Trying to understand how karma works

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Trying to understand how karma works

Postby Devosachcha » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:27 pm

I'm writing this post to understand how karma works. If something I say in this post is wrong or erroneous, please kindly point that out.

1. In Buddha's teaching, karmic results are not considered to be a "judgement" imposed by a God or other all-powerful being; rather, these results are considered to be the outcome of a natural process.

2. Buddha said that our thoughts, our mind, will be the karma (I heard something like "chethanahan bhikkave kamman vadhami" - I don't recall the source though).

3. Buddha said that the first and last meal offered to him will have higher amount of karma imposed. Similarly, giving a gift (say, some food) to a "good person", or better, to an enlightened one, will have much more karma than giving a gift to an average person, even if we didn't know about the spiritual side of the receiver.

Please correct me if any of the above three points is wrong.

Let's put the point #1 aside. In my view, the above point #3 seems to contradict the point #2. If karma is all about thoughts triggering in our mind, how come the point #3 be true, given that the donor was not even aware of who the receiver is, or if it was the first or the last meal?
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby lyndon taylor » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:35 pm

I'm sorry but I think offering food to a really hungry person would trump giving food to well fed enlightened person, I hope the Buddha wouldn't disagree????
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby Devosachcha » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:42 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:I'm sorry but I think offering food to a really hungry person would trump giving food to well fed enlightened person, I hope the Buddha wouldn't disagree????

That's what my current understanding is too. But I'm not sure how correct I am as I'm confused at the difference between the point #2 and #3.
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:48 pm

As Ben mentioned in the other thread, this is mostly irrelevant since we are not in contact with a samma-sam-buddha. There will not be another one for at least for another 2,500 years, if not longer or hopefully we attain liberation before that time.

Also, I believe those who gave those meals to the Buddha may have made aspirations to do so from previous lives (according to the Commentaries). If you see a poor person and want to help, certainly do so! Don't wait for a samma-sam-buddha.
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby daverupa » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:50 pm

Devosachcha wrote:3. Buddha said that the first and last meal offered to him will have higher amount of karma imposed. Similarly, giving a gift (say, some food) to a "good person", or better, to an enlightened one, will have much more karma than giving a gift to an average person, even if we didn't know about the spiritual side of the receiver.


I'm unaware of any direct source for the first idea, which is definitely not anywhere in the Nikayas; the second part can begin to be addressed by reading MN 142, which forms useful background information for this discussion.

We can see a similar progression in AN 9.20.

Purification of the offering through the attentiveness, morality, and good-natured attitude of the giver feels correct to me; rubrics of merit maths (arahant = 1, non-returner = 1/10, once-returner = 1/100, etc.) strike me as later stuff, especially since the two phrases seem to be prima facie in contradiction.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby Devosachcha » Mon Mar 10, 2014 6:01 pm

Thanks guys! @daverupa, yes MN-142 suggests the same. Since this idea sounds a bit unrealistic without the presence of a Buddha, as David mentioned, can we substitute that with a well-mannered monk or someone up-and-up that exists in these days?
MN-142 wrote:“By giving a gift to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of stream-entry, the offering may be expected to repay incalculably, immeasurably. What, then, should be said about giving a gift to a stream-enterer? What should be said about giving a gift to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of once-return…to a once-returner…to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of non-return…to a non-returner…to one who has entered upon the way to the realisation of the fruit of arahantship…to an arahant…to a paccekabuddha? What should be said about giving a gift to a Tathāgata, accomplished and fully enlightened?

BTW, I want to repeat this: "I'm NOT trying to understand who I should offer things to" :) . I'm trying to understand how Kamma works, and why #2 and #3 does NOT support each other.
Last edited by Devosachcha on Mon Mar 10, 2014 6:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby lyndon taylor » Mon Mar 10, 2014 6:45 pm

I think kamma is a fundamental all encompassing force of nature, kind of like gravity is, and not particularly easier to explain, either. If you're familiar with the concept of syncronicity, how everything that happens is linked together, I personally think its something like that.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby santa100 » Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:00 pm

Devosachcha wrote:I'm trying to understand how Kamma works, and why #2 and #3 supports each other.

One could get an idea of how kamma works based on sutta references already provided but not its exact mechanism (AN 4.77). There's no conflict between #2 and #3. In MN 142 and AN 9.20, when they talk about offering to an evil person, a regular person, a noble person, etc.. the premise was that the giver possesses the same state of mind/intention when giving to different people. For obviously if one gives with an unwholesome state of mind, it'll be futile regardless of whether the receiver was an evil man or an enlightened being, as AN 9.20 already pointed out:
"Householder, regardless of whether a gift is coarse or refined, if it is given inattentively, disrespectfully, not with one's own hand, as if throwing it away, with the view that nothing will come of it: Wherever the result of that gift comes to fruition, one's mind will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid food, will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid clothing, will not incline to the enjoyment of splendid vehicles, will not incline to the enjoyment of the splendid five strings of sensuality. And one's sons & daughters, slaves, servants, & workers will not listen to one, will not lend ear, will not make their minds attend for the sake of knowledge. Why is that? Because that is the result of inattentive actions.
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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby SarathW » Mon Mar 10, 2014 10:40 pm

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Re: Trying to understand how karma works

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Mar 10, 2014 11:29 pm

Devosachcha wrote:BTW, I want to repeat this: "I'm NOT trying to understand who I should offer things to" :) . I'm trying to understand how Kamma works, and why #2 and #3 does NOT support each other.

The volition changes according to how and why one gives. A virtuous monk who is a Noble One, or even one who is striving to become a Noble One, follows the training laid down by the Buddha. He will never ask for anything. A gift given with respect is better than one given without respect. If the mind is pleased, and leaps up with joy on giving, the volition will be more powerful. The Arahant or other virtuous monks will make good use of that gift, without wasting anything. The greedy and shameless monks will misuse gifts for mean ends, selling excess food to buy things not allowable for monks.

The beggar on the street corner may be hungry, but he is not free from greed, so he is hard to satisfy. The local drug addict once asked me for money — I said I don't use money, but I could give him some food. When I opened my bowl to give him some, he didn't want it. What he really wanted, of course, was money for his next fix, not something to eat.

“Weeds are the bane of fields, lust is the bane of mankind.
Hence what is given to those free from lust yields abundant fruit.” Dhp.v.356

“Weeds are the bane of fields, hatred is the bane of mankind.
Hence what is given to those free from hatred yields abundant fruit.” Dhp.v.357

“Weeds are the bane of fields, delusion is the bane of mankind.
Hence what is given to those free from delusion yields abundant fruit.” Dhp.v.358

“Weeds are the bane of fields, craving is the bane of mankind.
Hence what is given to those free from craving yields abundant fruit.” Dhp.v.359

See Money Makes the World Go Round, which is based on the Venerable Ledi Sayādaw's Manual of Donation, for details of different kinds and grades of giving.
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