Sunday, April 30, 2006

Exploring Karma. I have never been a very big believer in Karma as it is commonly thought of and used today. Most people attribute way too much to karma. You get maimed or seriously ill or lose someone important to you or even a job and it is karma. Yet, that seems too simplistic, too easy in a way, almost niave. I have lived enough of life to know it is not fair, not even close. Yet, if karma functioned that way the world would be fair. People who do bad things would have bad things happen to them. Yet I have not found that to be true, heck, not even close. I have certainly had difficule experiences in my life, yet nothing to compare my ex-husband-who used me, abused me and does not even bother to help with A-leaving me to raise and support our daughter all alone. Well, 5 years after our divorce, I am diagnosed with Endometriosis and have surgery, after surgery, live in excruciating, debilitating pain until I have an invasive radical surgery only to be diagnosed a few years after that with degenerative arthritis. Meanwhile, my ex-husband is in normal health. Where is the fairness in that? How is karma this great equalizer, giving to those who do bad and good to those who do good? Um, well, maybe that is my karma from a previous life? Who was I, Hitler, in my past life? Is it now my punishment to have repeated burdens in this life to make up for wrongs I did in some past life I can not even remember? How am I supposed to learn from my mistakes if I can not remember them while I am being punished? It would be like smacking A tommorrow morning for lying about her homework last year. Not very effective punishment. I prefer to think that "challenges" or difficulties in life that we all face, have not to do with what we did in our previous life and not always what we did in this life-but are lessons offered as opportunities for us to grow and change. Every difficult experience we have-no matter how harrowing-offers us an opportunity to grow and mature. It may not feel like it at the time (or in some cases for many years afterwards), but your experiences can help to shape you into a much better person. If for no other reason than to have the knowledge at your lowest point to be able to remind yourself, "Self, I have successfully survived many trials and multiple tribulations and if I know anything it is that this too shall pass and in the vast majority of cases everything will be ok in the end-no matter how terrible it feels this moment." I have always felt more like that than like karma was to blame or the answer to the desperate middle of the night, "WHY ME!!!!!!" But, Karma is a part of Buddhism. A huge part. So, in studying Buddhism, I have had the opportunity to study more about karma-what it meant when the Buddha used it and how it relates to Buddhism and me.

Buddhist Philosphy is:
First, there is not just karma(also called kamma), there is also vipaka(or vipake).
Kamma just means 'Action' while
Vipaka is the 'Result' of that action,
Whether it be mental, verbal or bodily action.

Here are some thoughts on karma, vipaka and modern buddhism:
I have been to a lecture on "Karma and the ExaminedLife" recently, and have been giving the subject alot of thought. I found out that common and popular beliefs about Karma, are best forgotten, because generally most people don't know what they are talking about.
I found it helpful to recognise that only some of our experiences area the result of karma - vipaka. Karma being a volitional act, and vipake being a consequence of this act. When people refer to karma, they usually mean that you are getting your vipaka.

The Buddha talked of 5 Niyamas, of which Karma/Vipaka, (Karmic cause and effect) is only one. The others are:-
Utu-Niyama:-effects that are attributable to physical inorganic order.
Bi ja-Niyama:-effects that are attributable to physical, organic or biological order.
Mano-Niyama:-non-volitional mental order
Karma-Niyama:-Volitional order
Dharma-Niyama:-transcendental order.

The English monk, Sangharakshita, who set up the worldwide, Western Buddhist Order and its supporting organisation, TheFriends of theWestern Buddhists, explains the workings of theseNiyamas thus:-
"Suppose a man is suffering from a fever. The complaint may be due to a sudden change in temperature (Utu-Niyama), to the presence of a germ (Bi Ja-Niyama), to mental strain or worry or to tension due to experiences taking place in the dhyanas (Mano-Niyama), to the fact that in a previous life or previously in this present one, he had harmed someone (Karma-Niyama), or to chemical or cellular changes occurring in the body consequent upon transcendental realisation(Dharma-Niyama)."

I have trouble believing in Karma - Vipaka, do you? It's the same as the Christian belief that all sin must be compensated for, only in the Christian doctrine, you have vicarious atonement. That is, if you believe in Jesus Christ, your sins will go unpunished, because he suffered the punishment for you.
I believe that our higher self chooses to experience the unfortunate, because it wants to experience opposites. Therefore if we have experienced hurting someone, we then experience being hurt the sameway, somehow, in order that we may experience both.

I don't believe that morality has a part to play in karma - vipaka.
Or do I?
What do you think?
Regards, LD-taken from an online Buddhist Community I belong to.

