Kamma, cetana and conation

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Kamma, cetana and conation

Postby JamesNewell » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:08 pm

In the modern world, many Buddhists act like they don't really believe in kamma, by which skepticism they endanger their own future. However, there is a parallel to cetana (volition), in Western psychological research which provides some additional support for the validity of the idea of kamma.

First, I will present two quotations from Bhadantacariya Buddhaghosa, Bhikku Syanamoli, tr., VISUDDHIMAGGA, 1964, Colombo: A. Semage.

XVII 251 "firstly, kamma-process becoming in brief is both volition [cetana] also and the states of consciousness, etc. associated with volition."

XVII 252 "thirteen kinds of volition"

In Western psychological research, volition is called conation.

Now, the various psychological processes, when they occur, give rise to memories of the processes. Therefore, when one acts, the conation part of the behavior gives rise to conation memories.

These conation memories have the special property of causing behaviors to happen, because conation itself has the property of causing behaviors to happen.

Now, association of one process/event, perceptual or behavioral, with others is an almost universal process. In the case of the conation we are considering, the false self of oneself and the false self of the recipient of a behavior we do, are associated with the conation, and therefore the memories of them are associated with the conation memory.

Associations tend to generalize when conditions are right for that to happen. That is to say other processes/events which are similar become more like the original process/event.

Now what will happen when a conation memory returns to an active state, often in a future lifetime?

The conation memory will cause a process/event very similar to the process/even involved with the original conation.

However, the other false self the original behavior was directed towards will usually no longer be present. So generalization will cause one's own false self to to replace the other false self in the process/event repetition. Thus, in various ways, what one does to others will be done to oneself in the future whenever the conation memory becomes active.

That gives us strong additional evidence that the idea of kamma is in fact true.

Of course, other content of the behaviors/events will be part of what happens, along with the conation/cetana.

I think the quotation about the 13 kinds of cetana is important for future research on conation. There should be additional knowledge about kamma that can be obtained by research on those thirteen kinds.

Jim
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Re: Kamma, cetana and conation

Postby chownah » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:59 am

JamesNewell,
You wrote:
"However, the other false self the original behavior was directed towards will usually no longer be present. So generalization will cause one's own false self to to replace the other false self in the process/event repetition. Thus, in various ways, what one does to others will be done to oneself in the future whenever the conation memory becomes active."

Where does this idea about generalization come from?
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Re: Kamma, cetana and conation

Postby JamesNewell » Sun Jan 12, 2014 3:59 pm

Generalization is something that has been found in tens of thousands of Western psychological experiments.

For Buddhist psychology, it seems to provide the wiggle room (not a scientific term at the moment) which allows for kamma to function. If kamma had to be exactly the same as the original volition memory, everything would freeze up, because the different kamma of different people would be too rigid to coordinate itself. That kamma tends to be similar to but often different in certain ways from the original act is seen in a number of the Jataka stories. Future research could be done on this by people who are interested.

Jim
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Re: Kamma, cetana and conation

Postby Crazy cloud » Sun Jan 12, 2014 4:28 pm

Thanks for interesting reading, and food for contemplation and study, Jim

May you be well

:)
your name Mori means forest like the infinite fresh green distances of your blindness
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Re: Kamma, cetana and conation

Postby Sam Vara » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:04 pm

Interesting stuff, Jim. I think that for many modern people, the skepticism towards kamma is based upon a materialist view and the lack of a belief in individual post mortem existence. For such people, the account given would founder at this bit:
Now what will happen when a conation memory returns to an active state, often in a future lifetime?

They might be accepting of a psychological account of kamma which purports to explain enduring psychological tendencies or habits, but would still not accept that kamma could affect post mortem rebirth.
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Re: Kamma, cetana and conation

Postby JamesNewell » Sat Jan 18, 2014 4:23 pm

Good thinking on what people would accept. I actually have evidence for reincarnation and that materialism isn't correct. The clearest response I've gotten on that has been, "But that would strengthen religion and think about what that would do."

I think the problem is that scientists are very afraid of religion. In the West, people were imprisoned, tortured, and killed for being heretics, for believing something the established religion didn't allow people to believe. Now fundamentalist Christians are anti-science in a vehement way, are pushing the idea of Christian Dominionism and many people have joined the recently formed Christian militias. In addition, Islamic Fundamentalists are anti-science as well. So I think scientists are becoming terrified again.

Buddhism never burned people at the stake nor tortured and killed people who had different beliefs. Nevertheless, people don't understand that.

So I have posted here and there evidence that people can improve upon over future centuries while waiting for the fear of religion to be forgotten, and for additional scientific results which will get thinking closer to the evidence for reincarnation, etc. I don't expect the ideas to be widely accepted at this time however.

Nobody here has begun discussing and trying to improve upon the kamma materials, so I don't think anyone on this message board has those particular interests. That is completely OK. People are making contributions in the areas they are interested in, and those contributions are important and worthwhile. That is an excellent situation.

Jim
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