmic results are convoluted.

Karma Works in Mysterious Ways
Things are not as we think they "should" be. And all the world is unfair. But it is fair, in a sense. It plays out according to laws, axioms, regularities. It is orderly in the grand scheme. (It seems terribly disordered in the short term however). If we develop serenity (samatha), absorption (jhana), and mindful-insight (vipassana) we can KNOW and SEE it (karma playing out in an orderly way) for ourselves.

It is directly visible, and always has been, to the uncontaminated mind. Depending on no one and nothing but our own direct knowledge, we can verify that karma as the Buddha explained it (which is quite different than the Vedic brahmin yogis were explaining it or how Hinduism and other traditions now try to explain it) is true. It is amazing.

It works in "mysterious ways" and most of the world simply attributes this "mysterious" force to God. God works in mysterious ways, they say. The God is inscrutable. This is no explanation, but it satisfies the need to know, like the "God of the Gap" atheists decry. Karma is imponderable in detail, but it is very ponderable, very knowable in individual instances. What one deed will go on to cause and be the effect of, that gets very complicated.

The trajectory of a deed (karma) -- what it goes on to cause, contribute to, or serve as a condition for -- is as complex and unpredictable as this neutrino track.

Secret to Abundant Happiness
If we want good (welcome, longed for, pleasant experiences) now and in the future, the motivations of our actions will be rooted in these broad categories: nongreed, nonaversion/nonfear, and nondelusion.
  • These words should not be clung to or debated as to their English meaning because they are simply approximations of the ancient Pali/Sanskrit Buddhist terms alobha, adosa/abhava, and amoha.
There is no need to fool ourselves and say our motivations are good. Karma knows. There is no fooling karma anymore than fooling "God" in a monotheistic tradition.

Is that amazing? Then this should be more amazing. There is no suffering (dukkha, the range of unpleasant sensation ranging from agitation to agony) that is not rooted in craving, aversion/fear, delusion. Bringing these to an end is called realizing nirvana (the end of all suffering).
  • Workings of Karma (paauk.org)
  • The Law of Karma (panel discussion)
  • The Buddha taught that because of karma beings are bound to the ever-turning wheel of rebirth. Only when a person stops [clinging to the deeply held belief in] the existence of a permanent and [independent] self can he or she become free from karma. Westerners often have trouble with this doctrine, for although they can easily believe that selfishness or ego-clinging causes suffering, it is harder to accept the existence of an invisible system of moral causality called karma. Likewise, since the dawn of the Christian era few Westerners have taken seriously the idea of many lifetimes, even though it was present in Pythagoras and some of Plato [and in original Christian doctrine and Shakespeare]. The word "karma" literally means "action." It is cognate with the most ordinary Sanskrit words for "to make" or "to do." ...And there is the famous Hindu practice of seeking liberation through selfless work, which is called karmayoga -- the yoga of activity.