****I liked this response. I am not sure I agree with all of it, but it is similar to how I experience my reality. I have mixed feelings about morality because it is such a judgement call. My morals are not your morals and if I do not live by your morals I am not an immoral person necesarily. It is like good and evil, such simple black and white terms. Sadly, the world is mostly gray-a little bit of both. If only it were so simple, so easy, so straight forward. So much depends on the situation. Not always but often. It is wrong to kill, definetely true, life is valuable and most be cherished. But, what if you are being threatened, is it wrong to kill to save yourself? What if it is someone else being harmed, is it wrong to kill to save them? Is it immoral to kill a killer? Would you rather be alive and immoral or dead and moral? It is wrong to steal, very true and I absolutely agree. But what if your child was starving and you stole to save them? Is it wrong then? Is it immoral? What if it is life saving medicine that costs more than you will ever be able to afford? Are you wrong for taking it or is the drug company wrong for over-charging for life saving medinces? Or, a lighter but similiar issue, you write a check on monday at Targets knowing you do not have enough money in the bank to cover the check at that moment. Yet, you take your 'purchased' items and leave hoping that the check does not clear the bank before your paycheck does on wednesday. Is that stealing? After all, you are 'taking' items under the fales pretense that you have paid for them. Is it wrong? Is it immoral? Is it ok if a check bounces because you forgot about another outstanding check, making it a mistake rather than deliberate? Is it only immoral if the check bounces, but ok if it clears? It is wrong to lie, again, I certainly agree. But your lover asks if you ever dream about anyone else. What possible good could it do to admit that Vin Diesel/Halle Berry is who you are dreaming about? A co-worker has the most god-awful-plaid-and-flowered pants you have ever seen in your life and you would go NAKED before you wore them, but, they proudly show off their pants purchased for quite a bargain and ask what you think. You could be honest, but most of us would probably consider it more moral to say, 'They look great on you', or 'They suit you', or 'What a bargain'. Your co-worker who is such an incredible idiot that you can barely stand to assist them and finally gave up on training them because it is just too frustrating to explain repeatedly the same simple task, in simple language with written directions and STILL have the dimwit not get it at all. Yet, the co-worker is sweet and has a good heart and asks you one day, "Everyone is so grumpy when I need help, they treat me like I am stupid. Do you think I am stupid?" This is an easy one, becuase I can answer that and not lie one itty-bitty, teensy-tiny bit when I say with a straight face, "No, I do not think you are stupid." I can only say that honestly because I KNOW you are a frigging idiot, no 'thinking' required, duh!!!! Is that immoral? Is it good manners? Who knows, these are the areas that I think get most people. Most of us know the easy stuff, don't kill people that cut you off in traffic, or cut in front of you in line, the dog that barks all night-got that covered no problem. Don't take what is not given or purchased, like that DVD you are just dying to see but are too broke to buy, or those pants that look fantastic on you but cost way too much, or the dinner you have eaten and enjoyed and the waitress is offing doing whatever and you have a clear shot to the door with a fully belly and a full wallet-sure thing. Don't lie-'Yes officer I did have 7 shots an hour before I got in the car to drive home.' But it is the gray areas that make up most of our lives and where the dilemma lies. What good are rules, or guidelines, that do not fully or realistically address the fact that most of us live our lives and struggle and make our mistakes in the gray areas?
~~~~Where ever you go, There you are!
What is the Noble Life, which leads to and culminates in Nibbâna?

A certain Bhikkhu once asked the Blessed Buddha:
Venerable Sir, the Noble Life, the Noble Life, is it often said…
What, Venerable Sir, is this Noble Life? And what is the final goal of this Noble Life?
This Noble 8-fold Way, Bhikkhu, is the Noble Life; namely:
Right View (sammā-ditthi)
Right Motivation (sammā-sankappa)
Right Speech (sammā-vācā)
Right Action (sammā-kammanta)
Right Livelihood (sammā-ājīva)
Right Effort (sammā-vāyāma)
Right Awareness (sammā-sati)
Right Concentration (sammā-samādhi)

The destruction of Greed, the destruction of Hate, and the destruction of Ignorance:
This is the final goal of the Noble Life…

Source (edited extract):The Grouped Sayings of the Buddha. Samyutta Nikaya. Book V [7-8] section 45:6 A certain Bhikkhu ...

WHY DOES ONE NOT EASILY keep the precepts everyday ???
Because of:
1: Lust
2: Aversion
3: Sceptical Doubt
4: Restlessness
5: Laziness
6: Confusion

Neither can any Amulet,
Nor any God,
Nor any Prayer,
Nor any Ritual,
Ever protect against the effects of one's actions!